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Bangkok to Koh Taratao

We've just arrived back in Bangkok after a fantastic trip down south to Taratao National Marine Park. We took the sleeper train down to Hat Yai - which courteously stopped as it was leaving Bangkok to wait for a girl running along the platform late. Eventually, the never-ending suburbs of Bangkok gave way to lazy, one street villages with dogs lying in the shade. The sun went down, silhouetting palm trees against the pink sky, and in the morning we looked out to see limestone karst, thick with bamboo forests, as the train made it's way on a single-track line through the jungle.

We were the only westerners getting off the train in Hat Yai, possibly because of recent violence in the south, and a passing pick-up truck, the back of it full of soldiers with machine guns, reminded us of the tensions in the area. After a quick lunch we took a minibus to the port of Pak Bara, from where the ferry left to the islands.

We were both a little disappointed to see how full of tourists the boat was - scruffy backpackers dressed in their near identical outfits, a girl with a child, and some old people including one man with a fan in the brim of his hat. The fantastic wildlife, however, began as soon as we were getting close to Koh Taratao, first with the appearance of a dolphin, and then the splash of a ray jumping out of the water. When the ferry stopped in deep water off Taratao, only six of us transferred into the small, rolling longtail boat that would take us to the island and the National Park headquarters - all the other passengers were heading to the rowdier island of Koh Lipe.

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