Saturday, January 29, 2005

Crystal woke up early again and went to the Yoga class again. After she got back we went to breakfast and tried to figure out what to do on our last full day. We considered just being bums all day long, but over these three weeks we both figured out that we really don't have the personality for that. Justin had read that the local rainforest, in Khao Phra Taew National Park, was very nice, so we decided to go there. The rainforest was very close to the hotel as well, so the decision was easy. It took us only 15 minutes to get to the rainforest, but the roads were (comparatively) much busier, since it was a Saturday.

We weren't sure what to expect, because the Amanpuri people said no one really went there without a guide. The usual practice is to go on a tour group, start at the bottom on the westside, then hike east up and over the top of the hill. We had read on a website that walking up to the top and back was very nice in and of itself, so we decided to do that. The Amanpuri people weren't sure this was possible (we couldn't imagine why), but they called the National Park for us to check. After determining it was okay, we were on our way.

We tried to follow the directions from the printed out web page, but the path was hard to find. It reminded us of our hike through the lava fields on Maui, where the path was seemingly nonexistent for half the trek. This one was slightly better, but we kept having to cross back and forth across an active stream bed. Fortunately it was the dry season, or the path would have been that much harder to follow. We started down by a waterfall, and all the criss-crossing got us up above the top of the water and onto the main trail, which paralleled the river bed.

There wasn't another soul to be found the entire trek at least another human. Crystal kept seeing spiders Justin didn't see them, so he doesn't know if they were figments of her imagination. It reminded us of the Rainforest Schmainforest episode of South Park where Stan kept seeing a snake, but it was a stick, the same stick, over and over again. There were screeching insects everywhere, lots of lizards and small snakes, and a few of some larger animal that we never saw, but could definitely hear rustling around off the trail. It was slightly unsettling, considering there was no one else around.

It was probably nicer than Bukit Timah, but quite a bit of that probably had to do with the fact that there was no one else there. Lots of the serenity of Bukit Timah was killed by loud tourists. We saw a lot of nice blue flowers on the ground, but never could figure out where they were coming from, as every time we looked up we didn't see anything. Near the top, there was a large glen of Kerriodoxa palms, which have silvery leaves and black stalks very striking. We had read that the palms in the rainforest were found only in the rainforest, but this was overstated. While the Kerriodoxas may be endemic to Phuket, we had seen them in a number of places on the trip, including at the Taman Orkid in Kuala Lumpur and Nong Nooch in Pattaya. There was quite a bit more natural bamboo than we had seen in any of the other places we had been.

The rainforest was very nice, driving home the point that we really shouldn't be getting rid of these rainforests all over the world. This is the viewpoint of most of the people in the US , but we wonder if most people know why countries are cutting down their rainforests. Malaysia (which still has a massive natural rainforest, btw), cut down a lot of its rainforest to plant groves of oil palms and rubber trees. The profits from these groves have done quite a bit to help the local economy for Malaysia. So from the outside, we in the US can chide Malaysia for cutting down the rainforest. But from the inside, Malaysia's people now have a quality of living much better than they used to, so it really doesn't seem fair for us to tell them how to use their resources, especially when people are living better because of it. The one notable thing in Thailand is that now that the forests have stopped being cut down, elephants are out of a job, as they were used in large numbers to haul timber off of steep hillsides where trucks could not go.

We made our way back down to the bottom and got in the car, very happy to see the water and cold towels that are standard whenever the Amanpuri folks drive you around. The driver took us back to the resort a different way, this time from the north, through Bang Tao Bay. From what we saw, the damage to Bang Tao Bay was worse than in Patong. It could just be, however, that the cleanup process in Bang Tao was proceeding at a slower pace because it wasn't as commercial of an area. There were several large fields full of debris, several downed bungalows, and we saw a boat in a ditch at least a quarter mile from the water, on the other side of the road from the ocean.

Back at the resort we ate a late lunch. After lunch Crystal got a massage, while Justin went and played tennis again. The two hours we were apart was probably the longest period of time we were apart the entire trip. We remarked that we managed to spend three straight weeks with another and not kill each other, so our marriage must be pretty good. Now it was Justin's turn to get a massage, but instead of Crystal playing tennis (or doing anything active for that matter), she slept.

We went to dinner late, and at dinner discussed our favorite places on the trip. Justin's list went more or less in the order of our trip, with the exception of Amanpuri which was around third. Crystal 's list was up and down, with Kuala Lumpur and Amanpuri at the top, Singapore and Pattaya at the bottom. Interestingly, we had no idea whether we even wanted to go to Kuala Lumpur when we started planning the trip, and yet it the favorite place for both of us.

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