Reasons 2B Cheerful Part 3. Ko Pha-Ngan

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December 30th 2008
Published: February 19th 2009
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 Video Playlist:

1: Jayne Of The Jungle 19 secs
2: The Best 4x4 By Far 25 secs
Early Morning.Early Morning.Early Morning.

It really is hard to find a better beach. Sunrise light really does set it off.
Plan A had been to stay at Than Sadet for New Year then either skip over to Ko Tao on a 90 minute ferry trip for some scuba fun for a few days, or take off to Cambodia/Vietnam to explore something new depending on weather, funds & attitude. The last couple of days leading up to New Years Eve were, although warm & mostly dry, a little on the moody side. Reports from Ko Tao weren't much better. Something to do with the residue of a storm in the Mekong Delta, the silt running down to into the Gulf of Thailand making scuba activities in our area a little below par.

With brave determination, we hung on where we were. Took the Big Black Beastie pick up out for another day, this time with our 9 new friends, the Scatty Gang. In a convoy of 3 4x4 pick ups we set out for an adventure day. 1st stop about 10 minutes up the wibbly road at the Monkey Swing. A 330ft long blast down a zip wire across the canopy of the jungle.

Worth a visit if you're ever out this way. From the roadside it looked rather
The Bees Knees CruiserThe Bees Knees CruiserThe Bees Knees Cruiser

Our two drivers were sacked shortly after this pic was taken after it was found that they actually had licences.
like a shack with a sign nestled amongst the palm trees but this was just the parking area & reception point for those that have just hurtled 150ft above the valley floor. The real hub was a couple of minutes walk from here to a properly cool restaurant/bar setup. Run by a dude who spoke French, or a variant thereof (maybe Swiss or Belgian) but he really did know his onions. There was a warm welcome, an instant discount for the biggest group he'd seen that day & a detailed safety introduction course as to what was about to occur. This involved attiring a harness, climbing 30ft up a rickety rope ladder, through a tiny hole to a platform up a wobbly tree. Then being hooked up to the zip wire, a quick briefing on how to get going, slow down & stop then being shunted out into the yonder.

The initial climb is the worst bit. Up 'till the point where your feet leave the little platform. That's the worst bit too. After that, things start to get worse!. The sensation of initial acceleration is diffused by the sudden drop in altitude. Within a second, you're aware that
Three Men In A BoatThree Men In A BoatThree Men In A Boat

Well, two men in a boat really, the fishermen. Plus three wibbly farang helpers.
your arse is about to clout a high standing rock around the same moment that your arms are whipped by the branches of a fast passing tree. After a brief moment to stabilise yourself, you spot - if you're lucky (& your names not Jayne) a Silver Birch trunk lofting from the greenery. This is the cue to Hit The Brakes to avoid a nasty thunk on the tree at the end of the wire. Braking, in theory was pretty basic. Grab the wire, behind the pulley gubbins, with the gauntleted left hand until inertia slows you down enough to step gently onto the platform at the receiving end of the run. In practice however, with all that was going on at such a pace, the moment you realised it was time to slow down was the moment you thwacked into the well cushioned tree trunk at the end of the ride. Luckily, the employed support team there were a lot more use than our own clan of clowns who enjoyed recording every whoop, scream & bone crunching thud to the max. After the initial recovery comes the news that the price includes two goes per person! To be
Elephants Never Forget.Elephants Never Forget.Elephants Never Forget.

This one was being bashed on the head a little more than even the naughtiest elephants are used too. They bide their time. Vengance will come before too long. Never f**k with the elephantimosa.
honest though, the 2nd run is a bit of a breeze, once you have an idea what to expect, you can enjoy it a bit & have a look around as you fly through the trees. Top Fun!

All aboard the pick ups for the next local adventure. Elephant Trekking. There was a new elephant set up not too far up the shakey road from where we were. We piled in, expecting a fun environment with happy healthy, well cared for elephants, looked after by a dedicated crew of dedicated people. Those of us taking a ride paid our monies & climbed aboard.

