Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao, Thailand

Day 28 – 31, Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand

Wow, what day is it today? I found myself asking myself this question fairly often at this stage of the trip. One day just rolls into the next, and it’s easier to remember to get a boat in 3 days than what day of the week it is… such is the life of someone who’s been travelling for a while.

The weather hadn’t cleared up much, it was still low season, relatively cool and the sky was mostly cloudy. The timing was still not the best so instead we enjoyed mopedding around the island, doing some hiking, having a few drinks and enjoying some local seafood.

We caught the Lomprayah hi-speed catamaran from Ko Samui to the port town of Tong Sala on Ko Pha Ngan. By this time, we were arriving at destinations having done little more research than looking at our Lonely Planet guide and thinking about what sort of vibe we were looking for, and of course what kind of budget. We quickly decided that we didn’t want to go for the Haad Rin dance party scene (famous for its full-moon parties) so we decided to stay on the complete opposite side of the island, the quiet Mae Haad Bay, where there was good snorkelling to be had.

Half an hour or so after getting off the ferry, and an overpriced taxi ride later, we arrived at Mae Haad Bay Resort, a typical Thai bungalow-bar-restaurant operation. We stayed there for 350 Baht per night (about AUD$13) which was fine for us. Mae Haad Bay was alright. Pretty quiet and relaxing. Not much to do unfortunately, the weather was still not ideal – cloudy skies and choppy seas, so we didn’t really do any swimming or snorkelling. Mae Haad is a small peninsula with a beach on one side and a small bay on the other, and just opposite the point is a small island, Ko Mah. When the tide is low, there is a narrow sand bar that forms a land bridge. Not much on the island except a laid-back little bar and bungalow operation.

Marble Bar, Ko Pha Ngan
Marble Bar at Mae Haad Bay, Ko Pha Ngan.

During our three-and-a-half days or so on Ko Pha Ngan, we checked out a hiking trail that led to a lookout and a small series of waterfalls, Phaeng Falls. Not spectacular but pretty nice. We also cruised around some of the other bays and beaches, and our friend Pit from the bungalow place took us down to where she and some friends were starting a little seafood barbecue business. We had a little feast on baked fish, barbecued prawns and squid and of course some cheap local beer. We were also going to go to the half-moon party to at least check out one of the Ko Pha Ngan parties, but we were tired…

Each day we looked up and hoped but there was little improvement. The locals said any day now the weather should clear up, but it didn’t. We decided it was time to move on to the next stop, Ko Tao. I thought at least on Ko Tao, if the weather didn’t improve we could still do our PADI open water scuba dive course as we’d been planning, and at least that would be good. People were actively discouraging us from getting a boat to Ko Tao, but we were getting kinda bored as we couldn’t find much to do. They said the boat would be really rocky. Being the natural cynic, I also thought seeing these people worked at the bungalows and local bar, it was in their interest for us to stay on Ko Pha Ngan, and y’know, keep lining their pockets. After all, it was low season and all…

I may have got it wrong though…

Day 31 – 37, Ko Tao, Thailand – “Hold on to your butts”

The first day we asked about getting the boat to Ko Tao, they said they weren’t running, try tomorrow. The next day I inquired about getting tickets for the Lomprayah high speed ferry. The lady said it was no problem, the Lomprayah goes no matter what… So I’m like “okaaay…” How bad could it be right? On the next day I even said to Meg “Hey let’s sit at the front and really enjoy the ride”. Well, needless to say, I won’t be making that call again. I’ve never been on a rough boat ride like this before. Wall after wall of water came at our boat, and suddenly it didn’t feel like that big a boat any more. We’d go up, then down, then up again, and then another person would shriek or vomit. The worst was when the 6m swells would come from the side, that’s when you really felt like you were in danger. The luggage ended up all over the place and Meg’s and my knuckles were white from gripping our armrests to stay in our seats. We must have been about 2 out of maybe 10 people on the ferry that didn’t get sick. I put that down to our light breakfast (muesli with fruit and yoghurt) several hours earlier, and the film that was showing, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, which kept our attention throughout the trip.

I heard that the boat still goes in 12m swells, though I also heard that one time a driver was told to drive the ferry against his own protests. Half way there the boat ran out of fuel due to having to continually dodge or steer into large waves. Everyone had to get out and transfer into a second ferry that was sent out. Glad that didn’t happen to us. Moral of the story, if they say the boat will be rough, don’t go!

Anyway, so that was the boat ride… when we got to Ko Tao two hours later, we took a 4WD taxi to our favourite spot from our last visit to Thailand, Tanote Bay. That bumpy ride almost finished off what the boat had begun, but I made it there in the end.

Like Samui and Pha Ngan, Ko Tao was in low season. Still, there were plenty of German travellers around. Christmas is their biggest holiday break. Some of the bungalow operators hadn’t opened up yet, but the one we stayed at 3 years ago was running, and some of the guys remembered us so that was cool. Meg and I decided to follow through with our plans to get our PADI open water scuba diving certification. Tanote bay was quiet and there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. We did it through Blacktip Diving. They were pretty good, if you’re thinking of doing it. Our instructor, Graham, was very thorough and professional. After the first day Megan’s initial apprehensions were relieved and a few days later we had passed all theory and practical exams and done our first five open water scuba dives. We squeezed a little Christmas celebration in there also. Nothing big, just some quiet drinks and a nice Italian meal between the two of us, and some phone calls and text messages to family and friends.

Meg with a strawberry daiquiri
Meg with a strawberry daiquiri at Christmas.

In the time we were there, the weather finally cleared up and there was some good diving and beach bumming had. After our last dive on the 27th December, our dive instructor filled in our papers and then we got straight back onto a ferry to Ko Samui (very calm ride this time!) where we spent another night before flying back to Bangkok airport and then on to Siem Reap, Cambodia on the 28th. That’s the next post

Related posts