Our next two dives were at Koh Bon (Similan Islands).
The second dive location, Koh Tachai (Similan Islands), was the place we moored during the first night.
It was the favorite of the dive instructor diving with us. One of its features was the “green monster”, a cold current coming from time to time loaded with green particules. The rest of the time, we got to see a lot of fishes, among which a big school of barracudas, and a smaller one with a weird-shaped individual (nicknamed “banana barracuda”).
Richelieu Rock seems to be one of the most desired dive sites in the Similands (if not Thailand). When we got there, I counted 8 dive boats circling around the same location. I expected to see a small island in the center, but it seems only a very small part comes out of the water at low tide. The first dive was shortened by the fact that we didn’t have enough weights (it seems the equipment used and/or location requires heavier weights than in Guadeloupe). The second dive was much better, and justified the reputation of the site.
Going to the south of Thailand was part of the plan, our outgoing plane ticket leaves from Phuket. We weren’t sure where we’d go but decided to go fly to Krabi, from there several destinations seemed interesting: Phang Nga (and it’s James Bond island), Ko Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Rai Leh. But looking at the hotel prices in most of these places, the bad timing of the transports to those places from Krabi, and the interest in diving in the Similand Islands, we chose to go to Khao Lak essentially because it is the best departure point for Similand Islands dives.
Getting to our guest house in Khao Lak from Krabi airport wasn’t easy, essentially because we wanted to save money (we saved more than half the fare). It took three buses and one local “taxi”. In Khao Lak, we looked at several options for diving and chose a liveaboard package for 3 days, 2 nights with 10 dives on 5 sites:
We probably made a strategic error in our planning for Chiang Mai: we thought that we could make the best from this city in one and half day, but couldn’t. We should have started the visit of the old town right away instead of waiting for the next morning. The temples in the old city were nice but in a way too similar to the smaller ones in Bangkok (maybe because we were enchanted by Sukhothai the previous day). The old city is nice, but in some parts too touristy. A little bit outside of the old city, the night market seems to be one of the main tourist activities after dawn.
We felt we were missing out on Chiang Mai, because there seemed to be several interesting visits outside of the city, but due to the limited time and the fact that those visits were seemingly temporally mutually exclusive and incompatible with our old city visit, we only stayed in the old city.
One of the visits advertised in every corner of the city was a tiger park, with encounters with tigers of different ages. We were tempted, especially me I’ll gladly admit, but I went online and checked some reviews. It became quickly obvious that we didn’t want to participate in this kind of operation: the tigers are apparently drugged to keep them calm, and physically abused to keep them awake while tourists are being photographed with them.
400km north of Bangkok, Sukhothai is an ancient capital of the Siam kingdom. When we arrived at the airport (with a propeller plane), you instantly get the feeling that it won’t be a big city. The modern city (“New Sukhothai”), where most of the hotels are, is a few kilometers west of the old city and Historical Park.
We went for a full-day bicycle tour to the Historical Park. The tour started in the modern city, so we rode between 30 and 40 km through the countryside. It was a really pleasant adventure with many charming temples and statues.
Wat Traimit holds the Golden Buddha, largest gold statue in the world (3m, 5.5t). The story behind this statue is interesting: it was made in the 13th or 14th century, at some point in time (but before the end of the 18th century) for fear of being stolen it was plastered in painted stucco. It wasn’t until 1954 that the real nature of the statue was discovered.