Thailand, to be blunt, is beyond the word 'hot'. Far out past the outer reaches of 'humid' and somehow comes back around to the point where 90 degrees Fahrenheit is pleasant. About two hours ago, at 10am in the morning, it was 112 degrees. This is still Thailand's winter months as well, so the area is shrouded in fog and humitidy. Which leads me to this post. I am currently living in a little town nestled quite snuggly between jungle covered mountains and the Adamant Sea (more or less the Indian Ocean). It is, without a doubt, a beautiful place. As I stare out the window of the school that I teach at, I see only green rolling hills shrouded in mist as tropical rains flood into lush rainforests.
The town is called Satun. A sleepy little place that is home to a diverse mix of religions, cultures and astounding cusine. While the majority of Thailand is Buddhist, the southern providences are Muslim with a Buddhist mix. This mix of cultures gives rise to a unique feel to Satun. In other providences of south Thailand, there is turmoil and danger on the streets because of this. But in Satun, life is laid-back and things operated on a frustrating concept called "Thai Time". Meals can easily take an hour or more, as food is brought in dish after dish. Conversations with strangers can last until that awkward silence because all topics have been exhausted. In a nutshell, that means if someone says 5pm, they really mean 6 or 6:30pm. Chances are they'll be stopped for a quick chat which leads to coffee, which evolves into a full meal that blossoms majestically into being late. It breeds free time. Which thankfully there are some seriously beautiful sights to see in the area to eat up that time.
Monkey Mountain (Kao Sawaa) is a mountain right in the middle of downtown that, much to my surprise, is actually filled with monkeys. Adorable, fluffy, rip-the-mirror-off-your bike monkeys. Once you arrive, they stand on the road and prance about like a horrible reproduction like they're the Sharks and the Jets. Getting past that first check point is akin to playing dodgeball with disgruntled fifth graders. There's a place of worship within the mountain if you can actually climb to the top. Steps carved from stone lead the way, but they are not often walked and the pagoda at the top has fallen into disuse. Should you make it to the top, chances are you'll run into a alpha male that doesn't appreciate your curiosity. These are not Curious George monkeys. They have fangs, not just sharp teeth. Huge fangs that if they bit you would easily go into vital organs. It's intimidating and I've been driven back at least twice on visits. Should the monkeys scare you off, you can easily get to the beach for a relaxing swim in the ocean.
Sai Loia Beach, if you don't know where it's at you will never find it. It is not marked on any map and there is only one sign that points the way, but never tells you where to go after that. It's a lovely little cove in the Adamant Sea cradled by islands and home to beautiful sands and excellent shore side restaurants. From the shores you can view Thailand's best islands and a large portion of Malaysia as well. The water is like a tepid bath and so thick and salty that it almost repels your movements. My first encounter I got attacked by a pack of wild minnows that terrified me and sent me floundering to shore because I thought I was being eaten.
Aside from those two, the actual streets of the town are a maze of backroads, alleyways and footpaths. Make a wrong turn and you end up in the jungle or at the base of a impassable mountain.