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Published: April 30th 2013
One thing we had been looking forward to was a day trip to Ang Thong National park. We had planned to do it last year when we were on Koh Samui but after Paul's motorbike accident it wasn't to be. After researching a bit, we decided to book a speedboat tour to the national park (1600 baht each inc lunch and snorkelling equipment), after the boat ride to Koh Phangan we didn’t fancy the slower boat!
Ang Thong literally translates as "golden bowl" and is a protected national park with over 40 islands. All of the islands are uninhabited and undeveloped except for two of them (one has sea gypsies living on it and the other is the national park headquarters).Everything went very smoothly, our pick up was even early! We sat on the back of the pick up feeling like doggies with the wind in our hair, honestly if it had been just us on the back we probably would have hung our tongues out and done full-on dog impressions! We arrived at the tour office in Thong Sala and had a light breakfast of tea, coffee, fruit and biscuits and paid our additional 200 baht each
entrance fee for the national park. We were then personally walked over to the beach by the staff and we waited for our boat. The first surprise of the day was that we were put on the (more expensive) Lomprayah tour because the one we had booked was full, the second surprise was that our boat was coming from Koh Samui to collect us…the people already on board were not impressed! Several dirty looks later and we were bouncing our way along to the national park, passing the slower boat on the way; although Neil was a little disappointed when he saw the slow boat had a slide on the back (Orion boat tours if anyone is interested)!
The majority of the people on our boat were German and the boat crew had wisely confined the party frat boy and girl Israelis to the front of the boat where they were swigging from a big bottle of alcohol and multiple cans of beer! We were willing to bet those crazy kids would be sunburnt and feeling very rough by lunchtime! First we have to say Ang Thong national park is stunning – we loved speeding through the
islands, the scenery really was breath taking, with the limestone karsts covered in lush green vegetation contrasted with the clear, deep blue of the sea.
We soon arrived at our first snorkelling spot, the visibility was good and we saw a few fish, mainly smaller ones and a few medium size parrot fish. The coral wasn’t in too good a shape, a lot of it was dead or bleached due to the rise in water temperature around Thailand which has been happening in recent years. After a while we got back onto the boat and made our way to Koh Wua Talap which is where the park rangers are based for a beach stop. We grabbed our snorkelling gear again instead of kayaking and had a good old snorkel around – Donna was lucky enough to spot a sting ray which no-one else was close enough to see!...sure Donna 'there was a 'stingray'...look there goes a blue whale'..lol 😉 There was quite a bit of coral around and some of the hugest sea cucumbers we had ever seen, although we had read on the internet that the snorkelling at this island wasn’t great, it was actually ok
– big parrot fish and lots of other smaller fish which we just cannot remember the names of! This island also has a ‘hill’ to climb…when we looked at the ‘hill’ it was more like a cliff and we decided that there was no way we would be attempting to climb that! We know we probably should have made the effort to climb as the panorama of the park from the top is meant to be unbeatable but we really didn’t think it was wise to try and do it in flip flops!
After a good snorkel to work up our appetite we had a nice laze around in the lovely crystal clear water until our guide came and called us for lunch. Wow, what a lunch it was! It was a buffet lunch at the only restaurant on the island which consisted of chicken green curry, stir fried veg, fried garlic chicken and loads of rice. For dessert we had fresh water melon. Neil and Paul went back for seconds (and thirds in Neil's case!) of everything, it was that good, we were all completely stuffed and very impressed with how good the food was. We
have to say that the beach at Koh Wua Talap was lovely, picture perfect with soft white sand and limestone cliffs as a back drop – you can see from the photos how nice it was. We may even consider returning here to stay, there were some reasonably priced bungalows and tents here which the park rangers ran. From memory, tents were around 350 baht and bungalows were around 500 baht. It would be perfect to be on this island when all the day trippers have left! As predicted, the frat boys and girls were in bad shape by this point and couldn't make it off the boat to do anything and were the same for our final stop. We are a bit puzzled why they would pay so much for a day trip to waste it by being completely wasted and unable to do anything but sleep!
