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February 17th 2012
Published: February 17th 2012
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Mae Haad Mae Haad Mae Haad

All you could want from a beach
From one beach to another one, Koh Phangan, again in the Gulf of Thailand, but some 24 hours travelling distance away. This one is definitely party central for full moon parties and we were heading there to relax some more before we partied the full moon night away with thousands of other revellers!! Yeah right.



We planned the journey meticulously incorporating various forms of transport in order to get us to our overnight bus in time for the 12 hour journey. We left the resort on Koh Chang at 6.45 in order to get breakfast at our usual haunt which was open 24 hours a day …. wrong. When we turned up the place seemed closed and when we spoke to the girl behind the bar the concept of breakfast seemed too difficult to master. Oh well, not a problem, we would just grab some fruit on the run and everything would go smoothly after that. Songthaew deposited us at our chosen ferry and after an uneventful sailing we arrived at the ferry terminal to get another songthaew to the bus station to catch the bus to Bangkok. The next mistake was solely our fault as we had
Mae HaadMae HaadMae Haad

Paradise
misunderstood how far away Trat Bus Station was from the ferry terminal. We were under the impression 10 or 15 minutes, oh how wrong were we. It didn’t help that we had apparently found the slowest songthaew on the face of the planet. After a long and very dusty ride we were deposited at the bus station but it was all too obvious, even taking into account the more relaxed Thai time, that we had missed our bus and would have to wait for a later one. But not too bad as the Government Bus was leaving 30 minutes later than the one we wanted, so we would just get that instead. This turned out to be a bit of a godsend because, although it stopped at every tree and lump in the road, it made very good time and the driver even agreed to drop us off at Tesco’s instead of at the scheduled bus stop. So we managed to claw back a little time. The next stage was a couple of train changes to get us to Makasan Station where we had heard the 556 airport bus would stop and pick up and take us to the Southern
Yet another ...Yet another ...Yet another ...

lovely sunset
Bus Station. The Southern Bus Station is a bitch to get to as the trains stop well before you get there and getting any form of road transport in Bangkok during rush hour makes you want to kill yourself. So, there we were waiting for the bus, and we waited and waited and after about an hour and lots of taxi drivers telling us the bus probably wouldn’t come we began to believe them. Unfortunately, too late to do much else we had to get a taxi and during rush hour as well. Our driver pleasantly informed us it would probably take at least an hour to go the few miles and as the clock ticked away he became more frustrated and we became more concerned that we might miss our overnight bus. Give him his due, his aggressive driving was the only thing that got us there on time even though I did have visions of being involved in a car accident numerous times on the short trip. Anyway we made it to the bus and even had time to gulp down a Pad Thai in the food court. 12 hours on the bus meant not much sleep,
Fish friendFish friendFish friend

These little chaps follow you around everywhere
but not a bad driver; at least we weren’t thrown around all over the place. After another ferry ride we arrived on Koh Phangan and Chris went off to get our moped transport for the week and I got on the songthaew to Mae Haad; plus 2 large rucksacks and my backpack. Here I made a rooky mistake; I paid him in advance. I had an inkling what this would mean, but still was dopey enough to pay in advance; so as expected I got unceremoniously dumped by the edge of the road plus 2 rucksacks and backpack because the lazy git couldn’t be bothered to go down the track to the resort. So had to wait there until Chris could come and rescue me.



After that mammoth trip the first thing we had to do was get some snorkelling in. So bags quickly dumped, swimming stuff on and we found ourselves wondering at the glorious coral and fish that inhabit our seas. Oh yeah, great to be back. The beach has a wonderful reef inhabited by so many different exotic fish and when you are floating along you are often besieged by lots of little fish just looking at the large ungainly interloper in their domain and hoping you have something for them to eat. Even if it means a quick nibble at a foot or finger! It can be a bit unnerving when, in the depths, you can see a brief glimpse of some large shape moving through the water and total relief when you realise it is a shoal of larger fish performing a dazzling synchronised dance, sunshine glinting off their scales as they perform their beautiful ballet. In the back of your mind though, well mine anyway, is I hope there isn’t anything big out there looking for lunch!!!! We never tire of the sight. Well after an hour we were quite tired, but only from swimming against the current not with the glorious sights.



