Thailand 2009

Thong Nai Pan, Ko Phangan, Thailand

After spending a few days here in Haad Rin, it’s time to move on.

2 nights ago I went down to the beach, where the full moon parties are held.  The bars overlooking the beach have parties there every night, so one doesn’t have to wait for the full moon to get a taste of what happens.  Whilst supping a beer and watching the fire dancers I bumped into the Dutch couple from the night before, and a group of friends they have made.  We moved between a few bars and watched the various games and fire juggling that goes on there.  It’s an interesting display, well rehearsed (every day of the year), and very loud.  I have never seen so many massive PA systems so close together.

Today though I want to go to Thong Nai Pan, a beautiful set of beaches in the north east corner of Ko Phangan.  The road is in poor condition, so it’s not a place lots of people go.  Yet it has perhaps the best swimming beaches on the island, and not the normal knee-high water you’ll find at Thailand’s beaches.

I leave the guesthouse fairly early and ask at some of the taxi touts.  There’s no vehicle leave right now, and I’m given the option of leaving now for 1,000Baht.  Um, no thanks.  The lady I spoke to said to wait in a cafe and she’ll get me when there are other people.

I have my breakfast, and wait.  Brian, who I met on the beach the other day joins me, and leaves before I find a taxi.  The taxi lady passes several times and looks in, but she doesn’t call me over.

I know the ferry arrives at 13:50, because I was on it a few days before.  At 13:15 I head over to the ferry terminal in the hope people from the ferry will want to go to Thong Nai Pan.

After the normal hustle and bustle from the ferry I find 2 guys who want to go, and eventually another couple.  So that’s 5 of us to split the 1,500Baht mini-bus.  Perfect.  And it’s a AC mini-bus and not a pickup.  I love the pickups, but I know this is a bumpy ride that takes 45 minutes.

We get to the beach and I find a nice place to stay……..

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Ko Phangan, Thailand

Up early again, I go down to Harry’s for breakfast.  I enjoy the best banana pancakes I have had in Thailand (I would think Thailand would have the best banana pancakes, but generally they are a bit lacking).  I say goodbye to the people there, who I have got to know a bit over the last few weeks.  Harry gives me my money back saying it’s his treat.  Nice people indeed.

I get the bus to the northern ferry terminal.  After a wait the ferry chugs us over to Phangnan.  The islands are amazing close at the closest point.  The boat docks at Haad Rin, and it’s nice to be able to walk off and not need a taxi/pickup.  I sidestep the touts and take a look around.  It’s fairly quiet, as if a lot of people are missing.  I head towards the beach to get some bearings.  As the lane ends and the beach begins I notice a stack of massive speakers.  This is the Full Moon part beach, and I notice I am right next to Paradise, the place where the parties started.  I think it’s a good idea to not stay this close to the music.  I require something much more chilled.  The beach is amazing though.

I head south from the town, and ask at a good looking place.  They only have expensive rooms left.  As I am walking a Swedish guy on a scooter asks I am looking for a room.  He says he runs a place at the top of the hill, and has a basic single room for 150 Baht.  This is much cheaper than most places.  I say thanks.  He offers me a lift, I say I make my own way up.

It’s a fair walk up steep hills, but I love to check things out as  I travel.  Many travelers are ushered from point to point, without seeing things like the spaghetti of wires that run up the lane, or the massive lizards that lurk in the vegetation.

The Chill House is the place.  The views are amazing, and the room basic.  But’s it’s very cheap, the cheapest place I have stayed in Thailand.  I chat with Michael for a while about the rising prices in Thailand, the lack of people this year, and his living here for the last 18 months.

I get my things are head down to the town.  I take a needed dip in the sea.  The water is calm, turquoise and teaming with small tropical fish.  I get a drink and something to eat.  I walk the length of the town looking for places to stay.  I find a few good options, and they are all in the 500 Baht range.  More than I want to pay, but I am after a little comfort at the moment.

