As the ferry docked into the port on Koh Tao, we were greeted by a mass of taxi drivers, diving instructors and guest house owners. We waded through the crowd and spotted the diving rep that we had been chatting to on the ferry. He had offered to show us around a few accommodations, as long as we had a chat about the possibility of booking a diving tour. It sounded like a fair deal, so we jumped into the back of his truck with some other island hoppers and headed about 10 minutes drive north away from the port. After the diving chat and a few viewings of accommodation, we found a room opposite the ‘Davy Jones Locker – Diving School’. Time to relax and catch some sun!
Koh Tao was beautiful and we had some fantastic weather. Griff’s bad luck was back to haunt her on the first day. We had spent the day exploring the area we were in, relaxing on the beach and taking a dip in the sea. Even though Heidi was wearing SPF50, she still managed to burn. The sunburn was a bit irregular and looked as if it was caused by the sea removing the cream, as Heidi had burns in the shape of water marks. One in particular went across the left side of her face and over her eye making her look like ‘Ziggy Stardust’. So naturally, I nicknamed her ‘David Bowie’ for the duration of our stay on Koh Tao. Cruel? Yes! Funny? Very!
The travel books state that “Koh Tao is a Diver’s island and anyone looking for relaxed, beach action should look elsewhere, as most accommodation only want people who are booking onto diving courses”. I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, the guest houses and beach huts are connected with the diving courses and tours but never at anytime where we made to feel unwelcome or pressured to take a diving course. Koh Tao was one of the most relaxed places I have ever visited and while there, ‘Bowie’ and I lost track of time and days.
Highlights of Koh Tao were exploring the secluded Shark Bay with its perfect beach and rows of palm trees dotted across the cost. Also for the evenings we would recommend the Lotus Bar, which sits directly on the beach. Lotus Bar has a beach life ambience, rugs line the sand for you to sit on with short tables and Singha beer bottles as candle holders. No need to get up as there’s table service, so you can lay back, relax and watch the impressive show of fire twirlers.
For anyone travelling Thailand for any lengthy period of time, Koh Tao is a ‘Must See’.
Koh Tao was a brilliant start to our island hopping adventure. But part of me was feeling slightly reserved as we travelled across to Koh Phangan on the ferry. From word of mouth and Alex Garland’s best selling novel ‘The Beach’, I knew Koh Phangan had a reputation for being the party island with its infamous ‘Full Moon’ parties. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been shy of alcohol fuelled events that have gone long into the night but those university days are long behind me and I’d much prefer a good, old fashioned pub with great company or a decent restaurant where I can get home at a reasonable hour and keep the hangover down to a minimum. Yes! I’m getting old and my hangovers now last at least 2 days.
I was hoping the hearsay was inaccurate and wanted to give the island a chance. We’d done some research into Koh Phangan and we were aiming for the quieter end of the island. The truck taxiing us to our destination pulled into Haad Rin Nok and the driver yelled; “FULL MOON PARTY!”. I believe Heidi’s description of my face was; “pure horror”. We had misread the information we had on the island. Instead of being away from the craziness, we had stuck ourselves right in the middle of it.
There wasn’t much accommodation left on Haad Rin Nok and what was available was too expensive for our budget. Griff and I finally found a beach hut that was £9 a night. The hut was rough! The guy showing us around didn’t help much either as he was high and could barely stand let alone string a sentence together. It was getting late, we were both exhausted and overwhelmed by the experience, so we took the room and promised to either find a better place in the morning or jump onto the next ferry to Koh Samui.
After a lot of duct tape and fiddling we had put up the mosquito net for the first time. We decided to take a wander and get better acquainted with the area and hope to find a solution to our current problem. Also I was creeped out by something that was crawling within the walls of the hut and didn’t want to find out what it was.
Griff and I strolled over to the next beach on Haad Rin. This area was less intense but I still had a bad vibe about the whole situation. We inquired into a few accommodations but nothing was either in budget or was of any quality worth staying. Then a shining light appeared in the form of the Outback Bar! So, I pitched my idea to Heidi that we would get up early, have breakfast, watch the Wales vs Ireland rugby game in the Outback Bar and then jump straight onto the first ferry off the island to the promised land of Koh Samui. She was sold!
We spent the evening in the Outback Bar, tucking into some good grub and maxing out their wifi. Griff and I tried to spend as much time as we could in the bar so we didn’t have to go back to the wall moving hut. As funds ran low, finally we had to go back.
The Full Moon party was 4 days away but that didn’t stop the build-up preparations. The music blasted throughout the night and into the early hours and finally stopped around 6am. I had watched every hour go by from midnight but instead of tiredness, I felt relief and fell asleep for a few hours.
Griff and I hadn’t unpacked, so we checked out as soon as we were awake and headed for breakfast at the Outback Bar, watched Wales beat Ireland and jumped on this first possible ferry we could.
While on-board, we plotted ourselves on the top deck and swung our feet overboard. I felt like a new man as we baked in the sun with Koh Samui in the distance.
I wouldn’t want to put anyone off from visiting Koh Phangan, as I believe everyone’s journey is different. I’m sure most people would love the party atmosphere and the wild nights. The island itself is gorgeous and from what I’ve been told the North is more tranquil. But for this ‘Old Boy’, it wasn’t my scene and I can say without any doubt I will never return.
Hello Koh Samui! I was in a far better mood than I had been in the last 24 hours. Within minutes of being in Koh Samui we’d found a cracking little place to stay and it had put my faith right back into ‘Beach Huts’. The staff at ‘Sunset Resort’ were very friendly, the quality of the hut was 100% better than the hole in Koh Phangan and it was cheaper. Bonus!
Right across from the Sunset Resort was a sweet little pub called ‘The Lord Nelson’, run by an Australian man and his Thai wife. There was wifi, free pool table, great food and they did a Sunday roast. What more could we ask for? Griff and I became regulars in the pub over the next 6 days.
Koh Samui was all about taking our time to relax on the beach, enjoy the sun and have the break we’d been craving for. That’s exactly what we got and a little bit more. Griff and I also found time to tour the island, visiting Big Buddha, a Mummified Monk, a Monkey show, more waterfalls and some rocks shaped like genitalia. I kid you not, the genitalia shaped rocks are a massive attraction in Koh Samui and are named the Grandfather and Grandmother rocks. There’s a legend behind these rocks but I’ll allow your own curiosity to Google the story.
Heidi and I also took full advantage of the one day we had bad weather. Griff spent the day catching up with her blog (Lolita & Me) and I used the day to be very productive working on concepts for a client’s branding project. That evening we also watched the speed boats leave Koh Samui heading towards Koh Phangan for the ‘Full Moon’ party. It was quite a spectacle to see the boats lined up along the coast and the fireworks going off late into the night. But I enjoyed it from the comfort of our beach hut across the sea.
Koh Samui was another picturesque island and we highly recommend the Bophut Beach. We stayed on the beach front of Bangrak, which is the next one along the coast from Bophut. In Bophut you will also find the ‘Fisherman’s Village’, which has various restaurants all serving quality food at reasonable prices, especially the lunch time specials.
The Koh Samui archipelago brought us highs and lows. Koh Phangan had been my biggest challenge so far but Koh Tao and Koh Samui had more than made up for that one bad day.
This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes; “The sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and baby… I’ve tasted the sour”.
You can read more of my journey here:
From W5 to Bangkok
To Ayutthaya and back again
Waterfalls, Tiger Temple and the Floating Market
Koh Samui Archipelago
Krabi: Thailand Transport and Ao Nang
Krabi: The final days in Thailand
The highs and lows of Langkawi
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