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We left Phuket and headed to the Gulf Coast Islands (east coast) for another week or so of beaching it.
We had arranged to get from Phuket to Surat Thani by minibus and then to Ko Samui by ferry. It’s really easy to book transport in Thailand as there are travel agencies everywhere and you really don’t save much booking by yourself. The only problem is often you seem to have to travel by minibus, which is just a van packed full of travellers. We were told to be ready for 7 am, but of course we didn’t get picked up til 7:45 and then we had to rendevouz with another minibus, to swap people. We made it to Surat Thani, only to find that we would have to wait in this place in the middle of nowhere for 2+ hours….lovely! We did make it to Samui eventually.
Koh Samui is the most built up of the Gulf islands and does a good mix of business with backpackers and package tourists from Europe. We also found out quickly that it also does a good business of sex tourism. We settled into a bungalow on Lamai
Beach, which is a beautiful strip of white sand. I had a phone interview scheduled for 11 pm our time (we are 11 hours ahead of Toronto) and so we had to find out how to make an international call. We wandered around locating the international pay phones, that are all located at the side of the street, with cars, scooters and trucks advertising different events by blaring promotional material going by. We bought a phone card and checked it by calling my Dad. We then wandered around killing time. The area where we were using the phone is full of girly bars with Thai girls dancing on poles behind the bars and music blarring. Quite the site! Just before 11, I went to make my call and the phone was suddenly out of order. The phone next door was now being used by the only people that had used the phone all evening. We took off running 5 min. down the road to the next phone and arrived breathless. Phoned in and started the call, amidst all the distractions of the street, only to find that the phone was eating my card at 5 times what is should have
been and so the $15 card ran out in 10 min. Paul ran to a shop to get a new one and I called again. This one worked the proper way and I was able to finish the interview. Good news is I got the position, so I have a teaching job to go home to for September.
Lamai Beach did have this somewhat seedy area of girly bars and you got used to seeing the old white guys with Thai girls. Very disturbing even after seeing it for the upteenth time. Lamai Beach has some rock formations at the end of the beach that attract lots of giggling tourists…perhaps the formations are somehow linked to the go go bars. The rocks are called Grandfather Rock and Grandmother Rock for obvious reasons. The Grandmother Rocks photos are classified…you’ll have to see our photos at home to view them.
Thai massage is a famous, traditional type of massage and there are shops everywhere where you can get a massage for under $9 Cdn for an hour. We decided we’d give it a shot and found a place that looked particularly reputable. We didn’t want a place next to the
girly bars for obvious reasons. For an hour, it cost 200 Baht ($6 Cdn) and it was a great massage – very different from the massages we get at home, but really relaxing and therapeutic. It’s hard not to get them every day! Instead of simply using ones hands and fingers, Thai massage uses hands, thumbs, fingers, elbows, knees and feet, applied to traditional pressure points. It is sometimes referred to as passive yoga, because you are pulled, twisted and manipulated into contortionist stretches and positions.
Koh Phangan is known as Samui’s rebellious younger sister and is famous for the monthly full moon parties, where up to 10,000 people gather to party on the beach under the full moon. We had planned to be on another island for the full moon party and we weren’t sure if it was our scene anyway. However, you’ll see that that changed.
After a ferry from Samui, we found a great little beach, Hat Yao that was our favorite beach is the islands. One of the main ways to get around in Thailand are sawngtheow, which are pickup traucks with seats in the back. Koh Phangan is a very mountanious
island and getting to Hat Yao was like a rollercoaster ride and you know Paul and his motion sickness. It had a beautiful strip of beach, that each day the bungalow owners cleaned meticulously. We got a bungalow (Long Beach Bungalows) with a beach view for 250 Baht ($7.50 Cdn). The bungalow was basic – fan room, cold shower, non flushing toilet, but it was comfortable and you couldn’t beat the location. The beaches here become very shallow at low tide and you can just lounge in the bath like water taking in the tranquil beach. It was great sitting out watching the sunset each evening and relaxing in the hammock on our porch.
