Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay

We arrived in Thailand at 2 AM. After 30+ hours of traveling and some massive flight delays, we were hoping that our driver hadn't given up on us.

As we crossed the threshold into Phuket, a crowd of taxi drivers closed in around us, shouting prices for rides. I could feel my pulse quicken and my eyes scanned the crowd for a sign with my name on it. Where's my name, where's my name, where's my name....thank God, there it is, there's our driver.  Relief.

We arranged to stay at a guesthouse called Sansuko Ville, which was a little bit off the beaten path.  When we finally arrived, got our bearings, and pow-wowed about the next day, we crashed.  After a glorified nap, the alarm went off and we geared up for our first Thailand adventure, sea kayaking!  The tour company, John Gray Sea Canoe, picked us up and drove us to Ao Po Pier, where we boarded a large boat.  The boat motored out to sea and we ate a light lunch, admiring theThai islands with sheer cliffs that jut out of the water.

First day in Thailand - out on the water

First day in Thailand - out on the water

One of the main reasons why I chose John Gray Sea Canoe was because the day trip started in the afternoon...just as all the other tours were getting off the water.  As the large boat anchored and we loaded onto the kayaks for the first time, I gained a fuller appreciation for the later start time.  We were alone.  No boats, kayaks, or people (besides those in our tour) could be seen.  It was as if we had stumbled upon these waters for the first time.

Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay

Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay

Our guide, Luis, took care of the paddling.  In normal circumstances, this would have irritated me, but I was glad for it this time.  The tour took us through hongs (aka caves), which were difficult to navigate, even for someone who has kayaked before.  We passed through hongs into secluded lagoons, soaking in the scenery at every turn.

Paddling into the hongs

Paddling into the hongs

Kayaking around enclosed lagoon

Kayaking around enclosed lagoon

After we paddled through 2-3 hongs with Luis, we ventured back towards the bigger boat, and Luis left us to our own devices.  Kursten and I paddled out to view a few of the surrounding islands on our own.  Check it out!

Paddling around!

Paddling around!

We also had a chance to swim in the warm waters of the bay, flipping over a kayak and using it as a diving board of sorts.  I was in my element :)  Before we knew it, we were called back to the big boat, where dinner was awaiting.  The crew cooked tom yum soup and a full spread, including two white snapper that they had caught while we were off kayaking.  Kursten and I joked throughout the trip that the best food we had in Thailand was cooked in a boat galley on this kayak excursion.

First dinner in Thailand. Holy yum!!!

First dinner in Thailand. Holy yum!!!

After dinner, we got to work on our kratong, which is an offering that is modeled after the floating lotus flower.  It is typically made of wood from the banana tree, banana leaves, assorted flowers, incense, and candles.  Traditionally, the kratong holds a small offering (such as small coins) or nail clippings to symbolize letting go of a negative emotion, such as hatred.  As Thais float them into the water, also make a wish.  Kursten and I--under Luis' strict direction and with a lot of his help--fashioned our own kratong to float in the water later that night.

Making our kratong

Making our kratong

Finished product

Finished product

The big boat motored to another part of the bay, framed by a gorgeous sunset.  The mad dash of Chicago life, the worries about work, emails, relationships, bills...everything faded away in the sun's softening glow.

Beautiful sunset over Phang Nga Bay

Beautiful sunset over Phang Nga Bay

Relaxed - I could get used to this!

Relaxed - I could get used to this!

After the sun had set, we launched the kayaks one last time. Luis donned a headlamp as we glided through the dark waters, passed through another hong, and emerged into a peaceful lagoon.  Luis lit the candles and incense of the kratong, which Kursten and I set free in the water.  I made a wish that we were kept safe on our journey and that we would find something special here in SE Asia.

Lighting the kratong and setting it free

Lighting the kratong and setting it free

We boarded the big boat to take us back to Ao Po Pier.  Kursten and I laid on our backs on the roof of the boat, watching the stars and fighting off the jetlag-induced fatigue that had arrested our bodies.  Tomorrow was another day, one that would take us to the Koh Phi Phi islands.

For more details on the above, check out my Trip Advisor reviews (under To The Full List):

Sansuko Ville

John Gray Sea Canoe

Adding Thailand to the map!

Adding Thailand to the map!