January 10, 2008

Reporting from Ko Krabang – Day II

Day I was a somber reminder that conferences are meant to be serious affairs and we were unleashed upon a barrage of presentations from all and sundry. A number of interesting people have come from FAO, from Wetlands international, from Yale school of Forestry, from several research institutes in Thailand and Malaysia and also Japan. I have met some of these interesting people and have realized that the level of their understanding of issues is high as well as that appreciation of all things from an age perspective. This age and experience of working, whether on the field or I research institutes leads to considerable increase in what I call world view, though I am not sure that this is the best way to excel…. Age or enthusiasm…. Well, those who thrive on both always look like the best of the lot.

Anyways, after the first day of presentations, I was exhausted and looked forward to the dinner which was an exquisite Thai affair… though did not really take part in the celebrations

Next morning, after waking up with pain…. The change of heart which led me to visit Trang province instead of the Songhkla Lake was to prove the best decision I have taken in the near past.

Reaching a mangrove village and taking a small walk inside mangroves on bamboo strung together, I got in the boat with a host of other participants.

A long boat ride on the long tail boat that is common ton the west coast of Thailand in near direct sun rays was memorable, for the mangroves and also for the first view while we entered the sea.

Whew... the view and all that was yesterday vaporized in a jiffy…. Today was well and truly- the day of real good travel and I was right in the centre of it. The river meeting the sea, sand banks at every turn, birds all around, Casuarina equisetifolia growing high, mangroves looking rich and the distance the Loh Muk Island – I was struck with the age old disease – wanderlust…. Before I could take in the view, we reached the zone of sea grass – grass growing underwater- wavy to sight, same as grass to the touch…. And tones of it everywhere…. Looking around, somebody told me that the Dugongs which are huge sea animals come to the grass lands to feed….

And then to the large boats and the trip was beginning to look more like a vacation than a study tour….. The boat had a first floor, there was good food all around, the hostess took care that we were content, someone started singing, orange juice flowing around and a eye popping, awe inspiring boat ride through the Andaman sea…. Looking at the Loh Muk island first and then to numerous sheer limestone cliffs, it was a day I may well not forget in a hurry…. Finally, the clear skies beckoned us to the Koh Kradang Island which was STUNNING…. Been to several beaches but none so white ad so clean… glass would not show so many levels of transparency as we were witness to.

Lunch and I wandered off, nowhere and to someplace…. Just walking till the end and then walking a bit more…. The cleanest, clearest, discovery channel labelled water and I was walking beside it…… just about beginning to believe that I was here – very close to where the each was shot and on those very sands… whew…

At the end of the road… sitting for a long time and looking around at pretty scenes, I went snorkeling – once, twice, many times and on an on… when they say that swimming underwater is a great experience, they say the truth and I stand for it too. I don’t remember how many times, I went inside maybe 7 or 8 times but each one was a great feeling… watching fish swim by, sometimes a big one…. Watching sand roll like a drunkard…..and watching myself feel lighter… sometimes just a snorkel and I felt like a swimmer, sometimes, the current made me realize that this a sea, so better wear a life jacket…. And when I wore them, it felt even better. I could go far and away. Amazing experience… this island and yesterday seems far away.

Staying for around 2 hours, I left after all had settled back into the ship, never wanting to lift my foot away from the island….. Soothes and cleanses a lot many things in the human body – these white sands.

Back in the boat, saw the Emerald cave where people are towed on a rope and taken to the cave which sparkles like emerald due to a mixture of sun’s rays and some natural events.

Huge landscapes – what a vision and then we were back to the Pak Meng pier which is close to the Rajamangala University where saw what they say is a small aquarium but to me, at least- was a huge and superbly maintained piece of well thought out infrastructure – looked around and then went for a final trip to the sea. Walked for a kilometer and reached my last limestone karst which was standing at the end of the beach. Huge it was and then said bye to it.

Back to the bus, satiated to say the least, we reached Trang and had an evening session with a good dinner and a lot of talk….

Day II came to an end – a memorable day in the life of a confirmed landscape addict