THE HOLIDAY THAT WASN’T, PART V ­ Blog ­ Susan Steggall

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4 MAY, 10.00 HOURS

A quiet afternoon yesterday, snoozing and reading in a deck chair after an energetic morning exploring the waters of the island.

Last night was the Captain’s Drinks for all the returning Clipper passengers. Of the approximately 160 passengers on board, at least half (including us!) had experienced at least one other Clipper cruise. Everybody comes back. (NB: 2020 will be a terrible year for Clipper cruising.) The passengers are more or less the usual mix although fewer Europeans here in SE Asia: a sprinkling of Americans and Canadians, some Japanese and other Asian couples (they seem shy and keep to themselves so I haven’t found out their stories yet); probably ten Australian couples and several NZ groups. All the sails were up (42 of them) – a magnificent sight in the short tropical dusk and warm inky night. The usual stirring music too: the Vangelis theme from the film 1492. (I still haven’t watched the whole film – even after hearing it for four years!)

We teamed up with an English couple and some of the Australians for dinner. There was entertainment in the Tropical Bar (music and dancing) but after my usual nightcap (Cointreau on ice) I was ready for bed and book. 

Once again the Clipper sailed during the night – so quiet with the sails up. Before breakfast I went up on deck to check out our surroundings. Sea, turquoise sea and the lush green layers of tropical vegetation on our next island: Ko Wua Ta Lap. It is ab uninhabited (I think) national park, but there are many tours. It is also quite rocky with a lookout with spectacular views over the bay and distant islands. However the way up is steep and rocky (holding onto ropes in parts!) so, regretfully I don’t think we will be tackling that. We might do the walk to the Blue Lagoon (Emerald Lake) along a sandy track.

We might do the walk to the Blue Lagoon (Emerald Lake) along a sandy track. It looks like a morning of exploring the coastline in kayaks followed by a swim and a laze on the beach before returning to the ship for an early lunch as the ship was to sail to the next island: Ko Mae Ko.

Ko Mae Ko is another island in the Ang Thong National Marine Park, the second-largest national park in the Gulf of Thailand. It covers 42 islands, composed of blue lagoons, coves, beaches, caves and rock formations. Most of them are surrounded by four different types of forests such as Dry Evergreen Forest, Beach Forest, Limestone Forest and Mangrove Forest. Also, many unusual formations were created by erosion of the earth, including Koh Mae Ko's mysterious sink hole completely enclosed by walls of sheer rock. The tour to the sink hole takes around nine hours so there is only time to go ashore in the tender for a swim and a walk along the beach.

It is warmer today – 29˙C and partly cloudy but no rain is forecast.

A very different experience to the same time – almost date for date – last year when I was in Japan. On 4 May (it was a Saturday) the Trip-a-Deal tour left Tokyo for a few hours’ drive to Lake Ashi where we boarded a ‘pirate ship’ for the traverse before driving to Mt Fuji. So far – and for all the following days – the weather was fine, except for the afternoon at Mt Fuji which was shrouded in mist and snow!

Later at the Route Inn in Suwa I could see, in the distance, the still snow-capped peaks of the Nagano region (with all its extraordinary memories of 1998). The town was quite high up and a glacial wind was blowing. I remember having an excellent meal with Cathy from Melbourne and another Melbourne couple in a very pleasant restaurant. But that was 2019. 2020 is proving to be a year in which the imagination must take flight, even if physically and geographically grounded.

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