A glimpse of real life

What a beautiful day! It was super sunny with here and there some clouds. I decided to go to Koh Klang, an island unlike any of the others I’ve visited. Koh Klang is next to Krabi town, on the opposite side of the river. From Thara Park you can take a longtail boat across. I had to wait about ten minutes before a boat left. I was the only foreigner and the locals seemed to be a bit surprised. Was I really venturing off the beaten path? I guess I did. I arrived in a small town and just started walking around. There was a long and small street with houses on either side. Most of them looked like they could use some love. Some were completely destroyed. I was walking in between huge chickens, ducks and goats. And a lot of garbage. It was everywhere! I seemed to pass some sort of recycling house, where they at least took valuable parts out of used products.

This was a walk through everyday life. People were sitting on the porch, minding their kids, cleaning or doing laundry. Every now and then a motorbike came rushing past. A lot of houses were decorated with plants and flowers, There was something about this village. It wasn’t close to being ready for a postcard, but that might just be what made it so attractive. This wasn’t the photoshopped version of Thailand we so often get to see. This was real. People live here.

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To discover the rest of the island I needed some form of transportation. At the start of the street I found a place that had lots of scooters. I still hadn’t tried it, so I asked if they had bicycles. The couple I was talking to knew no English whatsoever. I asked again, making a cycling motion with my hands. Something clicked and the woman started making phone calls and running around the village. When she came back, the man put his thumbs up, a question mark on his face. His wife was holding the tiniest bicycle, probably the worst one in the whole village. It looked more like a fold-up bike than anything else. Even though it rattled a bit, the tyres seemed solid, so I took it. I tried to ask how much it costs. After some more phone calls I paid 80 baht and was on my way. It must have been a hilarious sight, this tall white girl on the tiny bicycle. All over the island people smiled, waved or said hello.

As soon as I was out of the village there were green rice fields with here and there an ox that was tied to a pole. There were more villages and beautiful houses in between. It seemed like I’d arrived in the poorer part of the island. There were almost no cars, only motorbikes, occasionally with a side span. The main roads were already pretty small, but there were also side roads that looked more like footpaths. This was an island where the Thai Muslims still lived the way they are used to. Tourism has only had a little influence on the island. There is one resort, but even there, special rules apply. The whole island has a ban on tank tops and alcohol out of respect for the inhabitants. There is a huge beach, with nobody on it. Sometimes the longtail boat owners take tourists to one of the piers on the island. There is a fish farm with its own restaurant. Here you’ll find English menus, clean western toilets and some handicraft shops.

I biked further and saw a boy who seemed to have down syndrome. He waved at me enthusiastically. I saw him again on the way back and he blew me a kiss. I passed a few simple mosques. At one of them it was time for prayer. All the men were gathering, they wore those typical flat hats. The service was broadcasted over the speakers, so the whole town could listen in. On my way I saw 2 tourists at the fish farm and a group of 5 tourists on motorbikes. That was it. I had some food at a small restaurant next to the road. The menu was in Thai but one of the men spoke English pretty well. “What do you want to eat?” “What do you have?” He suggested fried rice with chicken, which was fine with me. I also got a bowl with some broth. I bought some cookies at another stall and then biked back to the boat. I couldn’t find the people who’d rented me the bike, so I parked it with the scooters. When I arrived at the pier, a boat was just leaving. I felt like I’d been miles away from the city, but I was just across the river. What a perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the landscape and unwind.

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