A Real-Life
Disneyland Ride...
Showing off our (lack of) canoeing skills.
The limestone islands.
Exiting a cave.
November 16, 2006

It feels like we just took a Pirates of the Caribbean ride – Thai style, that is.

There were, of course, a few exceptions…

First, there were no dogs holding keys to cells. There were no men chasing women. There were no men boozing up. And…well…there were no

I know, I know. Then how could it remind me of the Pirates of the Caribbean?

Here’s how. We were in boats. While on the ride you get splashed from going down drops; we were getting splashed from the rush of currents.
We were going through caves in complete darkness with only the light that was coming from our flashlight. There was that same eerie silence
that exists on the ride.

It was bizarre to think that this wasn’t a ride at a theme park; this was a ride through nature…

I would have never known about this. This was something my sister had read about while she was researching things to do near Phuket. She not
only suggested that we do this, she told me that this was going to be Clarke (my brother-in-law) and her Christmas gift to me. I couldn’t have
asked for a better idea for a gift as I don’t think I would have been able to justify the cost of this day trip beforehand if I was paying for it on my
own (it was around $100).

We headed out on our boat for a 90-minute ride out to the islands along with about ten other people. The islands are actually more like huge
limestone rock formations jutting out from the sea rather than actual inhabitable islands. There is one island that you can stop at – ‘James Bond
Island’ as it is where one of the movies was filmed – but we just went around it and put our focus on the islands with caves.

During the course of our trip, we went to four different islands with caves. The guide on the boat prepared us for some of the caves to be a bit
snug depending on how high the tide was. We didn’t have to worry about it on this first cave as the tide was very low. Once we made our way
through the cave, we came to an opening in the center where we were encased in the huge limestone formation yet we could look up and see the
sky (we would later learn that each island we visited had an opening like this). This area was so calm and quiet. Our guide pointed out that mass
amount of oysters that exist on the surface of the limestone. In addition to the oysters, there were also bright blue corals that had formed.
Pretty cool stuff.

We exited the cave and Michelle and I were then able to canoe on our own (as we had a guide rowing our boat through the caves). I have to say
that I do not wish my sister as a rowing partner to anybody. I thought
I was unskilled. I came to find out that there are some people that I look
like a pro next to. Michelle is one of them. The good thing about this was that my rowing skills definitely improved from this as did my canoeing
confidence. I guess I should thank my sister, huh?

The second cave of the day was more of a real cave. This was when we needed to have a flashlight with us. It was long and dark.
This was the
moment that we felt like we were in Pirates of the Caribbean. It really took some power within me to not start belting out “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’
s life for me…” It worked out that I was otherwise occupied as the guide gave put me on flashlight duty and it was my job to shine away and
detect things. The guide told me to shine the light up to the ceiling of the cave. And there they were. Tons of bats just ‘hanging’ out. This cave
well deserved the name ‘Bat Cave’. I said a mini-prayer to myself that I would not be wearing bat droppings on our way out. I was also looking
forward to moving past the bats as there was a stench that was reminiscent of body odor. Really, really bad body odor.   

When we got into the ‘hole’ of the cave where there was an opening overhead, we saw cute little monkeys (Michelle was really excited by this)
and mangrove trees (which look as if they have hundreds of roots coming out from the bottom of them). We also got to watch a storm literally
roll in. We noticed the rain a few meters away. Then it was a few inches away. And then it was dumping down on us. I don’t think I had ever just
sat and watched the rain move in like that. I was in awe of that. The awe lasted rather shortly as we decided to move our canoe back through the
cave and get back to our main boat. At times like this, it was a good thing for the waterproof camera bag that they equipped us with!

It was late afternoon by the time we got to our third cave. This one was called Diamond Cave as there was one part of the cave that shimmered
and sparkled when the flashlight was shined upon it. When we got to the ‘hole’ area of this cave, my sister deemed it her favorite. She loved the
tranquility and peacefulness. She was so right. It was beautiful and calming.

Before dinner we had an ‘arts and crafts’ moment on the boat. The guys on the boat were going to show all of us how to make ‘loi krathong’. This
was the holiday that occurred in Bangkok on the day that I arrived. While I bought one of these from somebody on the street, I walked past
numerous people making them. Now we were going to learn how.

‘Loi’ means floating and ‘krathong’ is the offering (that is mostly the outer part of a fruit of some sort). We used pieces of a banana tree trunk.
Because many Thais have to rely on the river for bathing and washing their clothes (amongst other things), this holiday gives them the chance to
thank the river. These offerings are their gift. Everything that is used to make them is 100% biodegradable so it’s not like there is a massive pile
of garbage waiting somewhere at the end of the river. We were taught hold to fold the banana leaves and pin them on. We were given flowers to
use as well. I assumed that we were supposed to use all of them. I got laughed at as I went a bit crazy with the marigolds. Oops. Even though I
thought ours was the worst looking loi krathong of the bunch, Michelle thought it was cute (it probably could have been much cuter without all of
my marigolds). We all put these aside as we were going to bring them with us on our nighttime excursion.

In the meantime, it was time for some dinner. And just before dinner, we were fortunate enough to have the clouds part ways so that we could
be treated to a gorgeous sunset. Lucky us!

Now it was time to head out on our canoes in the pitch black. This was both fun and eerie at the same time. The tide had risen which meant that
we had to lean all the way back to enter and stay in that reclined position for the duration of being in the cave. We got to the opening of the cave
and it was pitch black. We lit the candles on our loi krathong and placed it in the water. The other people from our boat did this as well. It was
quite stunning seeing the different illuminated loi krathongs and their reflections spread out in the space of water that we were in. We rowed
around the water and had fun running our hands back and forth in the water to trigger the luminescent planktons. Doing this made the water
flicker with little sparks of light. Before long, it was time to leave. We retrieved our loi krathong and brought it back on the boat with us.

Our adventure was now over. I thanked my sister several times telling her that it was the best kind of gift because it was something I probably
would not have done for myself.

Once again, Michelle and Clarke – Thank you!
Back to Thailand.