Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday April 9 - Hong Island Sunset Tour

This morning we went to the tour booking kiosk to pay for our tickets for our Sunset tour and, after having us wait for nearly 20 minutes,the lady raised the agreed upon price on us. We decided to turn her down and leave. She was trying to convince us that there many people competing for our seat willing to pay full price. This was done over the phone, so I told her to cancel. Let the others have our four spots. I hate haggling on price, yet the locals just throw an exorbitant number in the air (close to twice the real asking price) so it is necessary to go back and forth. Then they make it look as if they are doing you a favor and losing money on the deal. They wouldn't be selling if they weren't .making a profit. We walked to Kata beach, trying to decide what we will be doing for the day when qe got another text message stressing that it was truly the lowest price available. We were able to negotiate a 5% discount from the raised price, so we headed back to pay.
The lady handling the payment wasn't happy with the arrangement, and made a show of paying the credit card charge fee out of her pocket. Funny enough I saw the text she received with how much they were actually paying the tour operator, and they will still making at least a 10% markup on each ticket. We had to ride a scooter to another business down the street, that has a credit card machine to pay for our transactions before receiving a receipt. Afterward Todd and I went for a walk along Karon beach for an hour, while we waited for our scheduled pick up time. The beach was filled with families swimming in the warm green and blue water. There were locals offering tourists rides across the bay on their colorful long tail boats. Beyond the beach the street were filled with vendors offering local food or nearly identical souvenir on every stall. We were picked up at noon and rode for nearly an hour to reach the pier. We were actually the last group to be picked up, so it didn't take long for us to board our boat. As soon as we departed, we were served lunch. The food was excellent. By far the best thai food we have had on our trip.
Our first excursion was to Hannak island, in Phan Nga bay. Each couple was given a personal tour guide who rode and paddled the kayak for us. Our guide was excellent. He is one of the oldest people doing the tour and has a lot of experience. He knew and shared so many interesting facts with us. Ww first explored the Bat Cave. There were hundreds of bats living inside the cave. It smelled like cat litter. They were all be upside down clinging to the rock ceiling. Once in a while, one would fly to another spot. Our guides all had headlamps they used to point up to show us the bats. The tide was half way up and rising so we had to lay flat on our backs to enter a lagoon on the other side of the cave.
The walls were sheer rock several hundred feet in height with some vegetation growing on them and a lot more visible in the peaks. In the water, there were two mangrove trees. They are interesting plants. They grow in seawater and are able to convert salt water to fresh water. There were several sticks floating in the water with new shoots on them. The will anchor themselves in mud and are able to survive in low oxygen environments. We traveled through a strait to another, smaller lagoon. The water was really shallow and we were able to see a school of baby shrimp floating in line. They were so young, they were still transparent in color. It takes approx two years for them to become prawns. We also held a baby jellyfish. It was like holding clear jello, slimy and wobbly. Jellyfish don't sting until they reach adulthood. By far the most interesting thing to see were the mudskipper fish

They are amphibian and resemble frogs in their ability to live under water for up ro 6 hours at a time, and above ground for a similar amount of time. They look like fish and use their rear fin to skip along the water and their dorsal fins to grab onto branches. Their brown spotted skin make them blend in among the mangrove roots. They are really visible when the tide is low and they are hopping around the muddy ground. I