Autumn leaves at Higashiyama Botanical Gardens, Nagoya, Japan.
Taken in November 2014.
A couple dressed in black and holding a baby walked down the hill towards us. A few other people were milling about dressed in black. We tentatively approached them, feeling a little awkward, and asked them for directions. They helped us as best they could, and then went on their way to their car.
A minute or two later, a car hooted at us, and the window was wound down. They came back! Because of the baby they could only give 2 of us a lift at a time, but they really wanted to help us! So 2 of us hopped in the car with the wife, while the husband and the other 2 began walking in the same direction.
After she dropped us off, the lady drove back to collect the other 2 of our group, and the husband ended up walking the whole way..! Such incredible hospitality. So very sweet of them to help the slightly lost gaijins!
“Mmm, you’ve got to have confidence in your spray-skirt”, J agreed.
I took a sip of water. The hum of conversation continued around us. It was getting darker, and if I twisted around ever-so slightly behind me I could see the amber glow sinking at the mouth of the river. Someone had sketched on the palm trees in charcoal.
Cross legged on the floor we passed around the bill and managed to work out what each of us owed. We traded our table for a wooden boat, and as the dusk turned black we sped up the river. A breeze stirred the humid air. The twinkling lights from the fireflies reminded me faintly of Christmas.
Back at my hotel I considered S’s story. Held tight in her kayak, she had braved the waves, only to get tossed about and lose control under a vicious wave. To be honest, however big the wave had been, didn’t seem to matter to me. She couldn’t get out of her boat. She couldn’t roll well enough, and her spray-skirt was too tight. She panicked.
Several times that day I’d got flipped upside down while attempting to surf for the first time ever. It was fine, fun even, I pulled on the handle of my spray skirt and I could breathe air again. But once already, I’d gotten into my kayak and secured my spray-skirt only to have paddled for a little while and have someone point out that I’d gotten the handle stuck inside. I tried to open the seal from inside with my knee, but failed. “People drown that way.” Her panic seemed quite real to me.
We had three more full days at the symposium, and in that time S hoped to regain some of her confidence. I hoped to learn some more about kayaking and experience less than flat water. A few of the other people hoped to achieve their BCU 3 star qualification.
By the end of the week, I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t done more sea-kayaking sooner. I got flipped out of my kayak an uncountable number of times, and the bruises on legs got bigger. I kept going back in. My nose and throat burned from the salt water, but I pulled my white Tiderace to shore, emptied it and fought through the waves again and again. And I started to actually brace properly. I managed not to get flipped over a few times. I started to win!
With the aid of our wonderfully qualified instructors, S managed to improve her rolling technique. She flipped herself over and back up again while A adjusted her paddle and gave a bit of a tug on the side of her kayak. While still not fully trusting her spray-skirt, her confidence was growing bit by bit.
This was my first ever ‘Sea Kayaking Symposium’. It was run by Kayak Chang in Koh Chang on the east coast of Thailand. They’re based at the Amari Emerald Cove Hotel at Khlong Prao beach, which is a beautiful hotel (though I stayed elsewhere).
I would highly recommend Kayak Chang as a company for some serious kayaking trips and journeys around beautiful islands. The company is very professional, with well looked after, good quality and practically new equipment. The guides have been kayaking for years and know what they are talking about.
These aren’t sit on top tours that you can do in a bikini though – note. You pay more for a reason. For me it was worth every single penny.
I really hope next year I will be able to kayak again with Kayak Chang. The symposium was brilliant – my love for Koh Chang has increased, and I know I need more kayaking in my life.
Please note – this is completely my own genuine opinion!
Following on from my last post, I took another trip to a beach a week or two ago. This time I went to Koh Samet.
I’ve been to Koh Samet lots of times, but only ever to Hat Sai Kaew, which is the biggest and most popular beach on the island. It’s fun, but this time my sister and husband were coming along, so we checked out Ao Sang Thian which is a bit further down the island. We got a green songthaew/taxi to Ban Khiang Talay. I’d seen some bad reviews of this place online, so I was a little worried. But it was so lovely! The staff were very friendly, and the food was great with veggie food too.
We went snorkeling, swam and relaxed on the beach. We pretty much had it to ourselves, the same as in Prachuap. It’s so beautiful, and a completely different feel from Hat Sai Kaew. The beach here is a lot smaller, and a bit rocky, but with clear blue warm water and only the sound of the waves, what more do you really need?
The thing with Koh Samet is that it’s one of the driest places in Thailand, so you can go there in the low, rainy season and still be blessed with lovely blue skies.
In the evenings we opened a beer or 3 and sat on deck chairs on the beach, with the soft glow of a few lights behind us. It was just about dark enough for us to clearly see stars, and once our eyes adjusted we saw the crabs come out to explore the sand after the tide had gone out and the hot sun had gone in.
If you’d like to party and meet new people, head to Hat Sai Keaw. But if you’d rather some peace I suggest going to one of the other beaches! I’d completely dismissed the other beaches, thinking they were too small, or not beautiful. Instead, it was totally worth it.
Have you ever been to Koh Samet? Where did you go? Or do you know of any more small, quiet beaches in Thailand? Let me know!
Things have started hotting up in Thailand, in more ways than one. But with regards to the coup d’etat, for me, and most people I believe, day to day life is as normal.
The weather though, is sweltering. It hasn’t rained much yet which, If I can remember from the past two years is a little odd. Let’s hope the heat breaks soon!
I went to a new beach last month, which I thought I would share. Perfect for anyone who likes a bit of peace and quiet and not to far away for a quick break from Bangkok. It’s low season right now, so that’s one reason there weren’t many people when I went.
Phu Noi Beach, Prachuap Khiri Khan
It’s very near Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, and the town of Pranburi. Our minibus from Victory Monument in Bangkok took us right to Blue Beach Resort where we were staying. It’s a lovely place to stay, family run and good food (they know how to please westerners; they don’t use MSG). There are also kayaks for you to use for free, which me and my girlfriend made good use of. We kayaked to the two islands in the pictures below, where there were a few monkeys.
Look at the beach! An empty stretch of sand! It might not be the clearest water or the whitest sand in Thailand, but we had it nearly to ourselves. Wonderful.
We didn’t do a lot, just kayaking for a few hours every day and swimming! Next time I’d like to explore the national park some more, I’ve heard good things.
I love that there are quiet little hideaways like this within reach of Bangkok. Why are we all working so hard if we can’t spend a little of that hard earned cash on some recuperation every once in a while?
I’ll write my next post about another quiet beach I went to on Koh Samet when I’ve uploaded the pictures.
Has anyone ever been to this area, or Sam Roi Yot park? Where did you go, what did I miss? Leave a comment! :D
I recently went camping at Doi Mon Jam – near Chiang Mai. It’s such a completely different atmosphere from Bangkok – lovely. And cold! :D
I love how delicate poppies are…
This website has a little bit of information about Doi Mon Jam, along with some great pictures of the area!
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