Saturday, 26 July 2014

Ang Thon...or should that be Hang On...(for dear life)

Waking up with a start, I check my mouth for foam following last night's dog bite (I'm sure I've exchanged saliva with worse in the past) and to my delight the only damage to my weary hungover self is the pounding headache and suitcases under my puffy eyes. I can still party like my 18yr old self, but clearly my face doesn't agree with that statement.

Having only had 4hrs sleep, I need this bumpy speedboat ride like a hole in the head, but hey, I paid 1800baht for this excursion so I need to shape up. My minibus arrives and I greet the rest of the daytrippers, then we head off to the pier. There are about 25 others on my speedboat and we all look on sceptically as 3 young Thai guys get busy with spanners and screwdrivers trying to get the boat started. Hmmm, not a great start! After 30 minutes, a battery change, and lots of bashing with various tools, the engine roars into life and we're off. The are 42 picturesque islands that make up Ang Thon Marine Park and we will be visiting 4: snorkelling, kayaking, swimming etc. Sounds good, huh? And it would have been, had the crew not almost killed us all with an old dog of a speedboat which turned out to be a death trap. Thank God for my lucky bracelet and blessing from the monk yesterday...jeez!

I got acquainted with some of the people on the boat and we shouted over the roar of the engine as we made the hour-long journey to the first island. Zahrita was a separated woman travelling alone too, and her life story mirrored my own so closely it was uncanny. Then there was a fun group of Irish guys who we chatted to also. So far, so good. The boat reached the island and we dived in and snorkelled around the boat...which was a tad scary as the waves were picking up and it took effort to stay nearby.  The start of the unease...

The next island was beautiful, great scenery, a hike to the top of a huge rock, amazing blue lagoon straight from a scene in The Beach. Stunning.
The journey to the third was where things got 'interesting' it's monsoon season here, torrential downpours are common but don't tend to last that long. No dramas. No dramas, that is, unless you happen to be on a tatty old speedboat, overcrowded, in choppy seas with a bunch of 15yr old Thai boys as crew. Shit was about to get real. Worried looks were exchanged between the crew as the waves grew bigger and the rain got heavier, drenching us all as we clung to the rails for dear life, the boat smacking hard against the waves and sending our stomachs into our mouths like a rollercoaster ride. Our giggles and screams of laughter soon turned to shrieks off terror as the waves almost overturned the boat several times. The Chinese contingent hurriedly put on their lifejackets and it soon became apparent there were only 7 jackets...and at least 25 of us...eep!

The storm suddenly passed as quickly as it had started and calm was restored for long enough for us to visit more islands, have lunch and go kayaking. I'm now resembling Popeye since I got paired up with a 14yr old Chinese girl with Twiglets for arms who was as much use as a chocolate teapot. I ended up persuading her not to use her oars at all, as she was actually going against me..!

Back on the boat and disaster soon struck - a major tropical storm that made the earlier one seem like child's play, resulting in a broken rudder, no control over the boat, waves and rain battering us and almost certain death, had another boat not seen our distress and radioed as an emergency for another bigger boat to come and rescue us. Just as well it did, as we then ran out of petrol...what the hell else could these guys get wrong?! We formed a human chain and helped each other make the leap of faith into the other boat as they rocked and crashed together with the force of the huge waves. Not the easiest jump to make whilst wearing a tiny denim skirt and straddling 2 moving vehicles. Elegance personified...not! I kid you not, we all said a few prayers on that boat, even the Athiests amongst us...

Having survived the ordeal, Z and I met a few hours later at the achingly glam W Hotel for some very moreish vodka cocktails and a mouth-wateringly delicious steak to celebrate still having our limbs intact. Not so much mouth-watering as eye-watering came the bill, but hey, having cheated death we figured we deserved a treat. Because we're worth it...or something like that...

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