Koh Tao, part 1

Before departing from Koh Samui we stocked up on soy milk and biscuits as there aren’t any Tesco’s on Koh Tao. It’s always a good idea to have emergency food as you never know if you’re going to get vegetarian food in small villages – people love their meats here. The ferry was about an hour late so we had time to observe other travellers bustling about with their huge bags in the heat. Some people had a 65 litre backpack on the back, a 25 litre bag on the chest, a camera around the neck, a wallet in one hand and a suitcase in the other. We quickly realised that carrying a bag of soy milk in addition to our 26 litre Ospreys was not that inconvenient anymore.

Koh Tao

Shamely, on Koh Phangan we had to change from our shiny air-conditioned boat to, let’s say, a more timeworn one with a gasoline scent. You can see straight away that there are fewer people travelling to Koh Tao as the boats are smaller and only run once a day, at least with Songserm. They also ask to leave your bags on the deck when boarding, but we just smiled, pointed to our “26ers” and took a seat inside. Tip: try to sit in a shade on the deck as you’ll have plenty of fresh air, won’t get sunburnt and be able to enjoy the view.

Koh Tao

Another tip is to always ask for a map, as people here just can’t give directions or have no sense of distances whatsoever. I suppose some may feel awkward directing tourists with big rucksacks to walk any kind of distance in the heat so more often than not they just offer you get a taxi. The weather was lovely, there were few people on the road, and we could see the white sand and blue water through the floor-to-ceiling windows of restaurants and diving shops. Even though it was still early afternoon, we had the right for a beer, and so we did. It was funny to see Auste just walking along, drinking beer in the middle of the day, right on the street – not a very usual sight, as she’s always the one paranoid about breaking the law, getting in trouble with the police and so on.

Koh Tao

I suppose the laws on the island are so laid-back that even dogs were riding motorbikes! (photo) They do seem to enjoy it a lot and stay surprisingly stable with their paws on the handles (or shall I say ‘pawndles’?)

Koh Tao dogs

DSC_0118

We walked past many bars catering for western clientele, but just couldn’t get our heads round eating burgers or pizzas on a tropical island. So we asked a local vendor if he could make some rice with vegetables, but he simply fired back “only chicken or pork”. Fair enough, I guess we have plenty of biscuits… We did have a nice meal elsewhere though and were ready for a day of kayaking.

Keep reading about Koh Tao in Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.For more stories from the same trip read: Koh Phangan Part 1 and Part 2, Angthong Marine Park, and Koh Samui.

More photos on our Flickr page here.

Koh Phangan, part 3 – trip to Angthong Marine Park

We locked our passports in the lockers at reception and a taxi picked us up for the tour. And their taxis are nothing like European taxis (expensive ones are though). We climbed into the back of a large pick-up truck, squeezed our tiny bums next to another ten people, murmured a shy hello and received the same hello from the rest of the Germans. While we thought we couldn’t be sandwiched any more in the car, the driver was picking up more and more Germans along the way. Yep, there were a lot of them on Koh Phangan – we hoped that the tour would be in English though.

In the back of a stuffed pick-up truck with half our bodies hanging outside we were driving through bumpy village roads and shortly arrived at the pier. It was a construction site-type yard with a very hand-made scaffold-type looking bridge linking the shore and the boat. On-board we had fruit, biscuits and horrible instant Thai coffee. The boat departed and Auste was the last one finishing her plate – typical!

Angthong Marine Park

Having had an unpleasant experience with P&O ferries from England to France in the past, I was very fretful of what may happen on this boat, especially after the tour-guide advised that the top deck WILL be in a lot of motion. *gulp*

Half an hour into the boat ride most people laid down, so did I, and didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Funnily enough, the people that went downstairs (inside) got pretty pale, I guess that was mainly due to the loud and stinky engine being close to the seats. On the top deck we had lots of fresh air, comfortable mats and occasional splashes of cool sea water.

Angthong Marine Park

The boat ride didn’t take long to reach the first stop and we were rushed downstairs to get our snorkelling masks. Not having done this before, I was so excited and quickly jumped in without putting on my mask properly. I had lots of water getting into my eyes, the snorkel tube was uncomfortable and in total I think I had a nice healthy cupful of sea water. And I’m not talking Baltic Sea or North Sea salty, I’m talking literally-salt-in-your-mouth salty. That half an hour went quickly and we got on the boat again to do a few water-slides. Yep, that’s how cool the boat was – it had a water-slide on the top deck. Unfortunately we didn’t do many as the salty water getting deep into your nose was worse than the joy of sliding down.

Angthong Marine Park

After (hopefully) everyone got back on, the boat took us to Ao Ka Beach at Talay Nai. Thankfully the English guy had advised us not to kayak as it wasn’t worth 200 baht per person for a mere 30 minutes. And the staff on the boat had a brilliant sales pitch for those who hadn’t chosen kayaks: “you either go kayaking and enjoy it, or stay on the boat and do nothing”. We took loads of cool photos on the boat and then we were transferred onto a smaller boat going to Koh Mae Koh. We were given a strict 30 minutes to go up and down the steep hill. Rules are rules, so we literally ran up the hill, took like ten shots of the Emerald Lagoon, ran to a second viewing platform, took another ten shots and then ran all the way back down. I had never done a hike this quick in the heat of 30+, I may have lost a kilogram or two I believe. All this was to receive a “you have another half an hour” upon coming back the drop-off point. Great. So we just chilled on the beach.

