For those who come to Thailand seeking relaxation, Phuket with its pristine beaches and fantastic range of restaurants and hotels, has plenty to offer. However for those who seek more active pursuits why not visit ‘Best Rafting 4 U’ located in Song Prack village near Phang Nga Bay.
The journey from Phuket takes just over an hour by air-conditioned minibus, yet Song Prack seems a million miles from ‘urban’ Phuket.
Upon arrival you are instructed to place all your valuables in one of the secure lockers before being whisked away for a short briefing and safety talk. A qualified instructor will guide you through the dos and don’ts of white water rafting in fluent English before issuing you with life jackets and protective helmets.
Any illusions that you might have of staying dry will be swiftly dispelled by the inevitable water fight which breaks out once all the participants are in their rafts and raring to go. The passage to the first dam is fairly gentle and gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with your raft and its occupants.
There are two instructors, one at the front and one at the back, who will be responsible for the navigation of the raft and will occasionally issue instructions. Then there will typically be four paying participants besides the two instructors.
Your feet are tucked into loops and while you are given specific instructions on exactly what to doshould you be thrown from the raft, in practice this is extremely unlikely. Don’t worry if you are not in peak physical condition. When it comes to the paddling you can be as active, or as inactive as you want. The current will take care of carrying the raft downstream and the two instructors are both extremely adept at steering the raft.
Things don’t really get interesting until you hit the first dam. Song Prack is surrounded by nature and the rafting companies based here have harnessed nature to their own advantage with a series of manmade dams. When the dams are shut the water flows in a gentle trickle but once the dams have been opened it becomes a raging torrent.
Expect 360 degree spins and collisions with boulders, rocks and even other rafts as you race downstream at breakneck speed.
There are a series of these dams which need to be opened. This provides a welcome break between and gives you a chance to get your breath back, discuss any incidents which occurred on the previous section or simply splash water at the other rafts.
Despite the name, ‘Best Rafting 4 U’ has more to offer than merely white water rafting. On the way to Song Prack the minibus stops at Wat Suwannakuha in Phang Nga. While a visit to a temple may not be high on most adrenaline seekers list, Wat Suwannakuha is still worth a visit. Not only for the Wat itself, which is located inside a series of connected caves and is well worth the 20 Baht admission fee, but for the army of monkeys which guard it.
Totally fearless of humans, the monkeys will fight, frolic and jostle for bananas which they will then proceed to peel expertly. You can purchase bunches of bananas from entrepreneurial stall holders but be aware that the monkeys are not overly patient and if they feel you are not distributing your bananas with sufficient speed or generosity they are likely to snatch.
The level of interaction that is possible to enjoy with these animals and the entertainment they offer, whether consciously or otherwise, makes a half an hour stop at Wat Suwannakuha more fun than an entire day at your average zoo.