Wednesday, January 1, 2020

INDEX

THAILAND

Post-sunset shot at Ko Adang National Park headquarters beach.

INTRODUCTION - WHICH ISLAND OR BEACH?

ADANG
ANG THONG NATIONAL MARINE PARK

BU BU
BULON LAE

CHANG (big Chang eastern Gulf)
Little Ko CHANG, Andaman side
CORAL ISLAND

JUM

KANCHANABURI
KRADAN
KRABI, RAILAY, TON SAI
KHANOM
KHAO LAK
KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK
KHO KHAO
KUT (KOOD, KUD)

LANTA
LAO LIANG
LIBONG, HAT YAO
LIPE

MAK (MAC, MAAK)
MAYA BAY/THE BEACH/PHI PHI LEY
MUK (MOOK)

NANGYUAN
NGAI (HAI)

PANYEE/PANYI
PATTAYA
PHANGAN
PHANGAN PART 2
PHANG NGA BAY
PHAYAM
PHRA THONG
PHUKET
PHI PHI
PHI PHI NEWSPAPER ARTICLE BY TEZZA

RAILAY, TON SAI AND KRABI TOWN
RAYA/RACHA
ROK

SAMET
SAMUI
SIBOYA
SICHON
SIMILAN ISLANDS
SIMILAN ISLANDS LIVE-ABOARD
SUKORN
SURINS ISLANDS

TAO
TARUTAO

WAI (WHAI)

YAO NOI
YAO YAI



General Thailand Information

SOME TIPS ON NOT DROWNING

WET WEATHER INFORMATION

SNORKELLING IN THAILAND

THAILAND'S BEST BEACHES



INDONESIA
Spoiling visitor on Seraya Island - West Flores

BALI
BALI'S BEST BEACHES - incl THE BUKIT PENINSULA
BALI - AMED
BALI - BEDUGUL AND LAKE BRATAN
BALI - CANGGU
BALI - JATILUWHIH RICE TERRACES
BALI - JIMBARAN
BALI - NUSA LEMBONGAN
BALI - NUSA PENIDA
BALI - NUSA DUA, TANJUNG BENOA AND GEGER BEACH
BALI - MEDEWI
BALI - MUNDUK
BALI - LOVINA
EAST BALI - PADANGBAI AND CANDIDASA
BALI- PEMUTERAN AND MANJANGAN ISLAND
BALI RICE TERRACES EAST - SIDEMAN
BALI RICE TERRACES CENTRAL - TEGALLALANG
BALI RICE TERRACES WEST - KEBUN VILLAS
BALI RICE TERRACES TIRTA GANGGA + WATER PALACE


BINTAN

LOMBOK - THE GILI ISLANDS
LOMBOK - THE KUTA LOMBOK AREA

PERAMA SLOW BOAT - FLORES/KOMODO/LOMBOK

SERAYA & KANAWA ISLANDS + LABUANBJO - FLORES



MALAYSIA
Salang beach on Tioman

GORGEOUS TIOMAN ISLAND

CHERATING BEACH

KAPAS ISLAND

LANGKAWI

LANG TENGAH

PERHENTIAN ISLANDS

REDANG ISLAND

SIBU ISLAND



AUSTRALIA
Bound for Hook Island on Oetella

CRUISING TROPICAL ISLANDS ON A BUDGET

BUDGET RESORTING ON THE WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS - NTH QLD

SPENDING TIME AT AIRLIE BEACH - NTH QLD

CAPE TRIBULATION - NTH QLD

DUNK ISLAND - NTH QLD

FITZROY ISLAND - CAIRNS - NTH QLD

CRUISING THE SOUTH WEST PACIFIC ON LINERS

BYRON BAY - BEACH PARADISE

NOOSA HEADS - MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE

MANETIC ISLAND - NTH QLD

TOP END - DARWIN

TOP END - DARWIN BEACHES

TOP END - KAKADU NATIONAL PARK

TOP END - KATHERINE (NITMILUK) GORGE and KATHERERINE TOWN.

TOP END - LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK

TOP END - MANDORAH and WAGAIT BEACH

TOP END - MATARANKA THERMAL POOLS

TOP END - THE TIWI ISLANDS


GREECE
Paradise Beach - Kos

GREEK ISLAND HOPPING



TURKEY
Paragliding Mount Babadag to Oludeniz Beach

BUDGET CRUISING AND PARAGLIDING THE TURQUOISE COAST
THE NORTH AEGEAN COAST
THE SOUTH AEGEAN COAST




SPAIN
Bay just south of Portas Vells, south east Mallorca

INTRODUCTION
BARCELONA
IBIZA
L'HOSPITALET DE L'INFANT
MALLORCA/MAJORCA
MONTSERRAT
PYRENEES
SAN SEBASTIAN
SITGES
TOSSA DE MAR



