Ranong Province to Bangkok
18 - 22 June 2008 Ranong to Bangkok
Again the journey to Ranong was made easy by the excellent road conditions. The scenery was very green -they have a long rainy season and record amounts of rain in the Ranong province! We stopped off at the Khao Lak national park bordering Bang Bon beach. This area was completely destroyed by the tsunami, and the park facilities have just been rebuilt, very grand they were too and we would have liked to have camped here had we had more time. It is a lovely park with many walking trails and a long completely deserted beach. We stopped for lunch at a delightful little family run restaurant just at the park entrance -see the patron and his wife in our picture. He spoke little English but got across has own story of the tsunami. He and his wife ran from the wall of water and managed to get away in a car but when they returned the neighbouring bungalows had been destroyed and 9 people -mostly European holiday makers - had drowned. There own belonging were completely washed away and they had very little personal belongings left. There are now reinforcements and a warning system in place -but hopefully it won't happen again in his lifetime at least! We had a lovely meal -Tom Yam Kung-or hot and spicy soup with prawns- one of the best we've tasted on our travels.
The last section prior to reaching Ranong is extremely close to Burma or Myanmar, in fact you could easily walk there -distance wise perhaps but not in reality as there are many border guards! There are a lot of Burmese living in Ranong and many of the street signs are tri-lingual being in Chinese Thai and Burmese. Ranong is a nice enough provincial town, with a nearby fishing port and a bustling market. We saw a boatload of lobsters arriving at the fishing village which are apparently from Burmese waters, and the area is renowned for great seafood.
We met up with Ken an English guy and long term Ranong resident who we had met back in Penang and he kindly showed us around. The main attraction of Ranong for tourists are the natural hot springs. These are very hot around 65 degrees C, and believed to have miraculous healing powers, and in the evenings the area fills up with locals bathing (when it is mixed with cold water obviously! ) A fellow traveller had told us about a local 5 star hotel the Princess which pumps the water directly into a spa bath. For only 60 baht - approx $2 Aus- you get a day pass to use the pool and spring baths. There are 4 sections increasing in heat - though the hottest didn't seem to have any takers! - it poured with rain the day we went but the baths were undercover so we sat and warmed up which was good! In the heat of the day it's hard to imagine wanting to get in what amounts to a very hot bath!
The area has many waterfalls and walking trails but was a bit wet and slippery when we were there! There is also an abandoned steam train just out of town from when the Japanese occupied the area. They were using it to transfer supplies and the British repeatedly bombed the track but missed the train, and it was abandoned and lay buried in the jungle for many years. We were going to see it on our way out but it was raining absolutely torrentially so we gave it a miss.
We again had no problems with campsites first camping on the waterfront -giving us a very direct view of Myanmar - and then out at the hot springs so we woke up to the sounds of the river flowing which was lovely. On Sunday 22nd June we left Ranong and headed on driving 5 hours to arrive at Damnoen Saduak a little town 100 kms South of Bangkok and the site of the original floating market. As the action starts very early we had been told to get there the night before so you would be first cab off the rank …or Longboat off the canal the next day before the package tour hordes arrived!
This market is over 100 years old and we had been advised that it was more traditional than the copyist ones in Bangkok. Whilst it's true there were a multitude of tourists and shops selling tacky souvenirs it was still very much worth a visit. The initial trip around the canals was interesting as the area was pretty much unspoilt and we passed people going about their daily lives-children going to school, old ladies washing clothes -in a way they must have done for many years.
We bought loads of fresh fruit for breakfast which was delicious -and were sucked in by the cuteness of the young postcard sellers and so ended up buying a ludicrous number of "Floating Market" postcards ..so we might get around to writing some! So, back to our hotel (a bit too built up for camping here!) for a shower and (gulp!) we drove on to the BIG CITY or the City of Angels aka Bangkok.