We crossed the border to Thailand at Satun, via an hour-long ferry trip from Langkawi island in Malaysia. I had a spot of trouble at the border as I had just been in Singapore and it was around the time of the SARS outbreak, but I did eventually get let in, although they stamped my visa with the wrong dates in all the confusion, which led to problems later when I tried to exit!
We wanted to head straight to the tranquility of Ko Lanta, however to do that we had a long journey ahead: a pickup truck from the port to the town, followed by a two and a half hour minibus to Trang where we waited for two hours for the next minibus which took another two and a half hours on a car ferry to get us to the first Ko Lanta island. We drove straight through the first island without stopping, then had an hour’s wait by the side of the road for the next car ferry over to our island. We finally arrived at an office, where we waited half an hour for a pickup truck to take us to the accommodation, so all in all we didn’t arrive until 9pm after the 14 hour journey! It was well and truly worth the wait though, Ko Lanta was beautiful and quiet with some stunning beaches and lovely sunset views, a gorgeous place to relax and unwind.
From here we got a boat over to the infamous Ko Phi Phi, and checked out the picturesque Loh da Lum beach. We signed up to a Phi Phi kayaking tour which was a fab day out; snorkelling at the coral reef off Bamboo Island and Shark Point (if only I’d been diving then!) kayaking around the headland and into caves at Monkey Beach, plus we saw the ancient wall painting and watched locals collecting nests of swiftlets for Birds Nest Soup at Viking Cave. We kayaked into Pi Leh Bay, a hidden sea lagoon with high limestone cliffs on all sides and gorgeous crystal clear water, and then moved on to Maya Bay, where The Beach was filmed, where we kayaked, snorkeled and explored, ending the day trip at Ton Sai Bay.
We took a bus from Koh Phi Phi to Krabi, where we stayed in the town rather than on the beach. In hindsight, that was a mistake as the beach was so beautiful and we were so far from it. We did get a longtail boat to take us from Krabi River to Railay Beach however and the scenery en route was really breathtaking – huge rocky outcrops, forest and gorgeous beaches – and then when we arrived we had to walk through the caves full of stalactites to get to Phra Nang beach. Unfortunately we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to spend in Krabi as we were keen to get to Koh Samui for Songkran (Thai New Year) and also wanted to see Phuket beforehand (not that we ended up having much time in Phuket in the end anyway, just a quick dive to the beach!)
I have family on Koh Samui so we had a great time, for Songkran we were driven around Lamai and Chaweng in the back of a pick up truck with a huge esky full of iced water, and another full of beer, and we spent all our time soaking people and getting soaked ourselves, and getting covered in talc too. All the bars were playing loud music and had eskies of their own outside and everyone was dancing in the street and throwing water, it was well worth rushing over for!
It was great to spend time with the family, we went up to the Big Buddha, Grandmother and Grandfather Rock, swam in waterfalls, and went to the fair where I tried the tasty snack of grasshopper! We also went to the ‘safari park’ and watched the elephant show where we saw elephants playing football and the harmonica! My birthday fell while I was there, on the same night as the infamous Ko Pha-Ngan Full Moon Party, so we took a speedboat over and made the most of it! It was pretty intense, there were people wandering round with snakes, lizards and monkeys draped all over them, loads of people were dancing on the beach alongside flame throwers and fire dancers, and everyone was drinking lots of buckets. The next day we went over to Jubilee Beach, a little deserted cove, and had a lovely dinner at Zico’s Brazilian Bar & Grill in Chaweng as a birthday treat from the family – it was so nice to do something non-backpacker! The food was divine and was accompanied by Brazilian dancers wearing lots of feathers and not much else! Whilst in Koh Samui, we also got to see some real Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) – and not just the men, we got to see women and children too!
Although it was very tempting to become beach bums and spend the final six weeks chilling out in Southern Thailand, we eventually decided to don the backpacks again and head north to see the rest of what Thailand has to offer so from Koh Samui we booked tickets for yet another VIP 24 hour bus to Bangkok.