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Posts tagged “nature

Khao Sok National Park: Cheow Lan Lake

Dramatic limestone karsts draped in vegetation and shores blanketed in pristine rainforest, the largest area of virgin forest in Southern Thailand, surround Cheow Lan Lake in the heart of Khao Sok National Park.

Tiny, lush islands once mountain peaks, rise out of tepid, emerald-green waters where water temperatures range between 27°C to 29 °C.

Wildlife in the national park includes Asian elephant, tiger, tapir and bear. A cacophony of jungle sounds fill the air: monkeys and gibbons chatter and howl; hornbills and other exotic birds cry and whistle; and a myriad of insects whine and shrill.

In 1982, Ratchaprapha Dam was built as a source of electricity by blocking off the Klong Saeng River and creating an artificial, 165 square kilometer lake.

Cheow Lan Lake is a popular destination for local and foreign tourists, accommodation provided by rustic, floating raft houses. Activities include trekking to view points, waterfalls and caves; fishing and kayaking; and boat safaris to glimpse wildlife and view the stunning scenery.

We stayed at Prai Wan raft houses, simple bamboo huts floating on the water. We opted for a private tour, that was well worth the money! It included: a knowledgeable and enthusiastic, English-speaking guide; wildlife safaris and cave trip by long-tail boat; hiking through rainforest to a spectacular viewpoint; kayak use and meals.

Here is just a handful from the hundreds of photos I took during our two-night stay. I plan to return to Cheow Lan Lake and to also explore other parts of Khao Sok National Park.

Lakeside raft houses, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Prai Wan raft houses, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Lakeside raft houses & long tail boat, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Long tail boat and Prai Wan raft houses, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Lakeside raft houses & long tail boat, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Long tail boats at Prai Wan raft houses, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Boatman waiting for passengers, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Our boatman waiting for us at a cave, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Giant Rock, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Giant Rock, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Lush island, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Lush island on Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Green island, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Tiny, green island on Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

View of Cheow Lan Lake from viewpoint, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

View of Cheow Lan Lake from viewpoint, Khao Sok National Park

Colors of dusk, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Colors of dusk on Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Boat trip at dusk, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Our guide & boatman on a boat safari at dusk on Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Colors of dusk, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Colors of dusk on Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Skeleton trees in water at dusk, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Skeleton trees in water at dusk on Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Sunrise Colors On Lake, Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand

Sunrise Colors on Cheow Lan Lake from Prai Wan raft houses, Khao Sok National Park


Phang Nga Bay: A Long-Tail Boat Trip – James Bond Island

In the Andaman Sea between the island of Phuket and the mainland of southern Thailand, Phang Nga Bay’s sheer limestone cliffs tower majestically out of the sea.

Ko Khao Phing Kan, one of the many islands in the Phang Nga Bay archipelago, was the film location for Scaramanga’s hideout in The Man with the Golden Gun. Now more commonly called James Bond Island it’s become a popular tourist destination on boat trips around the scenic bay.

After my recent weekend trip to another Phang Nga Bay island Ko Yao Noi, I took a private day trip (to avoid the crowds) in a long-tail boat around the bay with my friend Paula and her parents.

Here are some images from that trip.

Floating restaurants & long-tail boats, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Floating restaurants & long-tail boats

Moored long-tail boats, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Moored long-tail boats

Moored long-tail boats, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Moored long-tail boats

View of bay from long-tail boat, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

View of bay from long-tail boat

View of bay from long-tail boat, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

View of bay from long-tail boat

Long-tail boats at James Bond Island (Ko Khao Phing Kan), Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Long-tail boats moored at the beach on Ko Khao Phing Kan, more commonly called James Bond Island

Long-tail boats at James Bond Island (Ko Khao Phing Kan), Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Long-tail boats at James Bond Island

Morning light on plants growing on rocks, James Bond Island (Ko Khao Phing Kan), Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Morning light on plants growing on rocks on James Bond Island

Ko Tapu (Nail Island) just off James Bond Island (Ko Khao Phing Kan), Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Ko Tapu (Nail Island) just off James Bond Island

Souvenir stalls on James Bond Island (Ko Khao Phing Kan), Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Souvenir stalls on James Bond Island

Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

View from long-tail boat of Phang Nga Bay

Limestone rocks of Phang Nga Bay towering over long-tail boat, Thailand

Limestone rocks of Phang Nga Bay towering over long-tail boat

Inside long-tail boat, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Our guide and driver

Phang Nga Bay views, Thailand

Phang Nga Bay views

Inside long-tail boat, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

My friend Paula, her parents, our guide, driver and long-tail boat pilot

Views from long-tail boat, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Views from long-tail boat

Views from long-tail boat, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Heading home


Phang Nga Bay: Ko Yao Noi

Ko Yao Noi (Small Long Island) is the baby sister of Ko Yao Yai (Big Long Island), both part of the Ko Yao Archipelago in Phang Nga Bay between Phuket and Krabi in southern Thailand.

