Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui

2 Dec

Luckily, the ferry this time around was quick and easy and we arrived at the pier in Koh Phangan after about three hours. At first glance it definitely seemed more built up than Koh Tao, yet the water by the pier was far cleaner. We weren’t sure what to expect from this island, with its notorious full moon and half moon party reputation. Yet, we were blown away with the utter calmness and beauty that it emitted a few kilometers away from the party beach, and a few weeks out from the next full moon. We took a cab from the pier to Goodtime Hostel at charm beach, a hostel that our friend Liz from Mai Chau recommended to us. Previously, Goodtime had been a resort before it was scooped up and rebranded as a hostel. People still refer to it as Charm Beach Resort and rightfully so. We arrived to a beautiful beachfront property, surrounded by bungalows, a small building that held the dorm rooms, an open restaurant, an in-ground pool, tiki bar and volleyball court. The beach was our backyard for the next few days. Our time on Koh Pangan, with the exception of one glaringly difficult hike, was the picture of relaxation. Most of our days were spent sleeping in, shuffling to eat breakfast, shuffling to the beach, wandering around the Big C grocery store and using their clean bathroom, and buying 7 Eleven out of raspberry cream cookies and other treats. We were blessed with gorgeous weather for the most part, and with the beach so very close to us, we found little excuses to leave the hostel.

When we first arrived we were greeted with some rain and didn’t get up to much, other than eating a meal at a local spot prepared by a man who may have been the the Bob Marley of Phangan. We headed to the Big C that evening and grabbed some booze before heading to the hostel to drink in the dorm like high-schoolers sneakily drinking in a basement, since the hostel had a no outside booze policy. After getting our Catch Phrase, Charades and card games on, we headed downstairs to the tiki bar for what was only one beer before the craving of 7 Eleven toasties consumed us. After quenching that thirst we crawled into bed. The following day, Thanksgiving, we spent our day on the beach feeling ever so thankful and a little nostalgic for home, family and friends. We were motivated to have a true Thanksgiving dinner that evening and headed to the one Western eatery, a “Saloon” of all places, that we thought may just have what we were looking for. We approached to find a specials sign declaring a Thanksgiving Dinner, listing out the overwhelming items that the plate included. At 330 Baht it was certainly going to be one of our pricier meals, but we knew we needed it. We anxiously awaited the presentation of a Thanksgiving dinner made in Asia, and were astounded when the plates were placed in front of us. We were treated to a meal of turkey and ham, green beans with bacon, roasted sweet potatoes and pumpkin, corn on the cob, cranberry sauce and a big heaping spoon of mashed potatoes, with our own individual boats of gravy on the side that allowed us to smother each and every bit with the liquid crack. Asian Thanksgiving exceeded all of our expectations, and as Josh’s first Thanksgiving dinner with Americans, it did not disappoint. While we certainly had wanted to drink that night, as most Thanksgivings go the food defeated us and we went to bed with food babies of pure happiness.

Influenced by the weight of our Thanksgiving dinner I’m sure, we decided to get some movement in the following day with a hike to the highest view point of the island, Khao Ra. I had read on Travelfish that the hike was about a two hour trek to the top and could be done in sneakers or good sandals. I took that to mean the hike would be fairly easy, and described it to the others as leisurely. Leisurely it was not. We took a cab to the entrance and started our journey up. It was hot, I was dehydrated and I was certainly a weak link. Before even entering the forest portion of the hike, which was mostly vertical, we had all sweat through our clothing. After an hour and a half of sweating and stopping and blacking out and feeling nauseous, we made it to the top that felt like an eternity away. While certainly hellish at most points, the trek was worth it. The view from the top was incredible and we all felt highly accomplished and satisfied with ourselves. While certainly easier, the trek downward was painful in a different way, trying to avoid slipping down the incline, hitting our toes against our sneakers and feeling the pain in our knees. Then, it started to rain. We picked up our pace through the mud while soaked with both rain and sweat in a race to the bottom. Luckily the trees helped take the brunt of the rain and by the time we emerged from the greenery to the rocky road, the rain had dissipated. We took a cab back to the hostel and jumped into the water, my first entrance into water since the second demolition of my toe, before grabbing some Thai food for dinner, heading to the Big C, and playing drinking games in the bungalow.

