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Returning to Thailand - Koh Samui & Koh Phangan

sunny 32 °C

Ironically, this blog entry has been more hassle to write than any previous one. It’s ironic because I’ve had far more time on my hands for a change. I suppose it’s because I’ve gone into complete relaxation mode. The plan was always to chill out for the last two weeks in the South Eastern part of Thailand on the islands. I have to say, it feels great doing very little these days!

I arrived into Koh Samui on the 15th. Carly was spending more time in Luang Prabang so I had two days on my own. The journey was quite tiring – my first flight was delayed by an hour leaving me little room for my connecting flight. Like a scene from Home Alone, I ran the whole way through Bangkok’s airport to make it on time. Thinking I had just made it, it turned out that my 2nd flight had also been delayed – initially by 20 minutes which ended up being 90. Still, they had a special waiting area for Thai Airways customers which felt like a 1st class flight style luxury. Everyone flying with the airline were entitled to it so I was able to kill time eating some of their free food on offer and on the internet in a posh lounge. Arriving into the Samui airport it felt a bit strange – there was a big difference between somewhere like Laos and a Budget travel packaged holiday style resort. I wasn’t sure what to think. The mini-van journey to my hotel only confirmed this feeling. Looking around I saw McDonalds, Subway, Pizza Hut and endless amounts of bars and restaurants. I was in Thailand but it felt like one of the Canary Islands. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a 1 week packaged holiday for a week every year or two but I have done these to the death and you don’t exactly fly to Asia for this type of experience. The commercialization of Thailand’s largest island is very evident to see. Still, I had expected this in advance so rather than moan about it I decided to enjoy it and just chill out for the 4 days in Samui.

The first three days were spent by the beach reading my book, also called ‘The Beach’. I love this movie and it felt appropriate to read the book as it takes place just off Koh Phangan. I’ve been quite engrossed in it actually. For the first time in six weeks there were no early starts, demanding self-inflicted sightseeing schedules or endless bus journeys. I was loving it. By the fourth day I felt a little guilty for doing so little so I hired out a scooter for the day and travelled around the island. I had a great day and got to see a temple, a waterfall and their main attraction on the North end of the island, the Big Buddha. It’s bloody huge! Randomly they also had an Alien Vs. Predator store right beside it. Very strange..

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My last night in Samui was spent with Carly – we had a lovely meal in a local Irish pub and chilled out by the beach with a cocktail and cards. The next morning it was onto Koh Phangan. Our main reason for flying straight down to the islands rather than travelling by bus was to make the Full Moon party in time. Of course, it was just as nice avoiding a 3-4 day bus journey with a couple of overnighters thrown in for good measure. The Full Moon party is notorious in Thailand and we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. That night we ventured down to the South part of the Island at Haad Rin where it was taking place. After dinner I got myself painted (as you do) and met up with Chen and Roni, the two Israeli girls we had met in Mui Ne in Vietnam about four weeks earlier.

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We spent the evening with them, their mates and Roni’s boyfriend Aras. Describing the party only one word comes to mind – mental! The event takes place on a beach and with at least 5,000 people there it was quite surreal looking up and down at the endless crowds. It was very easy to lose one another so we had to stay close at all times. Most people were painted and some were completely covered. Vodka and Redbull in a bucket is the main drink on offer. It’s quite cheap too but I was apprehensive of getting too drunk. I had heard reports of people being robbed and others getting so wasted they would have no choice but to collapse on the beach and hope for the best. Carly and I didn’t want either of these to happen so we got a bit tipsy and enjoyed the night for what it was. Each area blasts out different kinds of music so you end up walking up and down the beach, stopping at various sections to dance when there is good music on offer. Other attractions include a waterslide which I was tempted to try out but didn’t want to risk further injury. My ribs from the swing on Vang Vieng are still causing discomfort so I thought it would be best to avoid the risk. Having started drinking at midnight, it was easy to keep going well into the night and we managed to stay for sunrise and daylight. It wasn’t a pretty picture! Plenty of people were sprawled across the beach unconscious and the whole place was littered with buckets and rubbish. I wouldn’t fancy being on the cleaning committee put it that way. By 8am we were ready for bed. We had a lot of fun and made it back in one piece with nothing stolen, damaged or lost – job done!

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Away from the Haad Rin area (where parties on a smaller scale take place every night), Koh Phangan is quite a beautiful environment. It’s much smaller than Samui and I’ve yet to see any international franchises. We’ve been staying at Haad Yao on the North Western part of the island which is very quiet and peaceful. Our hotel is beautiful. Surrounded by trees and plants, our bedroom is a log cabin style hut complete with a toilet that is partially outdoors (the shower section where there is a bath has no roof which is cool). Despite being man made the hotel feels very natural and the pool is a great place to hang out during the day. A five minute walk brings you down to the beach which is both warm and colourful.

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Similar to Samui, we’ve enjoyed doing very little. The weather is very hot on both islands which is in itself quite tiring. On the 21st we took a taxi into the main town area. We had a walk around, had a good meal and I bought a few more books to keep me entertained. Yesterday I rented out a scooter and travelled around the West part of the Island. Once again I got to see a few more waterfalls and temples. I also stopped off at Mae Haad beach – this leads to the Koh Ma island where you literally walk across a small section of the ocean to get to it. The water only goes up to your waist but I was a bit worried with my backpack on and camera inside – thankfully it didn’t get wet. Once on Koh Ma I explored around and got into the ocean for some snorkelling. The reef isn’t all that great but I can never say no to swimming around observing fish, especially when it’s free. As in Samui, the highlight of taking a scooter out is the thrill of riding one. Driving at 40KM per hour on quiet roads through picturesque scenery has never felt so thrilling. It’s simple things like this that can sometimes be hard to remember but remind me why I'm doing all of this. Another example being last night – I got into the pool after dark and lay down on an inflatable bed for almost an hour, staring up at the stars admiring their beauty.

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Today is our last on Koh Phangan. It’ll be sad to leave but after five nights here it is time to move on. Our final joint stop is Koh Tao for a few days. After that, a couple of nights in Bangkok await where I’ll get to meet up with some friends from Ireland before my flight to Sydney. Seven weeks into our Asian adventure only one remains – the time has flown.

Posted by mattld 00:00 Archived in Thailand

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