07.08.2012 - 07.08.2012 27 °C
The next morning, I left Ang yee Guesthouse early in the early morning at 7.00am local time. The main door was still closed but unlocked, so I had to push the door open slowly so that it would not create loud noise which may disturbed the sleep of the other guests. As I walked away, I wondered would there be any motorbike taxi available at this early hour of the morning. I didn't noticed any of them as I walked, not even those who passed through the road nor those whom were waiting for thier customers by the stalls or makeshift tents, which can be found easily in most places in Thailand as a base for motorbike taxis. So, I went on to asked one of the restaurant owner over a row of shops on where should I board those motorbike taxi as I need to reach the Satun bus terminal as soon as possible to board the early bus at 8.15am. Just as I was asking him, a motorbike taxi just passed through on the opposite direction and he managed to stop the taximan on my behalf. I thanked him for his kindness and ran slowly acrossed the road to reach the motorbike taximan. I then asked if he would be able to send me to the bus terminal and he said yes with a fee of THB30. So, off we go from there. When I reached the terminal, it was still quiet with only handful of passengers waiting for their buses to depart. I have yet to get my ticket beforehand, so I need to get a bus ticket. When asked those at the ticket counters, I was told that the the ticket officer for the trip to Trang has yet to arrived. Those who were already start selling tickets were for the Satun-Bangkok trip. After about 20 minutes of waiting, the ticket officer arrived and there were only 3 customers right before me. The ticket to Trang from Satun is THB137, one way. I thought this was reasonable considering the trip that should take about 3 hours journey. Later, I found out that the bus final destination for this bus is Phuket instead of Trang.
There were not many passengers who board the bus from Satun bus terminal, only about 5 passengers. But as the journey continues through to its destination, more passengers were picked up along the small towns in Satun Province. In fact, by the time towards the end of Satun province prior to reaching Trang province, the bus were already full with passengers. Such was the situation with the long journey bus in Thailand now that I learnt of it. When I travelled from Mukdahan to Bangkok, the bus too was not full at the Mukdahan bus terminal. But along the journey, it would stop very frequently to pick up passengers and would turned up full by the peak point. The journey to Satun to Trang was pleasantly smooth with good road condition, though there were some road construction works on-going at some parts of Satun. The bus reached Trang new bus terminal slightly less than 3 hours at about 10.50am local time. When I arrived, I could see that the Trang new bus terminal was much busier if compared to the Satun bus terminal. Due to its close proximity to Hatyai, a bustling commercial city in Songkhla province, this town received more travellers, both local and foreign alike, to travel out to some of the islands offshore Trang province as well as those island archipelago of Satun. Most would have bypassed Satun if their departing point is from Hatyai, as they will head straight to Trang to get to the island getaway. Due to this reason, 2 other piers in Satun, the Chebilang Pier and Thammalang Pier had been rather turned "ghostly" so to say though they are the nearer ports to islands such as Ko Khai, Ko Tarutao, Ko Buloan, Ko Lipe, Ko Adang and Ko Rawi. The other pier in Satun is the Pak Bara Pier, which is the most busy pier among the 3 piers in Satun to get to the island mentioned earlier.
No problem to get to Trang city from this new bus terminal as there would be many options for travellers including the motorbike taxis. In fact, this mode of transport is the easiest way to travel for short distance journey if you are in Satun and Trang province. The fare should cost less than THB50. Arriving at Trang city, I checked into Sri Trang Hotel, which is one of the best guesthouse for backpackers due to its cleanliness, close proximity to the fresh market, night market as well as the train station. There were also many travel agents around the corner, while food is easily available within close distance. This hotel is unique as it is a 3 storey semi-wooden structure and has been around since 1952. It is an old building which makes this guesthouse unique and distinctive from other accomodation properties around town. The room rates are also fixed for specific rooms with or without aircond for all year round and all season, high and low. But of course when its high season, you would have issue with room bookings if you did not booked in advance. I was lucky when it comes to this issue as it is a low season during this time of the year. But, lucky as I may be, it could also be unlucky in other matters because the low season in Trang happens during the raining season. Let me share this little more a little later. I checked in straight after a brief chat with the receptionist who appear to be friendly and soft spoken. The room rate for a double bed with aircond is THB550 per night which is inexpensive for a backpacker where it comes with a spacious room size as well and attached bathroom. A little bit description of this property as a brief orientation. Sri Trang hotel has a spacious lobby with the reception counter right at the left hand of the main front door within the lobby section. Walk little bit further after the reception and the lobby, there is a staircase to the 1st floor on the right hand. At the back of the reception and lobby, there are 2 computers with internet service as well as a koi fish pond. Guests could access to internet for free or just relax around in the cosy atmosphere around this backyard area. The 1st floor consists primarily of guest rooms while the 2nd floor has a small book corner for guests to read some of the reading materials made available over the shelf. This floor also consists of guest rooms. The hotel is located 2 shops before the end of a row of 3 storey shophouses which sits on the edge of a T-junction. Just across the road towards the end of the T-junction is where the Trang Railway Station is located.
