take two (take one can be found in November 2006)
After getting the reception to phone Dave and Tanya of PaddleAsia, I get ferried by yet another moped taxi (how they manage to balance overweight me and my backpack I don't know) to the Imperial Hotel, which is no relation to Imperial 2 guesthouse. There I meet fellow kayakers Leeja and Lowry, a couple from Latvia who cannot keep their hands off each other, and we get collected at 08.10hrs to be transported to the South of the Phuket. Lowry the Latvian lover is drinking whisky for breakfast - ah, such is the folly of youth. I meet a further three members of our small group - this time three aussie (hashers!) guys on a male bonding trip. I really am the gooseberry here!
Our first stop is an island with a large 'hong', an interior room formed by the collapse of a huge cave system in the middle of the island. We paddled through a cave and into the hong. This was an impressive introduction to the unique limstone geology which we explore over the next couple of days.
The hot sun glinting off the waves, the islands in the distance, mangroves, red ants, jungle - you can practically hear everything growing like mad here with so much sunlight, water, heat. I can't believe this is the Thai autumn going on winter - it's so humid and hot - what must it be like in SUMMER? Already I feel like I'm living in the hothouse at Kew: same fruity, rotting smells of vegetation.
We get back to the bungalows at Santisook and they are beautiful - my own little pad, with a deck overlooking the sea and coconut trees. There is plenty to eat: rice and veg, chilli, prawns, chicken and fruit.
There is lightening and thunder at 4pm - a deluge of rain which doesn't last long and doesn't clear the air either. We're supposed to go paddling again that afternoon, but I'm so tired and jetlagged that I'm unconscious as soon as my head hits pillow. I get bitten despite the mozzie net.
Monday 23rd October. I wake up bright and early just as the sun is rising, so go for a stroll along the beach to take some pics.
I woke up at 3am, and then tossed and turned and slept fitfully - despite the mozzie net and jungle formula stuff smeared on, am still eaten alive. Missed the sunrise this morning!Had breakfast of fried eggs on weird toast. Bright yellow yolks as good as my freerange eggs used to be. Said goodbye to the cat with the crooked tail which kept me company the whole time I stayed in the bungalow. Must be horrible to live in a fur coat in Thailand. Our bags are chucked on the boat and we head out to explore an extensive area of mangroves. We explore different channels through this unique ecosystem. It's a remarkable area, a real highlight of the trip. Apparently Thailand's remaining mangrove forests are the breeding ground and nursery for much of the marine life in the ocean.