A Ride in a Long-Tail Boat

Our trip in a long-tail boat from The Ton to Chiang Rai, Thailand

ThaiBoatTrip - 11

After two coffees each in the bakery in Mae Salong we stand on the street waiting for the first yellow songthaew of the day to take us down to Tha Ton in time to catch the 12:30pm boat to Chiang Rai.

To our slight consternation the yellow songthaew never arrives. Eventually a green songthaew stops and we decide to take that part way down the road, knowing we will have to switch to a yellow one later. Twenty minutes down the road we stop to pick up James and Suzannah, a couple from Gympie, Australia, who we had first met just as we were leaving the Akha Mud House in Hloyo. Our travel plans for the next few days roughly matched and we agreed that travelling together to Chiang Rai would give us the minimum of four people required for the ‘once-a-day’ public boat so we made our plans.

After a brief pause for James and Suzannah to clamber aboard we continue down the road. Ten minutes later we reach the little ‘bus station’ at the next intersection and are pleased to see a yellow songthaew waiting which will mean we can continue our journey to Tha Ton with very little delay. It isn’t long before we are there. We enjoy the short walk across the bridge and along the river to the waiting boats.

After some discussion about the merits of taking the public boat or hiring one which will make a few stops on the way down river we opt for the private hire. As luck would have it a young Italian couple stroll up at that point and they are quickly inveigled into joining us by James, which gives us all a slightly less expensive ticket, plus the few stops along the way and a chance to meet someone new. After a quick coffee we are back to board the boat and we are on our way. As we leave we pass the Guest House where we stayed in The Ton

To begin with the river takes broad turns through the fertile plains just south of Tha Ton. We see many different types of crops as we pass by the irrigated fields including maize, sugar cane, and rice. In places the river is gradually eroding the banks and in others it is depositing tons of sand. In a few spots there are dredges at work to keep the river navigable and to collect sand for building. Even so, some parts of the river are obviously pretty shallow. The chap steering the boat does a great job of sticking to the deeper channels … albeit with just one eye! In the shallower stretches he has to lift the propeller out of the water and we glide over the sandy bottom. With seven of us in the boat, plus luggage, the water is only inches from the top of the gunwales.

Up ahead we can see that the river is going to pass between a range of hills. It isn’t long before we reach the first hills and the river narrows and we are making our way between rock-lined passages. The scenery is great and the jungle comes right down to the water’s edge. Our redoubtable captain now has the challenge of steering his way through several small rapids and rougher water. Sitting in the front as we are we cop a soaking a few times. But it’s a warm day and this is great fun.

We are still within the range of hills when we make our first stop at a village and we can stretch our legs.

ThaiBoatTrip - 4ThaiBoatTrip - 5ThaiBoatTrip - 3ThaiBoatTrip - 6

Some of the scenes along the Kok River

ThaiBoatTrip - 7ThaiBoatTrip - 8ThaiBoatTrip - 16

Our second stop is at a national park and we take a small walk to see the hot springs (56 degrees Centigrade).

ThaiBoatTrip - 17

As we make our way down the river we enjoy the scenery and the sights.

Our last stop enroute is for a very tasty lunch in a small town not far north of Chiang Rai.

We are surprised when we are dropped off just short of Chiang Rai and there is a songthaew waiting to take us into the city. We had expected to be dropped much closer but we go along with it and after dropping the Italian couple at the bus station we are soon at the place where James and Suzannah are staying. There is no room for us but we quickly find something nearby but our room won’t be ready for thirty minutes. We head back to meet James and Suzannah and have a beer with them and make arrangements to meet for dinner.

James and Suzannah are great travellers as well and you can follow them on their Facebook Page and Blog

ThaiBoatTrip - 1

Our thoughts now are that we will move to a place slightly closer to the city centre tomorrow and then figure out what we would like to see in Chiang Rai.


Raining in the Coorong!

It’s raining in the Coorong! Such an amazing place in all kinds of weather.


The Coorong, SA, Australia

At the moment the sand flats alongside the lagoon at Hell’s Gate (Parnka Point) are slowly flooding. Large flocks of water birds are scurrying hither and thither across the shallow water, obviously feeding on whatever the water has brought to the surface.

The landscape is divided into horizontal shades of grey, with pale pinks, greens and browns in the hardy plants that curve around at the back of the sand flats. The water in the lagoons is a pale grey-green and the sand flats are a muddy grey. The dunes along the far side of the lagoon are only vaguely visible during the heaviest of the rain squalls. The sky is a luminous and uniform pale grey. There’s no hint of the sun at the moment other than the soft light in the clouds.

Yesterday was a marvelous sunny day and the weather should clear later. So right now we are sitting here, listening to music and taking the odd photo when the urge grabs us. It’s pretty wet but we are staying dry and filling buckets with good clean rainwater. This place is a fair distance from any large town, although there are some small villages not too far away which cater to the large farming operations around here.

I first visited the Coorong in 2009 and have wanted to return ever since then to spend a decent amount of time exploring this long stretch (130 kilometres) of the South Australian coast. We have a week here. We need a few more supplies so we will backtrack to Meningie then head down to Tea Tree crossing. When we get there we will check the conditions to see if we can get over onto the Younghusband Peninsula which forms the western border of the Coorong between the ocean and the lagoons. It is possible to drive on the beach all the way up this peninsula to the mouth of the Murray River where it ends its long journey from the Snowy Mountains to the sea.

(We camped at a few spots much further up the Murray River on our way from Victoria to South Australia and swam in it a few times, but the weather was a lot hotter then … over 40 degrees Celsius. The Murray and Darling Rivers are the heart of the third largest river system in the world after the Amazon and the Nile and in the past were heavily used by barges, paddle-steamers and other craft to carry goods to and from the interior. The Coorong itself is a series of lagoons stretching down the coast from the mouth of the Murray and filled from time to time when the Murray River floods. Farming up river has drastically reduced the amount of water flowing into the Corrong which has endangered this sensitive environment and habitat for many types of birds. Thankfully the management of the water levels in the Coorong has improved in recent years)

As we travel slowly south through the Coorong I’m hoping to get right in amongst the sand dunes and get some shots of some of the birds and hopefully some great sunrises and sunsets. The light yesterday evening was pretty good and the pale blue light after sunset was quite special. We have already seen several Emus, falcons, Black-shouldered Kites, Pelicans, and many different waders, cormorants, darters, avocets and other water birds.

I love this wild place. If you don’t know much about the Coorong then follow these links to learn more. Perfect for anyone who wants to find a peaceful corner that really feels remote and has great birdlife. The scenery grows on you and the longer you stay here the more you’ll see.

Wikipedia entry for Coorong National Park: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coorong_National_Park?wprov=sfti1

South Australian National Parks website: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Limestone_Coast/Coorong_National_Park
Virtual Tour: http://www.georama.com.au/coorong/