Last weekend I visited Ko Yao Noi with a friend, staying in a bungalow near the beach. It was a chilled out trip spent mostly lying in a beachside hammock reading and a sunrise wander with my camera along the sands, capturing the stunning scenery right on our doorstep.

Here are a few of my images from that weekend.

Approaching storm over Phang Nga Bay, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Approaching storm over Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay view, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Phang Nga Bay view from my hammock

Phang Nga Bay view, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Phang Nga Bay view

Stormy skies, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Stormy skies

Phang Nga Bay sunrise, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Phang Nga Bay sunrise

Early morning sunlight on the beach, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Early morning sunlight on the beach

Hammock dock at sunrise, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Hammock dock at sunrise

Phang Nga Bay sunrise, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Phang Nga Bay sunrise

Phang Nga Bay sunrise, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Phang Nga Bay sunrise

Early morning, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Early morning

Hammock on the beach in early morning light, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Hammock on the beach in early morning light

Fungi bathed in early morning light, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Fungi bathed in early morning light

Hammock dock, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Hammock dock

Long-tail boat, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Long-tail boat

Long-tail boat, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Long-tail boat

Long-tail boat, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Long-tail boat

Mid morning view of Phang Nga Bay, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Mid morning view of Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Phang Nga Bay

Tsunami hazard sign on beach, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Tsunami hazard sign on beach

Children playing on beach, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Children playing on beach

Children playing on beach, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Children playing on beach

Children playing on beach, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Children playing on beach

Children playing on beach, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

Children playing on beach

View over Phang Nga Bay, Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

View over Phang Nga Bay


Thai Flowers: A Lone Lotus

This lone lotus flower is so stunning it deserves a post all to itself! It was growing in an earthenware pot of water outside my local restaurant near where I was staying in Karon on the Thai island of Phuket.

For more of my flower posts check out Thai Flowers: Lotus Buds & Orchid Blooms and The Darling Buds of Guatemala: Lakeside Blooms.

DSC_3326


Thai Flowers: Lotus Buds & Orchid Blooms

Friend and fellow blogger Nicole of Thirdeyemom who I had the pleasure of taking on a whirlwind photographic tour of Antigua in Guatemala, my home town for five years, inspired me to publish a post on flowers of Thailand.

To brighten those last cold, bleak wintry days this is for you Nicole and for anyone else not lucky enough to rove where I do!

A random collection of luscious orchid, lotus, hibiscus and marigold blooms I’ve photographed from Phuket to Chiang Mai. Thai flowers that color everyday life here.

Earth laughs in flowers.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Hamatreya”

Temple lotus blooms, Chiang Mai, Thailand Orchids, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hibiscus flower, Phuket old town, Thailand Temple offerings: marigolds, incense & lotus flower, Chiang Mai, Thailand Orchids, Chiang Mai, Thailand Flowering jackfruit tree, Chiang Mai, Thailand Orchids, Phuket old town, Thailand Temple offerings: lotus flowers, Chiang Mai, Thailand Red flower, Phuket old town, Thailand Orchids, market, Krabi, Thailand Orchids, Chiang Mai, Thailand Temple offerings: lotus flowers & marigolds, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Antigua’s Volcanoes: Fuego and Acatenango

Following on from my post of Volcán de Fuego erupting here are some tranquil views of the volcano nudging its twin-peaked companion Volcán Acatenango, two of the three volcanoes surrounding Antigua.


Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego: An Erupting Volcano

A river of scorching lava blazed and flowed from the crater’s rim as fire shot out of its belly.  Last night Volcán de Fuego or volcano of fire, one of the most active volcanoes in Guatemala and one of the three volcanoes overlooking Antigua, erupted furiously.

Privileged to witness the spectacle from my rooftop terrace I watched and photographed it until after midnight. Here are just a couple of the shots I took.


Lago de Atitlán: One lake and Volcanoes, Volcanoes, Volcanoes

Dramatic, ethereal volcanoes, summits softly draped in swathes of cloud, crouch serenely across an expanse of shimmering, rippling water. A melody of gently lapping waves and the breathless sighs of breeze-tickled leaves create a soothing soundtrack while the scent of exotic blooms wafts delicately through the air.

Formed in an enormous ancient caldera at 1,560 meters (5,120 feet) above sea level in the western highlands of Guatemala, and 18 kilometers long (11 miles), Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlan) is recognized as the deepest lake in Central America, reaching depths of around 340 meters (1,115 feet).

Three volcanoes dominate its southern fringe, Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro, the latter two emerging from the lakeside.

Mayan culture prevails among the largely indigenous population of the various villages freckling the shoreline, many reached by dirt roads, some only by boat. Predominantly Kaqchikel and Tz’utujil, speaking different languages, inhabitants still practice ancient traditions and wear the typical hand-woven garb of their ancestors.

