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Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures

Thailand Island Hopping - Part One!

THAILAND | Wednesday, 4 December 2013 | Views [783]

We booked an overnight bus and boat package from Bangkok to get down to Ko Tao island, which is on the South East side of Thailand. Thankfully the last of our overnight journeys for this trip! We had checked out of our hotel at lunch time and had to kill time until the bus left at 10pm. We got no sleep at all on the bus and the leg room was a joke (poor Andrew with his long legs!), then got deposited at Lomprayah's pier at 5am and waited for their 7am boat departure to the island. Then had to wait until lunch time to check in our hotel on Ko Tao. Phew, lots of waiting and we were rather exhausted by the end of it!


Finally, we could relax! Well, kind of...


We spent 2 nights on Ko Tao, 3 nights on Koh Phangan and 4 nights on Koh Samui. It is easy getting between the 3 islands, the boats are frequent and each journey is less than an hour. On each island we spent a lot of time on a motorbikes cruising around and visiting resorts in search for the perfect wedding venue. Each resort would greet us with cold towels and free drinks - one even gave us a free lunch and use of their pool! We were given a tour around the resorts, including seeing the best rooms (private beachfront pool villas - divine!). In Koh Samui we splurged and took up the offer of a discounted rate to stay in 2 resorts.


In our down time, we planned on sunbathing, swimming and soaking up the sun. Unfortunately though, other than one day in Ko Tao and a few hours here and there on Koh Phangan & Koh Samui, we had terrible weather. October - December is Monsoon season in the south of Thailand so it isn't the best time to come as the weather is very hit and miss. Leaving Ko Tao we were hit by an extreme storm - torrential rain, incredibly loud thunder and constant lightening. Ever since then we have had overcast days, high winds and scattered rain showers. It hasn't been cold but on the few times we did swim, the wind made it rather chilly. Rather disappointing when I was so excited about enjoying 3 weeks of tropical sunny weather to end our big trip! And it makes it incredibly difficult to see the beaches true beauty and potential for our upcoming wedding. We like a lot of the resorts, but with the rough murky water and dirty dull beach from the unfortunate weather, we haven't got that "wow" factor yet and are having to rely on photos. In my mind I want white sand beaches and clear calm blue water for the wedding - which apparently the islands usually have - but at the moment, they do not. Sigh!


However, despite all this, we are enjoying our time exploring the islands. Ko Tao is stunning with unusual smooth grey big boulders and rocks decorating the beaches. The island is small and quaint with unruly jungle and a few roads leading to various beaches. (Some of the roads are rather unruly with steepness, major holes, big rocks and loose sandy gravel. Not very easy to control a motorbike on...) There is a small town around the pier and the main beach - Sairee Beach. This beach is lined with restaurants and small hotels and has a walkway behind it lined with shops. Other than that, and a few resorts scattered around, it is mainly undeveloped which makes it charming. The major draw card here is that it is the best place in Thailand to dive, and to get your PADI cert. 


Koh Phangan has 2 "faces" to it. The most well known is of course, the famous Full Moon Parties where everyone drinks copious amounts of cocktails buckets and dress up in fluro coloured clothing. This area of the island is rather seedy with broken down buildings and rubbish everywhere. Maybe it would be nicer on a sunny day and when the area was more festive, but we were there between party's and it was quiet and dull. The other "face" of the island is the (mostly upper class) resorts on the quiet more remote beaches - these were very nice and all lined with palm trees. I think on a good day, the North East beaches and the beaches to the West would be incredibly beautiful. On the motorbike, we got stuck in incredibly deep mud on the way to a meeting with one resort - it was so bad that our legs got covered in mud and we had to hitch with a local in a 4 wheel drive. Unfortunately (on a different road), we witnessed the aftermath of a terrible accident. A foreigner had come off his motorbike and wasn't wearing a helmet. He was lying in the middle of the concrete road with a pool of blood under his head. It was so horrible and upsetting to see and I really hope that he survived.... Always wear a helmet kids! Hardly anyone seems too in Asia, even the locals, and I think it is terribly stupid. I know it may not be comfortable, and it doesn't look "cool", but why wouldn't you do everything you can to stay safe and save your life? I doubt his insurance will cover him either as wearing a helmet is a clause in every policy I've ever seen.


Koh Samui is quite a large island with many different towns situated around the beaches. The main, and meant to be the most beautiful beach, is Chaweng. Tourists are very well catered too here. Then there is others to choose from, such as Lamai, Lipa Noi & Bophut - plus many others. The island is supposed to have very impressive beaches, but unfortunately at the moment, the water is too high to grant much of a beach, the water is rough, murky & dangerous and the sand is a mess. We saw a large portion of the island as we spent 2 nights on either side, and explored on a motorbike. It is very developed and western with many large expensive resorts - because of this, and the fact that is easily accessible with an airport, weddings are a big market here. To us, the island we choose for our wedding is just important as the venue. We want it to be in a place where it is easy to get too, there is plenty of things to do and lots to see, and we would always enjoy coming back. So far, Koh Samui is ticking all the boxes, but we still have the South West islands to see yet! Still, Koh Samui is very much still Asia, and is a bit rough around the edges. We spent 2 nights in North Chaweng & 2 nights in Lipa Noi. It was rather nice staying in a decent resort instead of guesthouses and budget hotels for a change! At one of the resorts we stayed at, we were invited to watch the ceremony of a wedding they were having there. It felt rather odd sitting off to the side with our free drinks on someones special day! But it was neat seeing the set up. 


The islands have been more expensive than everywhere else we have visited on our trip, with the exception of Singapore. On Koh Phangan in the low season (& not around Full Moon) and you can get private rooms for around $10, but generally for the islands, budget private rooms with an ensuite starts around $20 US with a fan. With air con & beach access its usually double that. Mid range hotels are around $70 - $180 and 4 Star + hotels begin around the $200 mark. Eating beachfront or at resorts aren't far off New Zealand prices but there are still plenty of places that you can eat for around $4-$10 pp. Taxis can be incredibly expensive - for a 5 minute journey they can charge you $10 pp and for a 20 minute journey they charge $20 pp +. For Asia, this is astronomical! All of these prices are super cheap if you are only coming for a short holiday, but for us, after places like Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam, it is hurting the pocket a little! But we were aware that that would be the case.


We celebrated our 3 year anniversary of being together (and 1 year anniversary of being engaged) recently as well. Plus Andrew had his 33rd birthday. It was hard to get him anything seeing as we are together 24 / 7 but I managed to sneakily order him a cake through room service. This time of year is very busy for us with our anniversary's, both our birthdays, Christmas and New Years. This year we celebrated most of it here in Thailand, last year in New Zealand, the year previous in South America, the year previous to that, Canada. Next year it will all be in Australia! So many memories together in so many incredible places and we are looking forward to many more...


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