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Thailand 23/02/02 - 09/03/02

Turtle Conservation Festival Thai Muang - Khao Lak Bay Front Day Three

Mres A and Pugwash the turtleToday is the day we get to release a baby turtle! Some excitement has gripped us since we booked this free excursion. Our transport is a local bus, and anyone who knows the area knows that these buses are basically modified trucks, and our full load are penned in like animals for the æ hour journey south. Mrs A and I are the last ones in, and by the time we join the traffic jam to get to the festival we are treated with the best views out the back of the bus, much to the amusement of the locals, who, like the fish of Ko Similan, see us as some sort of attraction! We are, of course, treated to constant smiles, and lots of waving, all of which lends itself to shooting far too much film, but the whole experience is very emotional, as all it takes is for us to adopt the usual Thai greeting of putting your hands together as in prayer and bowing ones head to get a whole family to giggle with pleasure and respond in the same manner.

Turtle Conservation festivalIt seems as though this whole area is geared up towards encouraging tourism, as, when we finally make our way from the bus through the crowd, following our guides, and meeting up with not only some off duty staff from our hotel, but also the hotel manager, we discover the governor of Phang Nga province, and an English spokesman praising the benefits of the local area for the purpose of tourism. It seems that everyone has come to the festival, and the otherwise sleepy, peaceful countryside has spewed forth a thousand locals on motorbikes, who are all milling around in the streets of Thai Muang. After a brief dance pageant (made up of local girls, and two or three local boys, clearly showing the early signs of lady-boyishness), and a long winded speech by the governor, Mrs A and I are treated like royalty as we join other tourists, including some friendly Brits, and we are given one ticket per couple to have the honour of being given a baby turtle to release.

Pugwash sets sailThese turtles have been raised in captivity, and are supposed to replenish the lost stocks in the Andaman Sea, but some of them are already so hungry that survival of the fittest is taking place right in front of us, and the smallest of the little turtles don't look like they are even going to make it beyond the big blue tanks in front of us. Finally, as the sun sets, and the queues of tourists and local kiddies are in a straight line we get our turtle. Christening it Pugwash after the cat we've left at home we walk it to the edge of the waves, and the crowd moves with us, the spectacle of hundreds of turtles being given a shove of good luck as the surf washes them back up the beach passed you is a sight for all. The throngs on the beach are lit up by a dozen fishing boats eager to prey on any hungry fish, and to that extent doing their bit to help the turtles off on their maiden voyage. It's a wonderful experience.

Of course we have long since lost our guides, but eventually bump into other members of our group as we stroll through the night market stalls that have sprung up for this week of festivities. We even risk some delish egg-wrapped noodles in banana leaf and satay sticks before draining not only the camcorder battery, but also the instamatic battery, leaving us only with a slide SLR without a flash, but we know we've already shot too much film.

The journey back is as uneventful as the one out, but the Finns, Germans and English all jovial now, laugh our way back along the quiet, dark highway north.
Summary | Bangkok | Bangkok Day Two | Khao Lak Bay Front Resort | Khao Lak Day Two | Ko Similan Islands
Turtle Conservation Festival | Leaving Khao Lak for Pimalai Resort, Ko Lanta | Ko Rok Snorkelling
Pimalai Resort and Ko Lanta Driving Tour | Leaving Thailand
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