Tag Archives: storms

Bang Saphan

On the Gulf coast of Thailand, halfway between Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chumphon (where transfer to Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand can be found) is the beautifully picturesque and quiet town of Bang Saphan.  I had heard of this place as a recommendation from Sai and Charlie in Sangkhlaburi and am so grateful for it!

I will admit right off the bat that I barely spent any real amount of time in the town itself, and well basically the reason for that was because once I had arrived at the bungalows I’d chosen, I simply didn’t want to leave!  That and I was about 4 km south of the actual town, and since I didn’t have a motorbike, there was no real big draw for me to go into town.  But I’m getting ahead.

I took the mini-bus from Prachuap, which was only about 80 baht and an hour and a half or so later was dropped off on the side of the road for Bang Saphan.  The drop off location for the mini-bus was about 4 km west of the town, so I had to get a ride in.  There was a motorbike taxi standing by, so I hopped on and asked to go to Lola’s Bungalows.  I had read up on this guesthouse from a posting on Travelfish and since it said it was their top pick and cheaply priced, I thought why not?  But as the bungalows were 4 km south of town, it ended up being quite an expensive trip there via motorbike!  Frankly there could have been a cheaper way to go, but being in the heat of the day and not very many other options just hanging about, I went ahead with the motorbike.

Once I arrived, I was already in love!  The property didn’t even have a sign up but it was evident how popular it was.  About 20 or so individual bungalows were on the property that were situated only several dozens of feet from a stunning beach!  I was shown to a bungalow and for 300 baht a night, set my things down and got ready for the beach!  What I thought was cute about this place (other than the amazing location) was how when I tried to pay for the bungalow, they simply waved me off and said to do so whenever I decided to leave.  I like that kind of trust in people!

In any event, I had only planned on being there max 5 days, but ended up staying 2 full weeks!  Most of the bungalows were occupied by couples or families that had been staying there already for weeks themselves and or were planning to be there for a month at least.  I guess that’s why the property owners didn’t want money up-front as they were probably used to people coming in and then wanting to stay on!

Along the beach were several eateries, including my personal favorite called Roy Tawan all of a 3 minute walk along the beach south from the bungalows, that had THE BEST chicken club sandwich I’d tasted in a very long time!!  I was seriously addicted to it!!  And for every meal they would start you off with fresh bananas and give sliced mango for dessert!  So for about $1.50 I was very fully and quite healthily satiated!  Another favorite spot I had was the Why Not Bar just a bit further south along the beach where about the only nightlife could be found.  The people there were so friendly and welcoming, I just adored it!

I spent my two weeks at Lola’s getting myself back into an exercise regime, lounging on the many hammocks along the beach reading books, walking daily anywhere from 2-6km through the lush and beautiful land filled with a variety of life to various stores for my food needs (they had a fridge in the room) or to the Thursday and Saturday evening market at the nearby Wat, hanging out at the Why Not Bar, eating a ridiculous amount of Club sandwiches from Roy Tawan, taking brief dips in the ocean (only brief and I will explain why later), gazing at the night sky, eating yet another ridiculous amount of ridiculously fresh and juicy mangos on my front porch, exploring new ways to walk to the neighborhood stores (one dirt path included cutting through a cow pasture), chatting with neighbors and making local friends, enjoying the sights and sounds of approaching storms, listening to some guided meditations on YouTube before falling asleep nightly and generally otherwise relaxing and unwinding.

I saw my first flying squirrels there and though they were impossible to take images of, since they only came out at night and moved too quickly to capture, they were still a delight to watch!  Another thing I’d heard about but had never witnessed before Bang Saphan was coconut collectors using monkeys to cut off and throw down the coconuts!  Some workers also had long bamboo sticks with a knife at the end that they would use to cut off coconuts, but far more had several macaques with them that would easily climb to the top and chuck down several coconuts.  I hope and could only assume the animals were treated well!

