Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hijinxs ensue in Ko Phangan

From the far north of Thailand we then went pretty far south to one of the many paradise islands Thailand has to offer. We were looking for something nice (which also means touristy) but where we could feel at home too. We opted for Ko Phangan, an island off of Ko Samui and were not disappointed!

One of the islands claim to fame is its full moon parties that are supposed to rage all night. Even though we were nowhere near the full moon, we made sure to stay far from the area where the event takes place so we would be away from the most touristy part of the island.

We settled down for Haad Yao, on the north west side and decided to go there by taxi before walking around looking for a place (yes, it's low season there too!). It's kind of fun to arrive in a foreign place at 4pm not knowing where you're going to sleep yet.

As luck would have it, we started to chat with a Brit/New Zealand couple on the ferry from Ko Samui and really hit it off. Heather and Nat were planning to go to the same area of the island so we shared a cab to the beach we had chosen and started looking for accomodations. We ended up in different places on the beach but also started a trend that didn't let up for the next few days: We told each other that we should meet at that specific bar at some point, and ended up there at almost the same time. (for the next day we just said "hey let's meet on the beach sometime during the day" and where there at the same time as well). It made "planning" really easy, and since we were having a lot of fun with them we kept doing stuff together until they left.

The beach was beautiful and pretty much deserted. We were a total of 6 people when I took this photo!

The next day we rented scooters and all went to this local waterfall. Even though rainy season had started on the rest of the country it was still very much dry and sunny on Ko Phangan so we didn't really find a waterfall. What we got in exchange was a fun swimming hole with rope swings. The only other people there were locals and as we started rating the kids doing rope jumps in the water, I started a contest with them. I'm not sure they were fair though because even though we gave them ratings of 7 or 9 for style, they kept giving me 0 or even -2!

We hung out there for a while and even climbed up the stream until we could get a view of the beach. We half burnt our feet on the rocks heated up by the sun, but it made it all the more fun.

On the way back we missed a few right turns and ended up taking the loooong way back. It proved to be fortunate as we ran into a tiny local market (at a gas station, because there's no better place for a market, really) where we sampled some of the local food before resuming our quest for our way back. We also ran into an awesome tree and a grafiti that reminded us of a Banksy. Sometimes, getting lost on the way is the best that can happen.

To wrap up the day nicely we discovered a really cute spot right on time for sunset. The day was a success!

The next day we all went out diving at a place called Sail Rock, in between Ko Phangan and Ko Tao. The dives were really hard to start as we had to swim against a pretty strong current before being protected by the rock formation, but it was super easy once we were there. Aside from an awesome chimney that we went through a couple times, the dive was nice but a little disappointing compared to what we've done before. There were tons of fish but there wasn't as much variety as what we've seen before. We're starting to realize that we've basically been lucky to dive world class sites so far.

Entering the chimney

In the forefront, squid drying; in the back, light bulbs lined up on the fishing boats. They used them at night to attract the squid to the surface

That night we met up again with our friends (not knowing exactly where they stayed we ran into them on the road while looking for their hotel) to try to find a cool bar that had been recommended to us. We found it, right on the beach, and were the only ones there. It was pretty awesome since the guys working there were super happy to see customers that night. Another fun night with Nat and Heather!

Denise, showing her skills to the locals
Nat x2
We spent the last days we exploring the nearby beaches and did a bit of snorkeling off the beaches of Haad Salad and Ko Ma.

That's how a car tire looks after spending too much time under water

On Ko Ma we were surprised by a storm that showed up very quickly while we were still in the water. The race back to the beach under the heavy rain was definitely fun!

We also tried our luck at another waterfall and this time we found a really neat system with a ton of small pools cascading into each other. We didn't expect much and were gladly surprised.

As you may have gathered we had a great time on the deserted Ko Phangan. It was relaxing and a ton of fun thanks to our newfound friends.

You can find more photos here (map)

View Thailand - Ko Phangan in a larger map

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