USA - SOUTH WEST

THE BEACHES

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY

GRAND CANYON TREKKING

YOSEMITE TREKKING



USA - HAWAII

OAHU'S BEST BEACHES
OAHU - PEARL HARBOR
OAHU - OTHER NEAT PLACES:SOUTH EAST COAST

MAUI'S BEST BEACHES
MAUI: THE ROAD TO HANA
MAUI: HALEAKALA VOLCANO
MAUI - THE IAO VALLEY
MAUI BEST DAYTRIP - LANAI ISLAND
MAUI - OTHER NEAT PLACES



SOUTH WEST PACIFIC ISLAND BEACHES


KAIBOLA BEACH - KIRIWINA ISL - PAPUA NEW GUINEA
MYSTERY ISLAND - VANUATU
YEJELE BEACH - MARE ISLAND - NEW CALEDONIA
ISLE OF PINES - NEW CALEDONIA




READERS' TRIP REPORTS
Trip reporter Cocodrilo at Similan's viewpoint
Read the trip reports or submit your own


THE FORUM
Yon Cassia has a lean and hungry look (image Deco Dermots)

Questions, comments, shoot the bull.



GENERAL
Kwak joins the Worry Collective - image BEDARD

JUST FOR LARFS - PART 1
JUST FOR LARFS - PART 2: STONES FROM THE JOKER IN THE GLASS HOUSE (1 thru 11)

JUST FOR LARFS - PART 3: THE WORRY COLLECTIVE

ABOUT THIS SITE


LADY TEZZA'S TRAVELLING JAPAN
Fashions for sale in Takeshita dori - Tokyo

The basics - Osaka - Kyoto - Hiroshima&Himeji - Takayama - Tokyo - Kyushu - Daytrip to Mt Fuji National Park - Accessing your money - Other helpul stuff

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If you have questions, please don't post them below - I seldom get to scroll down this far. Put them in THE FORUM which I try to check most days when not travelling.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

OAHU - PEARL HARBOR

VISITED AUGUST 2016

2 million people visit the general Pearl Harbor Attack memorial area each year -HAWAII'S most popular tourist destination. Most visitors make a point of seeing the "ARIZONA" MEMORIAL and a fair few go on to explore the "USS BOWFIN'" and "USS MISSOURI".

USS MISSOURI and THE ARIZONA MEMORIAL.
The above is shot from the "MISSOURI" - the "ARIZONA" MEMORIAL is that white platform immediately in front of the bow (actual distance 330m/360yds). The "USS ARIZONA" itself is of course under the memorial.
Thing is - each is reached by a different route. You catch a SHUTTLE LAUNCH across harbor to reach the ARIZONA MEMORIAL but a BUS SHUTTLE down thru FORD ISLAND to the left, to access the MISSOURI. Details down page.


PEARL HARBOR LOCATION
The Pearl Harbor inlet is actually part of the HONOLULU conurbation (although the political borders of HONOLULU stop a few kms east, just west of the AIRPORT - there is more urban development west of the airport and  Peal Harbor navy base). This conurbation spreads across much of OAHU'S southern coast. Please excuse spelling of HARBOR on map - that's how we ORSTARAYAN dudes do it - just like the BRITS.


PEARL HARBOR is about 9 miles/14km by road from DOWNTOWN HONOLULU - a couple more from the WAIKIKI tourist strip. As can be seen, this is a pretty good natural harbour - a fine base for the US PACIFIC FLEET - except for one feature which cost dear back in '42.
(Maybe you can click-expand image to make features clearer. Maybe not - can you click-expand on a smart 'phone? I wouldn't know - my 'phone doesn't even take pictures.)

BACK IN '42 - THE JAPANESE AIR ATTACK APPROACH
The area to the NNW of PEARL HARBOR is an across island gap between OHAU'S 2 volcano-derived mountain chains - the WAI'ANAE RANGE on the left and the KO'LAU RANGE on the right. Dec 7 1941, the Japanese carriers anchored over the horizon approx central-image and much of the attack aircraft flew down the gap to PEARL. The 8 dreadnaughts moored in BATTLESHIP ROW were lined up nicely with just a slight turn.

The results of this undeclared peacetime attack were devastating - 12 warships including 4 battleships were sunk, many more were severely damaged. 103 aircraft were destroyed. 2335 service people were killed and 1143 injured - with another 103 civilians casualties. Land based naval support services were damaged.

