Day 119 – Palian
It seemed almost unreal to actually be able to take a day off from travelling. It’s not that we haven’t had breaks; the last few months have been riddled with delays, but always they have been because of some problems with the bikes. But today was the first time since Khartoum in Sudan that we’ve been able to just stop for a day because we wanted to, and weren’t racing the clock.
We had arranged with the manager of the hotel the previous night to go for a snorkelling trip out to one of the islands off the coast, and so after an alfresco breakfast, we followed the manager down to the pier, where three fishermen (or two fisherman and a friend, or three friends, or just some guys he met that morning, it was never really made clear) were waiting for us. We loaded the packed lunch that had been prepared at the hotel, and headed out to the islands. The sky was looking somewhat tempestuous in the distance, but overhead, it was all blue skies. The sea was quiet and featureless, apart from the occasional flying fish, and once or twice a hat, swept off the head of one of the unwary travellers.
At one of the larger islands we stopped for about ten minutes and had a swim while someone ran off to find some snorkelling equipment, and when he returned, we cast off for a small island a few hundred metres away. This section of the Thailand coast is world renowned for it’s crystal clear waters and stunning marine life. So it was with some puzzlement that when we put on the goggles and swam out into the water, we found ourselves in water murkier than an ANC disciplinary hearing. Oh, there were rocks, and many shellfish, with razor sharp edges, but that was pretty much it, and after about twenty minutes, we called it a day, and headed back to sit on the rocks to enjoy the meal, where the prawns in the salad gave us our only glimpse of sea life for the day. After about an hour, the storm clouds that had been interesting features on the horizon were bearing down on us, and so we quickly packed up, and bundled ourselves back into the boat. Back at the main island, one of our guys ran off to drop off the snorkels and goggles, and Shan, Kath and I took a quick walk into the village, where we saw in a single street a wedding procession, a prepubescent biker gang, a large dead monitor lizard (they taste so good cuz they EAT so good) and crowd of kids playing pool using pieces of bamboo, elastic bands for the side, and marbles, and several other great glimpses into life in the village.
With the clouds still threatening rain above us, we jumped back into the boat, and made for the mainland. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and lolling in the pool, until we were summoned for supper, which turned out to be a serious seafood spread involving huge crabs, a mountain of prawns, and several types of fish. We only just managed to defeat this cornucopia of food, and the next few hours were spent down in the restaurant chatting and listening to some dusty old CD from the 60’s, with some songs that EVEN DAD AND JOHN had never heard of, so, you know, old! With less than two weeks to go, it would hopefully be straight riding through Malaysia, and then on to Singapore.