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Published: February 17th 2019
It was a short and pleasant ferry ride over from Langkawi to Satun in the southwest of Thailand. Passing through customs was no problem, so off I went via a short songthaew ride to the bus station, followed by a bus trip, followed by some dodgy directions, to overnight it at Hay Yai Youth Hostel (8USD), Hat Yai!
I swiftly booked my onward travel through the hostel, opting for the minivan / ferry combo ticket up to Ko Samui via Surat Thani. It was a long and drawn out trip from what I remember. I remember having to change minivan for some reason, perhaps at Surat Thani to pick up people who had flown down from Bangkok maybe, and then getting the ferry from Donsak Pier across to Samui. It was late when I eventually arrived on the island and I managed to share a taxi with some folk I'd met on the boat ride across. I had nowhere booked, so on this occasion I let myself go with the wind! We ended up on the other side of the island from where the ferry had left us, finally staying at a place called "Hello Backpackers" just a
stone's throw from Chaweng Beach. It was a simple but comfortable place and hard to beat in terms of location. Not only did I have the beach on my doorstep but I could literally roll out of the hostel into anyone of the nearby bars and clubs such as the well-known Ark Bar or The Green Mango Club. It was a little ironic that I was expecting the party island to be Ko Pha Ngan and yet I enjoyed myself here on Samui considerably more than I did later on Pha Ngan. The island was busy, the drinks were cheap and I met a nice group of people. It was almost impossible not to have a good time! Even the lethal "buckets" couldn't put a cramp on this trip!
I had 15 days before my tourist visa expired so the plan was simple - a bit of island hopping, spending a few days on each of the three islands Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao finished off with a few in Bangkok to catch my already-booked flight to Myanmar. The best way to get around the island is undoubtedly on a scooter. I rented one
next door for the few days that I was in town and used it to go pretty much everywhere! First on the list, via a quick stop at Lat Ko Viewpoint, was a bit of beach-hopping with my personal favourites being beautiful Lamai Beach & Silver Beach in the southeast corner of the island. This was followed by a visit to Hin Ta & Hin Yai (Grandpa & Grandma Rock), so called due to their resemblance to male and female anatomy and then a visit to the nearby Wat Khunaram, which is a pretty little shrine home to a slightly disturbing mummified monk who, despite being dead since 1973, is still in pretty decent shape! I also had plenty of time to see the Na Muang Waterfall although I'm not sure I would recommend this place to anyone; the waterfall isn't anything special at all and the elephant rides and tiger photos are things that have never sat well with me. But, if you really
want that Facebook profile shot with a mistreated elephant or tiger then this is a potential place to do it! I enjoyed more my visit to the Big Buddha in the northeast of the island.
As the name suggests - it's big and it's Buddha! And I especially enjoyed strolling around the Fisherman's Village and down Bophut Walking Street running alongside Bophut Beach. Essentially it's just a market street with your typical selection of cool bars and souvenir shops. It's certainly pricier than the rest of the island but a great place to visit nonetheless and a nice place to kick back with an ice cold Chang whilst burying your feet in the sand. The only thing I would say is be careful where you park! I arrived during the day and parked my scooter in a hostel car park. Little did I know that a market springs up at night time so when I went back to get my scooter, all I could do was slowly push it a couple hundred metres until I passed the market all the while trying to ignore the evil stares from the locals! On my last night, I managed to squeeze in a visit to the wonderful "Jungle Club" resort and restaurant. Getting there isn't the easiest thing in the World - you have to call ahead and they'll pick you up for free from the main road
in a pick-up truck and take you up the steep hill to the resort. Once there, however, the views of Chaweng and Lamai Beach are spectacular.
