March 1st is Turtle Release Day, at Thai Muang. There's a marine conservation unit here, and one of its jobs is the preservation of sea turtles numbers by captive breeding.
Once a year they hold a festival, and if you're lucky you get to release a sea turtle into the sea. There are usually more people wanting to release the turtles than there are turtles, so they pick the lucky few by a draw.
I arrived the night before, and stayed in the campsite. Naturally this means another BBQ and another excuse to make a recipe for my Thai Food recipe blog. This time it will be spicy curried fish parcels, a change from the salt crusted barbecued fish of the last trip.
The festival lasts several days, and I take the chance to watch a movie at the field deeper into the town. This is a big festival with lots of music stages, fun-fairs and attractions, but you can't beat a Jacqui Chan movie on large screen. I go fetch the car, drive onto the field grab some snacks and enjoy the movie. There's plenty of food here, but I'm having Fish Curry Parcels at the campsite.
The next morning there's plenty of time to enjoy the beach, eat some rice porridge for breakfast and relax. Registration for the turtles is at 2:30pm, at the main tent. You write your details on a card, it goes into a glass box, around 4pm they draw lots and hand out the coupons. I missed this part, and didn't get a coupon.
As the day winds on, and it starts to get dark, so the Squid Boats light up the sea around the town, and everyone heads to the beach for the main event. The turtle release!
They had unclaimed turtles left, but wouldn't let me release one. Coupons had been allocated, and even though some of the people hadn't collected their turtle for release, they were determined to wait!
I went to find a wind-up turtle toy to release instead.
Thai Muang is an hours drive up the coast from Phuket. You don't have to stay overnight here, but its a big enough festival to justify staying. You could just drive up in the morning, enjoy the day, collect your coupon, and go back to Phuket without releasing the turtle, my turtle! But then you'd miss a lot of the shows, music, festival and movies.