Day 3 —Aonang (Again)
After our jam-packed tour the day before, we had a late start to our morning (actually, afternoon). It involved a near-uncomfortable walk, no thanks to the relentless heat, to the Golden Beach Resort Spa. After negotiating a price we were happy with (happy hour for massages, y’all), we both nearly had a shock when our male negotiators turned out to be our masseuses themselves.
Not sure how to politely revert the chain of events, we awkwardly stripped down to our bikinis and I reminded myself that “these are just hands.” As it happens our masseuses were nothing short of competent and also immensely polite and decent, but both boyfriends weren’t very happy. (BUT AT LEAST WE WERE HONEST AND ACCOUNTABLE.) Haha.
By the time we finished with the massages and manicures and foot scrubs, it was 3pm. We sought respite from the heat in this quaint little cafe with its Starbucks-priced smoothies. Sadly I have since forgotten its name but it’s as hipster as cafes get in Aonang.
Purchased a new bikini and a waterproof bag (Ocean 10) after some effort at bargaining. Took a quick rest in the hotel and then it was back to suntanning.
Sadly this was shortlived; the sun hid behind grey clouds and it got a little windy. And then it started to rain. With raindrops pelting on our backs, we negotiated (poorly) a taxi to a mookata restaurant, where I proceeded to eat the most food I have had in three weeks. For S$6, we had an unlimited spread to pork and prawns and chicken and CRABSTICKS. Audrey and I have almost the same high level of cravings for chili and crabsticks.
IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL MEAL. Also quite unhealthy, I think, between the binge-eating and giant piece of lard that sits on top of the hotplate, oozing fat and artery-choking things onto your food. Nevertheless, youth is a silly thing (we would proceed to eat mookata again the next day). At 8pm our cab driver promptly returned and we dived into the 7-11 to buy red wine, talk and play Candy Crush / read.
Day 4 — Hong Island
Our Hong Island tour started with grey skies.
I don’t have a nice photo of our boat but it was beautiful, elegant and white. Once again Audrey and I commandeered the front, observing the standalone islands regally. Well, more her than me.
Our first stop was less a beach and more a thin strip of pebbles and shells, crowded with far too many boats and people. This would turn out to be a recurring theme on the tour. Nevertheless, there were a few magic moments.
We made friends with a German solo traveler, who reinforced Audrey’s desire to go somewhere alone by herself sometime soon!It was a little cold, so Audrey opted not to swim but I decided to swim out further (in the photo above there’s a part where the two islands / giant rocks meet). It was actually quite a bit of a struggle even though I still have it in my head that I am a fairly decent swimmer; I think saltwater is my Kryptonite and I certainly hope I do not end up on a deserted island anytime soon.
The next stop we were driven (sailed?) to was even more crowded. The tiny lagoon had mini yachts and longtails lined up closely next to each other, its load of people spilling out onto an even tinier beach and murky waters which had little plankton biting us.
We had such a ridiculously long stop here that we gave up trying to snorkel after a while. Instead we contemplated our surroundings for all of three seconds before asking our guide, a tanned and somewhat handsome man with the unfortunate nickname, “Chicken” to take a photo for us. SO CONTEMPLATIVE~~~
En route to our next stop, we sailed past a cave occupied by the Thai equivalent of the Coast Guard. Turns out this is a bird’s nest cave, and its contents make it a target for enterprising thieves. Naval officers live in these caves (you can make out his clothes in the picture) and are authorised to shoot at anyone who sails past when the sun sets.
We sailed straight into Hong’s Lagoon, which actually marked the turning point of the disappointing tour so far. It was magical — green-blue waters surrounded by rock, a tranquil slice in which one could feel safe.
With my eyes closed and ears submerged in these waters, all I could hear was the gurgle of underwater activity, and the occasional shout trying to warrant a echo in return. I could have floated forever. It was incredibly fetal and therapeutic, shutting out the terrestrial world.
Sadly, my buoyant relaxation was cut short. We had to rush off to the “highlight” of the tour, Hong Island. “Hong” means “room” in Thai, and it’s supposed to be the island with a view. I didn’t find this out until much later; it was high-tide when we arrived which meant wading in thigh-high water, again, and trying to carve out space for our beach mats on the narrow strip of beach.
I didn’t know that Hong Island was one of the areas hit by the 2004 tsunami until we reached Singapore. I should have realised it then, when I saw giant shells lying on a bench with some sign that said the poorly-translated-in-English equivalent of “shells that giant waves washed up.” I later read online a few survivors’ accounts of the giant waves swallowing up people, which would have definitely lent a sombre tone to how I approached the place.
Sadly, being on the hedonistic vacation that I was, I was naively immune to such gravitas. It was really quite a beautiful view, though. Boats aren’t allowed into the lagoon itself so you have an unblocked view of sky and sea. After a nap I spent quite sometime talking to a boat-mate from Changsha, who made no attempts to hide his wealth. He was very matter-of-fact about it, and frank about China’s meteoric but now slowing economic ascent. Still, a little too heavy to chew on on a beach holiday.
Upon our return to shore, we had another of the famous Thai pancakes/crepes.
We returned to our hipster cafe, and I felt even more guilt-ridden as I ordered a strawberry smoothie.
In spite of all this, we still found it within ourselves to go to the beach. The sun could not have been more beautiful on our last day here.
We topped the night off with another round of mookata. All in, a successful, relaxing trip with a fuss-free friend.