Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just Another Day...

I woke one morning to an absolutely amazing sunrise over the islands just off the coast of Prachupkhirikhan. I took the quickest shower in the history of showers, grabbed my camera and ran down to the deserted boardwalk below. I know, I can hear you grumbling, “where the heck are those pics?” Well, I am sorting them out now, organizing, rotating and all that. So leave me alone already!

Anyway, back to me in Thailand. I mentioned in an earlier post that the beach I stayed on is not really a beachy sort of beach, but more a fishing community. What I learned, is that just a short ride away on my rented motorbike is a military base which anyone can go to and entry is as complicated as signing your name in a book. No ID. No nothing. On that base, just after crossing the live runway complete with jet crossing sign, lies the beach of Ao Manou, a deserted stretch of sand where the Japanese landed when they invaded Thailand during World War II. The beach is lined with coconut palm and evergreen trees and the water was blue and clear and I immediately realized I had not worn my swimsuit. I rode back to the hotel, changed and then had a change of plan. Once on the base, instead of heading directly to the beach, I decided to explore. I headed to the Historical Park on the base.

The historical park is part military with the old quarters, airplanes and some statues commemorating something or other. Most things are only in Thai, so it is hard to figure out exactly what is representing what. But it is also part Langur sanctuary where you can feed and mingle with Langur Monkeys. They are adorable. All black, with giant white circles around their eyes, reminding me a bit of Buckwheat from “Our Gang”

It is at the Langur monkeys that one finds the first of about one thousand steps that lead to the temple at the top of the highest peak in the area. And what does one find on that peak? Why a temple, of course, with a Buddha relic. I decided to go up, not only for the relic, but for the view. I climbed and I climbed and I climbed some more. After every turn there were more stairs and those stairs where followed by even more stairs, until they weren’t. Suddenly, about one third or so of the way up (I assume I got about that high) the stairs stop and then it is rocky mountain path lined with a rope. I debated if I should continue or not and decided to let logic win and I came back down. The thing that stopped me was that there was no other traffic going up or down. If I should have an accident, and it looked like a possibility from the path, I would probably have to die on that mountain. Nobody knew I was there. There would be nobody to help. Nobody for miles and miles to hear the screams.

I headed back down and soon after planted myself on the deserted beach, went for a swim and sat in the sun, listening to the silence and the waves and taking in the vast expanse of scenery which included only 10 people in the entire area I could see. As I usually do when I am sitting on a beach with just my hyperactive self for company, I got bored and went for another swim. This time was different. I saw that I was hanging with the jellies. Cute little jellies, but like snakes, little jellies can equal some serious pain. I decided that out of the water was a better place for me. I decided that spelunking was perhaps safer for me and so I took my motorbike a few kilometers north to Ao Khan Kradai to see the reclining Buddhas in the cave, which is reached after climbing steps to the top of the small mountain. Maybe I had just seen too many of them. Maybe I had had too much sun. Maybe it was the tons of graffiti everywhere, but I just wasn’t impressed with the inside of the caves.

That was enough for me, I headed back south toward town and stopped in the the fishing village of Ao Bang Nang Lom and had a most amazing lunch of broken fish and crab soup in lemongrass broth and some shrimp fried rice at a little grass roofed table just across from the beach where the fishermen bring in the fish. As oon as the boats come in and the fish is unloaded, the people from the restaurants and the locals run out and make their purchases. It was definitely some of the freshest seafood I have had.

My next stop was yet another temple situated up yet another flight of steps. 394 monkey lined steps, to be exact. At the top it has a very odd Santorini meets Thailand jungle feel to it. Vast panoramic views of the three blue water bays dotted with islands and inland, extending all the way to Myanmar, just a few kilometers away. Coming down I was almost attacked by a monkey. He was sitting there quietly and I passed by and said “hello” in a soft tone that communicated “I come in peace” and he bared his teeth at me. Twice. The first time was a little flash, but the second time made the hairs all over my body stand on end.

Once I got over the panic of the monkey and was safely back in my room, showred and beer in hand, I sat on the little balcony looking out over the Gulf of Thailand. It was all just so relaxing and a million miles from the nearest care. I thought about just sending for Manuel and stay here forever. I am sure I could get a job fishing.

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