I took a mototaxi up to Bangrak Pier where I bought my ferry ticket for a brief hop over to Thong Sala Pier on Pha Ngan. Again, just as on Samui, I had nothing booked but I knew I wanted to be on Hat Rin Nok, otherwise known as Sunrise Beach, otherwise known as Full Moon Beach! Despite arriving some 2 weeks before the full moon, which was on the 27th, I still figured there must be some partying going on, right? Right? Right
??? This was the
party island of Asia after all! How wrong could I be! From the pier I taxied to Hat Rin and set about finding a hostel with a pool table that I'd seen on the internet in Ko Samui. It was called Our House hostel, and at 5USD a night it was one of the cheapest hostels I stayed in on my trip. It was literally no more than 200 metres from the full moon party beach so I had high hopes. It became instantly
apparent however that this island is an absolute ghost town outside of the full moon period! In a dorm room of 12 beds I was alone. Hat Rin Beach was super quiet and there was absolutely no sign of the party atmosphere I was expecting!
I spent three nights here and in truth I didn't do a lot! As in Samui, I rented a scooter each day and explored the island's beaches and villages. Despite the negative fame Pha Ngan has, it really is a beautiful island. I spent a bit of time searching for and climbing the Hat Rin Nok Lookout Tower on the peninsula south of the beach. When I found it, I remember thinking it looked more like a weather tower and to this day I'm still not sure if I should've climbed it or not! I'm glad I did though; the view of Sunset Beach, Leela Beach and the whole of Hat Rin from the top was stunning! Although I didn't coincide with the Full Moon party, I did coincide with the Black Moon party and in a failed attempt to actually meet some people I went to a pre black moon party
party at Same Same restaurant. The atmosphere was cool but after immediately realizing I was about 20 years older than anyone else in there, I went and got drunk at a different party at Fubar instead! The night ended with an even bigger failed attempt to get into the black moon party for free! I should've just stayed at the hostel and played pool!
The next morning I headed back to Thong Sala pier on the back of a pickup and jumped on a ferry to Mae Haad pier, Ko Tao. Once again, I arrived with very little idea where I was going. Getting off the ferry on Ko Tao isn't such a relaxing experience. As you walk through the exit area hordes of locals are there waiting, selling onward journeys, tours or accommodation. As always, I ignored them completely and I looked for a hostel with the aide of a tourist brochure I'd picked up from somewhere! I tried the nearby and very funky-looking Koh Tao Loft Hostel which was fully booked but the friendly fella told me about a new hostel on the island called CK Hostel and pointed me in the right direction. It
was a great recommendation - for around 10 USD a night I got a comfy bed in an air-con dorm room in a fun (body shots included) and super new hostel. On this occasion, due to the small size of the island, I didn't bother with the scooter, instead walking to places like Sunset View & Sairee Beach and local bars like Maya Beach Club and Lotus Beach Bar all the while filling up on massaman curry. Instead of the scooter I opted for a boat tour to explore the beaches of the island ending up on Koh Nang Yuan and its viewpoint. Touristy, yes, but still worth a visit!
On the morning of the 16th, after 9 full days of island hopping, off I went to Bangkok first catching the 10:15 high speed ferry (1.5 hours) to Chumphon, followed by a tedious wait at the pier and then a seven-hour coach ride to Bangkok, arriving around 20:30. I spent the night of the 16th at Samsen 360 Hostel for 8 USD and had dinner at one of the best comfort food restaurants I found on my whole trip called "Chomp", before moving for the next four
nights to the belly of the beast - staying at the surprisingly decent D&D Inn right on the "wonderful" Khao San Road! The rooftop pool alone was worth it though! As with Kuala Lumpur before, this was my second visit to Bangkok so really I just dedicated my time to visiting those places that I didn't quite get to see the last time I was here such as Wat Saket (The Golden Mound), Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), a loooong-awaited massage at Wat Pho and an illuminating stroll around Jatujak weekend market. Twice I've been in Bangkok and twice I've had a great time! I'm sure I'll make it a hat-trick someday!
For now however, it was off to Don Mueang Airport on Wednesday 21st October for my 12:05pm AirAsia flight.
My destination... Yangon, Myanmar.
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