I have an iced coffee on the beach and head back to the guesthouse, where I get attacked my mosquitoes in the shower.

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Monkeys picking coconuts in Ko Samui, Thailand

Coconut Farmer

I heard some ‘thudding’ sounds today.  Looking out from my window I saw two guys looking up at the coconut trees. They had very long, thick string running up to the top of the trees.  I then realised that they had monkeys up the trees knocking down the coconuts.  The monkeys are tied to the string to stop them running away.

This seems pretty ingenious to me (animal cruelty rights aside, see below).  Koh Samui’s income historically, and even today despite the tourism, is from coconuts.  The island is covered with coconut filled rain forest.  A lot of coconuts grow here, and are sold.

The original travellers that came to Koh Samui in the 1970s came on coconut boats, that were brining supplies to the island, and would return loading with coconuts.

The guys I saw today were there for most of the day, but left with 2 pickups full of coconuts.

Some would argue that it is cruel to make the monkeys climb the trees.  I do not like animal cruelty, but I am not a vegetarian.  I eat meat, wear leather, and drink milk.  Some would argue that those things are also animal cruelty.  The people of southeast Asia would probably not consider it cruel to have a monkey climb a tree.  They probably would think it cruel to rear chickens in battery farms, or to heard massive numbers of dairy cows, both of which have happened in the west for decades.

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Cornwall, England to Ko Samui, Thailand – 2 trains, 3 planes, 1 bus, 1 ferry and a pickup

My overnight train from Cornwall to London is 2 hours late arriving at Truro station.  I’m waiting at the platform with Abby, in the freezing cold, thinking that the train won’t arrive, and I won’t make my flight.  But, finally the train does arrive.  I have a good nights sleep in the train, and after breakfast catch the Heathrow Express to the airport.

I check-in and start a long series of flights.  I am flying with Jet Airways, an Indian company that I had read mixed reports about. However their planes and service are good.  The first leg is to Mumbai, one of my favourite cities, and one which has suffered terrible recently.

London is covered with snow as we take off.

Changing planes at Mumbai airport turns into a small adventure.  We all go through security again.  Some people get annoyed that it is taking so long.  Whilst we cue, airport staff members are walking through the metal detectors, coming the other way, and setting them off.  Having spent time in India, I understand this to be typically India.

Eventually we make it to our next plane.  The overnight leg to Bangkok.  All goes smoothly and I feel good, although tired, as we land at Bangkok’s distinctive airport at dawn.  I love being away at dawn (when it’s warm and sunny).  It’s funny to think that this airport saw so much grief recently.  I get my bags, pass through customs (getting my 2 month stamp) and wait outside to take in the air and enjoy a cigarette.

I re-enter the airport, making my way to departures upstairs.  I take off my shoes and leave them by a bin.  A Chinese man, who now lives in Malaysia, says “they are nice shoes, you should keep them.”  I explain I am hot and I will not need them.  I barely wore them at all during my last 7 month stay in Asia, and I don’t intend for them to take up space in my backpack this time.

I check in for my Air Asia flight to Surat Thani.  I kill time with a coffee and making use of the Edge network in the airport to check my emails.

The flight to Surat Thani offers some great views of the Gulf of Thailand.

Surat Thani airport is interesting.  A fairly large runway, with the surrounding area fairly overgrown, with a small terminal at one end.

Like all good tourist connections in Thailand there is a bus waiting to meet us from the plane, and takes us straight to the ferry terminals.  I elect for Ko Samui, rather than Ko Phangnan, as I have not been to Samui.

I chat to a guy from London called Ben.  He comes here a lot, and only managed to stay at home for a few months before wanting to leave to come back to Thailand..

The ferry makes it way out into the Gulf of Thailand.  It’s a beautiful part of the world.  The ferry docks and Ben and I jump in a pickup heading towards Lamai beach.  I check into the same place as Ben, where we has stayed before.  It’s a good place, run by nice people.

I’m exhausted and managed to sleep easily.

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