After settling down, I went straight to check out on the Trang tours. Prior to this trip, I have checked on some of the available travel agents in Trang town and it appears that Trang Happy Trip & Tour was the only travel agent that has a simple website though not much of tour informations available apart from the 4 island tour. Basically, for those who travel to Trang, there are several tour options available which include the 4 island tour to Ko Hai a.k.a Ko Ngai, Ko Chuak, Ko Ma and Ko Mook. Ko Kradan which is infamous for the diving marriage vows would replaced Ko Ngai during the high season, which is the furthest island among the group of islands mentioned. Apart from the 4 island tours, the other options include to get to Ko Lanta or to experience the adventure through the Tham Le Khao Khob or Le Khao Khob Cave by cruising on a sampan manoeuvred by 2 man. Trang Happy Trip & Tour is located just next to Sri Trang Hotel and is owned by 2 Thai young ladies. I was interested with 2 tours, the Tham Le Khao Khob adventure as well as the 4 island tours. The costs for the Tham Le Khao Khob for private transport to the cave is between THB800-THB1,000 depending on negotiations while to rent the small sampan would be another THB300. The adventure was intense, interesting, terryfying, adventurous and dangerous. Such tour is really not advisable for those faint-hearted travellers. Before starting my journey to Tham Le Khao Khob, I try to explore the town and to look for Trang's speciality food of roast port. Quite lucky as with the advise from Jip, one of the owner of Trang Happy Trip & Tour, I was able to locate a coffeeshop that specialised in roast pork rice. Of course there are also other choices available including the barbeque pork, steam chicken as well as roast duck. But, roast port is a food you should not missed while in Trang. This southern province city also has its very own yearly Roast Pork Festival. It was raining heavily on the way to Tham Le Khao Khob from Trang town during the afternoon. As I reached the cave area, it was still raining heavily and could not get onto the sampan just as yet until and unless the rain stop. So, while waiting for the rain the stop, me and the Mr.Driver had some tea first at the nearby shop. Mr.Driver used to work as a taxi driver who waits for customers at hotels to ferry them to their intended destinations but business has been slow and he did not seemed to earn an ideal income, so he decided to work for travel agent as income would be much stable and much higher. He ended up working for Happy Trip & Tour after leaving his job as a taxi driver. Just as we finished our coffee, the rain has subsided and I was ready to get into the small sampan pier to board the sampan and get into the cave for an adventurous tour.
After paying THB300 to the lady boss, 2 of her workers, whom will maneuovre the sampan will come along and you will get into the sampan as directed. One of them will be maneuovering the front part while the other the back part. Directions would be given by the one who maneuovre the back of the sampan as he is the person who could see what was ahead of the passengers. Take notice that entering and explore the cave is quite a danger and you need to be very alert to ensure that you would not get injured on any parts of your body while the sampan went through the cave. Most parts of the cave were very narrow and you will need to sleep straight, like a dead body on top of the sampan's flat seats. Before entering the cave, we would have to first cruise through a canal that leads to the cave. Once entering the cave mouth, you could still seat normally without have to lying down. As the sampan cruised through, you would see how amazingly different shapes and sizes of stalactites inside the cave. The sampan would stop at one point for you to get down and tour the cave area, which were light up in most parts of the accessible area. Over here, you would see several stalactites and stalagmites formations in which some have been turned or formed into praying areas complete with decorations of colourful garlands. For those whom are superstitious and believed in such practice, you could offer prayers on the stalagmites formations which had been designated for such "devotees". The man who maneuovre the back part of the sampan also doubled up as a guide while touring the cave and he would explain on what to pray or wish for at each locations of the stalagmite formations. As you tour the cave, you would be able to see on how amazingly the stalactites were formed, in different shapes and sizes including that which resemble fish and elephant. After the tour, the coming up adveture would be one that can be described as terrfying, dangerous, thrilling and scarry but interesting that one would have experience for a caving tour. As the sampan move on, the cave roofs became lower and the walls in between were narrower, making it difficult for the sampan to go through at some points. You would need to be very careful and lie down straight together with both arms and legs staying flat, lest you would easily get hurt by the stalactites which were just above your face. The man who maneuovre behind the sampan would help to give you warning on the dangers ahead as he could see what is ahead of passengers being the last man. At one point, the sampan was stucked in between the narrow walls and could not go through. Both men were struggling to push the sampan through to no avail. The man in front could be seen using his feet which was stepped hard on an opening of the cave roof and accumulating his energy in full to push the sampan through. The man at the rear of the sampan can be heard too accumulating his energy in full to push the sampan through. Now, I could feel for them on how hard the job could be for them and presumably they do not earn much from such kind of job. I wondered this was only for 1 single trip, how about few more trips ahead? As the sampan cruise through the cave, I felt relieved once I saw the light at the other end of the cave as it means we had safely reached the end of the cave tour. I thought it would not be too much to ask for to provide some tips to those 2 boatmen for the effort that they had put in to get the job done in such a pain manner.
