My paddle dips into the glassy green water of Bor Thor, and the shrimp start dancing.
Hundreds of tiny creatures pop out of the water, hop across it like rocks skipping, and then dive back down into its depths.
“We’re almost there,” our guide, Man, who also graciously volunteered to steer my kayak, informs us.
Our three fire-engine-red kayaks skirt around a small turn and into a mangrove forest and then we see it: a half-moon emerging from the water and moving upward into a towering karst shrouded in palm trees and other jungle foliage.
We’re kayaking in Krabi — something I honestly never thought I’d do. Mostly because, let’s be real, I’m not so skilled at kayak navigation.
“Here,” he says, as we begin to slowly move forward.
This is the last cave on our journey, and one we almost skipped because of our time limit, but Man convinced us to keep going.
Inside the darkness, we only hear the dripping of the stalagmites as we inch forward, careful to avoid the sharp formations on either side.
Then, he steers our kayak out into a lagoon.
I don’t see anything remarkable at first. Well, anything incredibly remarkable, because let’s face it: we’ve been seeing ancient cliffs for the better part of three hours, and that qualifies as pretty damn incredible.
“There,” he says, lifting his oar out of the water and gesturing around the bend and up, up, up.
The scene emerges in front of me: we’re surrounded by towering tree-encrusted limestone rocks and there we are, these tiny humans being dwarfed by nature.
Around me, prehistoric palm trees the height of football fields tower above us.
We lift our paddles out of the water and let the kayaks drift.
I lift my head up and don’t move.
Jaw agape for the better part of five minutes, I stare at the history surrounding us. The fresh air (if you can really call it that since the fires blazing in Indonesia — tragically what The Guardian refers to as a crime against humanity, have removed the blue from the sky), the stillness, the beauty seeping out of every limestone crevice, every coconut-laden palm, every tiny ripple from fish below us.
I’m so tiny and the world is so big. It leaves me feeling even more confused as I search for my home.
It’s been an entire day like this: Awe. History. Feeling just how small we really are on this great big ball.
We start our Chok Thara tour hours earlier, piling into small kayaks and navigating the mangrove plantations. The roots, elevated in the air and plunging into the water give the entire experience an ethereal feel. Like, any moment fireflies are going to sparkle around us and chimes will ring.
Our first cave is massive. Peaceful.
Then, we arrive to the second and have to leave the kayak and climb steps. This cave, Pee Hua Toh, offers a rare glimpse at ancient history, thanks to a few petroglyphs which remain.
“My father, he was a fisherman,” explains Man. “One day, he boated into a cave and discovered it. Then, he showed me and today, my brother and I run the tour company and take people here.”
This cave, though, once laden with seashells that would slice open any foot, have been worn down, and somewhat destroyed thanks to tourists who want to take a piece of their experience home with them, or simply reach out and touch the ancient art.
Man shines a flashlight to the roof and there is a painting of a man, thousands of years old.
“It was painted with blood and earth,” he explains, although he can’t offer what it means.
Then, we whirl around and lower to us are the remnants of more art, this time and man and a woman. Unfortunately, much of these have been destroyed because of people touching them. And, next to them are tourist’s own attempts at creating petroglyphs.
Finally, he turns his flashlight to the highest point in the ceiling where two hands are painted, each with six fingers.
What does it mean? No. Clue.
We continue on our walk, heading up towards the top of the cave.
“Don’t touch the rocks with water on them,” he says. “These stalagmites are still forming. They grow slowly and are fragile so when you touch them, they stop. Many have already.”
I look at them, the glistening water catching my eye, before we emerge at the top of the cave, and are treated to a spectacular view of stalagmites splaying out in front of us.
“OK, we go,” Man says, and we begin our descent back down the path towards our kayak.
When we return from our final visit — the lagoon — there is a peace which has washed over me. One I haven’t felt for a long time.
While I struggle with my future, sometimes a reminder about perspective is what is needed simply to put me back in the moment.
Want to take a tour? To book a Chok Thara Travel tour, call + 66 81 2739762 or +66 81 2722654.