Downtime in Koh Phangan


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Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Ko Pha-Ngan
August 7th 2015
Published: August 7th 2015
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Sarah: We took the ferry on Friday to Koh Phangan along with hundreds of backpackers, heading to the Full Moon party the next day. Many of them were close to half our age and were blaring out 'tunes' from their portable speakers whilst others 'whooped'. Yes: I have turned 30 and become an intolerant old woman! They were harmless however, and we were confident that we had booked a location far enough removed from the buckets of cheap spirits and neon body paint. It was to be a few days of reading and relaxing for us!

The sun had set by the time we arrived by tuk tuk at Haad Salad (Salad Beach) on the north west side of Koh Phangan and it had been a long hot and hassling journey that started with our taxi to Bangkok airport at 7:15am. Therefore, it was straight down to a beachside restaurant for two large Singha beers and some grub (we were relieved to discover that the two day alcohol ban for the Buddhist holiday had not stretched to the island). After a tasty enough duck red curry for me and a guilty steak and chips for Nick we headed back to our little bungalow overlooking the bay. We found the Internet good and so were straight on to Netflix to find a little film to relax in front of. We took a punt on 'Frank' and were pleasantly surprised, and haven't had the closing song out of our heads since!

The following morning we both chose the 'breakfast sandwich' from the brekkie menu. It was far from perfect consisting of several brekkie no-no's (in my humble opinion) including: non-toasted bread, mayonnaise, lettuce and scrambled egg in a sandwich, to name but a few, all served by the owner who had a face like a slapped arse (which was to be a running theme of our interactions with her). We spent the rest of the morning relaxing out the front of our bungalow, reading and planning. We were fast approaching the last three weeks of our travels and while we had the time and the Internet connection, we decided to book up as much of our accommodation and travel in Malaysia as possible. It proved to be a mammoth task, with lots of chopping and changing and researching. We got about half way there before lunchtime struck and we thought we had better go and experience a bit of beach-life! We walked to the southern end of the beach and ate a noodle dish each, Nick's in particular had a few too many birds eye chillies in.

Fed and watered we took to the sea. We were aware that the water would be shallow at this time of year and it barely reached above our knees. Copying everyone else we found a sandy bit of sea that was seaslug-free and plonked ourselves down in the water for a chinwag. It was very relaxing but I'm more of a swim and/or snorkel kinda gal. We had brought the snorkels but there was little to see beyond a few regular fish and a bit of dying coral. However, the water was really warm, the beach wasn't too crowded, the sun was shining and after almost a week in Bangkok, it was a very welcome relief. Taking the rest of the day at a snails pace on the beach we popped up to the bungalows to shower and then we were back down to the beach for shared dinner of morning glory, chicken and cashew nuts and pork with garlic. A lot of the food on the island was definitely flavoured for the western palate and it was much of a muchness, but filled two dinner-sized holes in our tummies. Whilst we had the opportunity, we went back for another film, 'Fishtank', which was another good choice, although interrupted by the Internet going down. Luckily, the owner was really delighted to scrabble around under the bungalows to reset it so we could finish the film.

On the Sunday, after a breakfast of cold fried eggs on white bread and a bit more planning we took a walk to the next beach south, Haad Yao. It was pretty hot but only 30 minutes or so walk, and we rewarded ourselves with a (highly addictive) iced tea at the other end. We found ourselves a sunbed and went through the standard beach cycle of swim, read, snooze, eat, read, swim, snooze before walking back to Haad Salad late afternoon. Dinner of Panaeng curry and fried rice was again on the beach before heading back for film number three: 'Margin Call', about the 2008 financial crisis. We were really enjoying it when the Internet failed once more. We tried to crawl around under the bungalows ourselves to fix it to no avail but easily drifted off to sleep instead after all of the sun, sea and sand of the day.