One day, we decided the instead of simply lounging around all day, we would trek to a waterfall. Only problem was we only had a vague idea of where it was. After asking multiple people which direction to head and recieving a wide range of answers from “take a taxi” to “follow road” we decided to use a cartoon map of the island as our guide and trudged off in the general direction. We walked for an hour, mostly uphill asking directions along the way.
Finally we decended a rocky hill to find a very small water fall beside some huts. Not that exciting! However, a small sign told us “waterfall not here, go downhill 300m”. We climbed down the river to find the lovely waterfall, and after scaling the 25 ft high edge of the fall found our selves to be the only ones around. Paul had to talk me into climbing down to the falls, but after a quick mental safety check, it met my approval and down we went. Paul gladly stripped down and jumped in, and the water was cold for a change! Ahhh… this is the life…our own little Thailand waterfall. We told you this blog was X-rated!
We decided to leave our little paradise at Hat Yao and head to Koh Tao, which is an island known for diving and is the quietest of the islands. We headed to Sairee Beach and literally walked around in the blazing sun with our packs on for 2 hours trying to find a bungalow that would live up to our Hat Yao bungalow. It was more expensive here and we couldn’t get anything on the beach. We found ourselves
wishing we had stayed at Hat Yao and it just goes to show that once you find a place you like, throw out the schedule and stay! We finally settled for a place miles away from the beach.
There was a volleyball tournament going on and so that was fun to watch as the sun set. The lady boys team was most interesting in their pink spandex. We also got to see a Thai type of football, which is like volleyball, but you have to use your feet and head. It’s called Siamese Football or Takraw and these guys have some crazy bicycle type moves and are amazingly flexible.
The next day we decided to head to another beach in search of our Hat Yao paradise. We weren’t very impressed and made the spontaneous decision to head backwards, back to Ko Phangan and to our lovely beach. The bonus was that we would now be there for the Full Moon Party, which really is an experience not to be missed.
Back in Koh Phangan
We returned to our little paradise on Hat Yao and even got our same bungalow back. Even though we had wasted two
days travelling, we felt happy with our decision to return and immediately felt at home. We had a big rainstorm that evening and the power went out. Which wouldn’t have been such a big deal except Paul had his heart set on watching the England World Cup game that night. We found one place that had a backup generator and it was packed with Brits waiting to watch the game. Only problem was it was the King’s 60th Anniversary Celebrations that day and the locals were watching the ceremony and weren’t going to put the game on till it was over. We missed that first goal, but then got to watch the rest of the miserable game.
The Full Moon Party
June 11 was the 4 month anniversary for our trip and coincedentally also happened to be the day of the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan. The party is synonymous with backpacking Thailand and even though we originally hadn’t planned to experience one, we were glad we did.
We spent the day relaxing and resting up for the event. The party takes place on Hat Rin, a beach in the south and we had arranged to take a truck there and back.
I indulged in a Thai beach massage, which was very nice. Getting used to the somewhat painful Thai massage techniques. As we’ve mentioned, the roads here are very mountainous and as we set off at 8:30pm crowded into the pickup of a truck, it was quite a ride under the bright full moon. We were so glad we weren’t staying in Hat Rin, because it really is a backpacker ghetto. We can’t really put into words the Full Moon Party – it really is unbelievable and one of those experiences you have to be there to really understand how huge it is. 7,000-10,000 people crowd onto the beach and there are bars all along playing different music at impressive volume levels. There are fire entertainers everywhere that can do the craziest things with fire sticks, devil sticks, and juggling fire. We’ll be practicing and hopefully we can put on a show when we get home! People have glow in the dark paint on their bodies and everywhere sells buckets of different concoctions. Everything is for sale…yummy food, flower leys, etc. You have to be there to experience it with all your senses. We got back to our bungalow at 4
am – I know shocking for me to stay up that late! Really cool thing to experience.
We spent today relaxing and enjoying our last day on the beach. Tomorrow we are headed to Bangkok and take a ferry, followed by an overnight train. After 2 1/2 weeks of beaching it, it will be sad to leave, but on the other hand we are looking forward to touring around.
We’ll leave you with this quote….