Tham Morakot. The Emerald Cave and the Terracotta Soldiers.

The boatman put on a life jacket, bit the flashlight between his teeth and jumped in the water.
– YOU, come!
I obediently followed him. We were about to swim at 80 meters below the sea level, through complete darkness, in order to reach Tham Morakot – The Emerald Cave, on Koh Mook, a few miles away from Koh Kradan. 
Tham Morakot. Before.
The tide was at its highest level, and the underground ceiling was low enough to make it hard for me not to hit it. The strong currents were pushing me out, towards the open sea, but I didn’t give in. I was stubbornly following the flashlight, strongly paddling with my legs. Five minutes later I saw the sun again. At first I noticed its reflection in the green water at the end of the underground tunnel. Then I admired it spreading all its glory on the Emerald Cave.

You may ask yourself how is it possible he saw the sun from within a cave? The sun was brightly shining, my friends, and I could easily see it as Morakot is a cave, but it has no ceiling. Technically, if you prefer, it is a completely closed lagoon, which can be only reached through that trap I had been swimming in. The perfect hideaway. In fact, the pirates hopping the Andaman Sea and the Malacca Strait used this place as a repository for their preys.

At the time I arrived at Morakot two groups of Westerners (Englishmen and Germans) were already enjoying the place with gaping mouths. The turquoise water was gleaming, the limestone cliffs adorned with shrubs and flowers revolved everywhere around the lagoon. Everything was peace and quiet. I decided then and there that this was a place I could stay in for years, doing nothing else than taking care of the pirates’ treasures.

As we were all quietly admiring the beauty reserved only to the bold ones, we felt the earth starting to shake and we heard a sinister sound coming from the tunnel. We looked at each other, everyone having the same scary thoughts: earthquake? Tsunami? Sea monster? Saruman’s evil orcs?

Tham Morakot. After.
None of those but worse! Local tourists. At least a hundred of them – men, women, children, elderly – a rope fastened around each one of them so they wouldn’t get lost from the herd. They were swimming with their little arms and chanting on a pace dictated by their guides. They looked just like a very determined army, prepared to sweep every thing standing in its way. Within a few minutes they conquered the cave with their laughs and absurdly loud splashes, with their cameras hanging safely around their necks in sealed plastic bags. Terracotta soldiers having fun on their team building trip.
They hung around only to have their photo taken, both alone and with the members of the department to which each belonged. Enough for the Morakot Cave to turn from a peaceful oasis of the brave ones to the putrid beach of the corporatism tourism. Oh, the precision, the coordination!

Then the guide whistled and the soldiers regrouped, lining one behind the other, forming two disciplined rows.  One hand on the rope, the other taking their pants out of their asses, they resumed the military chanting, and marched towards the exit. Bye-bye. Soldiers versus Pirates: 10-0.

When darkness swallowed the last rumps, I instinctively looked back to my English and German companions. They were leaning against the rocks with long faces and losers attitude. I was certainly hanging the same flag. We seeped out quietly. On the other side, the battalion had already embarked the boat and was by now enjoying the well-deserved complimentary watermelon offered by the tour operator. A second army was in line and ready for the attack.

However, the tourist boats leave Pakmeng at 9 am. If you manage to get to Morakot by 8 am, you have one hour of peace. After that you continue to Koh Kradan. This way you will always be ahead of THEM. The boat should be no more than 1,000 thb for a half-day trip. Drinking water and snorkeling equipment included.

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