May 4th 2014
If you just want the photos, scroll to the bottom.
It is hard to even know where to begin as my 3rd night on the small island of Ko Muk comes to an end. Each island continues to offer new, fun adventures- each different from the previous stop.
Ko Lanta was an incredible place- one that I would recommend to anyone. The main caveats would be: if you REALLY want to party or you don’t want/ are afraid to ride a scooter then I would probably avoid it. If scootering up and down a nearly empty island, exploring beaches, stopping in for an iced coffee or meal that might set you back all of $5 sounds fun to you, put Ko Lanta on your list of places to go.
The taxi picked me up several days ago from my hotel in Ko Lanta to take me to Ko Muk. In typical 3rd world fashion, nothing was explained at all. We made several stops, picking up other people in the pickup/ taxi (the bed has benches) who were going to various islands in the Andaman Sea. I had no clue what was going on, so I for sure thought I was going to miss the ferry. Eventually the driver says “No problem. No problem- they wait for everybody” and my stress went away. Not that missing a ferry would be the worst thing in the world (boo hoo- another night in Ko Lanta), but once I am on the move I want to get the to the next destination.
It ended up that the ferry was leaving from the Old Town Ko Lanta pier, which I had visited a few days earlier. This boat was hardly even a “ferry” and more of a “small charter boat.” It was already mostly filled up, with the bottom section being occupied with Asians in life jackets. I wasn’t sure if the Korean ferry disaster led to the life-jacket-wearing from the beginning of a boat ride or if this was a normal thing.
Sitting on the bottom deck me feel a little sick, since it was SUPER hot and enclosed without much air coming through. Instead of suffering on the bottom deck, I went topside to enjoy the view and get some fresh air. My only worry about being topside for too long was getting scorched by the hot sun. I screened up, and enjoyed the awesome ride between all of the islands.
Before making it all the way to my hotel, the boat made a stop at the Emerald Cave, which is one of the main tourist stops on the island of Ko Muk. Here is where a big piece of the puzzle went together- all of those Asian tourists already life-jacketed up were waiting for THIS stop- the emerald cave. This is why they were on the boat- they weren’t going to Ko Muk or anywhere else. The cave WAS their destination.
The boat captain said I could join them in the emerald cave for $200 bhat (about $6). Done! I handed over $200 bhat, changed into boardshorts and I was in the water. Sadly the GoPro was out of juice, so I didn’t get any pics. 99% of the tourists in their life jackets gather into a massive single file line going into the cave. There is about 100 yards of cave before you get to an open pool on the other side. The boat captain/ tour leader said I didn’t need a life jacket if I was a good swimmer, so I took his word for it and was more of a free agent in the water instead of a part of the life jacket procession.
Entering into the cave is spectacular. Looking back toward the ocean the water truly is an emerald color. It looks fake- like a Disneyland ride. After swimming awhile, the cave gets 100% pitch black so I wait for the guides and their flashlights. The single file tourist procession is moving slowly, and they are chanting something over and over (not even sure if it was in Thai or another language). I have no idea if they are counting- Something like “ONE-TWO-ONE-TWO”- or if they are saying more like “HERE WE GO-HERE WE GO” to follow the leaders voice. Whatever these slow tourists are saying, I just want to reach the other side and be free of their randomly kicking legs.
Before too long, the tour guide/ boat captain points and tells me to keep swimming. I see the literal light at the end of the tunnel, more incredible blue water, and swim ahead of group ONE TWO ONE TWO. The rock walls inside the cave are super sharp, and there is a section with high water so I have to swim underwater for a bit to avoid the jagged roof.
I enter the open pool at the end of the cave, and it is nothing short of stunning. After swimming through a cave tunnel with tourists and insane emerald water, you are treated to a shallow sand pool with massive rock walls all around. There are tourists abound, but that doesn’t diminish the experience. Especially since I didn’t even think I would be inside the emerald cave today. What a wonderful surprise to start the day after the stressful taxi ride to the boat where I thought I wouldn’t even make it to Ko Muk.
After giving the tourists ample photo taking opportunities, it was back into the cave to get back to the boat. I was perfectly happy to not have a life jacket, but in the dark section of the cave it is a bit sketchy- mainly because I don’t think the tourists can swim very well. There are thrashing legs all over the place- like a rogue water polo game in the middle of a pitch black cave water-tunnel. I also come up a bit early on the “duck under” section, banging my head nicely on the jagged roof. It didn’t feel like I cut myself, and I need to continue to the other side no matter what.