Tourism is a top income earner for the area. As one of Guatemala’s natural treasures and a highlight on any globetrotter’s itinerary, many jaded travelers believe it’s the world’s most beautiful lake.

Panajachel, the main town on the lake’s shores and the jumping off point to smaller lakeside villages, is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the popular colonial city of Antigua. Agriculture, primarily coffee and corn also boost the economy.

I spent a chilled out Christmas in Santa Cruz la Laguna, a sleepy pueblo accessed only by boat or foot.  At the tranquil lakeside Hotel Arca de Noé, lush gardens tumble down to the water’s edge and volcano vistas dominate the horizon, soothing the soul.

The lake changes guise as wistful breeze or surly gale whip up the sleek, glassy surface, the ever-shifting light reflecting off its belly creating varying hues of metallic gray, emerald green and turquoise.


The Darling Buds of Guatemala: Lakeside Blooms

Vibrant exotic blooms wrestle for the limelight against spectacular lakeside scenery dominated by conical-shaped volcanoes. Guatemala exudes color both natural and manmade and the shores of Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlan), a glistening treasure in the Western highlands about 150 kilometers from colonial Antigua, are no exception.

These beauties begged my attention as I wandered along the shoreline gardens of Hotel Arca de Noé in Santa Cruz La Laguna where I spent a peaceful Christmas cocooned in the arms of Mother Nature. Eye catching form and color at almost every step, it’s an outdoor lover’s Eden.

The early morning glow caressing blooms picked by the hotel owner from her verdant lakeshore gardens also pleaded a click of the shutter.

The lake with its stunning volcano views deserves a separate post.


Salto de Chilascó: Central America’s Highest Waterfall

In ankle-length skirt and dance pumps, our 12-year old guide Verónica led us daintily along the windy, muddy path between steep fields of broccoli and maize upwards into the pristine mist-shrouded cloud forest, known as el bosque nuboso.

We were headed towards the remote Salto de Chilascó, claimed by locals to be Central America´s highest waterfall at 130 meters. It lies deep in the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve in north-central Guatemala in the largest cloud forest in Central America.

The path at times left us floundering and slithering in a quagmire of mud, a drawback of hiking in the rainy season (although the cloud forest is humid year round) but the upside was the impressive volume of water cascading down from the mountaintop through lush vegetation.

The only sign of humanity we came across were a returning group of three hikers with their guide near the trailhead and a handful of campesinos on foot and horseback resting or headed to their tracts of crops.

As we climbed from hand-tilled patches of land to cloud forest, we were engulfed in the luxuriant growth of trees swimming with vivid orchids and lush giant bromeliads and ferns thriving in the heavy moisture. A tiny cobra surprised us as it slithered delicately off the narrow path, then a giant shiny beetle with snapping pincers stopped us in our tracks.

We heard the roar of water long before reaching the mirador, where we first glimpsed the lofty falls almost hidden behind a mesh of swirling cloud, about an hour from the start of the trail. Another 20 minutes downhill and we reached a closer viewpoint of the thundering, towering torrent of water. We would’ve descended to the cataract’s belly but due to heavy rainfall in the morning forcing us to start late, we had little daylight to play with so turned back.

It’s a trip for the active and adventurous and by far the easiest way to get there is to hire a car, or alternatively Aventuras Turisticas can run tours during the dry season around March to May.

From Guatemala City take the highway to Cobán in Alta Verapaz, turning off at Km. 145 signposted to Chilascó and continue along the dirt road for 12 kilometers. The village of San Rafael Chilascó is 157 kilometers from the capital.

Stop at the Centro Turístico to pay an admission fee of $4.50 and hire a guide for the same amount. There is also the option of going on horseback for about $13/hour. Verónica’s father, the Tourism administrator, welcomed us warmly and was very keen to get more visitors to the falls. Wet weather gear and good walking boots are advisable during the rainy season and can be rented very cheaply at the tourist center.

Drive about two kilometers to the parking lot by the trailhead and trek another three kilometers to the falls. Take a separate path to the smaller Saltito where you can swim before taking another trail down to the imposing Salto de Chilascó. Verónica told us that the waterfall was only discovered in 1995. Since then, scant visitors (due to its remoteness) have left no obvious impact on the area and the trail remains unspoiled.

A tranquil place to stay just a few kilometers away is the eco-lodge Ram Tzul set in a private nature reserve. It has an imposing restaurant/reception building that they claim to be the largest bamboo construction in Central America! Private cabins cost $35/double and have lavish wooden interiors and ample windows overlooking vistas of forest and hills. Outdoor activities in this sanctuary include walking trails, horseback riding, mountain biking, bird watching and camping.

Finally, any visitor to the area should sample the traditional, regional Mayan dish Kak’iq, a tasty turkey broth served with hunks of meat, rice and tamales found in most local restaurants. It goes down a treat after a long hike.