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Koh Pha Ngan and not a full moon party in sight

THAILAND | Thursday, 25 June 2009 | Views [2470]

The crossing over to Koh Pha Ngan was ludicrously rough. People were puking their guts up into the sea at the stern of the catamaran while it see-sawed in and out of the waves. It was too rough to sail but the boat was full to bursting and there was money to be made. A few people fell over doing that pseudo-drunken rough sea walk around the ship. I had been planning on blogging but settled for staring blankly at the horizon over staring blankly at a screen.

It was clear that the island was much bigger and more developed as soon as we arrived at the concrete port. Taxis and touts were waiting for us, waving flyers for full moon this and half moon that. We had decided quite some time previously that we did not in any shape or form want to have anything to do with the parties that have made the island legendary in backpacker lore. We had even timed our stay so as not to coincide with any lunar phase which provokes a party, the main ones being full, half and black-moon but I'm sure it won't be long before there are waning and a waxing gibbous moon parties too. The main centre of hedonism is a town on the South East corner called Had Rin.

We jumped in the back of a 4x4 taxi and asked to be taken to Chaloaklam, in the far North West corner. It's a very quiet fisherman's village by a sheltered sweeping bay reminiscent of Killiney Bay, itself a tiny Irish version of the Bay of Naples. The sand is pristine white and soft to the touch.

Longtail boats occasionally drop in to take the odd tourist on a trip to nearby Bottle Bay or further around. It's a gorgeous place with beach huts dotted along the sweep, just off the sand. We looked at a few of the huts before settling on Rose Villas which had the best constructed and cleanest.

They were all priced the same at 300 Baht for a fan room and although some seemed to think that having an outside loo was a good idea, Rose Villas had a normal bathroom and was set in a pretty garden.

This was to be the place for some down time. Us, the beach, the sun and some swimming and snorkeling. After settling in we explored the village with its three or four restaurants and two surprisingly well stocked exchange book shops. We ate at one of the restaurants, Pannee's and were not disappointed – Pannee cooked us up a storm and seems to run the place singlehandedly, taking orders, cooking, serving and clearing while her husband dutifully rocked their baby to sleep.

We bought a set of beach tennis bats and balls and made for the beach in the morning for a game and a swim. The water was incredibly clear and calm, much more so than it had been on Koh Tao – the fishermen better guardians of the environment than divers or tourists it seems.

Afterwards back to the hut for a read or a nap in the shade. So the days went – we stayed four in total and there was not much to distinguish between them. We had fish for dinner in a different restaurant one night.

It wasn't great so we returned to Pannee's the next. I turned on the laptop to write some of the blog which I had been neglecting for quite some time. We were still in Vietnam and had yet to go on the Halong Bay trip ... it was such a monster of a story it was too daunting to write. I wasn't even hoping to get a wireless signal when the Chaloaklam Health Centre's unrestricted signal came into view.

And so we learnt that Michael Jackson had died. Neither of us were fans really but it prompted us to listen to his greatest hits for the rest of the afternoon. He did have a lot of talent ... before he got weird. Pannee was all talk about it that night – someone, her brother I think had found out and was so upset he couldn't go back to work. Chalokolum is the type of place where time loses its meaning and we could have stayed for weeks but after spending more time than expected on Koh Tao we had to move on eventually.

We reluctantly bought a ticket to Kao Sokh National Park, back on the mainland. Koh Samui is the next island down in the chain, also the largest and most developed. Koh Samui has an airport and 5 star hotels and McDonalds. We gave it a miss. The lady we bought the ticket off offered us a discounted taxi ride back to the port for the ferry. It was a rusty jeep that looked like it had actually been used in world war II and had appeared in M*A*S*H. A most unexpected and bouncy MOT 39.

Tags: beach, hut, island


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