Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thailand's Similan Islands

Friday, January 23, 2015 was departure day from Phuket for Bob's work group.  Bob and I had a flight out around 10:00 pm, which gave us one more day to enjoy in Thailand.  I talked Bob into visiting the Similian Islands which are a National Park that is open to tourists only during a limited time of year and our timing was perfect.  A 5:30 am pick up service took us to Khao Lak in Phang Nga Province by around 8:30 am.  Phang Nga is where many of the tourist attractions seem to be clustered including elephant rides, ATV and white-water rafting adventures, and the popular James Bond Island boat and kayaking tour (which you can see here).  And as we approached Khao Lak, we thought it might not be a bad idea for vacationers to stay in this province, which is quite modern and adorned by beautiful beaches and resorts. (Next time, right?!)  Anyway, after a short break with snacks, instruction, and snorkeling gear selection, we were driven to the beach where we waded out to our speedboat. After a slow and frustrating start due to trouble with one of the engines, our group of eight were on our way. It would take about an hour and a half for us to reach the Similan (which means "9") Islands.  We were entertained along the way by clusters of flying fish jumping out of the water and soaring above the waves for up to about 100 yards - amazing!

As we approached our first stop at Koh (means "Island") #8, or Koh Similan, we were rewarded with views that made the long travel worth it!  The amazing clear turquoise water splashing against giant boulders framed in lush greenery and washing upon pristine white sand was a scene beyond imagination!  Drinks and snacks awaited us as we gathered on the beach before taking the short hike up to the distinctive "Sail Rock" overlook.  Then we descended into the sea for a swim, where no goggles were needed to see the colorful fish swimming around our feet.

The next two Island stops were just for snorkeling.  Not only were the settings stunning, but the variety of sea life was also impressive.  I couldn't identify all the varieties we saw in the crystal clear water, but I was smitten with the beauty of the big colorful parrot-fish, schools of yellow and black striped angelfish and a big sea turtle.

Koh Miang (Island # 4) boasts two beautiful beaches on opposite sides of the Island.  We enjoyed lunch here amongst the shade of lush vegetation lining the beach.  It was about a 10-minute walk to "Honeymoon Beach" which is a popular destination for those desirous of camping at the National Park.  There were hundreds of camouflage tents here, which almost looked like a military zone to me.  Both beaches were spectacular and the fine powdery white sand was the most inviting and comfortable to walk on that I've known!

Yep, this was totally worth the hassle, which included arriving at the airport in wet salt-covered swimwear and figuring out how to "shower", shampoo hair, and change into clean comfortable clothing in public restrooms prior to the 6-hour return flight to Seoul.  Good times!  Bob and I are so blessed to be able to see so many of God's wondrous creations.  We certainly experienced a bit of paradise on this wonderful trip to Thailand!