PEARL HARBOR HISTORICAL AREA FEATURES
Modified Google Earth image. 
Arrival at the HISTORICAL VISITORS' CENTER is at the bunch of symbols top left corner (a more detailed map of this area is down page). 
The ticket office is near the RED BUILDING (which actually represents a whole bunch of buildings housing displays, theaters, rest rooms, cafeterias etc) not far from the PARKING AREA. The RED LINE shows the NAVY LAUNCH ROUTE to the ARIZONA MEMORIAL. 
To reach the USS MISSOURI and PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM a free bus shuttle goes from a pick-up point just under the F of USS BOWFIN across the bridge and down through FORD ISLAND. 
Note much of FORD island, plus the area south of the north east corner and a lot of places out of the image are part of a huge working naval base.
The BUS STOP SYMBOL in the north east corner is for 2 stops - one each side of the KAMEHHMEHA HWY - many public buses pass by here, see THE BUS website. There is also a bus stop off the HWY near the car park but only buses 20 and 42 come in there. Of course many private tour buses also visit this area.
I forgot to add a linear scale - it is 1200m in a direct line between the MISSOURI and BOWFIN place markers.

THE ARRIVALS AREA
1 - bag storage/WCs.
2 - book/souvenir shop
3 - cafeteria/WCs
4 - display: ROAD TO WAR
5 - display: ATTACK
6 - Memorial Theater 
7 - Navy launch to ARIZONA MONUMENT
8 - cafeteria/bag storage/WCs
9 - shuttle bus to MISSOURI and AVIATION MUSEUM
10 - outdoor BOWFIN museum
11 - indoor BOWFIN museum
12 - tour coach parking.
Symbols and numbers may be clearer if you can click-expand image.
LINEAR SCALE - it's approx 260m/290yds directly between the BOWFIN and 7 place markers.


ARRIVAL TIPS
Every guide to PEARL HARBOR stresses GET THERE EARLY!!! They mention how everyone who hasn't booked a visit in advance plus people who have booked in advance online**, have to line up at the ticket office/info area to get ENTRY tickets to each attraction. So long lines at the ticket office are common.
It pays to book online ahead even though you have to line up - certain attractions have a limited number of tickets per day for issue to UN-BOOKED people at the ticket office  (eg THE ARIZONA MEMORIAL only 13OO) which go on a first come first served basis and are often taken by mid morning - if you arrive un-booked a bit late in peak seasons you may be unlucky. Note that once the UN-BOOKED ticket allocations are gone, staff start working thru the unclaimed BOOKED tickets, issuing them to people in line. So if you have booked in advance don't arrive real late. 

Not having booked anything online, I made sure I was real early - abt 0730 (the place opens 0700) and yet the line at the ticket office was pretty long. To their credit, the navy personnel at the counter were plentiful and efficient and the line moved quickly.

I'll give ANOTHER REASON FOR EARLY ARRIVAL. The day of my visit the navy personnel running the shuttle launches to the ARIZONA MEMORIAL closed them down abt 1100. Apparently the north-east trade winds had got strong enough (they tend to strengthen as the day progresses) to make loading/unloading a bit unstable - not real good for older visitors or movement impaired people. Now online sources suggest this does not happen very often - funny thing is I didn't think my day was particularly blowy - have a look at the opening shot top of page from the bridge of the USS MISSOURI: this is where I first noticed no people at the ARIZONA MEMORIAL whereas it had been packed when I visited 2 hours previously - check the water: no white-caps, it doesn't seem particularly choppy.

**not sure about people coming in on PAID COACH TOURS: got an idea tour operators already have entry tickets to each attraction and these people don't have to line up at the ticket office. Anyway if you are on a coach tour the leader will know the drill.

TICKET AREA LINE
One of the lines in the ticket office area. And this is NOT for ATTRACTION TICKETS but for BAGGAGE STORAGE. Thing is the NAVY won't allow any type of baggage right down to purses/bum packs etc into the base areas - so for a small fee you leave your stuff here. Very efficient.
For some reason I didn't get any crowd shots - had to pinch this one from YELP which has some terrific reviews on the place.


THE ARIZONA MEMORIAL

Visits to the ARIZONA MEMORIAL are free - including a 23 minute pier-side documentary.

NAVY LAUNCH TO THE ARIZONA MEMORIAL
The trip is a relatively short (1100m/1200yds) hop across the harbour's east channel. But there can be some BIG DELAYS before departure. If you have arrived a bit late but still managed to score a ticket you may find the printed time for your transfer is 2+hours later (this is another advantage of booking in advance - apparently  you can specify the time you want to visit the ARIZONA MEMORIAL).
NO WORRIES if you have a delay - there's a bunch of things to do in this area while waiting:
- call in at the adjacent PEARL HARBOUR MEMORIAL THEATER to watch the ticket-inclusive documentary.
- call in at the nearby exhibit buildings "ROAD TO WAR" and "ATTACK", which have a bunch of displays, movies, models and artifacts on the 1940's situation from pre-attack to post attack. 
- the MAIN CAFETERIA is close by if you feel like a meal/snack/drink.
- the grounds in this area are real nice, with plenty of seating and a good outlook over the east channel.

