Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ao Luek and Thanbok Koranee National Park: Caves, kayaks and funny looking striped men.



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Ao Luek, stripy men, rak, Crazy little Family Adventure
Thailand has a nice big number of National Parks, 127 in total and 22 of them are marine parks. My last post was about one of the most famous and world renowned parks, Khao Sok National Park and this time I will write about an easily missed park with something so special in it that I will never forget. Also because our family unknowingly created an entirely new word for it and that´s always fun right?

Our interaction with Ao Luek and the Thanbok Koranee National Park was not exactly a direct one. Not until fate and other factors took us in that direction did we notice that there was something worthwhile in the area. 

The first we heard or saw of Ao Luek was just a busy intersection on the way to Krabi and beyond. After a while we noticed that there was a shortcut from Krabi to Phuket through Ao Luek town and took it one day to find that the area was "covered" in funny striped men statues, paintings, signs, sculptures etc.


cave painting, prehistoric thailand ao luek caves kayaking krabi, crazy little family adventure

We had had a long drive that day and stopped at a cute coffee shop with plenty of these striped figures around.  

The place was called "Khunnai Coffee' & Rak Ao-Luk Shop". Next to the eating and drinking area was  cute little souvenir shop full of t-shirts and magnets and other things decorated with the cute stripy man-thing. I got a crazy keychain in a design I had never seen before. 

The keys actually slipped inside a fabric baggy with the shape of the striped dude and with the pull of a cord they sneaked back out to be used.

orange necklace, pihuaton cave souvenir, scorpion keychain, crazy little famiily adventure

At some point that day we started calling the figure "Rak" thinking that the name of the shop came from it. For months we called our keychain " the Rak keys". One day we were told that Rak in Thai actually meant "love" so I started doubting about how we had been using the word.  At the coffee shop we had seen photos of the attractions in the area, the ones that really got my attention were the prehistoric cave paintings, one of them being precisely the figure we were endearingly calling Rak. We pledged to one day come back to Ao Luek and and check it all out. 



Pi Hua Ton cave, Crazy Little Family Adventure


And then the high season came and went, the months passed until it was on a recent trip back from Trang, thst G was too tired to keep driving and said, "What if we sleep in Ao Luek?" A quick search on Trip Advisor and we settled for the night in a little drive in, no questions asked, 12 dollar a night hotel. Later on looking for dinner and with the help of the trusty (sometimes) GPS we went to the Laem Sak Pier and had some fresh seafood surrounded by truly incredible views of the islands and karsts out in the Andaman Sea. Ok, G had seafood and I had rice cause the curry I ordered turned out to be the sour one and I can´t handle it. On the way back to the Palm Inn Resort (really a motel) and running from the incoming storm we happened upon a painted wooden sign for "Lanlay Homestay" I had a quick look and loved it instantly, it reminded me of Aguas Calientes in Macchu Picchu.

From that moment on, Ao Luek did not leave G´s brain, so much so that four days later he told me to pack the backpacks, we were going to stay at Lanlay Homestay and check out what Ao Luek had to offer. So off we went, and fell in love with the little family run hotel instantly, although there were plenty of toddler dangers but where isn´t there, really. We were supposed to do the National Park on the mainland by kayak through mangroves in the morning and the ocean part by longtail boat in the afternoon. Unfortunately after around midday a storm came in and didn´t let up until the next day so we only did the kayak and caves. But it was well worth it! The kids were very good through it and Antigona even took a nap during the ride (almost three hours). All in all it was a great little trip, even if we didn´t do all of it. I hope we come back to do the island hopping on the longtail boat as soon as the rains let down. 

We also investigated the name of the little striped dude painted in the Pi Hua Ton Cave and no, he has no name, or denomination. But we´ll still call him Rak cause it  sounds cool.