The emerald blue of the other side eventually appears and I make a bee line for the exit- not waiting for thrashing leg tourists to take me out. I make it back to the main boat, grab my bags and change to a long tail boat to get me to my hotel. The long tail pulls up on the beach, I hop out into waist deep water, put my bags on my head one at a time, and I have officially arrived on Ko Muk.
What a crazy, unique island this is. First off, it is really small. I walked the entire inhabited section in an afternoon, and I think I covered every inch of paved road this island has to offer. I saw a Saturday soccer tournament, complete with an announcer and a near post-game fight. I got stared at like an alien for the entire time, which is always high comedy to me. At home, you need to aggressively dress or look super odd to get the type of looks I got for half a day. And all I was wearing was an under armour shirt, cargo shorts and some nike running shoes. There might as well have been a third leg coming out of my ass based on the looks I was getting.
The island is covered with all sort of animals. I have seen cats, dogs, the biggest spider of my life, chickens, more hermit crabs than I knew existed, normal crabs, plenty of birds, lizards, and unfortunately a million insects. I don’t know where those GOD DAMNED mosquitos come from, but they can just all go to hell.
At the hotel there is a wild group of dogs that live on the beach, too. I am not sure how big the entire pack is, but I would guess around 15 dogs total. There are 3 dogs in particular- 2 black haired puppy siblings and one other white haired mutt- that hang out at my resort most of the time, away from the rest of the pack. I have spent more time with these dogs than any other canines in my life. They are a pretty funny trio, and clearly not big or strong enough to hang with the big boys yet. I have named the two black haired ones Lebron and Dwyane Wade and the white mutt is Mike Miller. The main pack FIGHT on the beach- full on dog brawls. Most of the dogs have ragged ears and/ or scars from various dog battles.
It is low season in Ko Muk, and that means there are barely any guests. The hotel stays completely open, so it is fully staffed, but there are hardly any guests to serve. The restaurant/ bar closes at 8 pm. There is a restaurant on the cliff overlooking the beach that stays open later. If you would like $3 pad thai overlooking a completely deserted Thai beach, I know just the place.
I cant believe that it was only a few weeks ago that I was in Euro-Tourist mecca Phuket. Ko Muk is only a several hour ferry ride, but has clearly not yet made it onto the Tourist Destination List- lucky for me. I went out for a sunset swim, and there was only one group of fellow tourists to be found on an entire beach. The sunsets here are stunning (as they have been for most of my trip). To not even have more than 10 people on a beach to enjoy it is pretty rad.
Tonight I was also treated to one of my favorite activities- TAKE A PICTURE WITH THE WESTERN TOURIST MAN! First up was a huge group of about 15 people that wanted a pic with me. They all gathered around- parents and kids saddled up to the WESTERN TOURIST MAN for a priceless photo opp. It started with one guy and his camera phone, and soon expanded to 3 people all taking pics like an Asian tourist paparazzi. Then, just like Maya Bay, a second group wanted a pic with me. I will never know what sort of WESTERN TOURIST MAN scent I secrete, but I fucking love it. At this point, I also don’t think they believe I am a celebrity, although I could definitely be wrong. I also have no clue what they do with these pictures. God willing they make it onto Facebook or Instagram and get a lot of likes.
It would be nice to have a reliable internet connection here, as I realize how much I rely on fast internet to power a lot of the regular entrainment my life. The biggest bummer was not being able to watch the NBA playoffs (so many game 7s!). Missing the Warriors vs Clippers game 7 is pretty much a blasphemous act. When the internet runs on a single human powered crank, there is simply no way to make that happen.
Overlooking the ocean, at dinner tonight viewing a beautiful beach without a human on it, another song struck me at the perfect time. The song this time was Yellowcard’s Southern Air:
The sun lays down inside the ocean,
I’m right where I belong,
Feel the air, the salt on my skin,
The future’s comin on,
And after living through these wild years,
And coming out alive,
I just want to lay my head here,
Stop runnin for awhile…
It was too perfect for exactly where I am right now. I have spent the last several days hanging out with puppies, watching incredible sunsets on a deserted beach, seeing thousands of hermit crabs scamper around, stopping by a local Thai soccer game, going into a crazy cave, and taking pictures with locals. I am in no rush to go anywhere- thankful to be in this wonderful place on earth. Even after typing plenty of words tonight (enough to bore likely all of you except my parents), continuing to live the dream I had many months ago is simply incredible…