With abt an hour to wait for my launch, I chose the "ROAD TO WAR" and "ATTACK" display pavilions - I found the them so good I ran out of time and had to return after visiting the ARIZONA MEMORIAL. I'd like to show you a pic of the displays but I didn't take any and GOOGLE IMAGES can't come up with one (maybe pix are forbidden - can't remember).

Take note of OCCASIONAL LAUNCH SERVICE CANCELLATION due to high winds as mentioned up-page. If this happens there is still heaps to do and see in various areas but with the ARIZONA MONUMENT being the highlight for many, lotsa visitors would be disappointed.

APPROACHING THE ARIZONA MONUMENT.
The launch shuttle is quick (not much more than 10 minutes). The monument floats above the sunken battleship. Note MISSOURI left of frame. The OKLAHOMA MONUMENT is land based, alongside the MISSOURI - both accessed via the FORD ISLAND shuttle bus from near the BOWFIN.

THEY SURE PACK THEM IN
The monument platform holds abt 200 people and frequent launch shuttles are timed to keep number from exceeding that. National park and Navy personnel (the historical site is administered jointly) keep visitors moving - this makes the average stop-over less than 20 minutes, which is plenty to see what's available - basically an ARIZONA SCHEMATIC (see below); a well-like opening which if the water is clear you can see some of the ship below, 12 big viewing portals to check above water parts of the wreck - the not too distant MISSOURI - the general EAST CHANNEL area; and a big remembrance wall with crew names (see down page).
Note the 2 guys front-right with headphones - these can be rented near the ticket office for $7.50 (1918 price).

SCHEMATIC OF THE ARIZONA MEMORIAL
White areas are above water all tides. The damaged superstructure, the 2 aft gun turrets and the higher forward gun turret (closest the bridge) were removed in the 1940s.
The remaining ship below water contains over 1100 bodies - this is a DESIGNATED MILITARY CEMETERY. Some attack survivors have their ashes scattered in the water after death.
Note damage to bow area, a general lateral bulge/warp in the hull and big hole mid-ship - the ARIZONA sank very quickly after bombs set off a massive explosion in a magazine. 

ARIZONA VISIBILITY ON A GOOD DAY
Underwater visibility is normally not good - wind chop from the almost constant NE TRADES combines with murky conditions from leaking oil to make the ship outline/details a bit hard to see. As was the case my visit. So I dredged up this calm day aerial shot from GOOGLE IMAGES - originally from thejapantimes.
Yellow arrow points at oil slick originating near gun turret mounting closest the observation deck. Authorities monitor oil leaks - say they will act if things get real bad. BTW - check the oil slick in the opening image top of this page - different current is driving it past the MISSOURI'S bow starboard side.
Note the ship in this image is the reverse to the SCHEMATIC one image up - the bow is pointing LEFT, which is actually towards the MISSOURI.

GOOD OL' GOOGLE EARTH!
Well DO'H! Having spent half an hour finding, transferring, texting and linking THE JAPAN TIMES' pic, I realised GOOGLE EARTH'S image of PEARL HARBOUR might have enough definition to blow up and crop the ARIZONA AREA. And hopefully the satellite snapped the image on a calm day. 
Worked a charm. 
Can't see any oil slick in this one but maybe the angle is wrong. Note  forward most gun turret (left of center) is underwater and therefore wasn't salvaged for the war effort like the others.

WALL OF REMEMBRANCE
Most sobering is the wall plaque with the names of the 1107 sailors and marines lost in the attack. Total crew complement was 1177 - the fact only 70 survived gives some idea of how quickly to ship sank after the bomb hits and explosion.

NOT MUCH OF THE ARIZONA TO SEE



As said, visibility was not great on the day. The "well" in the platform floor revealed some sea-weathered beams and panels of unknown importance. The observation windows were a bit better, showing (top) one of the aft gun turret mounts - the guns were taken to protect the west coast from sea attack; (center): part of the mid-ship hull sides; and (bottom): some sort of structural features toward the bow - at first I though these might be the twisted gun barrels of the forward turret, but closer inspection doesn't support this.


THE USS BOWFIN

After the ARIZONA MEMORIAL visit, I spent some time finishing my exploration of the excellent ART OF WAR display pavilion, checked the bookshop/souvenirs and cafeteria and then headed to the BOWIN area - less than 10 mins stroll north. Visits are not free - the entry ticket back at the ticket office costs a good value $12 (1918 price) and includes the excellent land-based outdoor/indoor museum.


The BOWFIN is located in the north of the HISTORICAL AREA not far from the FORD ISLAND BRIDGE.
This is shot from the ARIZONA MEMORIAL SHUTTLE LAUNCH - there is a fair amount of telephoto in it, maybe X3.

