There is a little something for everyone in Thailand, even the Travel Companion (TC) who is known to be finicky at the best and worst of times. Having been to Thailand thrice in the last half this year, I think I’m inclined to understand why.
Khao Lak – a small place that’s really a series of villages about 70 km north of Phuket – wasn’t a destination that TC had initially agreed to, but after some form of cajoling, agreed and upon arrival, didn’t find the place too bad at all.
A long stretch of highway connects Phuket Airport to Khao Lak and an hour’s drive brought us to The Sands on the north side of Nang Thong Beach. Thankfully not as touristed as Phuket, Khao Lak’s renewal is nothing short of amazing after the 2004 Tsunami decimated kilometres of the coastline. I arrived exactly on the 11th anniversary of the Boxing day tragedy and having seen pictures of the devastation wrought by the power of nature, marvelled at how life somehow manages to crawl back. Only having been brought up the long coastline on ‘taxi’ (which is really a modified pick-up with added seats in the back) were we able to comprehend the scale of the disaster that must have struck this part of southwestern Thailand.
Without a map, the piecemeal information I could glean from the internet is probably a testament to how much less touristy this place is than Phuket. Without a moped, we walked up and down the beach from Nang Thong north to Bang Niang and pretty much left it as that. Wilting under the heat of the day, we plied the well-worn paths down the main highway (or the high street) eating Thai food and buying rubbish snacks and souvenirs, then plunged into the pool for a much needed cooling off.
But I was here also to visit and dive in the Similans, the marine national park which is only open for half a year, dragging TC with me on the first, unfortunate journey that involved a speed boat, loads of movement causing sea-sickness and tons of tourists on the white-sand Similan beach. Nevertheless, these are the best dive sites I’ve ever visited, the staggering amount of pelagic sea-life simply unbelievable, especially in Richelieu Rock.
Big Blue Diving is half-Japanese, half-Swiss owned, and populated with British, Japanese and Scandinavian staff, all of whom I’m sure have very interesting personal stories. I only managed to speak to a few of them – and being rolling stones is the only thing they have in common – but the perspectives they all offer often fracture my own changing opinions on travel and work. Therein perhaps, is always the heart of why I travel.