Main page: Thai locations where I didn't find Nepenthes
(January 14 - March 13)
Only two reports here. Which means it was a successful trip. Both locations were selected based on the useful habitats I could find on Google Earth.
Libong Isl. Libong is in the Trang Province. In Trang city, I have to wait one hour for the minivan to arrive. The minivan takes one hour to get to the pier. At the pier, I have to wait one hour because we have to be at least fifteen for the boat to leave. The pier is located on a muddy beach rounded by restaurants, with many nice cats looking for many nice rats. Given the scenery, seeing a man in a pure, candid, white kandura (check online) takes me by surprise. He notices me as much as I notice him. He introduces himself as David. He travels with three men, all very respectful towards him. He has very kind manners, and very good English, but he never smiles. In Thailand, that stands out. He says he's from Pakistan, but I see he can speak Thai as if it were his mother tongue. He has a strong scent, and his way of talking is mesmerizing. Finally, the boat leaves. On the island, I ask what would be the price to reach Juhoi (that's the place I've seen on Google Earth). It's 400 baht to go and 400 baht to come back because I would be the only passenger. There are no roads to go there. I start walking on the main road, trying to collect information about pitcher plants. This is not a tourist place. Just forest, unpaved roads, and huts. Most people spend their time at the pier, drinking, smoking, or playing pool. I walk for half an hour to see if I can find a more quiet place to ask about my plants. If I ask at the pier, it's going to be an avalanche of laughter, Thai speech, "farang" and "mokao moken ling" (pitcher plant). I'm lucky, I meet a guy who brings me to see a number of his friends, asking if they have seen pitcher plants on Libong. We also visit a small plant nursery owned by an old lady. Nothing to do, no Nepenthes, never seen. I go back to the pier. I have some of my bread and jam. Then I get ready to ask and face the laughter, but with a ninja move. I remember that when local people see the photos of Nepenthes on my camera, they stop laughing, they get curious and they take this thing more seriously. That's what I do, the laughter starts and quickly stops, but again, never seen Nepenthes on Libong. As soon as we are fifteen, we leave and go back to the mainland. While going from Trang city to the pier, that morning, I had seen many nice habitats, so now, instead of going straight to Trang, I decide to leave the pier on foot and explore. I'll still have all the time to get a lift back to the city. I walk for 3 km, with no success. Lots of good habitats, lots of people to ask, but no Nepenthes. A car stops by, they all have very good English and nice, white shirts. They say they saw me on Libong, asking about pitcher plants. I get in the car. We talk about the religions we have in Italy, they ask if there are many Christians, many Muslims, etc. They bring me to Kantang, where they live, and where I can get a taxi to Trang. Once in Kantang, the guys leave, saying they are going to ask where I can find the taxi, and I'm left to wait in the car. After five minutes, I hear someone knocking at the window. It's David! It turns out he's the imam (check online). He invites me to the mosque, where I see the guys from the car on their knees, praying in the designated room. David is a cool person, he keeps making jokes, but he doesn't smile, which makes it even funnier. He says I have to wait for the prayer to finish. He gives me some water, and he introduces me to the twin of Morgan Freeman (I keep that for myself): black, more than 2 m tall, washing his feet in the back garden. I ask David about his perfume. He shows me a few sample vials he keeps in his pocket. He puts some on my arm. "It's an Indian brand, no alcohol, women love it". The scent will stick to my arm for days. He says in the 1990s he fought with the Italians against Russia. "You were great and brave soldiers. At the time, we had automatic rifles and we used to dress like this". He shows me a picture, it's him wearing a uniform and a shemagh (check online), with a black beard and a rifle. We exchange email addresses. We leave the mosque and we go to the taxi stop. In this region of the world, a taxi is just a normal car used to bring to destination up to seven people at a time. Before leaving, David buys me a bottle of Vitamilk, he knows I love it. He says that Juhoi used to belong to a friend of his, but now he has sold it (new resorts on the way?).
2023: In Trang, I always stay at the Koh Teng hotel, 7 33.382, 99 36.522: photo. I left the mainland at the Hat Yao pier (Chao Mai Vlg, 7 18.669, 99 24.092), now fully paved and decorated but at the time desolate, and the low tide didn't help. This is the arrival at the Libong pier (Phrao Vlg, 7 15.560, 99 23.864), the sea is behind us, and most of those roofs belong to pubs with pool tables, uncommon in Thailand: photo. I did write to David, but I had no reply. Kantang is between the pier and Trang. This is the Pakistan Kantang Mosque (7 24.486, 99 30.539): photo. Years later, I explored with my Thai friends the nice habitats I had seen along those 3 km, but again, nothing, despite having a car and being able to better communicate with locals. Fortunately, Juhoi is still pristine.
Sukon Isl. After Libong, it's time for Sukon. From Trang, I easily reach the pier by songthaew, but then I have to wait one hour for the boat to leave. The boat costs just 40 baht. On Sukon, a nice, quiet place without tourists, it's very easy to find the selected habitats thanks to the print of the satellite view, where even small, unpaved roads are visible. In one hour I cross the whole place in different directions, but the soil is too dry to host Nepenthes. At the first village, I ask many people, showing my Nepenthes drawing, but I don't get any positive answers. I walk back to the pier. I wait for about twenty minutes. It's lunchtime. Everything is so quiet. Just the wind, the sea, and a young boy sleeping under a gazebo, next to his motorbike. Nobody else. Eventually, I disturb the guy. No English, but it's easy to explain what I'm waiting for. He says the next boat is tomorrow morning. Shit. I move away a little and I start kicking my backpack and swearing in Italian. I just need to let it out before focusing again. I go back to the guy. I show him my map of the island. Looking at the map, he explains that there is another pier on another side of the island, with boats going to a different pier on the mainland. Great. He has a motorbike, I have money, we leave. He says the next boat leaves at 7 pm. No problem, I can wait. We reach the pier in fifteen minutes, he runs like hell. At the pier, a few boatmen are waiting with a bored expression on their face. When they see me, they suddenly wake up. Laughing and joking with my young friend, they propose to bring me back to the mainland even immediately. One tries with 200 baht, I push back with 100 baht. Then I turn back: a boat has just arrived, and a man in a kandura prepares to load his stuff on it, including a motorbike. He says, with very good English, that he has already paid for a boat to the mainland, so I can join him for 50 baht. The boatmen don't laugh anymore, nor do they speak. Like at the pier for Libong, that's how they react to these Muslim gentlemen. Respect? Fear? My host says that on the mainland he has a car, and he can bring me back to Trang. That would be my pleasure! He drives like in a Formula One race. He explains that his job is all about delivering stuff, so he had to learn to drive like that, to avoid spending hours behind slow drivers. Between our seats, I notice some familiar perfume vials, so I tell him about my little adventure on Libong. He says he knows David very well. He leaves me in front of my hotel. I take my shaking hands off the sides of the seat. "Thank you very much!".
2023: There are two piers with boats for Sukon, one close to the other. I wouldn't have any idea of which pier I used, but there's a clue: I remember some space for his parked car on the way back, so I can guess I left the mainland at 7 8.970, 99 35.330, but on the way back we landed at 7 9.186, 99 35.599. The island doesn't have Street View, what a shame. I can see that the backpack scene took place at 7 6.872, 99 34.982. This is a picture I found online: photo (but when I was there, the place was deserted). There only seem to be two piers, so I left Sukon from 7 4.832, 99 36.979.