Land Koh

Porthole Cruise Magazine - - Beach On -

For Beth, pad­dle­board­ing was her new nir­vana for the week and she’d have sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties to ply her new pas­sion. For me, it was a cou­ple of ex­cel­lent mas­sages in the ship’s hum­ble spa ca­bana that took me to my happy place.

Nearly ev­ery day was a beach day, with wet land­ings de­liv­er­ing us to sim­i­lar arches of white sand framed by jagged rocks and bril­liant turquoise wa­ter on kohs (or is­lands) through­out the An­daman whose names we would jumble. We walked along the beaches in the hot sun catch­ing up on each other’s lives, and cooled down in the surf with our hats and sun­glasses on, grin­ning end­lessly at our good for­tune for be­ing where we were.

The first port was Koh Surin to the north of Phuket and within view of Myan­mar, where Beth took her first try ever at pad­dle­board­ing. In no time she was stand­ing on her board and pad­dling around the perime­ter of the swim­ming area like a teenager, rev­el­ing in her suc­cess.

An­other day was the Sim­i­lan Is­lands Na­tional Park, an archipelago of 11 is­lands, and the busiest beach we’d en­counter all week. Scores of buzzing speed­boats brought day- trip­pers from Phuket and Krabi, their pow­er­ful out­board en­gines revving loudly as they nudged their sterns into the sand to dis­gorge and col­lect their charges. We joined the masses, find­ing a spot for our tow­els in the soft, white sand and hap­pily ob­serv­ing the throngs in their or­ange life­jack­ets take self­ies and bury­ing one an­other in the sand. Most of the jet boats were gone by about 3:30 p.m., sud­denly leav­ing the beach nearly de­serted.

Koh Kradan, part of the Hat Chao Mai Na­tional Park, was our fa­vorite beach day. As we snorkeled, we spot­ted eels, gi­ant clams, and sea urchins as schools of brightly col­ored trop­i­cal fish swam within inches of our masks; other pas­sen­gers went div­ing with the ship’s res­i­dent dive master. We bobbed in the wa­ter like old ladies — and Beth went pad­dle­board­ing again.

The crew set up lunch on the beach, grilling de­li­cious chicken, sausages, and burg­ers. Af­ter­ward, we went for a 20-minute trek across the is­land, scam­per­ing down a short steep path be­fore reach­ing a se­cluded, rock-framed cove that looked like a film set. It capped the end to a per­fect day.

In Langkawi, Malaysia, our only non-Thai port, Beth and I signed up for an ac­tive tour that com­bined guided kayak­ing through the fas­ci­nat­ing man­groves of the Kilim Ge­o­for­est Park fol­lowed by a sweaty two-mile jun­gle hike in the Raya moun­tains where we spot­ted lan­gurs, great horn­bills, and long-tailed macaques. Mean­while, Sheila chose a less ac­tive, but truly ex­hil­a­rat­ing, tour — a mile-long 2,000-foot-high cable car ride be­tween the peaks of the Mach­in­chang Moun­tains near the Langkawi’s west coast. I couldn’t stom­ach that height, but loved hear­ing about it later.

On the last day of the cruise, we an­chored in Phang Nga Bay and se­lected the jet boat ex­cur­sion to “James Bond Is­land,” where parts of The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed in the 1970s. The best part was the speed­boat ride to and from the is­land, sit­ting near the pow­er­ful out­board mo­tors as our hair and cover- ups whipped around in the wind, each of us lost in thought as we mar­veled the oth­er­worldly for­est of karsts grow­ing out of the sea.

Through 2019, Star Clip­per sails week­long An­daman Sea cruises Oc­to­ber through April, spend­ing the other half of the year cruis­ing in the In­done­sian archipelago round-trip from Bali.

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