Sunday, 1 June 2014

Thailand post #9: Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao

This is my final blog post out of nine, about the eight weeks I spent in Thailand with my girlfriend Emily. You can read about our time in Bangkok here, Chiang Mai here, the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai here, Chiang Rai here, Pai here, Sukhothai & Ayutthaya here, the Andaman Coast here and a Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan here.


KOH SAMUI


We arrived in Koh Samui after a very long day of travelling via a combination of minivans, buses and boats. We found a wallet in the taxi when we got off the boat and were pleased to be able to get hold of the Australian owner on Facebook and post it back to him. Good deed for the day done! We headed to Chaweng Beach, which the Lonely Planet guide book recommends as one of the nicer areas. We managed to get a nice chalet, with the added treat of air-con [which we hadn't had for ages], at The Loft. Sam and Janie [who we met and Pai and are mentioned in some of my other posts] travelled with us and got the room next door - neighbours again!

Next morning, after a proper Full English fry-up from a local English pub, we headed to Chaweng Beach to relax for the day. It's a really lovely beach, not particularly busy and with nice clear water for swimming in. The local area is very touristy and the guide book does say that Samui in general is very business savvy. We thought it was nicer than Ao Nang in Krabi, but we still could have been in a beach resort anywhere in the World really.

We wanted to go out on a bit of an adventure the next day, so Emily and I headed to a travel agent to see what was on offer locally. There are a couple of tours available, but these include attractions where animals are mistreated. We didn't really fancy going along then having to sit out on these bits, as we still feel like we'd be giving money to the wrong places. We ended up getting an overpriced taxi to Big Buddha Beach, where there is literally a big Buddha overlooking the beach, which is supposed to be very impressive. When we got there, we were dropped in the wrong place and had a long walk down the beach. The beach was covered in lots of dead fish that had washed up and was not a bathing beach at all. We got closer to the big Buddha and the whole area was fairly unpleasant; quite dirty and hard to walk around with so much traffic around. I'd definitely recommend giving this area a miss! 

Jess and Emily at Nam Tok Na Muang Waterfall

The following day one of my best friends Jess was due to arrive, who I've known since I was about 12 years old. We hadn't come up with a proper plan of where to meet and at what time. It turns out that she arrived much earlier than we thought she would and she had sat down to eat somewhere near our guest house, hoping she would see us. She gave us a massive fright when she jumped out on us in the street and it was so nice to see her! We'd seen her briefly at the beginning of the year, but she has worked in Italy as a nanny for a long time, so before that we hadn't seen her since we went to visit her in Florence quite a while ago.

The three of us caught a shared taxi to Nam Tok Na Muang Waterfall the next day and walked the long distance from the car park, up a very steep hill and up lots of winding rockfaces to the main waterfall. It was lovely and refreshing to swim in, but I nearly got swept away when I climbed up it a bit! We also noticed that there was a huge flume that has been built into another part of the area, which would have been amazing to have a go on if we had more time. The whole area hosts lots of different activities, including quad biking and off road driving. It was sad to see Elephants being ridden by tourists, with their Mahouts using a big hook to pull and guide them.

Total Wipeout in the sea!

We'd been eyeing up this amazing inflatable obstacle course in the sea, on the main beach, for a few days. We thought it looked like Total Wipeout in the sea! Emily, Jess, Janie, Sam and myself decided to all give it a go the next day and spent an hour climbing up or jumping on the various parts of the course. Some of the inflatables are actually really high up when you're standing on them and it was a great fun thing to do in the afternoon for a really reasonable fee. They should definitely have these on beaches in the UK, although I'm not sure if they would get past the Health and Safety Execs here!

On our last day in Koh Samui, it was the day before Songkran Festival. Songkran Festival is Thai New Year, where people celebrate by rubbing white paste on their cheeks and having a giant water fight! The water signifies washing away the previous year and it's fair game to spray anyone you like in the street with a water pistol or even chuck a bucket of water over someone! Another Thai favourite seems to be throwing buckets of water at passing mopeds too, which looks hilarious, but is so dangerous as many of them swerve to avoid the water! Songkran normally only lasts for one day, but in places like Chiang Mai and Bangkok, this sometimes goes on for several days. We sat and watched this happening while having lunch, before Emily and Jess ran across the road to join the festivities.