USS BOWFIN
The BOWFIN has an interesting history - a genuine WW2 sub (launched exactly 1 year after the PEARL HARBOR ATTACK) with 9 patrols, she was reactivated for the KOREAN WAR and later served as a TRAINING SUB. Finally de-commissioned in 1971, she was later transferred to PEARL, refurbished by volunteers and opened at the present site in early 1981.
I last toured a sub in PORT KEMBLA HARBOUR when I was a kid of 10. Over 60 years later I thought it time to refresh memories.

DECK OF BOWFIN
Long and sleek as you would expect - this is the immediate scene once aboard.


View aft from conning tower. FORD ISLAND BRIDGE to right. MISSOURI yellow arrow, ARIZONA MEMORIAL charcoal arrow - maybe you can click-expand image.
Once aboard there is a designated route for visitors so people aren't banging up against each other - not so important above decks but....


....real important below. Gets a tad crowded. 

BACK ON DECK
ARIZONA MONUMENT and MISSOURI in background. Perspective is about right - I added a bit of telephoto to overcome the natural wide-angel perspective deepening of my elcheapo OLYMPUS.
Note the headsets on visitors - free audio is part of the entry price.

BOWFIN OUTDOOR MUSEUM
I thought the outdoor displays relating to submarine warfare were just as interesting. They seem to have all types of TORPEDOES from pre-WW1 to present day, various sub-launched MISSILES (an early version background-right) plus all sorts of sub-based GUNS for little kids (and me) to climb over. A periscope set-up was good value - the MISSOURI looked RIGHT THERE.
BUILDING at right houses the INDOOR MUSEUM - I didn't make it, being a bit pressed for time. Out of frame to the right is a pretty good cafeteria.
For some reason all my pix from this area have been deleted so I had to pinch this one from Hawaii for Visitors 


THE USS MISSOURI


The MISSOURI for me was a must do. When I was a little kid in the early 1950s, most of my library books featured warships with the BIG M, the last US battleship, featuring big in many. Many years later my son built one of those plastic models of the ship which is still sitting in pride of place in his old bedroom. I never thought I'd get the chance to tour her.
She is very fitting as a WW2 war-museum exhibit because she was part of the US attack fleet on the Japanese home islands in 1945 and it was on her deck that the JAPANESE SURRENDER was signed in Sept 1945.
Still relatively young (launched in 1944), MISSOURI went on to fight in the KOREAN WAR and in OPERATION DESERT STORM. After several more years on the reserve list she was donated to the PEARL HARBOR MEMORIAL MUSEUM, opening in 1999.


This is one impressive ship particularly for the time she was built - 57500 tons displacement fully loaded, 887ft/270m long, 108/33 beam, 29/9 draft and with a crew of 2700. 
She could do 33knots (LADY TEZZA thinks our 21st century built cruise liner of choice is fanging when she breaks 20 knots - but then again, they don't call them CRUISE liners for nothing) and had a range of nearly 15000miles/24000km
Armament is impressive: 9X16 inch guns, 20X5 inch, over 100 anti-aircraft weapons.

The ship looks a bit CHUNKY above - maybe this is partly because of the fore-shortening effect of the frontal 3/4 view: but I reckon if she was loaded with fuel, ammo, stores and a full crew she would sit a lot lower in the water.

GOOGLE EARTH TO THE RESCUE AGAIN
Ain't it marvellous what a photo from outer space can show? This GOOGLE EARTH image brings out the sleekness of MISSOURI better.
Yellow arrow points to the OKLAHOMA MONUMENT. "USS OKLAHOMA" was also sunk during the attack, in approximately the same place the MIGHTY MO occupies now - fortunately more crew escaped with total loss of life 429. "OKLAHOMA" was re-floated in 1943 but was too damaged to re-enter the war.



THE TOUR
Transfer to the tour site is painless: shuttle buses (part of the $27[2018] entry ticket) pick up frequently from behind the BOWFISH cafeteria/indoor museum area and take less than 15 minutes to cross the bridge and wind down thru FORD ISLAND.

CHOICES ONCE ABOARD THE MISSOURI
Once aboard you can pick/combine 3 tours: a cost-extra audio tour with over a hundred stops (45-90 minutes): a 35 minute guided tour: a self guided tour. 
I went with a combination of the last 2 The initial 35 minute guided tour, hosted by a young lady naval reserve volunteer, was excellent - informing me of a host of things I would not have picked up on my own - after that I took off on a self-guided tour, revisiting some places I thought required extra time, checking out some new places not covered.


This area starboard mid-ships was of particular interest - the JAPANESE SURRENDER was signed on this spot. Check out table mid-background......

....the actual SURRENDER DOCUMENTS were on display.

HISTORICAL SHOT OF JAPANESE SURRENDER
 Good ol' GOOGLE IMAGES came up with this one from Owlication.

