Today was the King's Birthday in Thailand which is a massive event and a public holiday but thankfully all transport was still running so our journey continued to the opposite side of Thailand and more beautiful islands!
So, we left Railay on another longtail boat (after wading through the water to get to it) and landed on the mainland near Krabi in about 10 minutes and once again had to wade to the shore- this time with the help of the elderly boat man who took pity on us getting stuck in the sand with our backpacks! Next it was into a mini van which would take us to Chumpon where we would get on a boat to our next stop, Koh Tao. 4 hours later we arrived in Chumpon where we were ushered into another minivan with some other tourists, after 5 minutes driving we were ushered onto a coach which then delivered us to the ferry terminal. The ferry was a giant catamaran and probably the nicest ferry we had been on yet! We had been warned that the journey was a bumpy one and once it began, we realised that was definitely the truth!! So, 2 hours and 1 very bumpy ferry ride later and we arrived (in the rain) on Koh Tao. Pacamacs on, a taxi took us to the area of Sairee Beach where we trudged around looking for accommodation. After looking at a few places, we settled for one for the night, basically the cheapest one we could find! We then headed out to have a look around the area, had some dinner and bought a couple of DVDs (about £1 each!) and headed back to our room for an early night watching DVDs.
Next morning, Lou headed off to start her next dive course and I went off to find some better accommodation for our next 3 nights. I found it in the shape of a place called Sairee Huts Dive Resort, a lovely little place right on the beach with it's own pool, restaurant and bar. All checked in, I settled down for a day of lounging by the pool and enjoying the sunshine that had reappeared. In the evening, we headed out for dinner and a quick drink and bumped into our friends Kelly and Patrick from Gilli so had a drink with them before they left the following day.
Lou had another day of diving today so I headed off to investigate a day trip that I had read about and walked from Sairee Village to Mae Head which is the main port. The walk took about 30 minutes and was beautiful, they have built what I would describe as a "yellow brick road" pathway all the way from Sairee Beach to Mae Head, along the beach and through the resorts. So a sweaty 30 minutes later, I arrived at the pier and booked myself the trip for the next morning. Another sweaty walk back and I positioned myself by the pool where Lou came back and joined me for the afternoon where we sunned ourselves until the early evening when Lou went off for her night dive. I'll hand you over to Lou now to tell you about her diving....
Diving in Koh Tao definitely lived up to expectations! I went to Bans dive centre which is where Micky (of Micky and Ricky from Halong Bay) had recommended, and he was also doing his training to become a Dive Master. I joined another chap from Germany called Chris who was doing his Advanced course. The course would allow me to dive to 30meters and it included a night dive eeek! The people at the dive centre were all really friendly and helpful. I was nervous trying to sort out my own gear. Relying on a tank to breath which you have set up yourself when you have only just learnt how to do it, is very nerve wracking indeed. But that is what Buddy checks are for, so before you backwards flip into the water off the boat you check each others equipment. Diving to 30metres does funny things to you. At that depth colour disappears and our Dive Master tested our ability to identify an object, which turned out the be a tomato, but both Chris and I thought it was something else completely. We also cracked an egg and the yolk was suspended in the water in tact due to the pressure down there. 30 metres can also make you get the giggles and your mental sharpness can decrease quite quickly. Again our Dive Master tested us, which was great fun, or maybe it wasn't and I was just laughing due to the pressure?!
We saw amazing stuff again, turtles, trigger fish, angel fish, eels, rays etc. There was talk of Whale Sharks in the area too but I didn't see any, which may be a good thing as I might have scared myself silly if I had seen one, even though it is an ambition of mine to dive with them. Maybe once I have a few more dives under my belt?! The night dive was something else entirely! I was very nervous about it - scary things happen at night and when you dive you are already entering an alien world, but at night would be even more unusual. I was very well looked after and the briefing before we got into the water was thorough. We had our torches and were told what we could see and told to stick together. We would only be going to 12-18 metres but would be able to see completely different things. Such as MASSIVE barracudas who hunt next to you when you have your torch, so in some ways you can play God, shine your light on a small fish and the barracuda will go in for the kill. We also went to the bottom and turned off our torches and saw the glow in the dark plankton which was like magic! Moving your hands in front of your face and the water glowing up in the dark, just amazing to see and to know that it's a natural phenomenon and not man made makes it even more special.
This extra course has given me more confidence in my ability to dive. My Dive Master said my air consumption is very good (on one of the dives Chris had to go up after 28mins whereas I was able to stay down for 50mins) and being under the water feels very natural and I cannot wait to get to Australia and dive the Great Barrier Reef and find some Whale Sharks I can make friends with!
Next morning I (Hannah) was up bright and early and began the walk back to Mae Head to catch the ferry to Nangyuan Island which is about 20 minutes from Koh Tao. The island is a resort which is popular with snorkellers because of it's sandbars and shallow waters. You can stay on the island in lovely little villas perched on the rocks or just visit for the day like I did. On arrival at the island, I headed straight to my destination - "Island 2 Island Zip Line". After checking in and being given my safety brief, it was time to begin. A climb up some steep steps and rocks and I was at the top of the main island looking down over the sand bar and towards the second, smaller island. Soon I was hurtling at speed across the water (with the Chinese tourists snorkelling in the water beneath me, staring in disbelief that someone was flying above their heads!) to the other island. It was absolutely amazing and so exhilarating, not to mention incredible views from up there!! Have a look at this video as my description doesn't do it justice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THrrW5Yl7H0 . More climbing ensued and then I zipped back to the main island and then repeated the whole thing again!!! After the excitement of the zip line, I did a bit off snorkeling on the sand bar before heading off to climb up to the view point. Again, a beautiful climb but quite tough (especially as I was wearing flip flops!!!) but when you got the top it was definitely worth it, the island looks absolutely stunning and you can see the crystal clear waters and white sand. After trudging back down to the beach, I headed to the pier to catch my boat back to Koh Tao and after walking back to Sairee Beach, it was back to sitting by the pool with my book! In the evening, we did some shopping for flip flops an sunglasses, had a nice dinner and went back to our room to pack ready for tomorrows departure.
