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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

News from July 2018- Maya Bay & Loh Samah Pier

Maya Bay

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi has been closed for a month now and will stay closed until October 2018. In this article from the Nation Newspaper, they talk about planting some coral on the reef to help rejuvenation.

It also talks about building a pier in Loh Samah to land tourists so they can walk into #MayaBay. They also want to limit tourist to Maya Bay to 2,000 people per day. Anything that helps the nature survive the influx of tourist will be a good thing as long as it is done in a way sympathetic to the surroundings. ie no cement!

Tragic Boat Accident

In the New York Times article there is news of the awful events leading up to the tragic capsize of the boat carrying Chinese nationals out to Coral Island. The authorities advised the captain of the vessel not to set out but the advise seems to have been ignored. 33 people are dead. The article goes into great detail so I won't duplicate it.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Krabi waterfall, Huai To Waterfall, National Park Khao Phanom Benja (Bencha).

Krabi Waterfall, Huai To Waterfall.

One of Thailand's most beautiful waterfalls can be found at the National Park Khao Phanom Benja (Bencha) in Krabi Province. What's fun about all Thai waterfalls is that they are all in mountainous National Parks so you get to experience both verdant tropical jungle with butterflies as big as your hand, and the rush of fresh mountain water, perfect for that dip to cool you down. I like to visit Thailand's waterfalls in the dry season to cool me down and in the wet season to see the raw power of nature.

Those guys might not be able to stand there in wet season as the volume of water is so great!!
Having a soothing body massage from waterfall.

and walking up the river bed towards the first pool....

Light scrambling over the wet season river bed
Finding the path on the right hand side

Very little water in the river
Walking up towards the first pool and waterfall

The afternoon at Huai To Waterfall

We were staying in the Seabass hotel in Krabi town so we got in our car and drove towards Krabi Airport, out of town. The Huai To Waterfall is fed by the huge 2,700m high Khao Phanom Benja (Bencha) mountain range that dominates this part of Krabi and to some extent out towards Phuket. In fact the mountain is so big it generates thermal clouds in March that float over Koh Phi Phi that make those brilliant lightening storms. The drive off the main north- south route 4 takes you over 20 km inland among some beautiful farmed scenery of rolling hills, the occasional limestone karst protrusion. Here we saw an elephant taking the evening bath in the local river.

Typical farm homes and country along route 1016

Elephant being led to her feed.
Clean Elephant just outside the National park.

National Park Khao Phanom Benja (Bencha)
We pulled into the National Park head quarters and negotiated a rate as we had arrived at 16.30 and normally they wanted 200THB for the tourist per day. The team at the gate were either curious or bored and let us in paying for 4 people when there were 5 of us. If you approach Thai people with curiosity and respect and are prepared to be fluid and flexible, there is often a way through, making sure both sides of the negotiation gets what they want.

Clouded Leopard
Clouded Leopard

The National Park Khao Phanom Benja (Bencha) is home to Sumatran serow, clouded leopard, black bear, mouse deer and tapir but we saw nothing of these mammals and were probably looking in the wrong place. For details on how to see these animals, approach the National Park wardens who are very helpful. I think the answer wont be an easy solution and you would need to hike for the day way up in the jungle with a guide.

Gurney's Pitta, close to extinction.
Bird watchers will be intrigued to know that the park is home to the  Gurney's Pitta, though this is rare and endangered. Other birds of note are the argus pheasant, the white-rumped shama, the helmeted & white-crowned and hornbill. Again we saw naught of these!

National Park Khao Phanom Benja (Bencha) is also home to the following species of monkeys: stump-tailed macaque, lar gibbon, and langur.

Lar Gibbon
As we walked up the very gradual jeep track we were very quickly enclosed by a huge canopy with trees 200 foot (60 meters) high. They were tremendous and inspiring as well as being beautifully cool. As we started our walk the sound of the crickets or insects started. By the time we walked out at dusk they were making a huge noise, almost deafening. In addition to this, you could almost taste the oxygen in the air, it was so clean!

