a visit to Thai Islands during October 2011
10.10.2011 - 18.10.2011 29 °C
Marrying your sweetheart is full of fun especially when you get to plan you honeymoon together much before your wedding. Both of us love to travel and love beaches so when it came to figure out a honeymoon destination Thailand was way up on the list. For Indians Thailand is a very popular destination and daily newspapers are always flooded with packages form numerous travel agencies. We both (separately) had been to Thailand in the past so we wanted this trip to be different and special. I don’t trust travel agents for planning my trips....whom am I kidding! I never plan my trips ....But this time matter was different, it was our honeymoon not some adventure trip so for the first time in my life I started planning the trip almost 3 months before the actual departure.
My initial plan was highly ambitious. I had 8 -10 days in my hand so I thought of making the best use of it. Thailand to Cambodia to Vietnam was my initial aspiration but once again the husband took control over Wanderer and I froze over Bangkok- Koh Phangan - Koh Nangyuan- Kok Samui instead.
If you are going to Thailand getting early tickets are always better. I missed a great deal by Indigo who where selling return ticket to Bangkok in just 11,000 Inr ( 200USD). We selected Koh Phnagan as first destination as famous ( or Infamous ) Full Moon Party was on 12th Oct that year and we had a great opportunity to be part of that. Next destination was Koh Nangyuan as the pics on internet was mind blowing followed by koh Samui for some leisure in five star resorts and at the end Lots of shopping in Bangkok on the way back.
Done .............But wait, isn't it a low season in Thailand, and that’s why I am getting heavy discounts in hotel bookings..........................
Humm so I read a lot about this low season issue , basically in Thailand it seems there are only two seasons, high from early November to mid April and rest is considered low season. As we were visiting early October it was towards the end of low season so I decided to take a chance. It was a right decision not to mind this whole low season issue as it turned out that rates are lot cheaper, places less crowed and greenery all over. To our delight whenever it rained it rained during the evening and always lowered the temperatures to few degrees. So rain was never an issue and we occasionally enjoyed the brief showers.
I can’t describe the joy while sitting in our Indigo Flight after counting days and a lovely yet hectic twin city wedding spread over three days. This was an early morning flight and we landed in Bangkok by early noon. From here we took a connecting AirAsia flight for Surat Thani.
AirAsia flight was small but comfortable and while flying over sea we could see some really beautiful cloud formations. After landing we took a 1 hour bus ride to the Pier form where we were suppose to board the boat for Thong Sala, Koh Phangan. It was getting dark when we finally took our seats in large boat by Raja Ferry. Weather was somewhat hot and humid and thankfully they had a large AC room. We both were dead tired after two flights and long bus rides. After a while we came out on deck, and it was dark already. Moon was up, big and bright, and standing next to my wife on waves watching moons reflection on sea made my honeymoon what it should be.
We reached Thong Sala after a 3:30 Hr boat ride by 9:00 in the night. From here we hopped on to a shared taxi for our first hotel Salad Beach resort at Salad beach.
Koh Phangan is a moderately sized island in the Gulf of Thailand in South East Thailand. Our major attraction here was Full moon party which takes place in Haad Rin Beach but later we realized that the island is much more than just that. Salad beach resort is a small resort with lush green garden like entrance. The staff was warm and welcoming and their sweet "Khapun Khap" with a huge smile made the stay memorable. We ate a quick dinner and retired to our room. A decent room with decorated bed sheet was there to welcome us so we slept like logs after a very long journey.
The morning was pleasant the view from our room was overlooking the beach restaurant and the sea made our day. We both were very hungry and after freshening up went down to the restaurant which was just next to the beach. Dining area was decently populated with manly European Tourists. The buffet breakfast was a good spread of mainly western and some Asian dishes and we enjoyed the bacons, eggs with chicken satay while sea sang softly into our ears. We had the full day ahead of us and no plan as such. I hired a bike with helmet from outside the resort and after enquiring about the nearby areas we decided to do some basic snorkeling. It was a good idea as I had done Scuba diving during my last visit but my wife Ritika hadn't done much sea activities earlier. We reached the beach and rented gears form a local sack, initially Ritika wasn't very confident but gradually she manage to tame the gears and started enjoying the underworld. The view inside wasn't great but I managed to spot a ray fish. It was getting hot and sunny and we were very tired so we decided to come out of water. After returning the gears we decided to just explore the island on our own and the very well paved concrete roads made the riding much more fun. There are very few Petrol Pumps in Phangan but you can by fuel from roadside vendors in bottles. The map was showing a waterfall named paradise nearby and we both were up for the divine hunt. We saw a small Thai temple and decided to stop and have a look. It was a small yet beautiful Buddhist temple. As we moved ahead we saw a lady vendor selling pancake kind of things which was looking interesting so we just bought two and it was yummy . The lady was enamored by Ritika's Henna design on her hands and legs (henna is a natural dye that works like a temporary tattoo and is very popular among women in Indian Subcontinent as traditional body art
Further on the way we saw the board for paradise waterfall indicating a small diversion going up to a hilly area. I parked my bike there and we both started to walk the steep, till we saw another sign to take a narrower path into woods. The path led us to the paradise fall tucked away in bushes in the corner. It was a small fall with a decent sized water body. A couple of western tourist was having fun in the water. There was a rope tied up to a tree branch next to pool for rope jumping and was source of major trills. I decided to jump into water and to my delight it was cold and fresh. We spent almost an hour here and decided to go back via a market area.
