General and Travels06 Mar 2008 12:19 am

So, tomorrow I am going to a wedding in Austin, Texas. It’s also the beginning of SXSW (Google it, okay?) but I’m not a big enough geek to attend. I will be eating from taco shacks and bbq huts though. A lot.Anyhow, because I’m going away, I thought I might knock off another post. It’s a long one, so hang in there.

After Mike did his meditation retreat, I went to pick him up. Since we arranged to meet very early in the morning, I had to get there a day early and spent the night along in Surat Thani, that awesome town I’ve mentioned before.
The city is basically clapboard houses above Chinese storefronts and power lines. Lots and lots of power lines.

After the bus ride, I retired to the luxurious Tapee Hotel. At $9 a night, I got air con, a hot shower and even TV. I got some snacks (pomelo, a fruit, sticky rice and a Pepsi) and retired to watch “The Sentinel” starring that powerhouse, Michael Douglas.

I grew tired of that quickly, so I wandered about to see what town was like after dark.

It seemed like most areas were seedy. The docks were seedy. The narrow alleyways by the bus stop were seedy. Even the dudes hanging outside the monastery were seedy.

It gave me a false sense of security, and I headed to an area that I knew was rife with red light type places to see if there were good photo ops. I saw this large decrepit tarantula outside a defunct club. I crossed the street to snap it, near some men who were drinking in the street. After I took the photo, one of men joked (maybe?) that I should now pay him 200 baht. I wasn’t sure what to do; so I joked back, saying in Thai I would only give him 100 baht because the spider was missing an eye.

I was tense; would he get it?

He nearly fell off his seat laughing, and shook my hand. I made my escape quickly, but not before he offered me a massage…”free free!” You know. One of THOSE massages. His friends laughed as I quickly walked away.

I went down a side street where some … women? Ladyboys? I don’t even know, it was really dark, offered their services to me. Not wanting to offend, nor be chased away, I practiced using my long exposure on my camera. Eventually the pack of ladythings went away, and I got this shot.

This reminds me of the SNL skit “LASER CATS

When I got back to the hotel, sugar ants had started to devour a the drippings from my Pepsi. It was clearly time to leave.

After a fitful night of non-sleep, I picked up a distinctly thinner Mike at the train station as we had planned and we took off to the jungle. Khao Sok is a few hours away from Surat, in between the two coasts on the pointy bottom of Thailand. It’s based around a large lake that was man made; a dam was made to feed the energy requirements of Southern Thailand, and so a whole valley was filled with water during the construction.

Not unlike Canmore in the Rockies, there is a small area just outside the park gates that has a wide selection of accomodation. Inside the gates, there is only camping and rafthuts on the water, but they are hard to get to, and quite pricey. We opted for day trips.

We chose Jungle Huts when we arrived in Khao Sok; the price was right and they seemed quiet. If I were to go back to the area again, I would not stay here again. They offered tree houses which we wanted, but had shitty beds, holes in the mosquito nets and not a lot of room. Then, on the way out, they wouldn’t give us a ride to the main road, which is standard for most resorts there. I think it was because we didn’t eat at their restaurant. There was also a bonus, however: wildlife!

Our “treehouse”. I can only imagine the spills that happened off that stairway.

As we moved into our room, up on a neighbouring roof was a small group of macaque monkeys. Excited, I took a photo. “This bodes well for our nature viewing,” I remember saying to Mike. This was true.

Naughty monkeys.

After we showered and settled in, I opened the curtains to the patio, and just about fell over. “MIKE! MIKE!” I whispered as I woke him.

He got up quickly, and we carefully made sure all the screens on the windows were secure against tiny monkey hands. We then watched for a long time.

They played for us…

…posed for us.

They shat on our table and then wiped their asses with my towel that was drying on the patio banister. No kidding.

It grew old quickly, I have to tell you. The constant threat of a monkey attack was, well, constant. I feared them running into the room, grabbing my panties and going off into the jungle with them. I wouldn’t mind so much, but Victoria’s Secret ain’t cheap, you know?

