Thailand (Koh Phangan and Koh Samui)
Koh Phangan Day 19 (09 September 2017)
I hope you are following the Thailand adventures in our blog, if you missed our previous posts, you can always go back and catch up. Next on our journey was Koh Phangan.
We arrived in the Pier and nearby was our hotel, Baan Manali Resort. We were feeling adventurous and wanted to save some money so we decided to walk there. We underestimated a bit the distances, specially with the added factor of the bags, but it was possible and we made it! Koh Phangan is considerably larger than Koh Tao, and here you are even more dependent on transports to move around.
We were staying in this cute private bungalows with a hammock outside. The hotel was on a nice beach and the rooms were clean but also a bit unsatisfying comparing with the photos online and previous experiences we had in Thailand. I don’t generally complain about hotel conditions and I am very acceptable, however we didn’t sleep very comfortably in this place. After having such good experiences in cheaper accommodations, I must say that this one was my least favourite throughout all the journey, even though it had a beautiful scenery. Probably if we knew more about the island we had booked in a different location, but this one was convenient for us for being closer to the pier and since we had such a short stay. All in all, it was good.
We started our visit to the island around the central part nearby Haad Rin Beach, since it was lunch time we stopped in a place called the Lucky Crab Restaurant. Since we left Bangkok, it became harder and harder to find the cheap and delicious curry’s in every corner; in fact, finding really good food became almost a mission. All the menus had around 30 pages and it was full of non-Thai food, clearly to please the international demands.
This island is mostly famous for the monthly Full Moon Party, however, since this seems to be the main attraction to the majority, there is also a new-moon party and a half-moon party. We had decided to go when there was none of these and it was a wise decision! It was a bit weird, but there were not many tourists around, at least not enough to fill the hundreds of hotels and restaurants throughout the island. Everything looked pretty quiet. This also helped to find better deals and prices for taxis, transports and food.
Next stop was Leela Beach and afterwords Haad Rin Beach. The last one is where the Full Moon Party happens and you can find online photos of the afterwords mess of garbage the people leave behind! Well, the positive aspect of coming in this period was to find a beautiful and clean white sand beach and the most pleasant water for a swim!
We stayed until sunset on the beach and then stopped for dinner at The Rock Bar. Clearly it was a place that used to be full in the busy Full Moon Parties but it was pretty empty then. We had some international food, but was better than at lunch time. The staff was super nice to us, we could even choose the songs to play in the bar and one of them joined us for some board games. He was a true master and won every-time!
We enjoyed the warm night and the empty beach with all the neons for the decor of the Full Moon Party.
Koh Phangan Day 20 (10 September 2017)
I think we focused on having our very own experiences in this travel, and we didn’t felt that we belonged to any cliché group of tourists. We are not the fancy kind, also not really backpackers with no money, (we saved for this trip for long time, so we had a more generous budget), we were not party people waiting for the next Full Moon Party or even looking for a sanctuary or yoga retreat. We were doing what we felt like and trying to absorb all the new things while enjoying this slice of paradise! The idea we got from Thailand is that holds something for everybody depending on the mood and we found ours. I also must say that there is so much to discover, what we did was just a small percentage of it and I really hope we can comeback and visit other places.
For this day we had programmed to go to the hidden spot and little paradise for hippies and hedonists in the island since 1991. You can reach it only by boat from Haad Rin Beach. We started from Haad Thien and moving later on to Haad Yuan. Had Thien, the east beach, was completely empty, there were only a few people, probably from longer stays in the restaurant area of the The Sanctuary Thailand Resort and Spa. The water was incredible and we had a really unique time there. I think it was a smart move from the hippie community to choose this place! I can really see myself staying longer, escaping from the busy city life routines and enjoying this natural wonderland.
When we started to get a bit hungry we moved to the other part of the bay, Haad Yuan beach. On our way we found the most idyllic bungalows, creating a picturesque scene of this arrangement between humans and the jungle. We stopped in yet another beautiful spot for lunch, Bamboo Hut and enjoyed simple and delicious Thai food, I got one of my personal favourites, fried rice with shrimps. It was finally a pleasant, affordable and tasty lunch.
In Haad Yuan there was some after party, not many people though. As the previous beach, it was equally stunning and with a beautiful colour palette. Unfortunately, we had the misfortune to find sea lice in the water. We didn’t even knew it existed and even though it was not a big issue, it was a bit weird to keep getting this stings while in the water. Apparently, it also happens in other places in Thailand, I guess is just a matter of luck or checking beforehand if is currently happening.
We went back to Haad Rin for a sunset swim and to try to avoid the recently discovered sea creatures. For dinner, we were not in the mood for trying new places, so we went classic to the the Rock Bar.