On our way back it started to rain and we took refuse in a fisherman house. The guy was very hospitable and offered us coffee and some leaves to chew, I have no idea what those leaves were but I just accept it to show my gratitude. We sat around half an hour on the balcony of his house watching rain while enjoying our coffee. Life is much simple here the kind I like. As rain passed by we started back to our hotel as it was getting dark and we didn't want to be lost in an unknown island the very first day of our stay.
Back in the hotel we decided to try other restaurants in the beach and we got into "the Beach restaurant”. It was very nicely decorated with traditional floor sitting with Thai cushions. We ordered chicken wings and some dim sum with wine, food was awesome and the overall experience was very romantic. We discussed the plans for next day as it was very well packed with a trip to Koh Nangyuan during day and the full moon party during night.
When we were waiting for the boat to Koh Nangyuan we had no idea that this day was going to be the most exciting day of our journey. At the pier there are different ferry services taking passengers to various locations like Hoh Tao, Koh Nangyuan etc. So to reduce confusion they hand out color coded stickers to put on with the name of the destination on it and much later we realized we have been given the wrong ones :P. the boat we were suppose to board was taking time to deboard as we came to know that there was a pregnant lady in labor in the boat. All the passengers were looking tensed and anxious, a few minutes later she delivered a baby in the boat with the help of few paramedics, while she been carried away in a stretcher very body clapped for her. A salute to woman’s vigor and strength to bear the pain to bring a new life in such conditions.
The journey started smoothly and we were sitting on the open top gazing upon the vastness of the sea, various shades of blues mesmerizing us. As soon as we got the first glimpse of Koh Tao our heart was jumping of excitement but when we reached the serene white sandy beach of Koh Nangyuan we were spell bounded. The clarity of water was outstanding and we could see the school of fishes playing close to land. Koh Nangyuan was prettier than we imagined and a must visit for any one going to gulf of Thailand.
Three islands connected with the silvery white line of sandy beach surrounded by pristine blue water make Koh Nangyuan Heavenly. It is one of the best dive sites in the world especially "Japanese Garden" is very popular for its amazing coral gardens and rich marine life. As we were snorkeling we could witness the magical world way too different from our own, under the sea. The view beneath the surface was simply breath taking, pun intended. I was carrying underwater camera covers and it felt like the wisest buy I have ever made in Trade fair. I was so engrossed taking pictures of coral and fishes that I didn’t realize that waves had been taken me a long way inside the sea away from my wife and the group. There was a rope tied by local authorities to mark danger line and I was just touching that. I panicked a little but I have full faith on my swimming skills so I started swimming back to the shore. The wave was pushing me back constantly and I had to put a lot of effort to get back to face angry and worried Ritika. After cajoling her we decided to relax for a while. I wanted to climb to the highest peak of the island to take a wide shot covering entire Island but Ritika was way too much tired for a climb. I decided to let her rest and embark upon the mission alone. The climb felt much tougher after lot of swimming and hot and sultry weather, but I forgot all that once I reached the top. The view was out of the world, the aerial view of connected island amidst the sparkling blue water. From the top boats were looking like color dots in a large canvas and the beauty was too much to describe in words.
I was dead tired after I came down. We had lunch in the solitary restaurant in the island and headed back to Koh Phangan. In resort we enquired about the Full moon party transport arrangements and they said that last taxi will leave around 9:30PM. Since we had around 3 hours at hand we decided to take a quick nap and recharge our self for a night long party. It was a bad idea as we woke up at 11:30 to find the resort deserted. At reception they told us that it’s too late for any shared taxi and we should not try to go all alone as it is very dangerous. This was a serious setback as we had planned everything according to this party. It was a tough call against the local advice but we had to take it. So I checked the fuel in my bike and grabbed a map of the island to reach Daad Rin the party beach. Koh phangan has hilly terrain and to reach to the main road one has to drive on a very steep road up from the beach. As we were driving up we got surrounded by a pack of stray dogs that were furiously started chasing us. Their bark was loud and angry and it seemed they will just tear us apart. Both Ritika and I was shit scared and suddenly out bike stopped on a steeper stretch. My heart just skipped a beat; all the warnings of locals to not go late in the night crossed my mind in a flash. The dogs were approaching us fast, and I had no clue about what to do.
