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Normally I rose early after a skinfull, but struggling to get up in time to beat the 12 o'clock check out, it rather helped me make the decision that I would not be going to Myanmar after all. There is a long running debate amongst the travel fraternity as to whether its morally appropriate to visit the country, since some of your hard spent foreign currency inevitably helps prop up their notoriously repressive regime. Even Burmese dissidents fail to agree on it however. Some such as ballsy Aung San Su Kee condemn all foreign "recognition" of the police state, yet others consider it crucial that the populace should be made aware of the better world outside and given the opportunity to tell of their woes. My visit could be condoned then so long as I made the effort to talk to the locals, surely half the reason for going anyway, but I simply would not have time to do it to any constructive degree. And then there was the money. I could help out the locals whilst not subsidising the government by only doing business with private enterprises, easy enough since sticking to just the one town I would need little beyond a bed and food. But then there was the entry permit fee. Principles aside, believing it to be 5 dollars and then learning it to be 10, for a one night stay I thought it as much a waste of money as a crime. And so that was it, Myanmar was out. Funnily enough, it would have also wasted another page of my passport, they were running out fast!

With Ranong itself renowned for little beyond its hot springs, I elected to wander into town devoid of a map and eventually chanced upon a pick up heading for the ferry piers. The first very low key affair mustered only 3 boats on a small mangrove lined river, surprisingly there were a few white faces here though on their way to Koh Chang. A short while away I found a busier, more characterful scene with a perceptibly Burmese tinge to the people and their dress. More of the women were robed, sometimes porting the conical "paddy field" sunhats, and many also had their faces smeared unselfconsciously in natural white sunblocker. The boats were different here too, wider and even longer than the ones I had ridden around Krabi, and now pleasingly painted too. The economic dipole was evident too, with anything from bikes to plastic toys destined for Burma being loaded piece by piece by hand, packets were thrown down from the jetty as baskets full of freshly caught fish were hurled up.

There was singularly nothing of note around town bar a catholic church resembling a buddhist temple devoid of the colouration, and a wooden longhouse complex, proclaimed to be a throne house whatever that meant. A view point on the adjacent hill allowed viewing of little more than the surrounding trees, but I descended the other side still on track for the springs. What I found after a trek of a K or 2 was just a few steamy basins of very hot water, some showing sulphurous deposits, as a gimmick you could buy eggs to boil in them. The scene was really set by a very unusual creamy coloured river next to them with a couple of bouncy bridges over it. Though a sign promised the ensuing gorge to crescendo into a canyon, it was too far to hike so I just settled for a peek at the predictable temple instead. Nothing more to be had bar a detox busting beer, I invested more time on the net before spying various signs for more untold attractions out of town. Besides temples, waterfalls and the mysterious Po Ro Monument, whatever that was, one sign also promised the Ismuth of Kra. Not a place as such, this was the narrowest point of the Thai-Malay peninsula and I could only wonder whether they had delineated it in the same way as you can visit the equator. Another notable in Ranong was that even more than ever before, it seemed people sported the lemon coloured polo shirt synonymous with buddhism. It had a crest over the breast pocket and it was as though the Thais had a national (optional) uniform. Indeed I had originally thought them to be a school uniform or similar but here literally a majority of the people wore one.

The unsubtle chief moneygrabber at the hostel had failed to push a bus ticket on me amongst other things, a bit rich considering the station was only 100 metres away, she tried to maximise her commission by essuing the benefits of an onboard toilet, food service etc. Maybe if she had pushed the line that the bus wouldnt stop every 5 minutes, the air con nozzles werent bust and the seats reclined OK I might have paid her more heed. Instead I got erratic driving, constant stops and a force feeding of mega cheesy Thai karaoke for good measure.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Thailand

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