Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Paddling Misadventure in Khao Tao, Thailand

Stunning Khao Tao Reservoir, Thailand

By Prisana Nuechterlein

A paddling misadventure story set in beautiful Khao Tao, Thailand. The idyllic fishing village of Khao Tao is an off the beaten path trip well worth taking.

My family's love affair with the idyllic fishing village of Khao Tao, located just 15 kilometers south of Hua Hin, began two generations ago when my grandfather first took up residence there, building a charming wooden Thai beach house on Khao Tao beach. We spent countless glorious days at the beach house; crab hunting, picking pineapples and collecting marvelous seashells for hours on end.

Sadly, the beach house has long since been torn down, but in recent years we have once again taken up residence in Khao Tao – not on the beach, but within walking distance to Had Sai Noi, another well known smaller beach located just minutes from Khao Tao beach.

My beautiful mother strolling on Khao Tao Beach. 

We are also within walking distance to stunning Khao Tao Reservoir, where a truly scenic winding pathway takes you past exotic floating lotus gardens and is perfect for sunset strolls and a few Singhas or Leo Beers with the local residents. Our sunset “bar” consists of a simple table and a few chairs in front of a popular mini-mart.

Had Sai Noi Beach

For years, Had Sai Noi beach was our own private playground. We were indeed spoiled and the only critters challenging us for beach space were a few hermit crabs. Today, the beach still has a secluded feeling even though there are plenty of umbrellas and beach chairs available for rent and masseuses for hire, along with a few beachfront restaurants. There is even a Mermaid statue watching over “our” beach, keeping a lovely eye over all her visitors.

Had Sai Noi Beach

Paddling to Turtle Island

Depending on the season, the sea is either calm or can be a bit dangerous especially with Had Sai Noi’s strong riptide. On one of the calmest of days, my husband and I decided to paddle out to Koh Tao (Turtle Island), about 2 kilometers off shore. Although we knew the fiberglass boat we were using wasn’t really seaworthy, we were in an adventurous mood and decided to test our karma by ignoring all common sense. After about 30 minutes working our way up the coast toward Khao Tao village, my husband started paddling toward Turtle Island.

Even though the sea was flat and there was not a wisp of wind, we were often pausing to bail water out of the boat. Not a good sign. And of course just to make our paddle a touch more dramatic, there were storm clouds looming far off in the distance, but in our glass half full mode, we were sure the clouds would dissipate before ever reaching us. We thus made our run for the island, paddling and bailing; and paddling and bailing. If we had plotted our course with a GPS it would’ve been truly funny with all the 360's and left and right turns we made along the way.

After our misadventure our son bought us a much more seaworthy vessel.

Turtle Island

When we finally arrived at Turtle Island, (after about an hour and 20 minutes) we saw a skinny monitor sea lizard meandering about his rocky perch for some tasty island tidbits. Spotting the lone lizard was actually exciting. We were explorers visiting an unknown land (or maybe we were victims of sunstroke). After he saw us, the lizard quickly scampered off into the sparse vegetation, so we headed onward to the north end of the island. Unbeknownst to us before our paddle, Turtle Island has a channel splitting the island in two. We passed through the channel and emerged on the other side of the island, where the water was a bit rougher and a slight wind was starting to blow.

Two hours had already passed since we had bravely, or stupidly, left the shore and it was time to head back. We took turns alternating paddling and bailing but soon the wind got so strong that our small boat was becoming entirely engulfed in water. We were sinking and sinking fast! No amount of bailing would save us. Finally, we succumbed to the inevitable and stopped bailing. The boat flipped over and we were scrambling overboard into the water. Climbing back on board was a bit tricky, but somehow we managed to flip the boat back over and gently hauled ourselves back into the half-submerged craft.

At that point, I was convinced that one of us had to swim for the shore (2 kilometers away) because there was no way we could paddle the waterlogged boat back with both of us on board. I slid back into the water and told my husband that I would swim alongside. He reminded me that there were huge jellyfish in the sea and seconds later I was back on board the boat, face down on my belly, and not moving an inch.
Even though the boat was full of water, it was still floating and with fierce determination, my husband paddled and paddled and paddled until at long last, 2 hours later, we finally were safely back at Had Sai Noi Beach.

Not surprisingly, our children were quite alarmed hearing about our misadventure to Turtle Island and recommended that we invest in a more seaworthy vessel. For our 29th wedding anniversary, my son gave us an inflatable kayak – a perfect gift to safely continue our paddles and love affair with Khao Tao!

Khao Tao Reservoir and Beach

Recommended Activities

Tour de Asia Bicycle Touring Co., Ltd.
4/34 Hua Hin Soi 96/1
Hua Hin, 77110
Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
66 (0)8 1173 4469

Hua Hin Pranburi Forest Park
Tel: (+66) 321608 or (+66) 97874812
Price: 400 baht for a boat ride
Duration : Boat tour approximately 45 to 60 minutes
Getting there: From Hua Hin, take the main Petchkasem road down south for approximately 25 kilometers. Follow the signs to the Pran Buri Forest Park.

Vic Hua Hin
62/70 Soi Moobaan Huana, Nongkea, Hua Hin
Prachuab Kirikhan 77110
Tel: 032-827-814, 032-827-815
For art lovers, Vic offers excellent theater performances and art activities.
Fiery sunset at Khao Tao Reservoir

No comments: