Travelling Light

Ton Kloi, Thailand: Discovering Village Life (Nov 20-23, 2014)

After a leisurely five nights on Koh Phangan, it was time to head back to the mainland to visit our adopted family in the village of Ton Kloi.

After the Westernised, tourist-focused Koh Phangan, it was a sudden change to go to a place where nobody spoke English! The girls were glad to have us along to translate.

The cross-country bus trip took most of a day, and the girls are now seasoned passengers. We were met at the 7-Eleven by Habsoh, Sandi and Hareen, and did nothing much the first night, other than eating and sleeping.

The next day, it was time to explore the village. Pet was very pleased to see us back. Apparently he wandered around a lot while we were away, looking for us.

Erin was determined to make the monkey love her within the three-day visit. We warned her that he was a very skittish, frightened monkey, and even though we had given him lots of nice treats, we still had to put the food down and back away before he would come and pick it up.

Armed with a mandarin and endless stores of patience, Erin went out the first morning to start her campaign. Boi (the monkey) took one look at Erin holding the mandarin out toward him, came straight over, and took it from her hand! She really does have the Dr Dolittle touch.

Having taken food from Erin’s hand and not died, Boi was willing to take food from Leash and Tom as well. The girls spent quite some time sitting with him that morning, watching him prance around on two feet, holding his bottom with his front feet. We are not sure exactly what that pose signified, but it seemed to be generally positive.

Sandi got one of the rabbits out for Erin to cuddle, and they made friends with both cats. The brood of chicks wouldn’t stand still long enough for Erin to catch one, though.

The icecream van came by (well, actually, it’s an icecream three-wheeler), and we got ice creams for the girls, who were back sitting with the monkey again.

Sandi said that Boi could eat ice cream, so Erin put some on a leaf, and held it out to him.

At first, he ignored the leaf, but then he smelled something on it. He came up close, sniffed the leaf, and then grabbed the ice cream cone. When Erin didn’t immediately let go, he shrieked at her, and she was so startled she let him have it.

There followed a pythonesque period in which Boi would pick up a scoop of ice cream, start to eat it, get cold fingers, drop it in the dirt, and then immediately pick it up and try to scrape the dirt off.

The second scoop had stayed in the cone, so when he gave up on the first scoop, he settled down for a good old munch that didn’t hurt his fingers.

After lunch, we headed down to the swimming hole. The butterflies were out in large numbers, as were the fish.

We took inner tubes with us from home, so we could ride the rapids. The water level has gone down about 50cm since Jenny first arrived, so the current is not as strong as it was, but it is still strong enough to create a fun ride.

After a couple of rounds of riding the rapids, the girls put on snorkels and checked out the multitudes of fish in the deep pool.

They decided that the water was probably too shallow for swinging out on the tyre swing and dropping into the water, and we had a brief tropical downpour, so we retired to the covered area for some fish cakes and sticky rice.

When the rain cleared, we tried our best to capture the magic of the Ton Kloi swimming hole in pictures for the folks back home. The butterflies displayed an eerie skill at avoiding the lens when the girls sat amongst them, but the clear, green water and the bamboo rainforest posed beautifully.

Other highlights of Day 1 included meeting the sooai (beautiful) Persian cats at the local store, having roti cannai for breakfast, eating amazing home-cooked food at the house, and lying around in front of the fan in their bedroom using the WiFi.

Since the WiFi was a bit up and down, we also introduced them to the house up the road, which gets perfect mobile data reception on its front porch, and is currently unoccupied.

The girls spent the morning of Day 2 hanging out with lthe little girls, and catching fish in the backyard pond.

Leash caught her first fish! Her response was more “eeeuw!” than “yay!”, but she went on to catch two more.

As the sun came up, the fish got less interested in eating, so the girls eventually called it quits and went to have a smokeo, leaving Tom, Sandi and Hareen to make up the numbers of fish required for lunch.

Erin came back to hang out with Boi while the fishing went on, and to laugh at Tom when a fish he caught flew off the hook and disappeared into the undergrowth.

Eventually, Na tracked down the runaway (these fish, pla duk, can breathe air and squirm along the ground, so they literally can run away) behind the wooden fence.

We had a delicious lunch of super-fresh pla duk coated in cumin and garlic, stir-fried vegetables, Thai omelette and rice, followed by watermelon.

After lunch, we went to Talae Nok to see the after-effects of the Andaman Sea tsunami, and to visit the gibbon sanctuary. Na, Hareen and Tom rode in the back of the ute.

While it is officially a gibbon sanctuary, they also have a number of cats. This particular one was Tom’s favourite cat ever. He could have adopted it, if we had a home to take it to.

Some of the gibbons are surrendered pets that got too big and too difficult to manage in a house, some have been found injured or lost, and some are Hep B positive, so they can’t be released into the wild in case they spread the  infection to wild gibbons.

There are also some former laboratory monkeys, and this little baby monkey, which came in with its mother. She had been attacked by a large animal with teeth, and one upper arm was badly damaged. After she recovers, they may be able to go back into the National Park.

On the way out, we stopped to visit with a mother cat and kittens, including one snow-white kitty with blue eyes. The girls seemed to like the cats just as much as the gibbons – maybe even more, as the cats were so much more cuddly.

The gibbon sanctuary accepts volunteers, so there are oftern Westerners there, but the people we saw on this visit were all Thai.

On Day 3, we were due to depart, but not before a visit to the twice-weekly morning markets.

Before braving the busy market, we went to the source for roti cannai, and as a bonus, they also made hot patong ko. The girls are thoroughly adapted to super-strong, super-sweet Thai coffee now!

Fortified by food and caffeine, the girls set out to explore the markets.

Erin has one of her thongs held together with a bobby pin, and there were three shoe stalls, but Erin couldn’t find anything to suit her exacting requirements.

They did buy matching tie-dyed T-shirts, though, and almost bought a handbag.

After an encounter with yet one more gorgeous kitten, we left market.

We went home via Sandi’s mother’s house, where there is a lucky three-colour cat and her lucky three-colour kitten.

You would think that going to country Thailand would produce exotic animal encounters, and Boi the monkey certainly fit that description, but it was also a visit with cats, kittens, and more kittens!

The final verdict from the girls:

Favourite things about Ton Kloi: the swimming hole, the gibbon sanctuary, the lovely people, the markets, the pet monkey, the kittens, and the amazing food.

Not so favourite things about Ton Kloi: it’s a long bus ride to get there, the WiFi is patchy, and the dang monkey stole my ice cream.

If they thought the bus ride from Surat Thani to here was long, wait until they experience the bus ride from here to Hat Yai …