|Haad Farang- Agoda|
Anyone visiting Thailand has to experience the hot spots. You can’t come to Thailand and not experience the madness of Kao San Road or a Full Moon Party. There are good reasons why places like Koh Phangan and Phuket are always flooded with tourists; they’re beautiful, they offer tours, activities and a booming nightlife, and they cater specifically to travelers. But after living in Thailand for over a year now, I’ve grown to appreciate the lesser-trafficked locales. Once in awhile, it’s nice to take a detour from the beaten path and visit a place that’s not yet littered with backpackers and covered by seedy bars and hotels. It’s refreshing.
The second week of December was [another] 3-day weekend for me. A few friends and I headed out to a small island on the Andaman coast of Thailand called Koh Mook (or Ko Muk). Koh Mook is in the Trang province of Thailand, south of Phuket. For me, coming from Surat, it was a few hours in a mini-bus to Trang town, another hour-long ride in a hired pickup truck to the pier, and then a short ferry cruise over to the island. A bit of a trip, but so worth it.
|Look! Another white person!|
When we arrived it was raining, but it didn’t take away from the island’s natural splendor and magnetic charm. It is largely undeveloped accept for two villages, one on the east side of the island and one on the west. There are no more than a handful of guesthouses, restaurants, and bars. You can find few dive shops along the beach, and maybe two or three private resorts. There are only 2,000 inhabitants on the whole island, mostly fisherman and their families. Koh Mook is also home to the “Emarald Cave” and prides its waters as being one of the last sanctuaries for the Dugong (a relative to the manatee). Other than the income Koh Mook draws from tourism and fishing, the locals also profit from harvesting the thousands of rubber trees that cover the entire island.
Being on a budget, my friends and I opted to stay at Mookies Guesthouse. They’re known for having cheap accommodation and a friendly staff. Just off of an unpaved road in the middle of the jungle, it seemed like a nice, quiet place to make our headquarters for the weekend.
We checked in with the owner, a friendly European man whose name I can't remember. His Thai wife put their newborn baby down to nap in a hammock while she got our lodging ready. While waiting, we sat at the small restaurant and bar, watched the rain, and tested Mookie’s claim of having the coldest beer on the island.
There were vacant bungalows available but for a few baht less we decided to go with the “tents”. It being the rainy season, I originally wasn’t to keen on this. To my surprise, it ended up being much nicer than your typical campsite. Each tent was already set up for us and covered by a thatched roof. Inside there was a full bed, an electric fan, and a lamp. Not bad for $5 a night.
The rain finally subsided and John, Janet, Brittany, and I walked a couple hundred yards down to the beach. The waters are some of the clearest I’ve ever seen and the sea is rich with fish, coral, and other marine life just off shore, making snorkeling easy. We swam in the ocean. We sat in the sand.
Brittany and I had in intense yoga-off on the beach. Brittany tried showing off with, what I believe, is known in the yoga world as the Scorpion’s Anus. I answered by executing a much more graceful and complicated exhibit of strength, balance, and swagger; a secret move called the Handicapped Swan. It took me years to perfect. I easily won the competition just as the sun started to go down. Poetic.
We watched the sunset. The red sky and purple ocean stretched on forever like they were racing to a finish line at the horizon. A seafood dinner on an ocean-side cliff and a few tall beers sent us to bed. Nights like that remind me to be thankful.
The next morning we packed a day bag and hired a boat to take us to various snorkeling spots and then to the island’s star attraction, Morakot Cave (Tam Nam, in Thai). The cave, also known as the Emerald Cave, is located just off the western shore. Its mouth is on the face of a seaside cliff and only accessible by water. Deep inside, the cave opens up into a secret white-sand lagoon enclosed on all sides by towering walls of limestone. It’s like being inside of a volcano. The only way in or out is by swimming in from the ocean and through the cave’s passageway. As the sun above shines down on the lagoon, the water becomes a radiant emerald-green giving the cave its nickname. What gives the cave even more charisma is that it was used as a hideout for pirates and as a place for them to stash their treasure.
So in the spirit of true Goonies, we packed a day bag and set out on the seas. Our backpack carried only the bare necessities: two bags of potato chips, one bottle of water, a Santa hat, one pocketknife, one machete, and two bottles of rum. Because you can’t go on a pirate quest without rum. Or a machete.
We snorkeled for a few hours at various spots around Koh Mook. It rained the whole time but that didn’t matter underwater. Our boat guide made a brief stop for us at a deserted island where we each took pictures with the Santa hat for Christmas. Then, we swigged our rum and headed over to the pirate cave.
The boatman stopped just outside of the cave’s entrance and we hopped in the deep green water. We swam inside and were enveloped by the pitch black. After swimming for about 30 meters in the darkness we saw a small light. We followed the light and it grew until we were inside the secret lagoon of the Emerald Cave... sounds like the title of a Harry Potter book.
|The entrance to cave where we swam in (on the right).|
We hung out inside for a bit, taking it all in. The only other people there were two guys we’d met earlier that had kayaked in just before us.
It was like a movie set. There was a real feel of secrecy and seclusion. We walked around and took some pictures. There was a poorly written sign in English explaining the history of the cave. John and I had a pirate fight. How could you not? His machete beat my stick. Then... It was time to swim back out into the world.
|A look at the cave from the inside|
We capped off the trip with a good night out at Chill Out Bar on Farang Beach. We were able to see a lunar eclipse in sky from where we laughed and drank on the beach just outside of the bar. Not a bad way to end another weekend.