200 foot canopy, great foot path
After a small rise we came to the river crossing. We arrived in March after about 3 months of little or no rain so the river was very small though we could see the remains of 2 broken bridges, obviously swept away in the June and September Monsoons.

River crossing with broken pieces from previous bridges
River crossing with broken pieces from previous bridges

Huai To Waterfall.

The Huai To Waterfall is a series of 6 cascades and 6 resulting pools. In the wet season June and September you have to look after yourself as the force of the water is dangerous and every year youngsters loose their lives jumping into water that is more powerful than them. In March the pools were a bit sad in volume but definately cool which was a great relief. 

Showing the pools at Huai To Waterfall in dry season.
Showing the pools at Huai To Waterfall in dry season.  
The flow of water was minimal but compared to the 35 degrees and 98 percent humidity outside the National Park it was a cool paradise. We climbed up on the right hand side, on a partially looked-after path, that was steep in places but steady going, and got to the 2nd and then 3rd pool. Here we lay down, sat in the cool water and took in the scenes. It really was quite magical, as, getting late to the National park, we were the only people at the Falls. The heat of the sun was fading a bit  and we could drink in nature at it's most delightful and innocent.

I have been to the 6th pool before but we hadnt got time enough to explore this time. Needless to say, it gets more remote, more jungle dominated and more adventurous. The paths can get over grown and slippery when wet so I would always advise people to wear trainers and definitely not flip flops. I would advise taking water and a sarong/towel or leg covering in case the mosquitoes / ants attack. It's beautiful nature but it might turn into a jungle!

Showing Path between the pools... it gets worse the higher you climb
Showing Path between the pools... it gets worse the higher you climb

Thai people visit Waterfalls on the weekends and holidays.

Visiting a waterfall for many Thai people is a pick-nick where you bring food and enjoy a meal in the beautiful surroundings. Most Thai people dont seem to need to explore so once you get up above the first couple of pools you have the place to yourself.

Some waterfalls in Thailand (like Lumpi Waterfall Khao Lak) have great soup huts and nic knack food stalls to augment what you bring. Often if you arrive on weekends or Bank Holidays and the first pool is busy, just climb up to the 2nd or 3rd pool and you are bound to be away from all the weekenders.

How to get to Krabi waterfall, Huai To Waterfall, National Park Khao Phanom Benja (Bencha).

Address: National Park Khao Phanom Benja (Bencha), Khlong Phon, Khlong Thom District, Krabi 81170, Thailand.

More images.

The team enjoying the 3rd pool

Thanks to images from: Ric, Sam, Tom & Cc + google Maps.

BTW: if this kind of trip only satisfies you for half a day (although I would stay the day!), I suggest you look into going to the Tiger Cave temple which is in the same area. They have a great view point which climbs over 1,200 steps and an amazing hidden valley where the monks live.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Longtail boat ferry to Railay Beach East.

Longtail boat ferry to Railay Beach East.
Simple and Classic.

Longtail boat ferry to Railay East
Longtail boat ferry to Railay East

Longtail transfer bus pick up.

All five of us were staying at the SeaBass hotel in Krabi town which is just out side the center and 150 meters back from the Krabi River. We booked the longtail transfer from Krabi to Railay Beach with Krabi Tourist services and were picked up by a minivan at reception.

Picturesque Krabi River
Picturesque Krabi River

We drove down to the old pier and jumped out and boarded the large Longtail from a clean concrete line of steps. This is handy as the longtails on some islands are a pig to get into if there are no steps.

Getting on to the Longtail ferry boat
Getting on to the Longtail ferry boat

Leaving Krabi Pier

The Longtail boat driver rotated the propeller to face almost forward so we could reverse out. This isn't a very gainly move but the drive knew his work and we pulled away from the peer and were off out into the middle of the river heading for the estuary. 

Krabi is an old trading post on an old trading route that used to bring spices from the east coast of Thailand to the traders in the Indian Ocean. The old pier isn't much to look at but the deep water allowed the bigger ships in, even in low season, when the winds and seas are strong and high respectively.