And we did nothing, and sometime I feel that's the best one can do. We stood there like statues frozen with horror. The dogs flashing their sharp teeth’s also stopped surrounding us , barking like hell. Gradually like a bully bored by inaction of their pray they retreated from the scene, we stood there still. After making sure that they have gone far away I started the bike thanking all the billions of Hindu gods along with every other ones.
There was no turning back I guess, so we move ahead, the roads were empty and pitch dark in some areas. The Haad rin beach is almost diagonally opposite to Haad salad. Ritika grabbed me tightly through all the way out. We start to see few jeeps loaded with party animals when we reached the high way. The road was well paved and maintained but because of the hilly terrain it way too steep in some patches, so steep that our poor bike refuse to carry two of us in one go. So in between Ritika had to get down and walk all the way up. We had covered a great distance and were thinking that we have made it till we saw a police barricade stopping all the vehicles going in Haad rin direction. I panicked a bit because if you are from India and that too from Delhi getting stopped by police in the middle of nowhere late in night, surely means a lot of trouble was not wearing my helmet too. I parked the bike where the officer pointed me to. And anxiously waited for my turn to be checked. To our delight they were checking only for narcotics as Thailand government is very strict about drugs, and I had left my stash of hash in the resort only :P . After a brief scan they let us go and didn't point out the helmet thingy. For here we didn't have any obstacle and we finally reached our destination.
I am not much of a party person but man the atmosphere that night was electrifying. We parked our vehicle outside the market and at entrance we paid 150 Bhat each as entry fee, and they gave us rubber bracelets as entrance pass. Those bracelets are now part of our souvenir collection. There was a maddening crowd on the beach some 3 to 4 thousand people dancing on the tunes of 6 different DJs lined up on a mile long beach. Some jugglers were displaying tricks with fire and crow was cheering them on top of their lungs. Small stalls were selling party buckets, containing whisky, vodka, beer and coke. People were roaming around with bucket filled with mix in hand and sipping it with straws. There were vendors selling glowing part stuff, like hats, goggles and beaded neckbands. Glow tattus was a major hit. We had never seen a party seen so huge and alive anywhere else, and this was like an experience of a life time. We hopped DJs, dancing, munching chicken satays and sipping beer in between.
We decided to go back in the morning thought we had very less energy left to dance all night. Around 3:00am we lay down on the beach, and went into a semi trance like sleep with loud party music still going on. We woke up around 5:30 am just before sun rise and to our surprise a bunch of people still dancing. It was am managing experience to be a part of an event of such scale and we both were proud to beat all odds to make it.
Leaving the Haad rin about 6:00 in the morning the only thing in my mind was to reach back on time, to pack up and catch the boat for Samui.
This was our last day in Koh phangan as we had booked the morning ferry for Koh Samui , the leisurely half of our trip. Once again we took Lomprayah boat to Koh Samui , the journey is much shorter than previous ones. We started to miss Koh Phangan the moment we boated the boat and we checked all the photos we had clicked so far.
Silavadee resort was our adobe in Samuai and the moment we checked in , we both felt that's going to be the best stay of our life. Silavadee means "beautiful rock" and this five star resort was true to its name. Build over a mountain slope next to a private beach, the resort had a very impressive presence .the ever smiling and helpful staff made the experience much more cordial. We checked in our room, a large wooden floored room with king sized bed, decorated with rose heart and towel swans was waiting for the honeymoon couple. There was an extended balcony with Jacuzzi filled with rose petals inviting us to just jump in. The bathroom was also spacious and equipped with a bath tub, again filled with rose petals with aromatic candles on one side. This was it , a perfect place to enjoy our honeymoon , to soak our self in luxury.
After freshening up a guy from the hotel staff offered us a tour in a golf cart , as this resort is on a hill slope starting from top till the beach, walking all the way can be little tiring so they have golf carts to drive around. We were anxious to see the star attraction of the resort the very reason we choose this place, the infinity pool. And what a beauty it was, we both were esthetic to the core seeing that, the very tastefully done pool at the edge of a cliff, visually merging in to sea, was something to fall in love instantly.
I booked a bike from the hotels front desk and it was delivered at my door step. We went to watch popular Grand mother-father rocks which are huge rocks resembling male and female reproductive organs, nothing very impressive according to me. We had lunch in the market and went back to resort.
