A Tale of 2 Snorkels, Thailand

 

                                                                                      

 

Trip 1

By speedboat

Gulf of Thailand

Multi-island, plus viewpoint hike & kayak

Lunch buffet

Fish aplenty

Boat trip length 1hr 40 ea way / 3hrs 20

Grand finale: none

 

Trip 2

By longtail boat

Andaman Sea

7 island, plus cave

Sunset BBQ

Fish aplenty

½ hour to 1st island, minutes from island to island

Grand finale: Fire show

Bioluminescent night snorkel

 

Trip 1

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pros

Our first stop was the island of Nangyuan, a pristine, snorkelers’ paradise. It was fun to hike up to the viewpoint and later to take a kayak and cruise along another island’s shore and find my own secluded snorkel spot.

cons

Over 3 hours on a speedboat with 30 plus other people was a bit much. And as you can see by the picture in the slide show, apparently not just for me. On the way back, there were 4 inebriated passengers (predictably 2 Americans and 2 Australians) who turned the boat into a party boat, drinking up a storm and blaring the music…Guess I’m showing my age here, but none of the “younger set” seemed too enthused by this behavior either.

Trip 2

pros

Much more intimate experience with only 6 other people (3 couples) on a longtail boat. Made for some nice conversations and connections.  Cave snorkel was incredible with a huge school of fish. Sunset BBQ was lovely. Fire show was an added perk. The night snorkel with bioluminescent plankton was magical. The light is a result of a series of oxidation reactions in the plankton. It was like having sparklers in the water. Unfortunately, my camera had run out of battery for this. (I was a little concerned about backing into some jellies that I might not see in the dark…)

cons

The guides spoke very little English and had to be reminded to hand out masks and snorkels. They could not identify the large white and pink jellyfish we saw, but did encourage us to get back on the boat. I know some jellyfish are relatively innocuous, but they do have Portuguese-Man-of-War here too… The guides did not point out the attractions on Railay when we docked. Having been there previously, I shared the info with my fellow passengers about the critters (monkeys and water monitor) and Princess Cave.

All said, I would do both again.  Hopefully next time I’ll have a GoPro pre-programmed!

Chiang Dao Cave Adventure

This amazing cave excursion was included as part of our 3 day cycle adventure from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai with ActiveThailand. (We lucked out on another “private” tour as there were no other takers in this hottest, off season month. It was AWESOME, highly recommend – more later.)

The story behind this massive limestone cave (penetrating 8 miles into the Doi Chiang Dao mountain) is that a Buddhist monk discovered it 1,000 years ago and decided that it was the perfect place for meditation…Since then, people have been coming to honor the monk and the hermit that lived and died in the cave.

Cave warning signs
Even the disclaimers are so polite here: Dear all tourists….

I felt like I was in Raiders of the Lost Ark in the vast subterranean network of dripping stalacites and other stalagmite formations. I’ve never seen anything like this. If my voice sounds a bit tense, it’s because I’m a bit claustrophobic and not so fond of bats, especially when they are in large quantities…

 

 

 

Everyday has been an amazing adventure here. Some days so packed with spectacular sights and experiences it’s difficult to capture them all. Focus on the highlights you say – they are all highlights I say!

Postscript: After what happened to the Thai soccer team and their coach in the caves of Northern Thailand, I’m not sure I would opt for another cave adventure if I was there again (at least not in the rainy season)…Would you still go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Hood, Oregon: Timberline / PCT Trail & Paradise Found

Got a late afternoon start so we set out for a quick, couple mile out and back on the Pacific Crest Trail (2000) also known as Timberline trail (600) behind the historic and grand Timberline Lodge. However, the Paradise Loop trail (757) marker about 4 miles in was too tempting to resist with its wildflower-sprinkled meadow and snow-crowned Mt. Hood in the distance.

Round trip distance : ~12 miles                 Elevation gain: ~2,300 feet            Scenery: Oh, my!

Rating: Difficult (Length  & areas of incline)     Terrain: Easy (Running shoe-friendly.)

Not that the first 4 miles wasn’t scenic too. Views of Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters to the south accompany you along the way. And you pass several streams (waterfalls in other seasons), and impressive Zig Zag Canyon too.

 

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This was an all-around stunning hike and a great workout too. Exhilarating and breathtaking in every sense of the word. I’ve always wanted to take the Timberline Trail around the circumference of Mt. Hood. (It’s a 38.4 mile hike with 8k  elevation gain.) There are some ultra-runners who do it in a day. Most make a 3-5 day trip of it. There may be a return trip in my future. Will I be able to resist Paradise Loop next time? Probably not.

And now for a refreshing cocktail followed by a delectable feast and a luxurious night at my top pick Timberline Lodge.

Sun Valley, ID: Pioneer Cabin Hike

Tremendous hike in Sun Valley. Rewarding views, great workout, super cool cabin.

Distance: 8.5 miles                  Rating:  Difficult            Elevation gain: ~2,550 ft

Took the steady climbing Pioneer Cabin trail #122 up and descended the loop via the Long Gulch trail #123. Minus the snow and ice on the top and down the backside that we encountered, this would be a fantastic trail run. The terrain on 122 is pine needle smooth as you traverse 23 switchbacks through an old growth forest with glimpses of the Pioneer, Smoky, and Sawtooth Mountains through the trees. As you continue up into high alpine meadow, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views .

 

 

But you’re not quite there yet. Just one more push and a panorama of peaks opens up and a rustic cabin welcomes you.

Pioneer Cabin was built by Sun Valley Company in the 1930’s to encourage Alpine skiing. (If I’d known the cabin was open, I would have made it an overnighter.) Underneath the snow, emblazoned on the roof greeting all those who ascend to its heights is its signature quote “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get.”

 

 

Unlike trail#122, 123 is a bit tortuous, very rocky the last 2 miles or so.  Not to mention all the snow we encountered on that trail, but it was all so worth it! This hike makes most people’s list for the top ten in Sun Valley. It’s certainly tops with me.