12.27.2011 - 01.03.2012
We left our cushy existence in Bangkok to head south down the Thai peninsula for some island hopping. We started our journey on an overnight train and arrived early in the morning in Surat Thani, our jumping off point for the islands. After a one-hour bus ride to the port and a three-hour boat ride, we finally arrived on our first island, Kho Pha-Ngan. All in all it took nearly 20-hours to travel from Bangkok to our beachside bungalow, but islands are usually worth the work. The islands here remind me a lot of St. Lucia in the Caribbean – green, lush, and mountainous. Our crescent shaped beach was located on a small bay filled with turquoise water. We spent three days lounging in beach chairs and swaying in hammocks. I somehow managed to get burnt even though it was pretty overcast most of time. And, like any good beach vacation, we ate our fair share of surprisingly delicious food at the resort (14 simple bungalows with one restaurant/bar).
On the ferry to the Islands
From the beach on Kho Pha-Ngan
Jeff relaxing in the hammock
A view of our little resort and bungalows
Our small strech of beach
After our R&R on Kho Pha-Ngan, we hopped aboard another ferry and headed for our next destination, Koh Tao. While waiting for the ferry, we enjoyed some great people watching. Kho Pha-Ngan attracts quite the mix of travelers, from retirees and preppy kids, to hippie backpackers and those sporting the 90’s grunge look. Some of them also looked completely destroyed as Kho Pha-Ngan is home to the notorious Full Moon parties (though it wasn’t a full moon while we were there, but apparently a half moon is a sufficient reason for a rave).
Our ferry to Koh-Tao
We arrived at Buddha-View Dive Resort on Koh Tao several hours later. Jeff’s birthday gift was to get his Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving License and Koh Tao, a diving mecca, was just the place. We were also extremely excited to be meeting up for New Years with friends we made while traveling through Mozambique months ago, Tristan and Caroline from Switzerland. They are also traveling around the world and our paths have now crossed in Mozambique and Thailand, and will likely also cross in Australia and New Zealand in the coming months. We spent our first night on Koh Tao getting caught up with them about their travels since Mozambique (South Africa, Hong Kong, Nepal and India) and enjoying some local and relatively cheap Thai food.
After Jeff’s diving lessons the next morning, we all made our way across the island to a beautiful stretch of beach. The island is surrounded by reefs, which is what makes it such a great place to dive, but it only has a few patches of white sand. Nevertheless, we managed to find one and enjoy the scenery for several hours. It was New Year’s Eve that day and our resort was hosting a little shin dig with complimentary fireworks. The party included a massive BBQ with all the island specialties (shrimp, fish, corn, etc.) and we enjoyed an amusing band that changed the words to several popular songs by inserting scuba diving references. Once it hit midnight, the resort started setting off the fireworks, which happened to be right near where we were sitting. Drunk folks and fireworks are generally a bad combination, so I was glad that no one ended up blind (deaf maybe) and that all limbs were intact at the end of the show.
On our hike to the beach
Relaxing on the beach
The vast array of seafood to grill-yum!
The deck on New Years
New Years with Tristan and Caroline
Fireworks at midnight!
We awoke in 2012 and had breakfast at a fabulous little French bakery on the island specializing in chocolate croissants – delicious! Jeff had three dives scheduled for the day, including his first night dive. Unfortunately, the visibility on the dives was not amazing, but he can now at least he can call himself Advanced We parted ways with Tristan and Caroline as they headed north to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. We have tentative plans though to meet up with them again when our paths cross in Australia and New Zealand.
We had hoped to get off the island on the morning of January 2nd, but between our procrastination in making travel arrangements and the weather, we were tragically stuck on the island for another day The south bound trains were fully booked and there was flooding in southern Thailand blocking road travel to Malaysia, our next destination. So to mix it up for a day, we decided to rent a moped in order to see more of the island. It was a fun and nerve racking experience all at the same time. For starters, neither Jeff nor I had ever driven a moped before, and it was surprisingly hard to balance and steer. On top of our inexperience, the island is also mountainous, so occasionally the moped didn’t have enough juice to get us both up and over some of the hills. Thankfully, we survived the morning but that afternoon the skies opened up, putting a definite kibosh on moped-ing from there on out.
On our moped tour at the opposite end of the island
Enjoying the view
Jeff on the infamous moped
Our time on the Thai Islands has come to an end, but we are not done island hopping just yet! We head to Penang Island in Malaysia next and will catch you all up when we get there! We hope you had a wonderful New Years and a great start to 2012!