While we were in Chiang Mai we decided we wanted to spend our last week experiencing one of the famous Thailand beaches.We researched online for a place we thought might be suitable for the kids and ourselves and chose Koh Phangan.It is a small island located within the bay of Thailand just north of the more popular Koh Samui island.However, Koh Phangan has gained popularity, with at least the backpacker crowd, because of its full moon party held during the months of November, December and January.Our original intention was to take a bus from Bangkok to a town called Donsak and ride a ferry to Koh Phangan.We were choosing this route because of the reasonable cost and several people along the way mentioned the ease and comfort of the bus ride.For some reason we thought the bus ride was 5 hours and the ferry was about an hour.We had a place booked for the 18th of December and went to the bus station the day before and planned to buy tickets and leave the next morning.I'm not sure why we thought we could just leave on a bus any time we pleased, but we figured there would be an early bus.We went to the ticket window and the clerk proceeded to tell us the bus was an overnight sleeper which left at 7 pm and arrived at 10 am the next morning in Koh Phangan.The journey entailed a 10 hour bus ride and 3 hour ferry from Donsak.Susan and I looked at each other and said "no freakin' way.Not that we were above roughing it a bit, but two tired and grumpy kids didn't sound too pleasant and we would have lost two nights going to the island and then coming back.Plus, when we left the island we would be flying out of Bangkok after our 10 hour bus ride and then to New Zealand.So, we headed to an internet café within the bus terminal and proceeded to look for flight options to our destination.After about 2 hours research we had determined our best and quickest path would be to take a one hour flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui and then a 45 minute ferry to Koh Phangan.Much better, but the only kicker to this choice was it was of course a little more expensive than the bus journey.But as I've learned in sales training and a wise friend reemphasized, "Money is replenishable, time is not." Therefore, we opted for the short, quick less painful route to our destination.We stayed on a more kid friendly beach on the northwest part of the island called Salad Beach.There are several resorts to choose from along this beach such as Salad Beach Hut, which was our first choice but there were no vacancies, the Asian Bugalows which looked very nice when we arrived but had no pool and the units were a little smaller, and the place we finally chose Salad Beach Resort.There are several other choices along the way but this seemed more suitable for our needs.The resort itself was very nice and the wait staff was more than accommodating.
We noticed as soon as we arrived that tourists were targets for getting ripped off. We didn't experience this so much in Chiang Mai. When we got off the ferry, the taxis from the ferry to our resort wanted to charge us 800 baht which I thought was very ridiculous and we quickly haggled them down to 500 baht.The next incident was when we were leaving and the manager at the front desk wanted to charge us 450 baht for a taxi back.I decided to walk up the road and found a place that eventually did it for 300 baht.I guess the lesson in this is to shop around before you commit even though it sounds like a good deal and do your research beforehand about what you should be paying. If you are not with kids and don't have a ton of luggage I would recommend walking into the town when you arrive on the ferry and finding a taxi for much cheaper.
Our time at the island was very relaxing and pleasant.Most of our days were filled lounging around the pool or beach while the kids played and we read books.We met several friends along the way including a young English family.The children, Anastasia and Dylan were about the same age as Emma and Sam and the parents, Toby & Gaby were very enjoyable to be around.We ate lunch one afternoon and hung out on the beach all day talking about cultural differences and our dreams and aspirations.The kids played well together and we were sad when the day ended.It was one of the more enjoyable days we spent on the island.Also, for those of you in our generation, Toby mentioned he used to be in a band in England and now was a music producer.I asked what band he was in and he told us "Jamiraquoa".Does anyone remember that group?Virtual Insanity?The singer wore funky hats and sounded like Stevie Wonder doing pop songs, early 90's.I loved that song and the video.Anyway, it was fun going back in time.
Koh Ma This is a small island accessible by a sand bar from the main Koh Phangnan beach.There isn't much to this island but a bar and restaurant and nice snorkeling.They do have several bungalows along the main beach area but we didn't get a close look into them.This seems to be more of a backpackers area. It's claim to fame is the snorkeling and you can book snorkeling trips to the coral reef off the island.
Motorbikes Since we found scooters to be the best means of transportation around Chiang Mai we thought it would be nice to rent some for the day and see other parts of the island.We rode them to Koh Ma, attempted a waterfall and also found a really nice coral reef that once was thriving with life but had died and dried up leaving the colorless coral behind. It now seems to be a port for the local fisherman.We explored this area for about an hour finding shells and other interesting formations on the reef.
Restaurants The island does not have a shortage of good food, as with any place we have found in Thailand. We tried to explore as many as we could. Our resort restaurant was nice and offered meals at reasonable prices but we tried to find others since we started everyday there for breakfast. One place down the beach, Coral Beach Bungalows, seemed to be our usual place.It was probably because of the proximity to one of the best rope swings on the beach.Not to mention the food was nice and Emma and Sam found some puppies in the back of the property belonging to one of the owner's.One place we would highly recommend is a place called Angel's restaurant.We found it while touring around the island on our scooters.They have great pizza's, a wonderful selection of wines, the place is clean and the setting is incredible.There were a few other eateries along the way but not too many that were extremely memorable.