Sunday, 28 July 2013

Day Seventeen & Eighteen - Ko Pha-ngan - Thailand

We woke up today feeling slightly worse for ware after spontaneously sampling the nightlife in the Sukhumvit district of Bangkok the night before! We had a large breakfast before getting a taxi for over an hour right across to the other side of town to a far west suburb of Bangkok to catch a bus south towards Hua Hin.

I had decided back in the UK to get busses or trains as we gradually made our way south to the islands of Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Samui in the southern golf of Thailand rather than to fly. We would stop off overnight in Hua Hin about halfway down as a break along the way. The town of Hua Hin is a traditional Thai beach resort that hoards of wealthy business savvy Thai's from Bangkok flock to each weekend filling it's trendy resorts and restaurants. It was originally put on the map in the late 1800's and early 1900's when the Thai monarchy made this their holiday destination and visited time and time again. Outside of the main town crystal clear water and white beaches line the coast untouched by mass development.

The bus we caught from Bangkok took just under four hours to reach Hua Hin and passed through Jungle lined Thai countryside along the way. The bus must have been older than either one of us and its old caucus rattled the whole way shaking our bones as we passed over the bumpy road south. The pane of glass on Jamie's side could be moved significantly if pushed and there were stains everywhere marking its age and the thousands of passengers that have been aboard before. The 'overly made' bus conductor (in contrast fuchsia lipstick that went way over the contour of her natural lips and purple eyeshadow that looked like she had been beat up) insisted we travel the whole way with the curtains closed. I had to sneakily peak out to see what was outside everything I saw her nod off. On the plus side, the air con worked and due to it being mid week (and the bus being less than appealing) we pretty much had the whole thing to ourselves!

We arrived in Hua Hin late afternoon and got a Tuk Tuk from our bus stop to our hotel. Our hotel was in the somewhat less trendy down town area of Hua Hin away from the five star resorts and hotels that lie in the bustling centre to the north of town. We went out and walked along the beach spotting the famous gold Buddha statue at the far south of the bay while watching all the fishing boats come in and out from sea. Horses were taking tourists up and down the beautiful white sand beach and the sea front was lined with bars and hotels. We stopped at a beach bar for some snacks before heading back to our hotel at sunset.

In the evening we caught a Tuk Tuk to the 'trendy' area of town and explored the mass of resorts and bars. We ended up in another Japanese restaurant and has sushi and noodles for dinner before heading back for some sleep.

The next day we got up early and headed back into town to catch a bus we had pre booked from the UK that would take us down to Chumphon where we would catch a high speed catamaran across to Ko Pha-ngan. The bus journey took about four hours and went at an average spend of over seventy miles per hour (according to one of Jamie's man apps!) The countryside of vast green jungle that went far up into the mountains which border with Myanmar, not too far west, whizzed past as we made our way to the port.

We arrived at the port of Chumphon at midday. We got off the bus and checked in with the post staff and were issued stickers for us and our bags with colours varying depending on which island you got off at. The journey on the boat took a little under three hours. We first stopped at the smaller island of Ko Tao before we were dropped off on Ko Pha-ngan.

It was early evening now and we headed to a local bar to find a way of getting across to the other side of the island to where our bungalow was. After being moved from one taxi to another we made our way east to the rural village of Thong Nai Pan. The route went round the largest mountain on the island (basically the heart of the island as it only measures four kilometres wide) The route took us through dense, beautiful jungle that every so often looked out through a clearing in the trees to the sea down below. We carried along the road until the tarmac ran out. The final ten kilometres went up and down steep mud tracks with huge trenches and holes carved out of it from the tropical rains that fall regularly on this island which make it so green.

The journey from Bangkok had been long and hard to get here. To be honest up to this point, Thailand had not lived up to the dreams I had once imagined, especially following the amazing experiences we'd had in Vietnam and Cambodia. However, our weary faces filled with joy and excitement now at the prospect of what we had to explore over then next few days and nights that we would be spending here on Ko Pha-ngan.

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