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                             THE HONGS, THAILAND                                                                                                      

PHANG NGA BAY

Jan 9

We pulled up the anchor first thing in the morn and left Krabi, headed North into the spectacular Phang Nga Bay. Most of these islands are uninhabited, providing opportunities for fascinating dinghy expeditions.

We passed the Krabi Koh Hong group and made our way to the northernmost tip of Koh Yao Noi.  The water in the entire area was very shallow and we keep a close watch for reefs.

We wandered through the regal moss covered monoliths protruding from the silty sea

Koh Pak Bia (right) provided a extraordinary silhouette with its mushroom shaped rock.

After scoping out Koh Kudu Yai (left)  we continued to Koh Kudu Noi where we anchored in front of a sandy beach for an afternoon of exploring.

KOH NOI    A Hong in the Mangroves

We headed to the tiny sandy beach which is underwater at high tide. After crawling through a cave opening we followed a sandy creek through the mangroves into a "hong". A Hong is basically a cave where, some time in ancient history, the roof has collapsed and disappeared, leaving a “room” in the middle of the island.

KOH HONG

After some relaxing in the sun, we continued on to Koh Hong, a few hours sail west. We anchored between Koh Hong and Koh Na Khae in a ripper of a current, being that it was spring tides.

The beautiful anchorage at Koh Hong was the paradigm of the picturesque famous Phang Nga Bay imagery.

Despite the stunning appeal of the anchorage, strong currents late at night forced us to abandon the anchorage when another boat nearby made contact with Ascension.
After our late night repositioning and traversing the channel in the dark, we anchored closer to the hong entrance in a much more protected area. We awoke to the first wave of tour boats dumping kayakers into the nearby lagoon that housed the cave.

Hong Tunnel

Although the entrance into the lagoon was a tight fit in itself, the entrance into the tunnel leading to the hong was a definite squeeze, even for the dinghy. Once inside, we pushed our way along the barnacle covered walls using the dive light to find our way. Finally we could see the light coming from the hong and managed to squash to the tubes of the dingy enough to get through.

Encounter with a big Lizard

The island presented interesting nooks and crannies. We investigated what we thought may be another cave to a hong when we soon discovered that it was home to a huge Water Monitor! The huge lizard seemed antagonized by our presence and the boys were hesitant to move too close but we silently crept deeper into the darkness.

The gigantic lizard looked like a crocodile and measured about  2 meters in length, only slightly smaller than Komodo dragon. The water monitor is a carnivore so we could have been lunch!

Our circumnavigation around Koh Hong was another interesting adventure with unusual colored rock formations, tidal pools & inlets.

Fresh Prawns

Back at the boat we bargained for a bucket of fresh prawns from a local fisherman and had a feast for dinner.

KOH PHANAK

Jan 10    At Koh Phanak we anchored right in front of the entrance to our favorite hong. The tide was ideal, as indicated by the numbers of tour boats parked in the bay surrounded by kayaks teaming with tourists. Chris was not feeling very well, we think due to a reaction to the shrimp feast we had the night before. We reluctantly left him on board and headed to the cave.

Honging

The entrance to the cave was shallow but with some persuasion the dinghy slid through the opening. The walls of the cavern were dripping with stalactites and after the first bend, it was pitch black. Even with 2 lights it was hard to make our way through the 80 meter passage, being tossed around a bit by the current. Deep inside the tunnel, the cave opened up into a big cathedral and we looked up to see thousands of bats fluttering on the ceiling. We kept pushing our way along until finally the passage opened up into an incredible pair of hongs. 

The unspoilt ecosystem of the hidden lagoon consisted of walls of gnarled creepers, ferns, plants and small trees clinging to the sheer rock walls. It was a little spooky, like waiting for a prehistoric creature to come soaring down and breaking the the silence. It felt somewhat like being inside the crater of a volcano, definitely no way out -  up the sheer vertical walls, except through the cave, which would shortly be totally underwater with the rising tide!

Touring

After returning to the boat, we motored Ascension around the corner and joined Gone with the Wind. Together we took our dinghies for a tour around Koh Phanak. Chris was feeling a bit better so joined us.

The Wade Thru Cave

There were dozens of tiny sandy beaches and coves to explore. We beached the dinghy at one interesting spot and climbed up onto a ledge that led to the mouth of a cave.

However when the tide fell a bit we noticed that by wading around to the other side of a rock outcrop we could duck under an overhang and follow a stream into a bottom cave.

The entrance was low but once we crawled inside we waded through the water and soon disappeared into the darkness.

The rock inside the cave was amazing, much of it made up of white quartz which sparkled when we shone our light on it.

We waded through the murky water wondering if any water monitors were lurking there. Sometimes the water would reach waist-deep in the absolute darkness. The only sound was the squealing of the bats above.
The passageway emptied into a serene and isolated gigantic hollow room carved into the center of the island. Vines rushed up trunks and walls seeking the sun. Bamboo, elephant ears and countless other tropical plants put on lush displays amidst the mangroves.
The main hong connected to a smaller hong worthy of exploration until Liam got stuck and was sinking in quicksand!

Dancing along the drying mangrove banks were hundreds of mud skippers, an interesting family of fish, because they are truly amphibious and  can live in or out of the water.

Back at the dinghy we took a break with a beverage before moving on to a new adventure.

Caving

Another cove summoned us to beach the dinghy in the mouth of a huge open cave. A scramble up the rocks led us into a massive rock cathedral with passageways leading in a number of different directions.

The most fascinating rockery was a composition that looked just like a waterfall. The emerald hues of the stone facets looked manmade but was definitely the work of nature. Behind the wondrous steps was another cavern.
Our touring around the island continued, past phenomenal craggy  limestone rock intensified by the glassy emerald water. I was easy to visualize that the entire porous island must be hollow with hongs and secret openings.
By the time we returned to Ascension the tide was once again right for a trip into the nearby Hong. AS it was late in the day all the tour boats had vacated so Chris got his chance to see the Hong and we had the place all to ourselves as the sun set over the horizon.

January 11

We left Phang Nga Bay and sailed a long run to Chalong Bay  where we anchored in front of the Aquarium. Chris and Craig used the last couple of days in Phuket to do last minute shopping and getting in a golf game (see Around Phuket) before catching their flight back to Canada.

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