This area has another interest. Just aft, a KAMIKAZE aircraft hit the hull during the attack on OKINOWA. 
Fortunately it was a glancing blow - not much damage. The aftermath showed a touch of class - the body of the pilot ended up on the deck: crew wanted to hose it overboard but the captain insisted the young pilot had tried to do his job and had him buried at sea with full military honors next day.
All of this stuff with info and photos is on display in the area. I got this pix from Owlication.

THE PEARL HARBOR HISTORICAL AVIATION MUSEUM
This is the final display of the area. Now I'm an aircraft buff, and the museum is 5 minutes on the shuttle bus on from MISSOURI, but I gave it a miss, partly on account I was pressed for time (I had a visit to EWA BEACH to the west on my dance card - which I thought nearby [wasn't] and which turned out whelming in the direction of under) and partly because I'd recently checked the excellent aircraft on display at the MIDWAY naval museum in SAN DIEGO - thought PEARL HARBOR'S might be much of the same. For the record tour cost is $25 (1918).


NOT ALL IS MUCH OF THE SAME....
....MIDWAY sure didn't have any MIGS. I guess these early jet fighters (either 15s or 17s) are in context - KOREA (war 1950-53) is of course a PACIFIC RIM country, as is CHINA (had a bunch of earlier MIGS) and of course EASTERN RUSSIA adjoins the PACIFIC. 
Image from PEARL HARBOR HISTORIC SITES.

In retrospect, it seems like if you have the time, the PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM might be well worth the visit. TRIPADVISOR and YELP reviews may help you decide.


OVERVIEW
In conclusion, this image from the ARIZONA MEMORIAL OFFICIAL WEBSITE ties the historical area displays together well. Even though SCALE and PERSPECIVE are out of whack, it gives visitors a good idea of the layout.



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IF YOU SEE MISTAKES OR HAVE EXTRA INFO, PLEASE POST BELOW. BUT IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION, IT WOULD BE BEST TO ASK IT IN THE FORUM SECTION WHICH I CHECK MOST DAYS - WHEREAS I SELDOM REVISIT INDIVIDUAL LOCATION PAGES LIKE THIS ONE




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Sunday, April 2, 2017

ANG THONG NATIONAL MARINE PARK

Last visited MARCH 2017



I first went to ANG THONG on a day trip in the 90s, but it has taken me to 2017 to STAY there.
Because latest visit I used one of the daytrip operators for transport (it's really the only inexpensive way to get there - although LEONARDO's character used a long-tail in "THE BEACH" - that would cost an arm and a leg these day) much of the following info doubles as a DAYTRIP REPORT.

Google Earth image - oops, that is not too clear.
Maybe this is a bit better - but you will need to click-expand the image to read labels.Image from Sawadee.com
If you click the link you will find a full size image.

In reference to the above maps - KO MAE KO has the famous EMERALD LAGOON/GREEN LAKE, KO WUA TALAP is the National Park Headquarters island with the fabulous viewpoint and Lotus Cave, tiny KO TAI PLAO in the north is visited by some tours (but not mine) for snorkeling and kayaking and big KO PHALUIA in the south has some fishing settlements and restaurants but is not visited much by westerners .


The islands are located between the MAINLAND and the islands of KO SAMUI and KO PHANGAN.
SAMUI has the lion's share of trip operators - the main departure piers are at NATHON on the upper west coast (30km to HQ island) although some boats leave from the north coast piers to cut the rather boring transfer from major resort areas to NATHON. However that will add an hour in a slow boat.
Fewer operators come from PHANGAN (32km from THONG SALA) and I know of no regular operators out of KO TAO (north of PHANGAN)  - but it is possible to charter a speedboat or sailboat.
No one operates from the MAINLAND these days.

0815
Guests begin arriving in SAMUI ISLAND TOUR inclusive shuttle vans and line up at the reception tent on NATHON'S main (crntral) pier. I stayed overnight at COFFEE HOUSE, an elcheapo joint immediately opposite the pier and have beat them onboard.


Because most distant CHAWENG and LAMAI guests may have been picked up at 0730, there is a simple buffet breakfast waiting.

0830
The first of our 2 boats leaves the pier. I prefer these old slow boats - they ride rough seas much better than cramped speedboats and have plenty of room to move around (up forward on top is a spacious sun-bathing area). 
Sure the journey will take more time but some of this can be spent on meals which the speedboat trips must fit into shore time. And I like to read, take snaps at my leisure, catch a bit of sun yada.


On departure a very detailed talk on our itinerary and boat safety was give. Similar on arrival at each island stop.

10.00
ISLAND HO!


Shortly after, those who have chosen the more expensive KAYAKING option  launch from the lower deck. This is probably the trickiest part - lady in shot actually overbalanced when transferring. However boat gives each kayaker a divers' DRY BAG to keep valuable safe in mishaps.


