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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Getaway to Koh Samui

THAILAND | Friday, 16 March 2012 | Views [635]

This is the reward: view from the top, think it was an almost 1 km trek, only 7 of us made the effort to get there (out of probably 70 total).

This is the reward: view from the top, think it was an almost 1 km trek, only 7 of us made the effort to get there (out of probably 70 total).

With all the diving courses completed, I decided to leave Koh Tao a few days earlier to visit Koh Samui, and then leave from Koh Samui back to Bangkok.  Koh Samui was only a 2.5-hour ferry ride away from Koh Tao, and from there I could take a day trip to Ang Thong National Park, a beautiful park that I wanted to visit after seeing some photos.

I bade the team at DJL goodbye, used up all of my food vouchers (I drank lots of rum and coke at the end, they cost the most on the menu so I could use up all the vouchers), and packed up my room.  The "supervisor" at the apartments gave me a ride on his motorcycle to the pier that morning, which was very kind of him but rather scary for me; I was carrying a 16-kg backpack, made it hard to hang on and I was afraid to move in case I fell backwards.  Once I landed in Koh Samui, I was glad I booked my accommodation beforehand.  Originally I though I would just find a place once I got there, but turned out the lodgings were very spread out and not walkable from the pier.  I ended up at a charming hotel in Bo Phut village; all the rooms were bungalows, and there was a/c,  mosquito nets for the bed, and a TV, what luxuries compared to what I had in Koh Tao!

I took care of booking the day trip and logistics back to Bangkok first (the sleeper train was full, so I only got a regular seat on an overnight train back to Bangkok, oh no!)  Compared to Koh Tao, Koh Samui was a metropolis.  There were major chain hotels like Four Seasons and Westin, an airport with direct flights from major Asian cities, plenty of taxis (no meter still, must negotiate first), lots of vehicles, and even traffic lights on the road!  Chaweng was the largest village on the island, and Bo Phut was much smaller, which I preferred.  

The Bo Phut Fisherman's Village had plenty of restaurants and bars and was within walking distance from my hotel.  I looked for the food carts and there weren't many, but the ones there all had locals eating from them, so I figured the food couldn't be bad.  The first cart I encountered had all sorts of charcoal-grilled skewers (meat and internal organs), and salads made using mortar and pestle, perfect!  I ordered several skewers and a green papaya salad.  Again I was lucky to have other customers there who helped me; one lady insisted I eat the skewers with some sticky rice to even the richness of the meats (she was right), and another made sure my salad wasn't too spicy.  The second kart was noodle soup, yum!  This one even had pig's blood, so I had my noodle soup with that (he seemed surprised), fish ball, and chicken.  The gift stores in the village had more unique items than Koh Tao, so shopping was more fun.   

The next day I was picked up bright and early to the pier (there were at least three piers in Koh Samui, Koh Tao only had one).  The day trip to the park included kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking, although most passengers on the ferry didn't appear they were looking to do more than a ferry ride; girls were putting make-up on and their attire were definitely not meant to get wet.  It took 1.5 hours to get to Ang Thong;  to get from the ferry to land, we had to transit using the long-tail boat.  By now I was very familiar and comfortable with getting on and off the long-tail, but the other passengers mostly weren't, because many grabbed a life jacket and freaked out when the long-tail tipped side to side as passengers got on (it was supposed to do that by design, but it never tips over).  C'mon people!  Once on shore, I immediately started the trek to the viewpoint.  I saw photos taken from the viewpoint and the views were breathtaking, so I was determined to get there.  I wore my hiking shoes assuming it would be a long and steep hike, and I was right.  The path was full of huge rocks and was quite damp;  there was a rope tied from tree to tree to mark the path since it wasn't so obvious.  After about 15 minutes, I got to the viewpoint, and I thought "that's it?!" Turned out that was only the first rest stop.  Another couple was coming up behind me so I kept going, trying to avoid the crowd.  After another 10 minutes, I reached the second viewpoint, and the view still wasn't what I expected yet.  By then a local guide, wearing only sandals, literally flew past me, hopping from rock to rock effortlessly.  He paused and told me it was another 500 meters to the top; I was only halfway there!  The last half was much steeper with huge rocks, and I was almost rock-climbing by this point.  A second local guide flew past me, and he was even more impressive, barefoot!  

