On Monday, our last day with the car, and in Phuket, we set off early hoping to reach Khao Sok national park. After an hour of driving and a look at the map, the supposed two hour journey looked like it would be more like 3h30 each way. Too much driving for one day. We turned back and instead headed for the gorgeous Phang Nga region, driving down highways through huge towering limestone formations, and through a couple more towns each with their fair share of crazy motorcyclists.
Our destination was the quiet, Sa Nang Manora forest. We left the Yaris in the shade, grabbed a map (of sorts) and stared out on the trail. The canopy provided cover from the sun, but the forest was so humid we were drenched in sweat within minutes.
Past waterfalls, we hiked through the forest; lizards scuttling up trees; cobwebs got caught in our faces and bugs surrounded us; we crossed precarious wooden bridges (aka fallen trees), and climbed small rock faces as the trail took us deep into the forest. No one else around for miles.
We passed numerous water caves, and coves in the limestone housing bats; butterflies amazed us with their size and colour, and random wild flowers poked out from nowhere.
We trekked for about three hours, stopping in a large cave for snacks; croissants saved from breakfast, now nicely warm in the heat. Without enough food, we turned back and did the walk in double time, speeding onwards at the request of our bellies.
Back at the car park, there were now locals swimming amongst waterfalls, and street vendors had arrived selling food. Coke brought out sugar levels up before we tried yellow watermelon, longan with chilli and sugar mix and then some fried chicken balls and spicy fish cakes, and a spicy chilli dipping sauce alongside.
All from some entertaining thai locals that didn’t believe I was 25 and married. Crispy thin pancakes with luminous fruit sauces ended our purchases.
Back on the road, through the gate on wheels, pulled back by a charming boy, clearly very proud of his role, we headed back, stopping anywhere that took our fancy. Oh to be in an air conditioned vehicle!
It was good to get well away from the tourist world, and meet some locals not trying to sell us a boat ride. We followed signs for another waterfall, it turned out to be man-made and much less impressive, although it did afford us some lovely views. Next stop, or more like U-turn and dash, was Phang Nga bay, where touts were so eager to sell us their James Bond island trips they’d jump in front of the car. We didn’t stop.
At the Phang Nga national park HQ, we stopped for rice (grumpiest Thai waitresses in the whole of Phuket), and attempted the mangrove trail, but we had to stop at the first bridge, where it had fallen into the sea and cut off the route.
We headed back to the hotel, over the bridge to Phuket, through a checkpoint, past the airport and down the long winding, narrow, dog-ridden, speed-bump ridden road to Adamas, just in time for one more dip in the pool.
To celebrate our last night in the luscious and tropical Phuket, we drove to the Banyan Tree resort, to try french-vietnamese offerings at the upmarket Tre, complete with car valet service.
We ate seven courses and spent a small fortune. Pistachio and asparagus soup; breads and dipping oils; three types of scallop; three types of veal; three types of salmon (including smoked with jackfruit and another wrapped in leaves on a bed of squid ink risotto); raspberry sorbets to cleanse our pallets and three types of pineapple (including with rice wrapped in a pancake, delicious!) and topped off with chocolate ganaches.
We sat with a view across the lake and briefly watched how the other half lived.
Before going home, we pulled up at the beachfront, to watch and photograph the awesome storm. Long shutter times and crossed fingers didn’t result in much.
Our time in Phuket was over, but our honeymoon was moving onto part 2, Chiang Mai.