Thursday, May 31, 2018

Koh Muk, or 'Pearl Island' in the Andaman Sea.

Koh Muk
Supalai Resort: sandy beach on the tip of the island peninsula.
Living in a city like Bangkok is nice, but at times there is a need to escape and reconnect with a natural environment.
A beach at Koh Muk
Fortunately, Thailand is a land of many natural wonders inviting to new discoveries. However, it has become a worldwide destination and many places are spoilt by the hordes of mass tourism. When I first went to Phi-Phi island, it was a real paradise but seeing the pictures of the crowds of visitors on the tiny island is enough to turn me off. 
The good thing though, is that Thailand still has many other unvisited places off the beaten track. And on the other hand, if you can choose a time when the high season is off and that the weather is still dry enough, then the doors to many other natural gems is open. 
Of course, as a retiree living in the country, this is easier. This is why I often choose the month of May as a means of escape to Paradise lost! Most of the sightseers are gone by then, prices are much cheaper, and the wet season is only beginning, which means you can be assured to get lots of dry and sunny periods. If it rains, it mostly happens in the evenings.

One of my current objectives in living in the country is to explore more of the remote islands in the
Koh Muk in view.
The Andaman Sea, south of Krabi.
So, I booked a THAI Airways flight to Krabi, arranged to commute to the Pak Meng area in the Trang Province, and I was off on a longboat on a new adventure! Flying time from Suvarnabhumi to Krabi is only 1h05 and the drive to one of Pak Meng piers only takes 1h40. Then you are at the gate of the southern seas dream islands. The waters of the Andaman are often changing from aquamarine to emerald! 

And this is how I ended up on Koh Muk first. In the Thai language 'muk' means 'a pearl'. So this is Pearl Island. It's only about 20 minutes' away from the coast. So the water is not totally clear like on the other islands farther away from the coast. It is fairly populated. There is a community of Sea Gypsies living on stilt houses at the main village. But the interior of the island is either planted with rubber trees or a virgin rainforest covering the rocky Karst mountains of the island making it a beautiful environment. The
My bungalow at Supalai Resort
the local population is mostly Muslim. But they are all very friendly. People say hello to you and smile broadly, so you feel at ease and quite welcome. I must say, this is quite different from Koh Lanta. 
I had booked a bungalow in an absolutely beautiful resort called Supalai Resort. It is located on a peninsula at one tip of the island near the village. Consequently, it is surrounded by a white sand beach on three sides. The resort is set in a wonderful, natural environment. To move around, you can choose to walk, rent a bicycle, or use an electric golf cart within the property only. The views on the port, the mountains, the faraway coastline or other rocky islands are absolutely stunning. A great buffet breakfast is usually included in the package, but their restaurant card shows some very reasonable prices. But the village is at a walking distance outside the property and offers many other cheap possibilities of seafood or Thai menus.
On one day, I rented a bicycle in order to explore more of the island interior and go as far as a large
Lunch at Hilltop Café
 beach called 'Farang Beach' or 'Charlie's Beach' on another end of Koh Muk. This remote sandy cove was completed deserted. The foreign vacationers had already left and only a few stray dogs were haunting the place. Most surprisingly, the beach was dirty and covered with trash, sadly mostly plastic items washed ashore by the tides...
Yet, the ride over the hill was absolutely delightful within a full tropical environment made of trees, flowers and many kinds of tropical plants. I stopped for lunch at a country place called 'Hilltop Café'. I had the whole place for myself and I ordered a delicious shrimp fried rice with a fresh coconut in a tropical garden blooming with flowers. It made it to the beach disappointment.

Christian Sorand

Supalai Resort

My beach bungalow
View from the room
My room

The terrace
Garden environment
The main beach
One of the two swimming-pools
Sunset view in front of my bungalow
Panoramic sunrise view on the beach in front of my bungalow

Views of Koh Muk island

South Beach in the daytime.
North Beach at sunset.
Village stilt houses
Longboat at the village jetty
A mangrove fisherman community

A panoramic view of the mountains from the jetty
The hilltop road to another side
Charlie's Beach
The Hilltop Restaurant
Hill landscape

Koh Muk Natural Environment

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Screwpine fruits
Coconut trees on the village beach

Red Morning Glory

Unknown plant & flower
A wood path.