Angthong Marine Park

Emerald lake
Emerald lake

Angthong Marine Park

Sardines packed ready for kayaking
Sardines packed ready for kayaking

On Koh Wua Talap, where the headquarters of Angthong Marine Park are located, we followed the guide running up a steep hill. Due to the heavy rainfall earlier that day we were not allowed to reach the highest viewpoint, but I think we were ¾ up the way, and it was definitely worth the sweat. We could enjoy the view of most, if not all, of the Angthong islands. Back down at the beach we went for a swim, relaxed, enjoyed the view and were transferred back on the boat.

Angthong Marine Park

Scenic workout
Scenic workout
The queue for the viewpoint to take two-second photos
The queue for the viewpoint to take two-second photos

Angthong Marine Park

On various forums I read that people complain about these trips being rushed. In our case, the trip was definitely rushed. It is a shame that we had loads of time to chill out while on the boat, when the 2 most beautiful viewpoints were given no time or attention. To travel such distance in the sea and do so many things in such a short time takes a lot of organisation, of course, but the reason why most people go to the Marine Park is to see the beautiful islands, right? Anyway, it was a good day and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

For more stories from the same trip read: Koh Phangan Part 1 and Part 2Koh Samui, and Koh Tao.

More photos on our Flickr page here.

Ko Phangan, Haad Rin

Koh Phangan, part 2

If you haven’t read it yet – here’s Part 1.

Since the sun sets very early in Thailand (7 PM) we were pretty sure it rises early too, so we set our alarm clock for 5 AM. When we woke up it was still pitch black outside, so we tried our luck again at 5:40. And I’m glad we did, because the sunrise was beautiful… We made ourselves some coffee and enjoyed the view.

Koh Phangan, Haad Rin sunrise Amaresa resort

Koh Phangan, Haad Rin sunrise Amaresa resort

Koh Phangan, Haad Rin, Amaresa resort

We then went to have breakfast at the sky bar and got sooo full! It was like a combo of breakfast AND lunch as we had pancakes, toast, fruit, coffee, juice and then a massive portion of noodles and rice. And it was delicious. Afterwards we went to see how wonderful the seaside lounge area was and thought why we hadn’t come there earlier…

Koh Phangan, Haad Rin, Amaresa resort

Koh Phangan, Haad Rin, Amaresa resort

Koh Phangan, Haad Rin, Amaresa resort

Unfortunately we then had to check out from this heavenly place. But while we were waiting for the taxi to the village we decided to check where the ‘To Beach’ sign lead to. We walked down a steep road and came to a beautiful beach. After a while we realised it was the same beach we walked into the night before, just from the opposite side!

The taxi took us down to the village where we caught a songthaew to our next hotel. The difference was striking: the receptionist was really rude and he requested we leave one passport at reception for the duration of our stay! No other hotel that we stayed had such requests. Luckily he was happy with an ID card instead, and we walked to our room. It was a tiny dark ridiculously-hot paper-thin bungalow with a tiny window and a padlock for locking it. It didn’t look clean either. We set the fan to maximum, but it didn’t help at all, as there was no oxygen to be circulated in it!

So we walked to the village and decided to eat at the same place as yesterday. But this time Vidmantas drew the Thai name for ‘fried rice with vegetables’, as the girl taking our order just left a notepad and a pen for us. The lady who cooked our food yesterday laughed and asked whether we want just one portion suggesting she understood what we had written! =)

Please note the portion size
Please note the portion size

We walked to the pier and watched the storm on the other side of the island. Looking at it from a great distance made it look so beautiful and peaceful. Back at our resort we jumped into the pool (the only good thing about this hotel!) and that was just cool enough to cool your body down, but warm enough so you can stay there for a while, listening to chill out music at the poolside bar, looking at palm trees, beach, the stars …

Koh Phangan

We got back to our bungalow and saw a giant cockroach on our porch. We pushed it down with the clothes drying rack and went inside – it felt even hotter than before. The fan was making a huge noise and wasn’t really helping, so we turned it to a minimum, which was still noisy, but slightly better. It took a while before we managed to fall asleep in that heat.

But then I only slept for an hour until Vidmantas woke me up and pointed to the corner of the room. The giant cockroach was inside, on the wall, looking at us. Bye-bye precious sleep! Vidmantas pushed it outside with a broom, but now we knew that the gap under the door was large enough for cockroaches to get in. We turned the laptop on and started googling about cockroaches. There wasn’t anything helpful for how to keep them away though. As if that wasn’t enough, there was a black bug in the bathroom, even bigger than the cockroach. Although it crawled really slowly and mostly stayed inside the hole in the shower drainage corner, and the bathroom door had no gaps, so we knew he wouldn’t get in. But it was still scary to sit on the bed knowing that the cockroaches could run up the wall next to you or behind you any second – and they run fast!

Finally we came up with a solution – to fill the gaps around the door and near the bed with our blankets, as we didn’t need them anyway. We then set the alarm clock for 5:30 and tried to sleep for a couple of hours. Ironically, when we woke up the cockroach was sitting on the rubbish bin – we had sealed the three of us in the room!

cockroaches Hacienda resort Koh Phangan

We walked outside, it was cloudy so the sunrise that we hoped to photograph didn’t happen. But it was nice and cool on the beach with a gentle breeze coming from the water, and no cockroaches as it was too bright for them. We took our blankets from the room and napped for an hour on the deck chairs on the beach. At 7 AM having had a little rest after a stressful night we were packing our bags for a trip to Angthong National Marine Park.

For more stories from the same trip read: Koh Samui and Koh Tao.

More photos on our Flickr page here.

Koh Phangan
Beautiful morning after a sleepless night

Koh Phangan