Friday October 9, 2015 (Asia, Southeast Asia, Thailand)
What trip to Thailand is complete without visiting at least a couple of islands? We decided to visit Koh Samui and Koh Tao in quick succession. Two nights in each, to be exact.
It started with a flight to Surat Thani. From the airport, it’s easy to get a shuttle out to the Don Sak ferry terminal to catch the boat over to Koh Samui. It was definitely a “travel day”, but we made it! I took some pictures of the fading light as we made our way towards our island destination.
One of the first things we noticed about the islands is the price jump for taxis. A ride that would cost the equivalent of 50 THB in Bangkok costs about 200-300 THB on the islands. And the taxis have somehow got a racket going where they all charge “per person”. This morning, for instance, our taxi driver saw two of us and said the cost would be 200 THB to take us to the pier. I agreed. Then Robin showed up. And suddenly the price was 300 THB. Despite the fact that there’s no way he’s using that much in extra fuel. It’s really irritating, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
We only really had one full day in Koh Samui, so we took up our host’s offer at the Tamarind Lodge to take us on a day tour of the island. He dropped us into some local restaurants for breakfast and lunch and has us try various local delicacies. I really enjoyed the “Samui Caramels” – a gel-like caramel that comes in various flavours. My favourite was the Pandan Leaf flavour. Tasty!
Between meals, our driver Ron brought us to his favourite temple, his favourite beach, and of course the “Big Buddha”. We also dropped in on the “Grandfather and Grandmother” rocks, so called due to their phallic appearance. I didn’t really take any pictures of them. After all, how many rocks could be interpreted to look like genitalia? In my mind, almost all of them. So this is not a special destination to me.
And that was basically it for Koh Samui! After our full day there, we took a quick ferry the next morning to get ourselves to Koh Tao.
One thing we noticed about the islands was the constant haze about them. It was bizarre and unlike any weather I think I’ve ever experienced. It wasn’t really raining, and there weren’t any clouds… it was just hazily overcast throughout our entire time in the islands. I think that’s what you get if you visit during the rainy season. It certainly doesn’t light up the water with those magical aquas you’re probably expecting. So maybe think twice if you’re expecting picture-postcard views in the Thai islands during the rainy season.
On to the next island! We had received a recommendation for Koh Tao with regard to the excellent diving and snorkelling there. After arriving at our accommodation (the Chaantalay Hotel), we arranged for a snorkel trip for our only full day on the island.
Only the very last picture in the set above as taken on Koh Tao. We have tons of GoPro footage from the snorkelling that will be uploaded at some point. But really all of our time was spent in or around the water, and I get justifiably paranoid when bringing ye olde beastly camera along for the ride.
Our snorkel trip was done with Diamond Tour, and we had a positive experience with them. As with many companies and tour operators, there were some mixed reviews online. But we visited all of the promised sites, spent a reasonably long time in the water at each site, and had equipment in good working order.
One thing that frustrated us was when we showed up to the tour only to learn that Koh Nang Yuan would cost an additional 100 THB per person to visit. We were under the impression from our hotel staff that if we didn’t want to visit the island proper we would still be able to swim and visit the beach without paying an additional fee. But then the tour operator told us that if we didn’t pay to visit the island, we would have to sit on the ship for 3 hours while it was lashed to other ships and maintenance was performed. Not ideal. We chose to visit the island. The silver lining being that I got a nice view over the island from the viewpoint. Both Sandra and I were already starting to show reasonably fierce sunburns on our backs, so Robin went snorkelling alone while Sandra and I relaxed at the bar.
During the evening, we ate another great meal at a local Thai place where the ladies adored the Penang Curry. And on the way back home, we stopped into the Banyan Bar to check out a live band. They were fronted by a young Brit who really got the crowd going with her cover of Alanis Morisette’s “Ironic”.
After the show, it was early to bed for the group as we had to wake up just after 4am to catch the 6am ferry back to Surat Thani. We fly from Surat Thani to Bangkok tomorrow, and are generally spending the day here vegging out completely. It’s nice.
We have a bit of a surprise set up for our first full day in Bangkok. You’ll hear about it soon!