Emily and Jess joining in with the Songkran fun!



KOH PHANGAN


Before we boarded the boat from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan, we bought water pistols, as this was the actual day of Songkran Festival. We arrived in Koh Phanagan quite early and not many people seemed to be taking part in Songkran. The three of us got in a shared taxi and spent the whole 30-minute journey spraying people out of the sides. Our driver was well up for it and kept slowing down to allow us to get people easier! Our driver also overtook another taxi full of people, which meant we could get all of the passengers soaked - it was so much fun!

Ready for action


Mission Impossible

We arrived in Koh Phangan two days before the Full Moon and had found it really hard to find reasonable priced accommodation in advance. For the rest of our trip we had just walked in to all guest houses, rather than having to book anywhere, so it was unusual for us to have to plan ahead! We found a nice hotel on the other side of the island to the Full Moon Party [around 50 minutes away], in a place called Haad Yao. The hotel was called Haad Yao Villa. This cost a lot more than we were used to, but we had a really nice hotel to stay in for four days over my birthday. It also had a nice pool and a lovely veranda area with a hammock to chill out in during the day, overlooking the beach.

It was Janie's birthday the following day and we had some lovely food and drinks to celebrate. On the way back, as it turned midnight and became my birthday, Jess and I decided it was a great idea in our drunken states to have a fully clothed midnight birthday swim!


Midnight birthday swim

For my birthday celebrations, we went to the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, which you can read about here. Whilst in Koh Phangan we also went to the next village along from our hotel, called Haad Salad, which had a much nicer beach and a huge swing under a nice shady tree.



KOH TAO


Koh Tao was our last island destination, with just a few days left there before heading back to Bangkok and then home. We travelled on a two-hour boat to Koh Tao, where Jess, Emily and myself would meet back up with Janie and Sam, who had headed there a couple of days previously to look into options for diving courses. Emily and I had thought about doing a diving course, but had decided we didn't think we were brave enough to do it! We were impressed that Janie and Sam went ahead and booked it in and watched them doing some of their lessons in the big pool at our hotel. We stayed at the Asia Divers Resort, which was a pleasant place to stay, and had the aforementioned lovely big pool, which was so nice to relax in and around during the day. We had to book ahead here too, as Koh Tao gets very busy after the full moon, as many revellers head there after Koh Phangan.

Sam and Janie learning to dive

The day after we arrived we spent a lot of time relaxing by the pool and wondering around the local area and beach. We had a few drinks and watched a fire show on the beach, but this fire show definitely was no match for the amazing one we saw in Koh Phi Phi! Jess' friend Anna and her boyfriend arrived that day too. Jess and Anna had been travelling for the previous few months and Jess had come to travel with us for a couple of weeks when Anna's boyfriend Steve had arrived. It had all worked out perfectly with dates and it was nice to all meet up and have some drinks together.

Anna and Steve went on a snorkelling day trip and said it was lovely, so Emily, Jess and myself decided to go the following day. We bartered a fee for a return long tail trip for the three of us, to head to Koh Nang Yuang, a small island just ten minutes away from Koh Tao. This island is a small resort and must be privately owned. We paid a small fee to enter the island, then a small fee to hire some deckchairs. The island was perfectly kept and wasn't particularly busy. Jess had bought herself a snazzy new snorkel earlier in the day and Emily and I hired a couple. The snorkelling on this island was absolutely incredible. We were barely a foot deep before we could see amazing coral and beautifully coloured fish. I'd only snorkelled once before, in the deep sea in Koh Phi Phi and found snorkelling here simply incredible.

Jess and Emily boarding our boat on the way back from our snorkelling trip

Long tail boat trip from Koh Tao to Koh Nang Yuan

Jess enjoying her new snorkelling mask!

It was sad to say goodbye to Sam and Janie who we had been travelling with on and off for over three weeks. It was also sad to say goodbye to Jess, but I know we'll see her again soon; probably in another lovely country as no doubt she'll be travelling or living somewhere we can visit soon. Koh Tao was a great place to end a fantastic eight weeks in Thailand and I'd highly recommend you add it to your list of places to visit, if you're planning on travelling around Thailand.

No comments:

Post a Comment