Unfortunately, what we got was a mafiosa of transvestite misfits that could only be compared to a shower of badly dressed ladyboy pikies with a penchant for the tourist dollar. I've been to various well run establishments like this in the past in various parts of the world & have mostly been impressed with the conditions in which they were kept. This was not the same, from the dead snake in a cage, the disturbed monkey cousin violently yanking on his chain, to the bleeding & obviously disturbed elephants themselves, this was not run to RSPCA spec. The publicly open mistreatment of the animals was far too apparent. This bunch hadn't been there too long & by the looks of things, are unlikely to survive. The animals themselves were calm & obedient but the underlying feeling that they were performing through fear of mistreatment was very strong indeed. Possibly the first time over here that we didn't leave a tip. Next time, we'll go elsewhere for our Loxodonta fixes.

Time for a late lunch. Someone suggested a pub. So, obviously, The Masons Arms was the next stop for a variety of Fish & Chips, Shepherds Pie, Spag Bol or Tenderloin Steak washed down with plenty of ale. Good English fayre with fantastic Thai service in the garden of a World Class English pub on a tiny island in the Gulf Of Thailand. Bliss!! We then took a trip up the coast to Haad Yao, we'd stayed before at Haad Son, the next beach along & enjoyed this beach a great deal last time. Its a 1km stretch of gently cresting cove, thickly lined with palms, doused with silky golden sand & dotted with mostly stylish bars & resort restaurants. Strange to notice the contrast between paradisiacal beaches on opposite sides of the same island. Those just 7 miles away as the crow flies across the mountains, on the east coast, are mostly set in stunningly deep bays, comparatively grainy sand, localised entertainment & rocky outcrops to the tips of the coves. Each having their own personality, both stunning. In the Thai language there is a common phrase. "Same - same. But different". After a while here, it makes sense.

Took a brief pitstop at a fishermans village on the way back for a caffine fix. If I remember rightly, Matt coughed up for the bill here after working out it was less than three quid for 12 of us, & then headed through the main port town of Thong Sala to take the track over the tops to Thong Nai Pan for the evenings entertainment Muay Thai . Thai boxing. A strange tradition involving people of various sizes (& up to 3 sexes!) kicking the shit out of each other for 20 minutes to win a 100 baht prize. It was set up in the local gym. more of a one sided barn affair with a ring in the
Old Enough To Bleed - Old Enough To ButcherOld Enough To Bleed - Old Enough To ButcherOld Enough To Bleed - Old Enough To Butcher

These two twelve year olds kicked off the evening.
middle, three tiers of scaffolded grandstand benches & as many plastic chairs as they could muster. Session one of six was a pair of twelve year old lads who obviously had some idea of what to do, smashing the buggery out of each other for seven rounds to earn the 2 quid prize. Strange to watch as a first timer to this sport but strangely compelling. The next session were a pair of lads around the 15 year old mark. A tad more savage but both survived, one winning on points I guess. The commentary may well have been in English but any individual words were impossible to make out over the excruciatingly awful Snake Charmer music being piped down the fuzzy but over loud PA system. Round Three was the ladies. I think at this point they were getting desperate. There was a chunky girl with all the right gear, warming up along the ropes, joined by what looked like an emergency stand in, in a vest & a pair of her dads shorts, attempting the same on the opposite side. They were both pretty inept but the fists of fury of the girl with the gear, swiftly despatched the larger more rotund hopeful by the 3rd round. The end of the night resembled a Chuck Norris movie. The last two losers were stretchered off after an almost medieval bludgeoning. All in all, the lasting memory of the place is akin to snippets I've seen on the TV of cock fighting in Carolina. Nasty but nice.

The midnight drive back to base was comparatively smooth but the long walk/stumble up the rocks took its toll on the elbows of the grown ups once again. One of the welcomes you get on the eventual return to home is the clicks & rivetts from Graham, your resident gecko. Every bungalow has a Graham, they do a fine job of keeping down the regular flying insects & should be encouraged as much as possible to be your friend.

The next day was New Years Eve. Thinking back to Plan A, as it turned out it was decided to wait a couple of days before making a decision. Partly for the weather to settle one way or the other, as the seas were still a tad on the heavy side for underwater adventures, mostly 'cos we were having fun where we were & didn't want to leave.

To Be Continued, Of Course . . .


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