We then had a little while longer to have a bit of a swim (to work off the lunch) or snooze on the beach before we were off to our next destination. So while Jan and Paul had a lie on the beach, we stayed in the water and
watched the people from the bigger, slower boats being transferred to the beach via huge and very unstable long tails. They really didn’t look impressed and several people fell off the boat when they were trying to get ashore…we stifled our giggles as these poor people were fully clothed and ended up soaked to the skin! One thing we, and our German boat mates, noticed was something very strange about the palm trees on Koh Wua Talap - the palm trees on the beach seemed a little bit out of place in comparison to the rest of the vegetation there....which lead us to think they may have been transplanted there at some point. There were only palm trees around the clearing where the rangers station and restaurant/huts were - maybe a palm tree expert can enlighten us?!
Zipping off on the speedboat again we headed to our final stop of the day – on Koh Mae Ko (Mother Island). This place took our breath away as well…but for different reasons! This island has a lovely little beach snuggled in between huge limestone cliffs and in the middle of the island is Thale Nai – a salt water
lake linked to the sea via an underground tunnel - which is an unbelievable emerald colour, giving it the nickname of ‘The Emerald Lake’.
To get to see the Emerald Lake, we had to climb up a series of staircases which were integrated in very inventive ways into the limestone. We say climb, we really did have to climb these stairs (ahem, more like ladders!) and they tested our fitness levels nicely. We were a little bit worried about some of the people climbing these stairs…at one point we thought one lady was going to have a heart attack, she was puffing and panting that much and seemed to be really struggling. It really didn’t help that it was one of the hottest days and must have been at least 37 degrees with no wind or clouds in sight! We were rewarded at the top with a view down to the Emerald Lake – it was very still and quiet around the lake (apart from the chattering of the tour groups) and we did have the option of going down and swimming in it…which we would have done but our imaginations got the better of us! We
started thinking about that scene in the film ‘The Beach’ where the shark had got into the islands lagoon via an underground tunnel and it was enough to make us chicken out of swimming in it!
After snapping many, many photos, we managed to get a decent panorama from the top and then headed back down the ladder-stairs…going down was just as bad as going up except this time we had to crawl through narrow openings in the limestone rock face (on our hands and knees at one point) and squeeze through another one. It was either that or we would have had to go up and down several more times in a roundabout way! It was all good fun though, although Mum and Dad were super-hot at the end of it but at least there was a beach waiting at the bottom and they took the opportunity to have a swim once they got back to the bottom.
On the beach here, we were very pleased to see a real recycling effort in progress with a line of wheelie bins with signs on them indicating plastics, cans etc should go in separate bins…we
only hope that this is proper recycling and not a case of separate bins which are later all emptied into the same bin and then thrown away (cynical, us?). There was also a nice touch with a sign at the beginning of the stairs up to the lake saying ‘Do not leave anything here except your footprint’ and we did notice that the people visiting the island were either taking their rubbish with them or putting it in the correct wheelie bins.
Back on the speedboat we whizzed back through the islands, very sad to be at the end of a great day out. We were a little disappointed that there wasn’t more snorkeling involved, but the rest of the day more than made up for it. If in the area, we would definitely recommend either a day trip to Ang Thong, or an overnight stay – we can only imagine how spectacular it would be to wake up with the beach at Wua Talap all to ourselves!
Arriving back onto Koh Phangan, we were a little bit smug when our boat companions who were staying on Koh Samui were commenting on how beautiful
the island looked which we wholeheartedly agree with! We were again met by the tour company’s staff and escorted to our waiting transport to be whisked back to our accommodation. That night we pigged out and went for the BEST burgers on the island, well we needed a reward after all the snorkelling, stair walking and beach bumming!
Sadly our holiday with Donna’s parents came to an end all too soon – we love Koh Phangan, it is one of our favorite places in SE Asia and Donna’s parents had to agree it is a very special island indeed!
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