The best thing about snorkelling here is that every day is different. Okay the structure of the reef doesn’t physically change to the naked eye, but each day it is different. The sun’s rays penetrate the water’s surface changing the size and shape of the coral through light and shadows and the effect of the changing current on the moving parts of the coral is similar to the wind rustling in the trees. Every now and then you spot a brightly coloured piece of coral, which you can’t believe you missed the day before as it is such a vivid green or blue, perched on the edge of, or wedged in-between, huge hunks of coral that look like huge brains. And amongst all this fish of all colours and sizes are darting in and out, going about their business, trying to stay alive. Nature at its best and probably most dangerous. So what was originally 2 days became 5 days and then more; well why would we want to leave.



Koh Phangan also has an English pub, The Masons Arms, so when we had had enough of rice or noodles we did treat ourselves to pie and chips and a good old game of football; with Arsenal whooping the other side and Guinness on tap, all was good in the Emblen camp.



On the down side and drawing attention to the dangers on the Thai roads, we saw a puppy get run over by a motorbike and the driver failed to blink an eye let alone stop to see if it was alright. Luckily it scampered off, albeit a bit lopsided, to its mother who gave it a good checking over. The only people concerned and somewhat taken aback were holidaymakers. Let’s just hope the little critter learnt his lesson and becomes the only dog in Thailand with some road sense …. probably not though. We saw him again a few days later, luckily not in the road this time but languishing in the shade under a bench by the 7/11. We only just missed running one over ourselves the other evening on the way back from the pub, as they have this nasty habit of just lying in the middle of the road. Luckily for it, and us, Chris managed to see it just in time to swerve out the way. I don’t know if they have 9 lives like cats, but most who hobble around with damaged back legs seem to have used up at least one of those lives.



We interspersed days of sunning and swimming with jaunts out on the trusty steed (our moped) mainly to give our skin a rest from the tanning! One such excursion saw us heading
Top of the worldTop of the worldTop of the world

well almost!
towards Phaeng Noi Waterfall (biggest drop on the island apparently) and Dome Silva View Point to climb the hill and get a view of Koh Phangan. Surprisingly it was free to walk up to the waterfall and viewpoint, even though we tried desperately to pay the chap. So a reasonably good climb, made slightly more arduous because of the stifling heat, saw us at the top of the world (well almost) with a lovely view over part of the island. Well worth the short hike up the hill and the possibility of a cool off in the waterfall at the bottom made the journey down go very quickly. The pool at the base of the hill was being enjoyed by many visitors who may have made it to the top, or may have been just enjoying the cooling waters. After a quick trip into town to get haircuts we were on our way back up the coast stopping off at a few bays on the way just to see how the beaches compared to Mae Haad. Well needless to say we found a few rather attractive competitors and one in particular, Srithanu, struck us as the typical beach in paradise; a soft white sand beach fringed by palm trees with turquoise clear sea lapping gently. Hello, this was one we would definitely have to revisit.



Another trip saw us heading off into the metropolis of Thong Sala in order to change our book, get our guide book for Sri Lanka and find out how we could get cheaply to Hua Hin, but also found us splashing out in a café we had frequented before which sold delicious cakes. Well more of that in a minute, but I have to firstly tell of our first stop at the book shop which found us desperately trying not to laugh as we searched for books serenaded by the shop keeper who was singing country songs at the top of his voice in a mix of Thai and English. He was evidently very happy in his work. As we exchanged, and paid for books, we got into a discussion about the very sad news of the death of Whitney Houston who he had seen a number of years ago in Florida. He was a genuinely lovely man and very interested in our trip to Sri Lanka (guessed at by the Sri Lanka Lonely Planet purchased) and as we left he thrust 2 magazines into our hands as “something free for you”. Later when we looked at them Chris was very amused to find that one of them was a gay fashion magazine, now obviously after gracing the Daily Telegraph fashion pages during Movember Chris was constantly getting mistaken for Gok Wan but this particular publication just didn’t appeal, funny that. So after that and the other chores we had to do we found ourselves in the aforementioned café ordering yummy pastries and drinks. The contrast in Thailand is unbelievable, we were sitting in a very modern café eating delicious pastries and drinking coffee and cold chocolate (I could feel my ass growing bigger as I drank it – yummy) and a few days ago, as I was out walking, I was passed by a motorbike with a monkey sat on the back on its way to work harvesting coconuts. Not something you see every day in Weymouth, but here, well nothing would surprise me.



I have finished off this blog sitting in our new resort in Srithanu (the lovely beach mentioned earlier), looking out over the soft white sand with the breeze gently rustling those palm trees that fringe the edge of the beach. To top it all off, our beachfront bungalow has two hammocks on the front porch. You may not hear from me for a while!


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Our beachside home


17th February 2012

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