New Year’s Eve began slow. We slept in a little because there weren’t any tours to follow and thus did not require the early meet up on the beach. The intention was to take it easy on the last day of 2013 and of our trip and enjoy the room.
After breakfast, the first visit was to the Phra Nang cave and the viewpoint. Going southwards along the paved walkway with the high tide water occasionally splashing over, we soon reached a T-junction. Taking the right path, we saw cliff side caves and huge stalactites hanging from the top and overhanging roots, a nice photoshoot location. Following the path brought us to a cave at the end that had a table of offerings to an old Thailand tale of a cave living Princess. It really didn’t seem like much but the view of Phra Nang beach and its surrounding more than enough made up for it. In fact, it was the same beach that we kayaked to the day before.
Explored a bit and left for the viewpoint. When we returned to the T junction, we saw that the other path just led to the some rope climbing area near beach. Checked with the store owner nearby and she pointed us back the direction we came back from, saying it was that steep route up that had a thick rope hanging downwards. There was a shelter that had signs pointing to the viewpoint direction and lagoon direction and all along I thought it was 2 different paths. Wearing slippers, I started to climb up to “test water” as my wife looked from the bottom. When I was near the top, I signaled to her that it was doable and she climbed up too.
That was only just the first section of the climb. There was about another steep section before the climb became easier to walk about but it was all doable. There was a fork in the path and we didn’t know which to take. Another pair of boys said they will take the right path and we took the left. And it was the correct one to the viewpoint, at least! On the way to the viewpoint, it was slightly sloping downwards but it was ok. The view was superb, especially in the morning as the sun accentuated the beauty of the surroundings. The only bad thing was it was not possible to get portrait shots with the background.
We didn’t spend a lot of time there as space was limited and people were coming. We made our way back to the fork and thought maybe I could go check out the lagoon since we already made it this far. There was a short steep descent down which was manageable. After a level ground of about 30m came 2 vertical descents and the lagoon in sight. But the vertical descent was the deciding factor to turn back, didn’t want to slip to my death on New Year’s Eve. The return journey was challenging as I meant going down steep slopes and there was quite a bit of human traffic in both directions. By the time we reached the bottom, we had to take a break at the shelter before going back to our hotel. We had seen fitter ones just zooming past us without any problems so this really depended on individual fitness.
Went back to the hotel to take a shower before going to have lunch. We actually wanted to try rock climbing but finding out it must take at least half and day, we chose to leave that till another time. Wanted to try the “Last Bar” but it was close and so we went back to Mangroove restaurant. It was full when we got there and had to share a table with another customer. Ordered different food and drinks. Due to the number it customers, both drinks and food came later than the time taken the night before. The food came 40mins after ordering, but since we already waited for it, we continued to do so till the food arrived. The food was good as usual but it was the wait that was frustrating.
While waiting, found on the internet that the Tonsai beach could be reached via a forested route and thinking that we had the afternoon free, we decided to try to get to it. According to the map found on the streets, the route to Tonsai was continuation from the same route that we took on the first day instead of turning right towards Rai Ley East. Moving along that stretch we came about more cliff side caves and then to Phra Nang Nai cave. Moving onwards and on paved roads all the way to another resort before breaking into a dirt road on the right. Here was where it got confusing as there were 2 forks along the way and a signboard that pointed Tonsai but into one of the forked road that looked overgrown with grasses. We met a pair of friends who weren’t sure how to describe so it to us and told us to follow them, saying it was a 30 mins one direction, so we did. But after walking some 100m and into an unfamiliar open space, they too thought that the road should be the one that we had past. One of them told us to take the beach road around the rocks during low tide which was much easier or even up and above a forested area near the beach end if high tide. We gave up that forest route and walked towards the beach whereas they took the forested route.
On the way back, we contemplated going to the cave but since we had seen so many caves in the past year we decided to give it pass and proceeded to Rai Leh West beach. The tide was low we were able to walk around the rocks. The large expanse of underwater rocks were now exposed to the surface, walking on them was not too difficult but a little slippery. Some of these, especially the walls were grown with barnacles and the shells could be sharp as we found out. We made it around in about 10 mins of walking and balancing. On Tonsai beach, the view back at Rai Leh was beautiful. The view on the Tonsai wasn’t nice since the tide pulled the water level so far out that it didn’t look like a beach anymore. We didn’t stay long and the sun wasn’t with the heat. Going back the same route, we went back through the walking street for some shopping and went back to the hotel. The cuts on the bottom of the left foot was getting painful from the friction from the sand.
Skipped going for massage and anymore walking around to reduce aggravating the wound and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the room, dipping In the bathtub, watching DVD and just relaxing till the time for the gala dinner, which began at 7pm.
By the time we arrived at 730pm, the buffet line had already started. I made a beeline to the BBQ seafood that included prawns, salmon and a huge squid. My wife brought other stuffs as there were a variety of choices from the many tables available. I worked on the squid and i couldn’t finish it and then I became quite full. Didn’t manage to try everything though. Food was just ok however the entertainment, was a little disappointing. The sound system had several technical issues, the band played songs that weren’t interesting to the audience, the magic show was just ok, the cultural dance was affected by the technical issues and we didn’t win anything from the lucky draw. During the duration of our stay, we saw a few times where fireworks were released from another location behind the stage but it was low and we can’t see the full glory. We left at about 11pm when there wasn’t any more lucky draw and that the band was became boring.
Sent some well wishes back home to Singapore as they had just hit 12mn and welcomed the 2014. Then we started walking to Rai Leh West and we were amazed at how big the crowd was covering the beach. There were also many people lighting the “Kong Ming” lanterns and releasing then into the sea. It was sold for 100b and we didn’t had money on us! I ran all the way back to the hotel and came back before 12mn. Rushed to write some wishes on the lantern and lighted it up. It took a while for the fuel to burn fully and create a good enough warm draft to balance and carry the lantern. On the touch of mid-night, the Rai Leh night sky was illuminated up by several fireworks, at various locations on the beach. We were still holding to our lanterns but we soon released it only to find it sinking towards the sea. Retrieved it quickly to let the fuel burn more fully before letting it go again, this time the lantern taking off into the open sea. There were still fireworks on and off and these blown up very close to the crowd, which made it very exciting. We stayed for a while to watch them and left for the hotel thereafter but much of the crowd seemed to stay on for more partying.
Even as we were back in the hotel, there still occasional fireworks released in the neighboring resorts. Our Wifi stopped working and calling the reception twice didn’t help at all. In the end, we went to bed as we require to move out early the following day.