5.2 Cha Am

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been wearing bikinis underneath my clothes ever since we arrived in Thailand, just so that as soon as we came in range of a beach I could run towards the sea, screaming joyfully.
After an early start and a mercifully air conditioned bus ride we arrived in the small coastal town of Cha Am and I finally got my chance to do just that. Unfortunately, almost immediately afterwards, I proceeded to run out of the sea, screaming in abject terror. I caused a mass panic and gave the Thai beach goers a fantastic show.
In my defense, imagine the shock of happening to look behind you while you are gleefully enjoying the warm Thai sea, to see a massive jellyfish just chillin’ within centimetres of your skin. I don’t think I’ve ever moved so fast in my life.

After that, we were a bit nervous to go back into the sea and instead we hung out in the pool by our hotel. This is part of the reason that I enjoy travelling as part of a tour group. It’s kind of like going on holiday with twenty of your friends, except that you’re meeting everyone for the first time. This means that you’re always finding interesting things to learn about the others in your group, and there’s plenty of chatter and laughter and awkward pauses as you get to know your travelling companions.

That evening, we headed to a night market in a nearby tourist town. It was over run with holiday makers, and it’s easy to see why! They sell pretty much everything you could want, and fake versions of any designer brand you could think of. They also have plenty of food stalls, some selling toasted scorpions as if they were lollipops, others supplying whole lobsters or obscure fish by the bucketful. I bought a few gifts and bits and bobs and Rob got some amazing bargains on things that he wanted.

It was very chilled out and I almost got the sense that the vendors were bored of bargaining over a couple of baht with endless caucasian tourists. Selling fake designer headphones, speakers and phone cases to British holidaymakers is like shooting fish in a barrel, and the stalls were constantly swarming. The vendors could afford to turn down people that wanted to barter down the asking price, and there’s no way that the pretending-to-walk-away-to-tempt-them-to-lower-the-price move would work here. All you’re doing by walking away is making space for another customer with money burning a hole in his pocket. The most effective bartering method I found was to just hand them the amount of cash you were prepared to pay, and mostly they would accept the money to make a quick sale.

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The next morning we headed out to a nearby National Park, which was surrounded by beautiful rocky mountains. We got to wander through the mangroves and saw the ugly little mudskippers dragging around their slug like bodies.
We also saw plenty of monkeys, some with small babes in arms, others sitting and eating berries or scraps as if they were humans, which is pretty weird to watch. Eventually the monkeys got bored with our cooing and picture taking and, seeing as we weren’t giving them any food, chased us away by hissing and jabbering at us. We explored some more and followed a steep trail up one of the mountains. My extreme clumsiness, short legs, thin shoes and the many cacti lining the route (and posing as useful hand holds) added considerably to the fun, and after a couple of hours of trekking we were all completely soaking in sweat, which is a disgusting side effect of the intense humidity, so we were happy to take a quick boat ride over to a nearby island. There we got to explore the most beautiful naturally formed caves. They are open at the top so the sunlight streams through, but they are so deep that the trees inside, growing towards the light, look like plants inside a massive fishbowl. There is a shrine inside the furthest cave and the colour of the painted wood is just beautiful under the pale sunlight.

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Cha Am, according to the guidebook, is visited pretty infrequently by tourists (which perhaps explained why the residents of the surrounding houses came out to stand on their balconies and watch us while we were in the swimming pool. One man even brought out his dinner, it was very unnerving.) Consequently, we’ve been eating great local food and there are no westernised menus, which I love. The service, however, is a little erratic, and it is not uncommon to have one lady who owns and runs a small restaurant, and is also the only waitress, the chef and the cashier.
On our last evening, we managed to stumble into one such restaurant, which turned out to be the Thai version of Fawlty Towers. It was fantastic. The top of the table received thier food before we had even had a chance to order ours, the drinks were served randomly with no correlation to what you ordered, and once Rob and I were finally served, had finished our main course, and were asking for the bill, they tried to serve us the starter that we had given up for dead an hour before. It took us forty minutes to get the waitress to add up our bill for us and by that time the meal had turned into such a pantomime that we were tempted to stay and watch. A couple of the guys even arranged to come for breakfast before the 7am start the next morning but I was afraid that if the service was the same we would never reach Koh Tao!

MTG PV x
Photos: Rob Carroll,
Instagram: rob_c17, http://www.instagram.com/rob_c17

*I’m still having to upload from Rob’s phone, there are plenty more pictures on our cameras and I might upload a few more when I get the chance!*

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