 Krabi River
12 meter mangroves of the Krabi River
The Krabi River winds it self down to the sea through an extensive and thick mangrove forest, a great place for bird watchers and nature lovers.
First glimpses of PhraNang mountains and cliffs

Still to this day, the southern side of the river is dominated by mangrove forests and this made for a magical ride out towards the sea. Only after 1-2 km you could start to see the myriad of limestone cliffs of PhrangNa.

As we turned out of the estuary, Railey beach could be seen as a thin slice of bright golden sand. As we headed towards #Railey the cliffs became taller and more impressive. Even though it was the dry season, some early rains had turned the mountainside a bright strong green, beautiful.

Views of Phranang from the Longtail Boat
Views of Phranang from the Longtail Boat

Arriving at Railay West

Arriving at Railay East
Arriving at Railay East

We arrived at the main Railay East pier which was a very long floating pier. It was easy to get out of the longtail and walk straight onto the beach and then into the village. We hung out at Railay West for a bit but it was quite noisy there from all the boats coming in from Ao Nang. In the afternoon we went to Phranang beach 
(the place all the pictures are taken from) which was stunning and later in the day I climbed up to the Railay view point which was absolutely stunning.

Arriving at Railay East

PhraNang Cave Beach

Phranang Beach

Railay Viewpoint

Railay View Point
Railay View Point

Sticker system

See below the sticker you get when you give your ticket to the bus man at the hotel. When you arrive at the pier, the sticker easily locates you so that the right Longtail to pick you up.

 Further pictures.

Railay Links and activities

Tour of Krabi by Speedboat
Seven Things To Do on a Seven Day Trip to Krabi
Krabi river tours
Railay Beach Sea Kayaking

Monday, June 11, 2018

Tigerline speedboat, Koh Phi Phi to Phuket. + Stickers explained.

Speedboat, Koh Phi Phi to Phuket.

The Tigerline speedboat drew into the #kohphiphi main pier and off loaded half a dozen tourist and their bags. We didn't get a chance to ask them how far they had come as it was our chance to board. The boat was pretty full as the speedboat left and it was quite noisy with the 3 x 250 hp's on the back, so we all settled into our traveller's 'zone out' mode. I glanced back as we left Tonsa Bay and saw the great plume of spray from the engines frame the mountains around Nui Bay cliffs.

Tigerline speedboat ferry arriving on kohphiphi
Tigerline speedboat ferry arriving on Koh Phi Phi 

Transfer Sticker system on Phi Phi and Phuket. How it works.

Sticker used for transit

These transfer stickers get given to you when you hand in your ticket to agent at the Phi Phi pier. This sticker told the people at the Rasada Pier, Phuket, whether I had a private taxi or joined a group bus to Phuket Airport or to one of the many Phuket Beaches. So this was the onward transfer info. It made for quite a slick process when there were 20 different languages amongst us. This is the same system they use for the tours as well. 

The Phi Phi Pier 4 pm depart time was nearer 4.40 pm which was a bit confusing but when I understood the itinerary it was no wonder that the Tigerline speedboat gets delayed. The massive 3 x 250 horse power engines drives 45 people up from Li Pe island from 100 km further south from Koh PhiPhi. The #speedboat stopped in Trang, Koh Lanta, & suffers from weather, tide and issues of delays from the general public.
Settling in to our seats on the speedboat

Our esteemed Captain...a serious man.

The View of Tonsai & Nui Cliffs in the rear, framed: Koh Phi Phi

Nearing Rasada Pier Phuket

Reversing stern on, in Rasada Port, Phuket

I slept for the crossing from Phi Phi Don and in just under the hour we slowed to approach Rasada Pier the main ferry port in Phuket.

3 x 250hps !! speed.. but comes with noise.
Unloading the bags at the municipal Rasada Pier
Rasada Port with other ferries arriving.

At Rasada Pier I met my joint taxi minibus ride to Chalong at the end of a very comfortable speedboat trip.

Further articles on Koh Phi Phi Speedboats can be found here:Speedboat Ferry Phuket To Phi Phi Island

Phi Phi Pier

Boarding the speedboat ferry