I mentioned above that I only spent brief time swimming in the ocean, and the reason for that was first because there were several jellyfish in the area.  Every time I walked out into the ocean I could spot several bobbing along looking harmless enough, yet I wasn’t going to test how much their sting might hurt!  Of course I could have simply walked past the area they were bobbing in as the deeper you got the fewer jellyfish there were, however once getting past the gauntlet of jellyfish, another gauntlet of sorts had to be passed.  See, this particular beach had hundreds upon hundreds of sand dollars in the sand.  You could feel them under your feet as you walked, their little bodies crunching under the weight of my feet and I just couldn’t stomach damaging them just so I could get out deep enough to where I could start to actually swim or float.  So, between the jellyfish and not wanting to potentially kill dozens of sand dollars with each trip in and out of the ocean, I simply opted to hang beside the ocean instead:)

Another first that I witnessed one Saturday when I went for an early lunch at Roy Tawan was a bird singing competition… A bird  singing competition… Yes… Let me set the scene: I arrived at Roy Tawan and sat at a little table awaiting my food when I spotted in the grass section nearby a metal structure with about 12 cages hanging.  Each cage had a bird in it and there was even another bird cage (with a bird inside) hanging in the shade about 20 feet from the other 12 on the metal structure.  One man was sitting under the shade with the bird and he had a cylinder vase filled with water that he would drop the shell of what looked like half of a coconut that had a small hole in the bottom.  Once the coconut shell filled with water and sunk to the bottom, he would blow a whistle and retrieve the coconut.  At this point, two men whom had been standing on opposite sides of the 12 hanging bird cages would approach a cage and make a mark on a piece of paper hanging from the bottom of each cage.  Then they would step back and seemingly watch the next cage.  The whistle was blown again, the coconut shell was dropped (their way of timing!) and the whistle blew again to signal time, the men would make their mark on the next bird cage and move on.

Now, mind you during this entire time all the birds were singing away.  The air was filled with birds singing as well as with some people on the side lines making sounds that sounded like encouragement to one bird or another.  I asked the local woman at Roy Tawan what on earth was going on and she simply said it was a bird singing competition!  The birds in the 12 cages were trying to mimic the song of the single bird in the shade.  The two men making marks were judges and they were scoring which birds sang the best in comparison to the one bird!  Just as I was wondering how in the world these judges could hear only the sound of the one bird they were supposed to be watching for judging and drown out the other 11 birds singing their hearts out, she added “I don’t understand this competition, it seems very silly to me”!  LOL!!

I honestly could have stayed another 2 weeks at Lola’s but alas, it was time to move on!  I think I had gotten my fill of relaxation and was ready to try a new spot.  My next destination was for the island of Koh Tao:)

On To Koh Tao Island

Back to Thailand

Uvita

The road to Uvita was quite uneventful.  Just before leaving I was told by various Manuel Antonio “locals” (i.e. the bus stop gang previous mentioned in the Manuel Antonio post) that due to the storms that had been in the area, the road to Uvita had been washed out and was impassable.  Though I thanked them for their concerns (really I think they just wanted me to hand out and around with them, but as drugs aren’t my thing I really wanted nothing to do with  these particular folks) I figured that if indeed this information was correct, then the best people who would know for sure would be the bus drivers themselves.

So it was that I set back on a bus from Manuel Antonio to Quepos and had zero trouble boarding a bus for Uvita.  As it turned out the information given to me about the hazardous road wasn’t completely untruthful as at one point we did pass a portion of the road where literally half of it was missing and it was reduced to a single lane road.  The drainage pipe below the road simply wasn’t able to withstand the amount of rain and debris that had passed though to keep it standing.  Nonetheless however we were able to get past the area and still in good time.

On recommendation from a person whom I had met at the Costa Linda Backpackers hostel in Manuel Antonio (he worked for Lonely Planet and was making his way around to various hostels to review for their publications) I was set on staying at a hostel in Uvita called “The Butterfly Garden”.  Ok, once again I can’t be exact of the name now since it has been a while, but it was definitely something to do with butterflies.  And anyone who was paying any sort of attention to the various road signs along the way would have spotted signs for it for quite some time.  The signs for Uvita however were not so clear.  One thing to definitely get used to is that there are never any welcome signs or alerts of any measure to indicate which little town you may be in or may have passed.  All there is to rely on is the information and constant inquiries to local passengers or the bus driver (despite the numerous “do not talk to the bus driver” signs) as to where exactly you are and when it is that you need to leave the bus to make it to the right place!