Occasionally we’d hear the monkeys on the roof. The roofs were tin, so the primates would scamper about, and it would echo into our room. Suddenly it became clear where the hole in our ceiling had come from.

Little eyes would peer in, then furtive hands, and finally entire arms would reach through this hole. I was okay with the zoo outside the windows, but them being in the attic was unsettling. We could also see that they got into the treehouse next to us…monkey breaches of security were always imminent.

Eventually they chilled out and just let us watch them; there were probably 5-8 of them hanging about, in a range of ages. Mike would touch the screen, and they would touch his hand. He’d make a face, and they would copy it; it was enchanting.

Finally, they seemed to tire of our hijinks, and grew tired of us, as we grew tired of them.

We did other things, of course. Spy on our bathroom frog, for one.

We also ate at a restaurant called Misty Restaurant a lot. They had their own garden and every meal, our fruit shakes had a new flower arrangement on them.

This one reminded me of a rambutan, a type of fruit.

(That mango shake, by the way, was the best I’ve had in my life)

This was really a dessert, but we ate it for breakfast a few times; mixed fruit with warm sticky rice and coconut milk. It was pretty amazing.

There is a main road that has all the guesthouses and restaurants off it. There are a few little stores as well, tour operators, all the wants of home.

Even “FAST” internet.

Mike got to hold a baby golden gibbon!

We went on a day trip to the lake, mostly to check out a cave. There was only one cave open following a rainy season flash flood that killed a German tour group and two Thai guides in the other.

We drove to the lake, road a boat for an hour, then hiked a bit, and finally rode on a bamboo raft to get to the cave.

Our guide told us this was mouse deer poop. Seeing one would be rare; even after looking at the Calgary Zoo for a half hour, we didn’t see the one they claim to keep there.

Yeah, it’s cool, I walk on rocks with bare feet too.

CAVES. Hot. Dark. Bat filled!

You guys should watch the Planet Earth on caves. It’s creepy.

This limestone formation is called 100 Elephants.

After the cave, we went to the rafthouses for lunch and some kayaking. Well, you could swim, but Mike and I wanted to see if we could spy wildlife, so we wanted to kayak.

You can see the dead trees from when they filled the valley with water! You could also hear the calls of gibbons somewhere in the forest as we paddled.

We rounded a bend, desperate for shade. As we did so, we heard some rustling on land. I was pretty sure it was a bird or something lame, but eventually it became clear we were spying on a gibbon! He was just hanging around, swinging about, eating leaves. We watched him for almost an hour before heading back to our longtail boat. But it was pretty awesome. Pretend you can see him in this photo:

Yeah. Right there. In the middle.

Why couldn’t he be cool like his cousins the macaques?

Our last morning, we woke up early to go bird watching. I found a website with a small guide to the area and a walk to see some birds on (potentially). The park gates opened at 6, but there weren’t many people going in. In fact, we were the first on the log book for the day. Later, coming out at 8am, we saw some groups with guides going in. It was already hot and steamy, and I felt bad for them. I also doubt anyone hiking the trail needed a guide, it was easier than some river valley trails. And going earlier probably meant you’d see more by yourself, as tours didn’t start until 8am.

Blue green fern.

Where the F were the wild elephants?

Apparently you CAN see them, but they’re increasingly rare. It’s a big park; they hang out all over. Also to be spotted: wild pigs, gibbons, dusky langurs, civet cats, snakes, mouse deer (yeah, right) and the most elusive: tapirs. We hardly even saw birds…hornbills are frequent visitors, but usually only during rainy season; which is during the other 11 months of the year…seriously. We went during the only dry, leech free month. Thankfully.

Just after snapping this bamboo photo, Mike and I heard some rustling. I assumed it was a squirrel, but Mike pointed something slightly larger moving about in the bush…




They are about knee high (well, my knee) and very tiny and oddly shaped. Nocturnal, they tend to stay away from anything noisy. I don’t know how we didn’t scare it away, but I’m glad we saw it. Again, no photo evidence, but you believe me, right?

We turned around at these ‘waterfalls’, but not before I caught Mike falling into the water on camera.

Of course, I rushed to help him. After taking the photo.

All in all, a great side trip.

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