Sunday, 23 February 2020

A visit to stunning Phang Gna Bay.....

Phang Gna Bay

Our sea kayaking trip with John Gray (the famous Hong by Starlight tour) approached Phang Gna Bay from the south. This time we drove off the Isand of Phuket and headed off towards the North East following the sea.

 The map shows the Island of Phuket. You leave Phuket by crossing the Sarasin Bridge (sad Thai love story about the Bridge via Wikipedia) and are then on the  Thai mainland in the Phang Gna Province. The road splits with one road heading North towards  Khoa Lak and the other heading North-east towards the town of Phang Gna. This road takes the visitor through ever increasingly fascinating Limestone Mountain scenery and towards our rendevous point with our Longtail Boat booked for a trip through the mangroves and then into the Northern part of Phang Gna Bay and as far south as Nail Island, otherwise known as James Bond Island. This is the island used in the film The Man with the Golden Gun.....
 The iconic Longtail Boat used in many a waterborne Thai tour. The name comes from the engine and the distance the prop shaft extends from the vessel.
 We'd come with two good friends who were staying with us for a couple of weeks holiday. L to R we have Kannika, Hilary and Sue.  Three jolly fine ladies who were full of fun and laughter throughout their visit. The more the enthusiasm of the visitors then the more enthusiasm is generated in the tour guide (me!!) and the better the trip becomes!
 Thailand is always in a hurry. Whether it is on land  or sea...Thais have to drive as fast as is humanly possible and all too often with tragic results. Our Captian was under strict orders to take his time and take us into the mangroves where no tourist boats venture. Any speeding and Kannika had explained that I wouldn't pay him. Be a very nice, gentle skipper and there would be a good tip....the choice was his! The advertised one hour trip more than doubled in length and it was excellent with the Captain and I becoming good seafaring chums at the end of it and his children remaining having a father.
 The Phang Gna scenery is all about the Karst formations which are the jagged, weathered remains of limestone mountains which we are told were created by the uplifting of the world's longest ever coral reef at over 3,000 miles and the dropping of sea levels. It's all complicated geological stuff requiring a vivid imagination on the part of the traveler...but it all makes for unforgettable creations both on land and sea.
 There are several 'Sea Gypsy' villages dotted around the Bay. This very large one in the North of the Bay boasts some very well made and beautiful wooden restaurants as well as a splendid Mosque with equally run down and rickety dwellings to the sides. The villagers make their money from tourism and are suffering badly this season because of the total lack of Chinese tourists which make up 75% of tourist trade.

Highlight of the trip for me was the time we spend slowly wending our way deep into the mangrove forests. They are so dense that they would form a formidable protective sanctuary when the Thais used to flee from the coast to hide during the many piratical raids and Burmese invasions.

The Sea Gypsies are regarded as the region's original settlers yet they have no official status in terms of Nationality. This is very much an on-going Political debate with various organisatins working hard to bring about recognition to these people. They originally migrated northwards from Malaya bringing their mainly Muslim religion with them.

Thailand is 94.6% Buddhist with 4.3% Muslim with the other 1.1% made up of Christian and other religions. The Muslims are mainly found in the southern part of Thailand with Phuket and areas of Phang Gaa being popular.
 After the boat trip we headed to the very well known Samet Nangshe viewpoint. This viewpoint is located  on a hilltop commanding  a 180-degree panoramic view of the bay. From here can be seen the entire 1.6 km covered by the mangroves and the spectacular limestone karsts. This is definitely a view not to be missed and forever remembered.
 Hilary and Kannika demonstrate their overwhelming exuberance at witnessing  such a spectacular view!
 This is one of the those views that an ordinary camera and an untalented photographer (me) cannot hope to has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
What better way to conclude such a day than with a seafood dinner, the highlight of which was Thai Oysters. Thai food is exquisite....and the way the oysters are eaten are eaten with the addition of  fresh Thai herbs and spices makes this a taste-bud exploding pleasure. This is when Kannika (and all Thais, I think) are at their absolute happiest....eating!!

This was an unforgettable trip but made all the more wonderful because of the people on it and their boundless appreciation of what they were experiencing and seeing. Great Day!!

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