The hilltop natural vegetation among rubber trees

Peacock Flower
Fish at the jetty
Island beach
Longboat on the other beachside
The colors of the Andaman
Another mesmerizing sunset on Koh Muk beach.

The unfortunate invasion of plastic POLLUTION

It has also been a heartbreaking experience to see that so much beauty has already been greatly affected by human pollution, and mainly by plastic.
I first noticed that the sea gypsy section of the village was totally invaded by garbage and particularly with mounts of plastic refuse!
Every day, after each tide, the pristine sandy beach received their tribute of plastic trash brought by the sea. After talking with the staff at Supalai Resort, I learned that each morning they were cleaning their side of the island beaches. But this is not enough. I threw away plastic bottles each time I saw one...If every single visitor was doing this, it would not simply help a little, but it would also set an example to others.
The cleanliness of Charlie's Beach was absolutely appalling: tons of refuse, mostly plastic everywhere!
The plastic pollution at Charlie's Beach
Charlie's Beach plastic pollution again.

Note: I did collect these two bottles and threw them away in a garbage can!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

People of Namibia

Ethnic groups of Namibia
Namibia is a land of many languages. Officially, the main language of communication is English. But in reality, the second most common language is Afrikaans, and since it was once a German colony, many mostly whites still speak German in Windhoek, Swakopmund or Lüderitz. But being in Africa, there are also many other tribes that speak their own language.
-The San (Bushmen) were among the first inhabitants of the land. Small in size, they were the painters of the few prehistoric rock paintings, some dating as far back as 27,000 years ago.
-The Nama tribe living in the desert along the Atlantic coast gave the country its actual official name: Namibia.
-The Damara are also an original tribe of Namibia, along with the Nama and the San. They live in a large area along the Skeleton Coast, in a region known as Damaraland.
The Bushmen, the Nama and the Damara, all speak a 'click-language'.
-However, the Hereros, who live north of the capital, were the first to fight for their independence, when the country was under the German rule. They live on cattle rather than traditional agriculture.
Windhoek: Herero Memorial
The women wear a distinctive long Victorian gown and head-dress. They now live in 
the highland plateau north of Windhoek. One of their main settlement is the town of Okahandja (80km north of Windhoek). There are also Herero tribes in the neighboring countries of Angola and Botswana.
-The Himba are ethnically linked to the Herero but they split and moved to the remote Kaokaland.
-The Owambo, who now lives north of the Etosha Pan, originally came from the lakes of East Africa and their language also belongs to the Bantu family. They are the largest ethnic group of the country.
Sam Nujoma,'Father of the Nation'
-The Kavango, also originally from East Africa, have now settled along the Okavango River, between Angola & Namibia, as far as the Caprivi strip in the Northeast. Their language belongs to the Bantu family.
-The Caprivians live in the eastern part of the Caprivi strip and their language also belongs to the Bantu family.
-Another important group is that of the Basters, a mix blood of Nama-Afrikaner.
-Like in South Africa, Namibia has kept a large number of white people (150,000) in majority Afrikaners (60%), but also either of German (20%) or British origins (20%).
Christian Sorand

The Herero costume

Two generations of Herero women
A Herero lady in Omaruru
Street scene in Karibib
Windhoek: African elegance
On a street of Karibib
An old lady in Swakopmund

A group of Owambo at Etosha Park  entrance
School children in Katatura Township, Windhoek
Art stalls at Walvis Bay
Craft display in Windhoek

Windhoek: Bushmen sculpture
Katatura Township mural in Windhoek
Traditional hut in the Bush
Shop in Swakopmund

Art shop in Swakopmund
An African sculpture
At the Okahandja Woodcraft Market
Woman wood sculpture
Feeding a cheetah.
David (my tour guide) at Swakopmund jetty.