The following day we made the most of our resort and soaked up some more rays until we had to head off to catch our ferry to Koh Samui at 3pm. On arrival at the pier, we checked in for our ferry and were offered sea sickness tablets.... I picked up a couple even though I don't tend to get sea sick and we boarded the ferry. Although neither of us were sick, it soon became clear to use why they hand out the tablets. Not to anyone- if you are offered sea sickness tablets when checking in, there is a reason for this and I would suggest you take them up on their kind offer!!! There was even a staff member standing at the front of the ferry with sick bags ready to hand out. So, 2 very long and bumpy hours later, we arrived on Koh Samui. We were only staying here for one night, as the following day we were heading to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party. We had been told that we would be dropped off by the ferry at Big Buddha pier and from looking at a map, soon found that the accommodation we had booked was just across the road. Perfect! Perfect if we actually had been dropped off at Big Buddha pier and not another random pier!!!!! After a bit of looking around, we realised we weren't were we thought we were and had no idea where we were! We saw and English Pub and decided to head there to ask if anyone knew where it was, as none of the locals or taxi drivers knew! A kind English Man who lives on Samui took pity on us and loaded us into his car and after much driving up and down the main road and stopping to ask people, we found our resort and after thanking our knight in shining armour, we checked in to our very cute little hut and headed out (in the rain again!!) to find some dinner.
Next day, we headed out for a spot of breakfast and spent the day mentally preparing ourselves for what was coming next.... a couple of days of no sleep with a Full Moon Party in between and a 7am flight...
When we planned this trip, we knew we wanted to go to one of the legendary Full Moon Parties on Koh Phangan but we didn't have much time to spare so instead of staying on Phangan, where we would have to book at least 3 nights accommodation due to restrictions places put in place around the FM Party, we decided we would spend the previous night in Samui and then get a speed boat over to Koh Phangan and then a speed boat back to go straight to Samui airport for our 7am flight..... Luckily for us, the owner of the place we were staying in was very kind and he let us keep our bags in his office and gave us a key to the office so that when we returned from the party in the early hours, we could use his office to get changed and ready for our flight at 7am.
So, at 5pm, we set off in a mini van for our speed boat ride to Koh Phangan. Of all of the boat rides that we had done, I think I can speak for us both when I say that this was the scariest, bumpiest and wettest we have done yet!!!!! So, after the longest 20 minutes of our lives, we landed windswept and soggy in Koh Phangan. Our friend Heidi, who we met in Gilli, was staying on Phangan so we met up with her and refreshed ourselves. And then the neon paint came out and we began painting ourselves in multicolours!!! Suitably painted, we headed out to meet Kelly & Patrick again and we all went for dinner together before making our way to the beach for the party....
Wow, we have NEVER seen anything like the FM Party. Lining the street all the way down to the beach were stalls selling "Buckets"- basically a little beach bucket you would use to make a sandcastle, filled with alcohol. Everyone was wearing neon colours, covered in paint and holding a bucket. When we hit the beach, it was incredible. Whichever way you looked, there were thousands of people on the beach, stalls selling buckets everywhere, fire throwers, music and generally masses of people having a good time! So, the evening was spent drinking our buckets, going alonmg the beach sampling the different types of music and taking in the amazing atmosphere. We reached one bar on the beach which had a giant slide coming off it's roof to the sand below. To reach it, you had to climb a rope ladder and then throw yourself off the top of the slide, which was covered in water, and when you reached the bottom, you went through flames and landed on a giant inflatable mat. Obviously I (Hannah) thought that this was a good idea. Then I had a sudden bout of nerves but with encouragement from the others, I decided to do it. It was hysterical, especially when I landed on the inflatable mat and bounced straight off in to the sand and therefore had to spend the evening soggy and sandy hahahaha. I also forgot that I'd taken my flip flops off and it wasn't until later at another bar that I realised and went back to find they had gone- someone elses were there though so I wore them hahaha. Soon enough, it was time for us to leave the party to catch our speedboat back. We were so sad to leave. Prior to the party, I think it's safe to say that we were both quite anxious about the party and whether we were going to enjoy it from what we had heard but it turns out we loved it and were sad we had to leave so early (the party continues well into the next day). A slightly smoother speed boat ride back and we were on dry land and on Samui again and after using baby wipes to get ride of all the neon paint, we were ready to go to the airport for our 7am flight to Bangkok.
Koh Tao was an absolutely amazing island and somewhere I would definitely like to revisit in the future. It's kept it's charm by not allowing itself to be taken over by fast food outlets and chain shops but has everything you need there. The FM party far exceeded our expectations and was a perfect way to end our island hopping before heading back to Bangkok before Australia.