Located on the south-western corner of Thailand, the province of Trang is a gateway to some of the Andaman Sea’s most dazzling islands.
Words: Beverly Rodrigues Photography: Adam Lee
I love places with legends and stories, and Trang, like many places of great beauty, has inspired a wealth of these. A famous one tells of a young Chinese girl named Muk who eloped with a Muslim man named Libong. After many years, the couple returned with their child and Muk’s mother begged her daughter to stay. But Muk refused to be parted from Libong. Instead, she boarded a boat with her husband and sailed away, not sparing her distraught mother even a backward glance. Hurt by Muk’s rejection, the mother cursed her daughter.
No sooner had Muk’s boat set off across the Andaman Sea, a storm began to wreak havoc on the vessel. Ferocious waves tossed the boat about and everyone on board perished. According to local folklore, Muk’s body floated north forming the island of Koh Muk while Libong’s body drifted south, becoming Koh Libong. Muk’s wedding ring, the wood and rope from the boat, as well as the pig and horse on board all transformed into islands, which are now known as Koh Waen (Ring Island), Koh Kradan (Plank Island), Koh Cheuk (Rope Island), Koh Sukorn (Pig Island) and Koh Mha (Horse Island).
Today, this collection of islands in the Andaman Sea attracts thousands of sun seekers, divers and snorkelers looking for that pristine slice of heaven. Many of the islands come under the protection of the Hat Chao Mai National Park. Having heard tales of their beauty, I couldn’t wait to begin my exploration.
Caving in Koh Muk
First up, my boat anchored off the western coast of Koh Muk to explore its most famous attraction – a sea cave only accessible at low tide. Jumping into the cool water, I didn’t quite know what to expect.
Inside the cave, it was pitch black. The echoing booms of waves crashing somewhere in its depths made me tighten my grip on the life jacket of the person in front of me. There were some 20 of us in the water, and we formed a conga line, snaking cautiously from the gaping limestone mouth into the cold, inky darkness.
Occasionally the glow of my guide’s torch illuminated the craggy passage, and I caught a glimpse of the magnificent chamber, battered by the passage of water and time. But where sunlight filtered through, magic happened. The water turned an intense shade of green, glowing with an almost otherworldly light. It is this very phenomenon that’s given this cave its name: Emerald Cave, or as the Thais call it, Tham Morakot.
Eighty metres from the entrance, the cave unexpectedly opened onto a sparkling blue lagoon that seemed almost like a secret hideaway. It had a small powdery sun-baked beach surrounded by steep cliffs and green vegetation. With a sandy bottom sloping down from five to about 10 feet, and calm, clear waters, the lagoon was cosy and dreamlike. In other words, it was perfect.