Sunday, February 1, 2009

sweet sweet surin islands

Have you seen the movie THE BEACH with Leonardo DiCaprio? Well, a lot of people come to Thailand searching for this utopian island of happy coexistence and healthy living. I think I have found it here in the Surin Islands.

It is a small island chain that's part of a National Marine Protected Area 40 miles from land. The islands are jungly mounds of emerald green ringed with turquoise bays which house untouched and therefore jaw-droppingly gorgeous coral reef ecosystems. You spend your days lying on the snow-white sand, drowning yourself in the ecstasy of bathwater hot dips in the ocean, and going out for snorkeling trips (where we saw a giant eel, a sea turtle, multiple octopuses, schools of giant barracudas, fan coral, gardens of elkhorn coral covered with bright blue and green and purple soft coral, among many other things) that leave twice a day and cost $2. I almost feel like I shouldn't be telling you this.

To stay in the Surin Islands, you have to pitch a tent on the beach. So, that selects our 95% of the population who refuse to sleep anywhere without central air. As it turns out, that 95% are the ones who can't go anywhere without renting a car and three jetskis and who throw their trash all over the ground - which is what all of Thailand's other island's are filled with.

We remains is quite an interesting mix. There are Thai locals who come here as we would go to Yellowstone, some short-term tourists like us, and a handful of Europeans who rent out their homes and use the money to live here while the park is open for the five months of winter. Amazingly enough, there are many families whose children speak multiple languages - Thai, English, German, French - and whose homeschooling probably consists of reading classics, learning math skills and swimming in the ocean above unparalleled coral reefs everyday.

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone.

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