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Published: February 10th 2009
After the last experience of travelling on a boat we would have both opted to fly (or even swim) to our next destination, Ko Phangan. Unfortunately though, Ko Tao doesn’t have an airport and neither Helen nor me were feeling that energetic after spending a few days relaxing. Still, as we’d been in Ko Tao for 4 days, it’d given the weather a chance to calm down and we did the crossing with no problems at all. In fact it was lovely and relaxing and we spent the journey listening to our I-pods and deciding where we would aim stay on the island. After a fair bit of discussion, we opted to not stay in the main area and instead stay where there was good snorkelling.
We got a taxi from the port to a spot on the island that looked like a good starting point to look for accommodation. It wasn’t. Having spent at least 45 minutes walking from place to place in boiling hot weather we eventually settled for somewhere that looked ok, mostly as it had it’s own private beach. Unfortunately, as we arrived we heard a sound we hadn’t heard for a long while. “Oi mate,
I need a ‘ottle for me babi, you know, a ‘ottle for the babi?”. Whereas Koa Tao had been full of British people, they had all been fairly young, attractive, well spoken and fit (me and Helen of course fitted in perfectly), Ko Phangan, on the other hand, seems to be full of people you might bump into on a Friday night out in Stoke.
We spent the rest of the day lazing around on the beach and I attempted snorkelling for a while with little success (turns out that if I’d swum out another 50 meters then I’d have been in some of the best snorkelling on the island). As there wasn’t really anything going on where we were staying and as it was a bit of a walk to get food, the next day we decided to move to another area on the island. To our disappointment this area (the main beach on Ko Phangan) still didn’t have a great deal of places to stay, restaurants or bars. After more searching in the baking sun we found somewhere for the night. The place cost a fortune (£30!), but some nearby options were full (due to there being
a ‘half-moon’ party the previous day) and the other options looked rather too grotty. Again, with there not being too many other options of things to do, that day we just sat by the pool and relaxed.
Midway thought the day, and as I felt that I really should do something whilst on Ko Phangan, I went to our local map for some inspiration. Pleasingly, I saw that nearby was an attraction called ‘the largest Yang tree’! A large Yang tree!? That was sure to be great..! Helen, for some reason, decided not accompany me so off I padded off alone.
It turned out that Helen clearly knew something I didn’t as 10 minutes into my walk a dog ran out and started trying to bite me. At first I did what came naturally - run - but I soon realised that this wasn’t such a great idea as a dog was, unsurprisingly, much faster than me. This left me with no choice and I decided I had to kick it (it wasn’t that big). Luckily, upon seeing my leg go back, the dog shot backwards a few steps and just stood staring at me growling. We
started at each other for a few seconds before I slowly backed away…
Though a bad experience, I was still in high spirits, the tree wasn’t far away and it was sure to make the whole trip worthwhile! Now, in retrospect, I should I guessed that the tree wouldn’t be too special for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t know what a Yang tree was and therefore how tall a normal one should be and secondly I had clearly forgotten that I had no interest what so ever in trees… When I got to it I found that it was just a big tree, like most other big trees. Nothing special at all. Certainly not worth getting chased by a dog for.
Upon arriving back at our bungalow, I found Helen and a whole host of problems she was having with the room. Bearing in mind that we had already moved room once due to there being a massive infestation of insects in our first room and the fact that we were paying far more than most places near by charged, some of the problems were unforgivable. Here’s a list of as many of the problems as I can
1) Bed sheets were still dirty, with what we hoped was mud.
2) Bed sheet on Helen’s side had a huge sweat patch
3) Bathroom door didn’t close - door was too big for the frame
4) The air-conditioning was stuck behind a large shelf, meaning that no matter how cool you put the temperature it was still incredibly hot.
5) When you flushed the loo water came out of the middle and onto the floor
6) The sink leaked
7) There was loud, annoying dance music going on until late
8) There was a massive, new tv in the room… but it only had 4 channels of which the only 1 was in English - the fashion channel.
9) The shower had two settings - very cold and stupidly hot.
That evening (mostly to get out of the room) we managed to make our way to the main town on the island (Hat Rin) and the location of the famous ‘full moon’ parties. All I can say is that it was fine, but nothing too special.