Our last day on the island was spent appreciating the perfect sun on the beach, moving back and forth between sun and shade, eating cookies, finishing books, swapping books and starting books. After the sheer effort put into the previous day we did not feel bad doing absolutely nothing. We didn’t even bother showering before heading to dinner at a Mexican spot to make the 50 baht Chang happy hour. A few tacos and beers later, we maintained our lazy island spirit, deciding to go to bed and read instead of spend the night drinking. While none of us were quite ready to leave Koh Phangan, our friends Johnny and Laura from our most recent Bangkok hostel were going to Koh Samui and, as the next logical stop, we decided we would go meet them and booked into the same hostel. We sat in a bit of sadness at breakfast on the morning we were leaving, looking out at our perfect view wondering if we’d ever have such a good hostel and perfect location again.

We headed to Samui on a brief ferry ride and were slightly troubled by the scenery once we arrived. The majority of the drive was surrounded by Western influence, especially Chewang beach, where we had booked our hostel, naive to the tourist infiltration. On our drive down the road our hostel was on, we were accosted by the sights of McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King and multiple gift shops, giving the area the same feel as a Jersey Shore beach. We arrived at Chill Chewang hostel, across from what seemed to be an abandoned construction site. To get to the room we were staying in, you had to walk down a dripping back alley and through construction. The room itself, while totally fine, was saturated with mosquitos at all hours. We had no idea where so many mosquitos could be migrating from to this room. One of the hostel workers carried around a mosquito zapper and would sneak into our room flailing the thing around to try and zap any and all mosquitos in her path, unsuccessfully.

We had two nights booked in Samui and determined pretty rapidly that two would be enough. After arriving and getting settled we grabbed the cheapest food deal we could find nearby and went to find the beach. Of course, even though invaded by hordes of tourists, the beach was beautiful. We ran into Johnny, Laura and their latest addition, Brigitte, who were staying at the same hostel as us (as planned). That evening we classically bought our Sangsom and coke and sat around the table at the hostel playing drinking games for most of the night before heading off to a bar, which Shauna and I quickly escaped from to go to McDonalds.

Our second and final day on the island was spent on the beach and in bed by those too hungover to care to leave (cough, Josh, cough). After a few hours on the beach, where the water had currents too strong and too much garbage to swim, I headed back to bed as well. We definitely did not want to be drinking that evening, so after an incredible noodle soup that made me nostalgic for the noodle soups of my past at an excellent small joint we walked to the cinema to see the latest Harry Potter movie. The movie, to our surprise, was in 3D and had us feeling like children again, while the chairs were the comfiest I had ever had in a theater. All in all it was a great chill night and certainly a welcomed break from all the boozing. The following morning we returned to the restaurant from the night before and got more addicting noodle soup before heading to the ferry to return to Koh Phangan. With Shauna and Emily gone off to the north, we figured we’d head back to our favorite island hostel spot for a few more days because were were definitely not through with it.

We’ve been in Koh Phangan for three additional days and four nights and just as before it has been lazy and great. Two out of the four nights were spent eating at the Mexican Restaurant, one of which was followed excessively by desserts of apple crumble and brownie sundaes at the saloon. We rented motorbikes and drove to Mae Haad, a small island separated from the main part of Koh Phangan by a strip of sand that waves crash on from both sides. We had beers on the beach and wandered off onto the sand bar at night, when the water recoiled so deeply into the ocean that you could no longer sense its presence. Tomorrow morning, if we can ever get out past this rain tonight and buy tickets, we’ll move onto Phuket, all the way across the island, and from there, we have not a clue. Either over to Koh Phi Phi, or onward to Malaysia. But, as always, we will continue to push off any decisions that need to be made until the last possible hour.


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