I was the last person on the local bus and wasn’t panicking yet as I still saw road signs along the way advertising the Butterfly hostel.  Seeing as I was the last one on board however, I struck up conversation with the driver directly this time (usually I try to pick the local people’s brains sitting around me) and he instructed me on when to get off and which way to go.

I was dropped off along a dirt road and pointed in the direction of a long dirt road that curved at the end.  About 10 minutes later I arrived at the Butterfly Garden hostel.  The place had been described to me as “Neverland” complete with treetop bungalows that you had to get into via wooden ladders.  Really the story of the owner, as is the story of most, was quite interesting.  She had moved down years before having decided that Uvita was her place to live.  She gave up everything in the States to create her own personal Neverland and thus there it was in front of me.

The place was quite impressive and had a lot of charms.  They were in the middle of constructing new treetop bungalows however so there was a lot of work and noise going on mainly from volunteer random travelers and from friends of hers from the States who came down to help with construction.  The place honestly was quite deserted had it not been for 2 Italian girls (volunteers to do art work and other creative projects on-site) and another couple of volunteers who were just hanging out trading work for a free stay.

For some reason, while the place was quite nice and the people too were perfectly nice, something about the place just didn’t sit well with me and as soon as I had arrived, I had already made my mind that I would be leaving the next morning.

I nonetheless settled in for the night and as it was still early in the day, I opted to go for a walk along the beach that was only a few hundred meters away and via the entrance from the hostel you could avoid the fee to enter what was considered their National Park.

The Baleen National Park of Uvita is so named for a sand bar and for the numerous whale spottings off of this particular coast.  At just the right tide however, and with an aerial view, a sand bar would present itself in the exact and perfect shape of a whale’s tail!  It sounded so fascinating, but as mentioned you really wouldn’t be able to see much unless you had an aerial view and if you had timed the tides correctly.

I wandered along the beach for quite some time taking pictures of the area but opting not to swim as there were several signs to guard your belongings from beach thieves.  Since I didn’t have a buddy with me to watch my stuff while in the water, I chose this time to simply be a photo-op session.  I do adore the ocean in so many ways but again, perhaps it was just my mood, but the beach wasn’t at all impressive to me.  Or perhaps because I had just come from some beautiful beaches, these just didn’t seem up to par.  The beach was washed up with a ton of random debris, the water looked murky, dirty and portions had what looked to be oil slick along the surface, and sadly there were no whales to spot in the distance.

I spent about 1-2 hours walking along the shore however until I reached a river jutting into the ocean and opted to turn back instead of trying to swim across (Lord knows if I would have been able to get back again with the tides turning!!).  I made it back to the hostel just in time to be invited to go surfing by the owner and her construction friend from the states.  Now, I have never been surfing but at this point thought, why the heck not!  But that’s as far as that story gets as when we got back out to the beach the conditions were not suitable for surfing.  So while I still haven’t been or tried surfing yet, I did learn a little about it by one of the surfers who explained “closed-out” waves and other surfing conditions.  We did spend some time simply splashing about in the ocean however and just enjoying the wonder that Nature had provided in the form of the vast sea.

By this point it was starting to get dark so back to the hostel we all went again.  The rest of the evening was quite uneventful and passed rather dully.  To this day I still can’t put my finger on what my “Beef” with Uvita or the Butterfly place was.  Because while the people were perfectly nice and the place was very beautiful, there just was nothing to really do there.  The town was very small and uneventful (I did forget to mention that I had a walk-about the town itself before the beach walk in search of much needed food!!) and really I felt like I came away from the place having spent way too much money for what it was worth!  But not every place is for everybody, so I took it in stride and stuck with my plan to leave the next morning.  I caught the 9am bus headed South again to get to my next “planned” destination of Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula

Back to Costa Rica

Pictures from Uvita and the Butterfly Garden hostel: