As the title suggests, the past week of my travels in South-East Asia have been spent on the beautiful islands of Thailand. This is somewhere I have always felt I can come back to at any time and enjoy myself without feeling like I’ve done it all before. If a beach gets boring, there’s always another pristine white one a couple of bays away, if a new island is what you’re after there are others just a short boat ride away with a different vibe and a different feel.
The two islands for our mini-break in paradise have been Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, both on the Eastern side of Thailand’s south and close to the more familiar and upmarket Ko Samui.
I’d visited Koh Phangan before for the popular and rather cramped backpacker Full Moon Party, this was last March on my way home the first time. Arriving at the end of May and the start of the wet season, and with all the revellers from the previous Full Moon a week ago having departed, the party centre of Haad Rin was strangely quiet. We picked up a room at the most infamous guesthouse ‘Coral Bungalows’ for a third of their maximum rates.
The quietness is, of course, relative. We still managed to find a small crowd of Irish and English to have a few Chang Beers and a short dance on the beach with! A few days was enough though and we decided to aim to move to a beach further north, Than Sadet.
Koh Phangan is quite a large island, about 30km from north to south, and moving around in the quiet season when there isn’t too many share taxis available can be expensive. We scored a free ride up to a turning to the quieter beach but got rather stuck as the taxis trucks I waved down wanted too much money for the rest of the journey. Luckily however, an Australian lady, her friend and their 2 kids allowed us to squeeze in with them to Thong Nai Pan Yai, just north and within walking distance of where we wanted to be.
We liked the beach so much that we stayed on Thong Nai Pan Yai and visited Than Sadet the next day via a walking track. The walk was easy enough to follow but quite hilly and difficult in the heat, taking over an hour in total. The hunt for the waterfalls we wanted to see took even longer! We ended up missing the turning, walking down a slope to the river and following the river back to the waterfalls, it was great fun jumping over the river, between rocks, slipping on slopes and falling in though! We saw all the layers of the waterfall and even got in for a cooling-off dip. We ended up crashing a day-tour boat and getting a reduced rate on a longtail boat home rather than walking again!
Having never been to the next island of Koh Tao and hearing great things about it, it was naturally our next stop on the way back to the mainland. I love it here! Of all the Thai Islands I have visited (6 and counting) it is definitely my favourite. The island is based around its huge Scuba Diving industry but even without diving we’ve loved our time here and feel we could stay for weeks.
We visited a few of the beaches today and some of them are just breathtaking. I think because it is so less developed than its sister islands, it feels so such more relaxed and the friendly locals feel more authentic than the ‘Oh you’re from England, lovely jubbly mate’ guys of elsewhere. On our nearer beach each bar has mats on the floor just to chill out on and rope swings hanging from the palm trees overhead. Perfect!
The bustling (read: busy, loud, stressful) city of Bangkok is certainly going to be a slap in the face after this and we start to venture there via a 15-hour boat and bus package overnight. I have ex-housemates to catch up with and then our all-too-short Thai Visas will be close to expiration.