Kayakers take off for landing beach below the GREEN LAGOON/LAKE. This is actually HALF the kayakers from each boat - GROUP A paddles across, GROUP B back. Each leg gives paddlers 30/40 minutes of exercise. I think they stopped at a tiny beach en-route


We chug around to KO MAO KO's landing beach, hop into longtails and head ashore. Note how uncrowded the tiny beach is - contrast this to 90 minutes later shown down page. If you click-expand you may be able to see blue floating pier behind that speedboat - makes beach landings way easier.


The stairway up to the viewing platform is short but killer steep. Fortunately for unfit dudes there are several opportunities to stop and rest.


This shot gives some idea of length (signs say 150m butI think that's height - it seemed abt 300m long which is still pretty short) and steepness (45degrees in parts). Yellow arrow shows viewing platform - blue lower section of the climb.


Viewing platform....
....has nearby islands in one direction....
....and the green lagoon/lake (TALAY NAI) in the other. This is surrounded by towering walls, but is open to the sea by a submarine entrance. This featured in the novel "THE BEACH" (although they never identify the island) - the heroes sought an undeveloped island out of SAMUI, unlike the movie which was shot on PHI PHI in the ANDAMAN SEA. 
Green colour comes from the limestone.


On the way down, new to me (um, not surprising - its been 30 years) was this diversion which dropped to....


....a platform not far above the lagoon surface. National Parks bans swimming here.


Back at the beach we had about 40 minutes - I grabbed my face mask and swam out along the back of the swimming enclosure 30m off the sand - a bit of coral, plenty of weed and a few fish but nothing to get excited about.


National Parks had a canteen set up back of beach - did a roaring trade in snacks and drinks. Bathrooms are in this area plus some nice shade.

12.00
Back to the boats (background). At least a dozen other craft had come in during out time here.


We picked up lunch on the lower deck on boarding - plenty of room to eat up here on the second level. Eats the usual Thai fried chicken with curry, vegs, fruit, water etc - yummy and no shortage if you fancy seconds. Beer and snacks could be bought.

12.30
Approaching the National Park HQ beach on KO  WUA LAP/KO WA TA LAP/KO WUA TALAP island. Awesome VIEWPOINT is at highest point in shot - the LOTUS CAVE is just out of frame to the left - its access track starts near end of beach.


Beach is pretty nice. This early morning shot is uncrowded but even when lots of boats arrive later it doesn't get too busy largely because lots of people are doing the climbs which tend to be time consuming
Our tour leader told us people not staying overnight (I was the only over-nighter on the 2 boats) have until 16.00. This gives sufficient time to climb to both the VIEWPOINT and LOTUS CAVE, plus have a swim/snorkel and spend some time on the beach. However people of average fitness should maybe do only ONE of the climbs - I'm super  fit but was bushed enough after the haul to the viewpoint to postpone the cave to the second day. Then again I'm 71 (a super fit 71yo is equal to a very fit 20yo). It was no problem doing both on the same day 30 years ago.
If I had to pick which climb, I'd take the VIEWPOINT. It's 100% more rewarding vs 30% harder.


ANG THONG MARINE PARK HQ area. You may have to click expand to read labels. The cleared area behind the beach slopes back slightly less than 200m. I forgot to add a linear scale - straight line distance between placemarkers of the restaurant and N is 280m.


My first stop was the NATIONAL PARKS OFFICE/VISITOR's CENTER to book in. The staff is great - polite and helpful: not the officious types you get at the SIMILANS and SURINS.
The area also has a small museum where displays show the geology and fauna/flora of the area. This skeleton came from a 8m BRYDE'S WHALE washed up on an island beach a few years ago.


They had some very good large scale photos of park highlights. This one is great for people unable to get to the VIEWPOINT - you can insert yourself into the picture by standing on the platform. The opening pic at the top of the page is another from here.


My NP tent. One of 4 set up (they can quickly erect more if a large group arrives - there is no booking system for the tents) but I was the only person there. In good condition, just big enough for 2 plus gear (fine for solo me), thin yoga type matress and small hard pillow but I slept pretty well. I didn't need the supplied sleeping bag.
Cost me 250baht - I don't think I was charged the NP ENTRANCE FEE (300b for non-Thais) probably because it was included in my boat trip fee (1300 all up).


Tents were on a gentle slope about 100m behind the beach (there is a bit of telephoto in this pic) - a quiet area. Nearest bathroom was abt 70 to right of shot: being furthest from beach and the daytrippers it was in best condition at the end of the day. Note one WC was western style, one Thai squat. Ditto the other bathroom close the beach and restaurant.