On Monday, we spent a lot of the morning on the veranda planning / spending time in the hammock before an afternoon on Haad Salad beach. We were warned by our waiter who served our late lunch of pad Thai and noodle soup that the rain was on it's way in 20 minutes. There was indeed a large, dark cloud heading right for us and an ominous wind and so after a quick dip we retreated back to our veranda just as the rain started hammering down. We used the time to search for accommodation for our final destination, Kuala Lumpur. We upped the usual budget a bit to get ourselves a one bedroom apartment (with pool) in the Bukit Bintang area of town - excited. For dinner we headed to a restaurant that we had seen churning out nice thin and crispy looking pizzas and couldn't resist. There was a bit of drama when I tried to make space on the table for the second pizza which ended with a full glass of red wine in Nick's lap and a smashed glass on the floor. Luckily, the waiters and Nick all took it in good humour and Nick took the opportunity to change from red to white wine. We finished the night watching the end of 'Margin Call'. The Internet went down again part way through but my magic touch on the weird reset dial under the bungalow seemed to set it right!

On the Tuesday we decided to venture out of our bay again, this time heading north to Mae Haad. This was a slightly longer walk but nothing too taxing for our travel weary legs. It was a nice beach and allegedly with some snorkelling potential. We gave it a go but there was only a small gap in the reef to get out to sea, which was rather crowded and the snorkelling wasn't up to much as far as we could tell (our expectations since Bali are now at an all time high). We were content enough to splash around in the shallows, people watching and being generally silly, in between periods of reading / snoozing in the shade of the trees. Late afternoon we wandered back for showers and some grub.

After several mediocre dinners I had a quick look at Tripadvisor and noticed that the number one restaurant in all of Koh Pangan was just five minutes down the road. Off we set and we were warmly greeted by the one-woman operation, set up in a small roadside shack with a few low tables surrounded by cushions. We were the first people there and settled down on the floor cushions with our books, in no hurry to order any time soon, but couldn't resist some fried cashew nuts for a little snack. She soon brought us out our nuts accompanied by some savoury crackers. Another couple arrived and we were asked if we wanted her to start on our main course yet or if we were happy to wait - everything was cooked from scratch to order so may be some time. Content with our books she started on the other couples' dinner and told us to help ourselves to drinks from the fridge while she was in the kitchen - I mean it when I say this was a one-woman operation! It was such a nice atmosphere, with good music and it slowly filled up with people obviously in the know who called greetings round the kitchen door before helping themselves to a drink. The first two dinners were brought out about an hour after she had started but we were next on the list and got our order in. After the sound of more pots and pans rattling and nice smells coming from the kitchen we were served the most delicious prawn red curry and a fried red chicken curry, served by one of the other diners who had begun to help relay things to and from the kitchen! It was pretty late by the time we were served and several people were turned away or gave up and left while we were waiting for our dinner. The food and the wait was truly worth it. The quality of the food was a vast improvement on the standard rice and noodle dishes served elsewhere, and cheap as chips. We were back in time to start but not finish another film: 'Rabbit Proof Fence', before we gave in to our drooping eyelids.

Wednesday brought another lazy day. We had our now regular orders of porridge with fruit but no banana for me (asking for an item to be omitted from my brekkie didn't go down well but the request was fulfilled), and alternate pancake or muesli with fruit (including lots of banana) for Nick. The wind was up and just as we headed out the rain started to come down. It had passed by the time we had had our lunch (a very tasty Panaeng curry and some garlic pork) so we took the chance for one last dip. That evening there was an even bigger storm, cutting the power to our bungalows. We waited out the storm in a restaurant (unfortunately we were too late out to go back to the nicest one from the previous night) before heading back to about 10 minutes of torchlight before the power came back.

On Thursday we had a late morning ferry to Koh Samui to catch a direct flight to Penang, Malaysia. It was a little drizzly and although the boat was a bit late we arrived in perfect time for the short flight. Thus concludes our time in Thailand. It was nice to have a few days doing bugger all after the craziness of Bangkok and in preparation for the last three weeks of travel!

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