All in all we left Ko Phangan not too pleased with the island. We hadn’t really found anything that
matched Ko Tao and the kind of people that seemed to visit it weren’t, on the whole, the sort of people we’d want to spend time with. It’s probably great if you like trance music and enjoy just sitting on the beach all day, but it wasn’t for us. Therefore, the following morning, after having a rushed breakfast which was interrupted by a cat, 2 kittens and a dog all wanting our food (one kitten climbed on the table and ate some of mine), we thankfully headed off for a 30 minute boat ride to Ko Samui.
Fortunately, Ko Samui was much better than Ko Phangan. Based on the recommendations of Helen’s friend Kate (who we seemed to be using to make all our choices), we stayed in an area called ‘Bo Phut’, which had plenty of restaurants and bars near by, wasn’t too busy and had a nice little beach. Unfortunately, though the island we were on had improved, our accommodation hadn’t. As Koh Samui has an international airport, everywhere there was much more expensive than we were used to. We therefore ended up staying in a rather grotty bungalow. Aside from there being tons of ants and
a general dirty overused look, one night we had a visit from a very large cockroach and the battle to get rid of him took about 45 minutes. At one point I reached up with a pot and put it over him. Helen then very carefully began to slide a bit of card underneath the pot (so that we could put him outside). Whist doing this I looked to my right to see the cockroach there on the wall beside us (not under the pot) and giving us a rather confused look. After much more chasing and concern that he would go in our bed, eventually the battle had to be won with violence. At the time I was pleased to have got rid of him, but now I just feel a bit guilty and sorry for the little guy.
In our time in Samui we spent some more time on the beach, went to the main town - which is full of tailors trying to shake your hand (so you can’t get away, they just don’t let go!) and went to the ‘ice bar’. The ice bar is, as you’d expect, a bar. Made from ice. You have
to pay a fortune (probably the cost of 5 drinks in a different bar) to get in and have a drink, but we decided that it was worth it as we were both feeling like we were missing out on the lovely British winter. I’d say it was worth it. Everything in the bar was made from ice, we got to wear a cool jacket and hat and it helped remind me that I wasn’t, at all, sad to be missing out on the lovely British winter (though that’s changed slightly now that you’ve had so much snow).
After leaving Samui, the original plan was to go to a port on the other side of Thailand so that we could snorkel around the Surin Islands. Unfortunately, we were running out of time and so we decided that we should instead go for a snorkelling trip to the (slightly closer) Similan Islands. Getting to Khao Lak, where the trips would depart from, was still not easy though. It took over 8 hours (taxi, ferry, bus, taxi, bus) to get there and when we arrived we found it was clearly not aimed at backpackers, as it was full of posh resorts.
As always, we spent ages trying to find somewhere to stay and this time we also had to endure a few very grumpy stares from rich old people who clearly weren’t happy that 2 scruffy looking backpackers were around and ruining the scene of their lovely holiday.
That evening we booked up a trip to the islands. To be honest, we weren’t even sure if a trip to the Similan Islands would be that good. We’d been snorkelling in Ko Tao (recommended for it) and it hadn’t been up to much. Thankfully, it was great. In fact, I can say with certainty that it was my favourite place we’d been on the whole trip.
To get to the island we had to get on a speed boat. This time it wasn’t a ‘puke your guts out’ speedboat, it was a fast, luxurious, ‘ like being in a music video’ speedboat. The trip was made even better by the fact that the head tour guide (like most Thai men) liked English football and so I spent a fair while chatting to him about it. He even knew the nickname of Norwich City - we were instantly friends.
the trip to the islands was good, it was nothing compared to the islands themselves. They were pretty much empty of people, had clear white sand and water in which the visibility must have been around 10 meters. To make things better, the snorkelling there was much better too. We didn’t see any sharks this time, but we did see plenty of fish, including some very large rainbow fish and some lovely little nemo fish.
After all the travelling to get there, it had been worth it. Even the bad sunburn we acquired didn’t put a downer on the day. Regardless, we had to push on, we had a flight leaving Kuala Lumpur in only a couple of weeks and we still had a lot more of Thailand and Malaysia to visit. We woke up early the next day and got ready to get a local bus south to Krabi…
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