You can bring your own tent and camp for 100baht or so. Thais are keen campers and flock to NP islands in holiday time, but these tents were occupied by a group of French kayakers who paddled in late afternoon.
BTW the visitors' center has rental kayaks. There are a few other beaches around this island and it's not too far to adjacent islands.


Visitors can also stay in 2 bedroom NP bungalows for a reasonable 600b. However these are difficult to pay for if outside Thailand (none of this credit card stuff!) - they were all taken when I arrived.
I stayed in similar on KO TARATAO some years ago - not too bad.


These dudes were hanging around the HQ clearing and beach - rangers will fine you for feeding them but they were pretty slick in raiding unattended food as the French campers found out.


Once my stuff was stowed in the tent I decided to tackle the VIEWPOINT CLIMB. This is a 450m trek in which you climb from abt 20m to 220 - that's an average gradient of 1 in 2.5, not real easy. But it is considerably steeper towards the top. Most consists of pretty well formed steps with assist ropes. NPs also station workers towards the top for guidance (and encouragement).
I approached the climb as a fitness workout - was determined to do it in one hop despite maybe 5 rest points, some with good viewpoints. I have to tell you that despite my way average higher fitness I was pretty used up by the top.


The outlook from the top is worth it - I've been most places in the Gulf and Andaman the past 30 years and can't think of any viewpoint to beats this.


On the way down, I spent time at the rest stops. Not wasted.


14.30
Back on the beach the day-trippers begin moving out to their boats.


The place gets pretty quiet once the day-tiippers leave.


Dinner in the NATIONAL PARK RESTAURANT. I've found quality/prices vary according to who has got the contract - this one pretty good with okay food, reasonable prices and good service. I didn't visit during day-tripper peak and can't say how the place goes in a busy period. At dinner and breakfast there was only a few customers.

0900 day 2
Beach still laid back.
Lovers of scenes like this: make the best of it - the day-tripper boats will begin arriving within 90 mins.


I decided to snorkel the outer area of the swimming enclosure before incoming boats churned up visibility. Typical of ANG THONG, the underwater scene was nothing to get excited about - some scattered coral, a fair bit of weed and some nice fish. But I'm spoiled, having snorkeled so much at Australia's Barrier Reef.

11.00
The climb to the LOTUS CAVE was shorter than to the VIEWPOINT (300v450) but not all that easier. Total time taken about the same. Conditions underfoot were often rougher (not a place for flip-flops etc) and even steeper in parts. Fortunately a lot had helper ropes.


Part way up, the track flatens for about 50m and there is a short sign-posted off-shoot to this good BEACH VIEWPOINT.


Inside the cave, a circuitous route continues to climb steeply for half the distance. Unfortunately helper ropes are not as plentiful here. Natural light means torches not necessary. Stalagmites, stalactites and other cave features not particularly mind blowing.


Back to the beach for more swimming and sun. I have arranged to meet our tour leader at 1415 near the cabana left background - so at 1330 I grab a beer or two from the beach canteen (bottom left) and head up to these shaded picnic tables where I can check his arrival.


1500
We leave the beach. This is a completely different group to yesterday. Some are probably wondering where this funny looking old dude has come from but are too polite to show it.


On board. After tea and coffee many repair to the upper deck for some afternoon sunshine. Try this on a bumpy cramped speedboat.

1630
Back at Nathon, we transfer to the pier via sister boat.

COMPARISONS
The SIMILANS and SURINS are the other big two island national parks. 
BEST VIEWPOINT - ANG THONG
BEST SCENERY - SIMILANS AND ANG THONG for multi-island daytrippers, ANG THONG for National Park HQ Island only visitors.
BEST BEACH. Donald Duck beach in the Similans may be the best in Thailand. There is a second NP camp ground there but it is a bit time consuming to reach. All the day-trips visit. For NATIONAL HQ ISLANDS I reckon the SIMILANS win but the others are not shabby.
BEST SNORKELING - the SIMILANS although things have gone downhill. The daytrip visits more snorkeling spots and the long distance from the coast (hence deeper, clearer water) potentially makes for better coral. But bleaching sure has knocked it around. Ditto the SURINS. ANG THONG CORAL (shallow water close to the coast) has always been a distant third.
MOST POPULAR - the SIMILANS probably because of closeness to PHUKET and KHAO LAK. The lovely main beach at HQ islandcan get quite crowded between 1030 and 1500.
BEST BOAT TRIP - ANG THONG. The SIMILANS is too far for a slow boat which jams you into bumpy speedboats. The trip out to the SURINS is shortest but for some reason slow boats were not offered when I visited. As far as attractiveness of places visited, the SIMILANS daytrip probably wins although ANG THONG is not far behind.
MOST ISOLATED - although closest the coast, you are less likely to be staying close to the departure pier for the SURINS.

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SAMUI ISLAND TOUR