The last 50 meters to the top was insane; it was freakishly steep, and I had to pull on the rope to not fall backwards.  I almost gave up except the two local guides were waiting at the top, and I couldn't give up now!  I pulled it together and got to the top, now I saw the view I was expecting!  After a while 6 other people got to the top also, so out of a ferry with 70 passengers, only 7 of us bothered to do the hike and finished, hurry for us!  Most impressive was a 70-year-old Malaysian grandpa, wearing only sandals.  I praised his physicality and could only wish I'd be that fit at 70.  The two local guides sat and waited for us to climb down; their job was to make sure everyone who got to the top could get down, and that no one was left behind by the ferry.  They said they make this climb everyday, so I asked how long they take:  only 30 minutes to ascend and 10 minutes to descend!  It took me at least 45 minutes to the top, and 30 minutes back down.  Talk about being fit, those two were crazy fit!

We returned to the boat by noon and had lunch.  The boat then made its way to another island, and once there about 20 of us went on shore so we could kayak to yet another island, and the boat would sail there to meet us.  I was partnered with an Irish guy on holiday, and luckily we were in sync enough to move the kayak smoothly.  We kayaked along the coastline and through "tunnels", it was amazing!  The kayak got stuck at some narrow channels, and luckily my partner was strong enough to pull us out.  Once we got to shore, we could choose to relax and snorkel, or hiked up and over a set of steep stairs to a lagoon hidden on that island.  My legs were quite tired from the morning hike but I could not give up the chance to see the lagoon.  And boy it was gorgeous, so pristine and quiet, and the water was a beautiful emerald green.  With all the hiking done, I decided it was time to jump into the water.  The water was quite shallow but I thought it would deepen away from shore; I started swimming and my foot scrapped a rock or some coral, the water was still only waist-deep even though I was about 40 meters from shore, WTF!  This water was dull and boring compared to Koh Tao, I've been spoiled.  I got out and noticed slight bleeding on my foot, not a big deal, just glad I had no more activity planned before returning home.

I knew my trip back to Bangkok was going to be long, but it completely exceeded my assumption.  I thought it would be like this:  a 2-hour ferry from Koh Samui to Surat Thani, from there a shuttle bus would transfer me from the pier to the railroad station (figured it was close by), so I would have several hours to kill before the 8 PM train, which would get to Bangkok at 6 AM.  That would give me 7 hours before my flight to HK, plenty of time to grab food and get myself to the airport.  The reality was far from it:  ferry ride was fine, but the "short" shuttle bus turned out to be 2 hours, though still gave me time to drop off my bag and grabbed some food; luckily I stumbled into a street full of food carts, with locals buying food to take home for dinner, it was eye-opening!  I was stuffed and tired by the time I got on the train at 8 PM, so I settled in hoping for a good night sleep.  The train left the station on time, and it made several stops along the way.  I fell asleep so had no idea it stopped sometimes for no reason, and by the time it got to Chumphon (less than halfway to Bangkok) and more passengers boarded, the train was two hours late.  I woke up around 5 AM and thought we should be close to Bangkok, but oh heck no.  The train was impossibly late and did not get to Bangkok until 10:40, a full 4 hours and 40 minutes after its scheduled arrival.  How do people live with such delays??  I was thankful that I had planned ahead my transportation to the airport from the train station, so I knew exactly where to go.  From the train station, I walked to the metro station and took the metro to the Airport Link station, and the Airport Link train only took 20 minutes to the airport.  It was smooth sailing from there.

BTW if you've never flown with Emirates Airline and/or on an Airbus A380 before, you really should.  Major kudos to Emirates: great service and awesome planes. I've never seen such a spacious Economy class before, could only imagine what Business and First class are like on the upper deck.  The TV screen in Economy class was the largest I've seen, and the selection of movies was huge (I almost wished the flight was longer so I could watch more movies!)  It was only a 3-hour flight from Bangkok to HK, yet I was served a lovely meal with wine.  It was a great way to wrap up a memorable month in Thailand!

PS on that scrape on my foot, turned out it was a big deal after all.  Two days after I returned to HK, the area around the cut swelled up and was painful to the touch.  I gave in and saw a doctor, who said it was infected, and I had to take antibiotics and clean the wound twice daily.  Boo on the infection, but lucky on the timing.  The wound is healing nicely, although all the mosquito bites have left my legs sad looking.  Don't think they will improve with the rest of my travel.  As for that killer hike at Ang Thong NP?  My legs were sore for days afterwards, gave me fond memories of Christine's killer Tuesday workouts.

Tags: ang thong national park, bangkok train, bo phut, emirates airline, koh samui

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