The next morning, my itinerary was the 4 island tour. The highlight of this tour is actually at Tham Marakot or Marakot Cave in Ko Mook, where you get to experience swimming through the sea water under a mountain, which look like a cave opening. Once you had swim through the underwater cave, you would reach the other end with the top of the mountain opening looking through the sky with the surrounding being a large circle of beach area. The other 3 islands are Ko Chuak, Ko Ma and Ko Ngai, which were for the usual snorkelling trips. To get to this 4 islands, we would first reached Pak Meng pier. Here, we would be gathered up to have our name recorded and which tour agent that we booked our tour with. There was a pantry area where the tour company provide free coffee, tea and cold plain water while waiting to depart by a 2 storey ferry. Pak Meng beach is surrounded by some karst mountains on its background and the beach was basically calm and quiet without much activities taking place. As the ferry cruised out from Pak Meng Pier, the weather seemed to be good but slightly cloudy at certain parts of the sea. As we reach Tham Marakot, the weather was still good but slightly cloudy. Nevertheless, the sea water condition was not permissable for us to enter the cave due to strong current. Though some of us were already down the water lining up in a straight line by catching on each others life jacket, we were so dissapointed that we did not make it to the other end of the cave as the water was too choppy to swim through. This was only the highlight of the 4 island tour but unfortunately, I did not get to experience the 2nd amazing adventure after Tham Le Khao Khob. As the tour come to and end at Ko Ngai for lunch, the ferry headed back to Pak Meng pier but just as it cruised home, the strom strucked with heavy rain. It was another dangerous and terrying experience though unexpectedly but the most disspointed part of this tour would be missing the Tham Marakot cave adventure. Hopefully, there would be another opportunity to experience this in coming future.
Travelling in Trang, other than the above adventures, one should experience the food here which other than the roast pork include the "dim sum" as well as cakes and sweet puffs. To get some great taste, you can head to the Trang fresh market and look out for the roast pork sellers by their pushcarts. Here, you can get some fresh roast pork with quite reasonable price at THB400 per kg. Of course if you want smaller portions, you can get it as per how much you wanted to buy. The market is located not far from the train station, which is about 800 metres away by walking up from Sri Trang Hotel, passing through Khao Tom Pui Restaurant and turn left and you could see the market right in front. As for "dim sum" there were several good restaurants around town. I went to sample one at "raan kopee" simply means coffeeshop in thai whic serves dim sim at night. You can also order some seafood here as well as beer. The deep fried squid was good and the meat of the squid taste fresh while dim sum were also recommendable. This shop is situated near one of the contemporary mall of Seriban. Another good dim sum restaurant was Reun Thai, which is quite a large restaurant without aircond. The best part of this dim sum restaurant is that you need to placed your order at the dim sum counter at one section of the restaurant, tell the staff the number of your table, which was printed on the paper for you to clean the dining utensils and then wait for them to heat them up for you. I have not actually experience such practice before and here in Trang, this seemed to be the first.
A city tour of about 9 places would cost about THB400. And if you have the time to kill, well its really worth to give it a go. In fact, there areactually some interesting places around the town to explore including the King Rama V Monument, the Trang City Hall Building, the clock tower, which is one of Trang landmarks, the other being the dugongs monument over at Tabtien Park, the Ratsadanuphradit Mahison Phakdi statue, which include a small park, Keu Ong Ya or 9 Emperor Temple, Wat Tantayapirom which has an amazing and a round multilevel chedi on its upper roof wall. Phra Photisat Kuanyim or Kuanyim Godess Temple, which has a large standing statue of the Kuanyin Godess at the compound of the temple. Also not to missed is the Ev Church which is one of the oldest church in Trang. However, the old church has a new building built just next to the old chapel. One of the largest park available in Trang is the SomdetPhrasrinakarin 95 Park which also include a large pond and a landmark walking bridge.