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Published: June 29th 2011
As a traveller you might expect to come across the old adage about the impact of the “journey” rivalling the importance of the actual destination, and we have; as graffiti on walls and decorative touches in the occasional guesthouse... But how true is it? Am I to consider this phrase literally or figuratively? Looking back and considering some of the journeys we have taken over the past three weeks, I am unlikely to translate this idiom into the Thai language and have it tattooed across my torso any time soon (as is the social convention these days, isn’t it?), nevertheless the weird and wonderful voyages across both land and sea can make for interesting conversation with new friends over Pad Thai and a Chang.
Our first of many (and doubtless we have many more to come) remarkable expeditions started in Bangkok where we were collected and then herded around town for some time (sweating profusely) before being deposited onto our bus headed for Surat Thani, or so we thought. All the passengers settled down for what would be a long but fairly comfortable night on the bus before embarking on the boat which would take us across to Koh Pha-Ngan
Whenever I travel throughout the night I tend to subject myself to unnecessary and imaginary pressure to sleep, usually resulting in a night of restlessness, which in turn results in fidgeting, which keeps Chris awake, which makes me giddy, which makes Chris moody, and so on and so forth. So to occupy myself I thought I might take in some of the Thai landscape as we left the bright lights of Bangkok behind us. What I saw was countless 7/11’s, a TESCO or two, and more than one Dulux paint shops.
By the time 3am came around I was counting sheep and having some luck. “KOH PHA-NGAAAAN!” shouted a little man with a big voice. Confused we got off the bus to find that we were in Chumphon and not Surat Thani, and the boat was due in four hours. We were told we could get our heads down in the sleeping room, and this is where story reaches its climax... The sleeping room at Chumphon dock has most likely seen better days as a meth lab twenty years ago and is now largely inhabited with all kinds of creatures; spiders, biting ants, bats, a pillow
stealing puppy (although he was soon removed, probably for fear of what he might catch in such a place), lizards of all sizes, and although we didn’t have the heart to tell her, the girl sleeping next to us had become a playground for a few decent sized cockroaches. In the style of Bear Grylls, Chris Howie checked out early, an indication of things to come, but Chris and I made the most of the opportunity to be horizontal for a while and enjoyed a surprisingly comfortable nap. (Thanks for the sleeping bag liner Dad, it was a life saver!)
A few hours later and we had reached our destination - Koh Pha-ngan, but the journey was not over yet! Chris and I had decided to stay away from the mayhem we anticipated at Haad Rin where the Full Moon Party would be taking place in a few days time, so from Thong Sala we jumped into the back of a Sawngthaew (or truck with two benches in the back) for a forty minute, bone-rattling joy ride to the north eastern part of the island and our home from the next five nights at Than Sadet.
relaxing and outrageously beautiful, Than Sadet is miles from the party crowds at Haad Rin, and exactly where we wanted to be. We stayed in a gorgeous bungalow called “Mai Pen Rai” (translates to Don’t Worry, Be Happy) which is an eco-haven encouraging responsible tourism on an island often over run with irresponsible tourists. After the one night our companions (Howie, Ben and German Alex) decided that they could no longer go without 24-hour electricity and water and went in search of somewhere a little more lively and we arranged to meet them in a few days time under the full moon.
The Full Moon Party was an event we had discussed previous to coming to Thailand. It evoked images of shameless debauchery and even violence and neither of us was sure if it was our kind of scene. But could we go to Thailand and not go to a Full Moon Party?!
We let fate decide, if it was happening while we were around then we would go, and sure enough we were in Koh Pha-ngan at the right time. By the time of the party we had befriended two other couples, and although as a group
our ages ranged from 23-27 and we are by no means over-the-hill there was a general consensus that we might arrive in Haad Rin and feel a little mature in years compared to the rest of the crowd. But that wasn’t the case, and the atmosphere was great. We met up with our friends, were introduced to new acquaintances, got painted up and got the drinks in. All in all we had a fantastic night dancing until the early morning, and if mum ever asks...no! That was not us diving down the slide through the fire... twice!
So, we were one island down and, once our hangovers were gone, it was time to move onwards to Koh Tao, which brings us to our second interesting voyage... Travelling from Koh Pha-ngan to Koh Tao should have been simple enough, just a couple of hours on a boat, and this time, with experience on our side, we had remembered our sun screen thus avoiding any casualties to the sun. We set down our back packs and got comfortable on the top deck, but within twenty minutes the wind picked up, the waves got bigger and then bigger still and then the
rain started. Most people ran for cover (a phrase I use both for dramatic effect but also its descriptive accuracy in this case), but perhaps we were too stupid or too lazy to move, we stayed on the top deck to be pelted with rain etc., etc., but we lived to tell the tale!
We hadn’t booked a room on Koh Tao (non-conformists!) and since every other bugger was going too we found ourselves sleeping in a dark and dingy, MDF sweat-box for four nights. It was pretty disgusting, but it was cheap and in a good area. Unfortunately, my trusty body found itself in a state of malfunction once again, with a temperature through the roof, vomiting and bad body aches. Dr. Christopher Ashton’s primary diagnosis was possible Dengue Fever (just my luck) but after a few days when I was feeling better but still struggling to hold down a meal we went to the pharmacist who contributed heftily to my bag-o-medication, and I’m happy to report I’m feeling much better now!
Although I couldn’t fully enjoy the time we spent on Koh Tao I had enough time to enjoy the beautiful beach and the laid back
atmosphere. Koh Tao has some great restaurants and chilled-out beach front bars where you can sit in a bean bag, right on the beach, eat good food by a fire pit and relax. It’s also a perfect spot to enjoy a Thai massage in the sea breeze.
After four nights on Koh Tao, it was time to move on...
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