“We should go kayaking. It’ll be fun.”
And with those fateful words, an exciting day full of sunburn, exhaustion and monitor lizards was ours for the taking.
Not that we really knew what lay in store when we started out, mind you…
Koh Yao Noi doesn’t have hundreds of different tourist attractions lined up to choose from. Perhaps that’s because one of the greatest attractions of the island is the lack of tourists. Still, there are a few options for things to do beyond lying on the beach, including …
…kayaking to a different beach.
Koh Nok sits just off the eastern coast, and is little more than a couple of limestone cliffs with a thin sliver of beach at high tide. Standing on shore and looking out at it, it seems that you could almost swim out there. Two fit (ahem) strong (cough) people kayaking there and back shouldn’t be a problem at all, right?
And so it was that loaded up with essential supplies, and with barely a backward glance at the slightly nervous kayak vendor, Lauren and I headed out into the bay. The sky was blue, the sun was warm and we could see little fish darting around just out of reach of the paddles. It was an idyllic scene.
After about fifteen minutes, though, a weary and slightly concerned voice drifted back to me on the salty breeze. “Do you think we’re half way yet?”
No. Not even close.
Hmmm. Perhaps when the guy at the shop recommended the lighter, more expensive kayak option he might have been onto something. The 500 baht version that we opted for cut through the water with all the grace of an armoured personnel carrier, and weighed about the same.
Half an hour later we finally neared the tiny beach, with arms burning from both exertion and sun exposure. Rounding the tip of the island, our hopes of having the beautiful spot all to ourselves were dashed by a couple of longtails anchored in the shallow water and several beach towels lined up with colourful precision.
There were barely a dozen people on the island, but they were all crowded onto that miniscule strip of golden sand. Still, as the water receded so did the crowds, and after a couple of hours we were left with far more beach and far less company. We hadn’t done much in that time – swam in the ocean, lazed around reading books, added to our sunburn, that kind of thing – and having exhausted the available entertainment options we eventually decided to put the kayak back in the water and head back.
Lauren wandered away to take a few last photos while I got things ready, but soon returned at a much faster pace, eyes wide and arms waving frantically. “Dave … there’s a crocodile over there!!“
Well used to Lauren’s powers of exaggeration, I just nodded and smiled. Yes dear. She was adamant, however, and despite crocodiles having been extinct in Thailand for decades I apparently wasn’t going to be able to rest without taking a look myself.
Peering into the undergrowth, I couldn’t see a thing beyond the usual tree roots, leaves and half a million ants. “Over there, beside the cave.” Looking up at a hint of movement, I was just quick enough to see the back half of something scaly disappearing behind a tree.
Crocodile? No. Good sized monitor lizard? Very much so.
Either way I wasn’t planning on getting any closer.
After a quick circumnavigation of the island – me looking out for submerged rocks, Lauren checking for a surprise attack from the Lesser-Known Man-Eating Monitor Lizards Of Doom – we turned tail and headed for home.
Battling the outgoing tide, exhaustion, heat and sunburn, let’s just say that it was a long and painful journey. More than once I wondered how much I’d have to pay to be towed back to shore by one of the occasional boats that went past.
Eventually we struggled back to our starting point, close to an hour later and with no shortage of swearing along the way. Dragging the kayak back up the beach, my suggestion of doing it all again the following day was met with stony silence. I can’t imagine why.
Drinking a cold beer on the balcony an hour later, the pain in our shoulders finally starting to subside, I reminded Lauren of her earlier excitement at the idea of a week-long kayaking and camping trip around the islands of Phang Nga Bay. Was she quite so keen on the idea now, I asked?
Perhaps a little more practice might be required before taking on that particular challenge…