Off the Beaten Path
Ao Nang Travel Blog› entry 102 of 174 › view all entries
December 25th, 2009 – by: domnicella
James was born in Canada (which means we share the same accent), spent most of his youth and school years in Australia, and his adult life in Thailand.
We zoomed through the neighboring towns and villages, admiring the landscape as we went. The predominant sources of income are farming, fishing, and tourism (I believe in that order), and the landscape alternates between karst peaks and untamed rainforest and rubber tree, date palm, and pineapple plantations. It’s stunning. There were so many things we passed that I wished I could take a picture of; we would have spent all day stopping every five hundred meters if I had done so.
Our first stop was an estuary where a freshwater stream meets the saltwater from the sea. James told me he’d tried to find the source of the freshwater several times, hiking all throughout the surrounding area and had yet to find it. It’s a carefully preserved area, with a short boardwalk built throughout the mangroves, so that visitors don’t trample or damage the ecosystem. The water is unbelievably clear. Crystal clear, light turquoise, just beautiful. You aren’t allowed to go swimming in the freshwater, as they want to keep that area as pristine as possible. We knelt down on the platform and drank from the spring -- the water is so fresh and so pure it almost tastes sweet. It was delicious. I wanted to sit there all day drinking that amazing water.
Just a short way down the boardwalk, only a hundred meters or so, is where the saltwater comes in to meet the freshwater at high tide. Before we left we walked down to the beach to see if the tide was in or out; James wanted to time it with low tide as he said the estuary is at its best when the tide is low and the freshwater dominates. Even here, where the two waters meet, was still clear as can be. You‘re permitted to swim at this point, as it is downstream from the purely freshwater. Since the tide was just turning, the water was almost entirely fresh, and it was so cool and crisp and refreshing. Even the freshwater fish were bright and colorful, and apparently these guys found me to be a tasty treat too. They were timid about it at first, but then became quite bold, encircling my legs and nibbling me for all I was worth.
We dried off in the sun and air as we rode to the next stop, and if fair skin and blonde hair gets you attention, it quadruples when all you’re wearing is a bikini. The Thais are perhaps the nicest, friendliest people I’ve ever met, so it’s not harsh or leering attention, but rather smiles and laughter and waves. Everyone wants to say hi to the “exotic” girl with freckles. James is known by most of the locals and can speak Thai, so there was lots of playful banter back and forth between passing motorbikes and pedestrians. It was fun. I spent the whole day with a smile on my face.
Our next stop was a place he dubbed “the blue hole.” The blue hole is just that: a freshwater spring that was the most brilliant, bright turquoise you’ve ever seen.
From the blue hole we stopped in a nearby town for a bite. We pulled over to a woman with three big vats of curries, and I had the fish curry, as the other two curries had either chicken or pork.
From there we went to a rubber plantation, where James showed me how the trees are tapped and the sap is collected.
I wasn’t the only one learning; I taught him how to plant and grow his own pineapple. Not quite what I’d call a fair exchange, but hey, the man can grow pineapples now.
We then visited a family (actually three families living together, I believe all related) who owned one of the rubber plantations. As we pulled up James goes “oh look, they’re washing their bull,” as if it were as common as washing your car. And of course I’m standing there taking pictures of this bull being hosed down. There were two little girls, one two years old and one seven months, both of whom were shy at first but before long were running around squealing “Peg! Peg!” and trying to tackle me. ADORABLE. I wandered over to take more pictures of the other bulls (one wearing a multi-colored necklace), but was warned not to get any closer, as that one was particularly dangerous. And here I was ready to pet him.
We made it to Ao Nang in time for the sunset, where James had a few beers and introduced me to more locals, and I scampered off and was stretched and yanked and cracked during my first Thai massage. Not what I’d term relaxing, but felt good. I’m already jonesing for another.
In the morning when we first met I wished James a merry Christmas. “Oh, is that today?” Dude. Seriously? Turned out to be a merry Christmas indeed.
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