Koh Phangan Day 21 (11 September 2017)
I wish I can comeback to Thailand and most definitely to the islands. The last days passed by too quickly and there was still so much more to see. Just in Koh Phangan there are over 30 beaches, there was the beautiful Mu Koh Angthong National Marine Park, waterfalls, temples and the list goes on.
For the last day we got a cloudy, slightly rainy day, but who are we to complain? We went in the rainy season and we barely got days like that.
It was a tough decision, but we had to choose a last beach to go. Lucky winner was Salad Beach. We got some brief moments of sun shining followed by clouds and rain. We took the chance to stop for breakfast, massage and then lunch. The last massage in Thailand was in a wooden structure in the beach, with the sound of the rain as background. I think it was just perfect.
After having a green curry at Double Duke we ignored the slightly bad weather and went for a swim. This weather created a mystic atmosphere and since it was still very warm it was really pleasant for a swim.
We had the pleasure to watch another amazing sunset on the beach and then went looking for a taxi to go home. We didn’t know that finding a taxi was such a hard task. No one seemed to have taxi phone numbers and there were no taxis going around. We decided to walk until we found a Scuba Diving teacher that advised us to go to a restaurant nearby and ask them to call a taxi for us. We walked a bit further until we found Ying Ying’s Kitchen.
For some reason they also couldn’t contact any taxi or it was going to take long so we just waited there. The food smelled amazing and it was getting late, so we decided to have dinner.
In the meantime, we made friendship with a lady that promised to take us home, she was just waiting someone to bring her the car keys. While we were feeling a bit suspicious about all this difficulty to find a taxi or the lady that supposedly had a car, this experienced turned out to be the best unexpected part of our day.
In this restaurant we ate the best Thai food since Chiang Mai and after dinner the lady got her keys and kindly (and for a cheap price) drove us back to the hotel. We even heard her stories from when she was young and travelled around Europe.
Before going back to the Hotel we stopped at 7 Eleven and we got our last Thai favourites to bring home.
Koh Samui Day 22 (12 September 2017)
Before our island experience in Thailand finished we still got the change for a day trip in Koh Samui. From there we were taking a plane back to Bangkok and from Bangkok back to Europe. In the brief time we were in Koh Samui, we went to Chaweng Beach due to proximity and connivence. As soon as we were left by our taxi, we were surprised by the extreme urbanisation; even though we were very close to the beach, finding a way in was just a dreadful experience. All that area around Chaweng is now like a mini Bangkok, busy, full of buildings and construction with giant foreign chains of restaurants. All the main entrances are from private hotels and you can only pass through if you are a guest, we were loaded with all our bags and it was such a hard task just to find a regular entrance to the beach. Needless to say, that even on the beach, most of the spots were owned by restaurants or hotels. Luckily, we found two establishments with ok prices and friendly staff that allowed us to stay for long time. On the bright side, once you get into the beach, with the white sand and clear azure water it is possible to feel the old concept of paradise. Probably the saddest thing on Koh Samui beaches are the monkey handlers exploiting the exotic animals and walking them around in the hot beach all day long, trading a photo and the animal freedom for 10€. We highly object to forced animal entertainment and avoid every place that does it; throughout the entire trip there were only two instances that we saw it first hand, one with elephant riding around Ayutthaya and now this one.
As a tourist I feel guilty on what is our part on destroying natural and magical places such as the beautiful islands of Thailand. The demand grows as well as the constructions, robbing part of the soul and natural beauty of these places. This ugly development, is even more clear in Koh Samui. Full of cheap beachfront accommodations, it corrupts the serenity and solitude that some envision when thinking of a stay on a paradise island.
In a good note I would like to mention the efforts from Thai authorities to control the excessive tourism and damages on the country, especially on the most famous beaches, closing it down indefinitely until the ecosystem “fully recovers to a normal situation”. For example, “thanks to pollution from litter, boats and sun cream, it is estimated that more than 80% of the coral around Maya Bay has been destroyed.”
Traveling is an amazing opportunity and a privilege. Being a tourist means we get to experience different cultures, meet new people, try new ways of cooking and see different natural landscapes. However, it also comes with a personal level of responsibility. When travelling we are guests in another country and is part of our duties to research and act in accordance. This includes being mindful of our environmental footprint, respect wildlife and nature as well as locals beliefs and culture. Buying local products and going to local restaurants/businesses promotes the local economy growth and helps support the community and encourage positive tourism. Respect for the nature that surrounds us and the animals that live on it, is crucial. We always tried to be mindful of our actions and behave as “good tourist”, learning throughout the way and appreciating so much what we got from it. We said goodbye to our South East Asia adventure and we came home with so much more than souvenirs. Soon we were back in a plane to Bangkok and from there back to Helsinki and finally Amsterdam. It was a long trip and it was worth every bit of it. More than a year after, while remembering this adventure and writing these blog posts, I truly believe that this trip had such a strong impression on me and the way I live my life.
Thank you Thailand!