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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Island Hopping

THAILAND | Friday, 27 March 2009 | Views [1850]

Many people have commented on how much they enjoyed the last blog and photos, so in attempt to give the people what they want here goes.....Island Hopping, Part 2!....(like all sequels it can never be as good as the original!)

From Ko Phi Phi we took the relatively short boat journey to perhaps the most well known island in the region, Phuket (poo -get). Rather than heading straight to the beaches, we decided to start in Phuket Town to experience something a little bit different. In looking for accommodation, I visited the On On Guesthouse which was used as the Bangkok guesthouse in 'The Beach', but was under strict instructions not to take a room unless it was room 38, where they filmed Leo!

The visit to On On wasn't a complete loss, as just down the road was perhaps the best book shop in the world!!! Ok my favourite book shop in the world, a second hand book store called 'Second Wind', where books cost $1 and we were able to pick up some 'classics'. I was like a kid in a candy store and after the sugar high wore off, my backpack weighed an extra 5 kilograms! An intended short stay ended up being a little longer than we planned after Jo fell ill for a few days, luckily nothing serious and it didn't help that the accommodation we were staying in from the corridors looked more like a prison than a hospital. After this short intermission we were soon able to move back to the beach.

I’m not sure what we expected, but Phuket wasn’t at all what i imagined. After being spoilt with the islands that we have visited so far, i wasn’t prepared for the westernisation that we experienced. Fast food chains (you know the ones i mean), restaurants, bars, shops all aimed specifically at the western tourist. You could have supplanted the island anywhere in the world and not known where you were, in short it didn’t feel like the Thailand we have grown to know and love. That said I can see why people come to Phuket, with its long beaches, fancy resorts, cheap food and alcohol, it's ideal for a 2 week holiday with a little bit of home feel, but seriously speedos/budgie smugglers are henceforth banned!!!! (It would be hypocritical of me not to mention that I did actually turn package tourist for a night, going to a bar, drinking beer and watching Liverpool give Man Utd a good hiding!)

Phuket was also the seen of our first 'Wai', a Thai gesture of placing palms together in a prayer like manner and nodding of the head, used as a greeting rather than shaking hands, which Jo carried out with skill.

Moving away from the Andaman coast we set off for the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. We decided to side step Ko Samui, as it sounded too much like a mini Phuket and headed straight to Ko Phangan (Fang Yan or something like that). Most of the journeys we had taken so far in Thailand have been, short, by boat or both. But to reach Ko Phangan would require 11 hours, by mini bus, bus and ferry. The mini bus journey was 6 hours and only entailed a few ‘close you eyes moments’ of overtaking on blind corners which seems to be the norm in South East Asia. Next was a 2 hour wait around at a 'tourist' office for no particular reason than to add some excitement to the day by making sure that the 90 minute bus journey arrived just as the ferry was departing, requiring us all to run so as to not be left stranded. The ferry journey could have been more pleasant if the lightening, thunder and torrential rain didn't follow us all the way across the sea.

Ko Phangan is famous for it's half and full moon parties, and many travellers head there for this reason alone. Having not packed our luminous whistles and glow sticks, we headed for the furthest beach away from the 'raves' . The ferry arrived late in the evening and by the time we arrived at our chosen destination it was too dark to see any of the surrounding area, so we checked in for 1 night and and waited until the next morning to see what Haad Mae Haad (Haad meaning Bay) had in store for us. Stepping out of our beach hut, we noticed that we were a stones throw away from the 'typical' squeaky clean sand and jade coloured waters, but also a sand bar to the small island of Ko Ma.

The beach also had some of the best snorkelling from the beach we have experienced thus far on the trip. Initially in trying to return to shore we almost got stranded on some of the many sea cucumbers at low tide, but luckily we found that half way down the beach there was a sand opening all the way out to the far edge of the coral making getting too and from the snorkel points more enjoyable. 

One of the problems with remote locations is that they are often without ATMs or money changing facilities and taxi services are also expensive. So short of funds we decided to take the plunge and hire our first moped of the trip. After struggling with the brakes on my practice spin, i finally mastered the 'art' well enough to take on a reluctant passenger. We made our way to the next town at speeds never seen before on the islands of Ko Phangan, i think at one point a walking lady overtook us, but that didn't stop Jo from jittering for the whole 10 minute journey. Having managed to arrive safely at our intended destination and acquired some much needed funds, and stopped at the gas 'station' to fill the moped up with gasoline.

After a quick look around Chaloklam we headed to a couple of other nearby destinations, before heading to the safety of the beach. Now that we could afford the onward journey, we booked our tickets to leave the next day. Jo deciding that she had had enough of bikes for the day, decided to stay and watch the sunset as i set off on a ride to try to use some of the tank we had filled up earlier in the day.

I managed to cover much of the island and ate far more bugs than i anticipated, at one point almost losing a eye to a dragon fly. I also managed to find a stretch of road with no pot holes and was able to over take some of the locals as i tested how fast a moped can go (3 figures apparently ;-))

We were sad to be leaving Ko Phangan as we had enjoyed our stay, when we checked in the owners had not told as that our hut came with a guard dog, that would sit on our porch and sleep outside the door of an evening to protect us from, well nothing really but it was nice to have a visitor.

We were not so sad to be leaving our other visitors behind, as nice as our hut was we had noticed a 'munching' sound during the day and in the evening. After finding the culprits and looking online, we found that our hut had termites, luckily of no danger to us as long as the hut didn't collapse around us, it was nice to be leaving them behind.

Our next destination was Ko Tao, or Turtle Island, and no destination so far on our journey has produced such contrasting opinions. One of us happy to spend us much time as possible on the island while the other couldn’t wait to leave. The main reason most people head to Ko Tao is due to it’s diving, it’s the second most popular place for PADI certification and perhaps the cheapest in the world.  However, after our first day of diving Jo discovered that she didn’t like being underwater and went back to snorkelling during the second day after giving diving one more try. Having locked ourselves into the whole dive package, including free accommodation, we weren't in the best location for Jo to be able to explore the rest of the island. I on the other hand would have happily carried on gaining diving certifications until the money ran out! During my 4 dives I came across the dangerous, titan trigger fish, moray eels and a banded sea snake more posinious than any on land! And the not so dangerous, Nemo, blue spotted stingrays, juvenille harlequinn sweet lips, puffer and porcupine fish, but unfortunately no turtles!

However, the whole experience in Ko Tao was not a complete turkey for both of us, from our PADI we met 2 really nice fellow travellers from Switzerland and Australia, whom we spent most of our time with on the island and were sad to leave, hopefully we will see them again on our travels.

Much like in Ko Phangan we also had insects to contend with, ranging from some of the biggest gecko’s we have seen to the standard cockroach, to a huge beetle that was so big and made so much noise that it awoke us both up in the night. Unfortunately, we have no documentation of this ‘freak ‘of nature as after managing to trap it under a glass, it managed to move around the room despite it’s new home and we were keen to get it out of the room as soon as possible. Wanting to find somewhere we both enjoyed we decided to move on to our next destination of Krungthep Mahanakhon Amonratanakosin Mahintara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Popnopparat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonpiman Avatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit, thankfully known as Bangkok to you and I!!

Ryan and Jo

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Tags: diving, ko phangan, ko tao, phuket


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