I wanted this evening to be special so I asked the staff about a place where two of us can have a romantic candle light dinner. Following their suggestion we reached the Five Island Beach, which was a small beach away from the main city area. There was an up class restaurant on the beach with dining both outside as well as inside. We placed our orders (the place was very expensive) and in the mean while strolled on the beach watching sun retiring from a hard day’s labor. Color of the sky was changing rapidly till the sun finally vanished in Deep Ocean. The candles were lit and the table was set for Mr. and Mrs. Chaudhary. The most romantic dinner of our life like perfect scene from movies with setting sun, sea breeze and candle lights. On the way back it rained a little so we took shelter in a massage parlor, killing two birds with a single stone.
A visit to AngThong National park which is one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries was our agenda for the day. A cluster of more than 40 Island near Koh Samui is habitat of exotic marine life. We had made our bookings from the hotels travel desk and a cab reached on time to pick us up. There was a high speed catamaran waiting for us at pier with an interesting looking young guide. In the boat they serve a light breakfast of sandwiches and cold drinks. It was fun ride over mild waves with occasional splashes coming to us. As we reached closer to National Park we started to see some really interesting rock formations.
The boat stooped near a large island and our guide handed us snorkeling gears, taking the dive from the boat itself was fun and we once again enjoyed the mesmerizing underwater world. After that we went to see a lagoon amidst the high rocks of Koh Mae Island. There was well constructed structure of staircases to climb up the high rocks to an observation deck. The view of large green lagoon surrounded by pointed high rocks was simply awesome.
The next activity on our list was lunch on a beach followed by kayaking around an Island. Kayaking turned out to be more adventurous for Ritika then expected as she had some fear of deep waters .Rowing a narrow shaky boat in deep sea was not exactly her honeymoon dream. Her breaking point came when she caught me clicking photographs instead preventing our kayak from banging the rock. ………and she refused to row and talk to me …..My punishment was to somehow reach the beach looking far far away all by myself. My biceps were aching badly when we reached the beach and it took me few hours to get the smile back on her face.
Our bodies were in desperate need of some pampering by gentle Thai hands and we headed straight to a massage parlor for full body massage in Chaweng market. Chaweng has a long market flooded with restaurants, souvenir shops and Massage parlors. After taking a quick tour we sat in one restaurant and hog like crazy over delicious sea food. If the fish ever gets to know what all we ate they will never let us out of water.
Today was very special day as it was our first “Karva Chauth”. Karva Chauth is mainly a north Indian festival where married women keep a day long fast for a long life of her husband. I persuaded Ritika to not to keep such a hard fast (one not suppose to even drink water) when we are so far away from home, but she didn’t bulge. We had bought some food items in the night itself for her to eat early morning before starting the fast.
We had planned not to indulge our self in much outdoor activities considering her fast and decided to take full advantage of five star amenities of the resort. After getting up late we went down to the private beach where a row of reclines were placed under large umbrella. There was a beach guard by resort who was handing out snorkeling gears and even a kayak for free. There was only one other couple on the beach kayaking, while Ritika was relaxing I once again put on snorkeling gears and started exploring the sea. The beach here was slightly rocky and there were less corals. However with no hurry or worry of the gear rent I stated in water for long.
We stayed in the beach for 3 hr it was getting hotter so we went back to comforts of our AC room. We slept for a while best way to take our mind off food. In the evening we decided to explore our biggest attraction, the infinity pool and it was great fun. As sun was going down, leaving the sky red and the reflections on the infinity pool were outstanding.
We went out of the resort to visit big Buddha temple near airport, something to keep our self occupied before moon arrives and grant us the permission to break the fast. Big Buddha temple was deserted at that hour and we were the only couple there. We sat in the feet of gigantic Buddha statue for a while and decided to move to some market place so we can eat as soon as moon appears.
It seemed moon was taking our test that night, it was 8:00 PM already and there was no sign of moon in the sky. In order to survive we have to keep our mind off the food at any cost so we went for a foot massage, spent an hour there …9:00 PM , no sight of moon still. From my childhood science class I remembered sun rises from east and moon rises from west so we decided to drive west, to catch the moon just silently sneaking in. We drove few kilometers and the market ended and we realized there will be no place to eat even if we see the moon so we went to a beach restaurant , which had placed large wooden planks on the beach itself as seating and started to Order food. As soon as we finished ordering almost every type of sea food available on menu from baby shark to large crabs and lobsters and what not, and then we saw the moon smiling upon us. Moon never looked so yummy to me like a Roshogulla a highly popular Indian sweet. She was looking very pretty adorning the traditional Chunari shining in the moon light.
We came back to resort late in the night as I was about to sleep around midnight someone knocked on our door. I had no clue on who could come calling on our doors in this wee hour. I opened up the door and there were two staff members holding a cake and singing “happy Birthday “. It was 16 Oct and my birthday and I don’t know when, Ritika had planned the whole surprise thing just for me. I also got my best birthday Gift the “IPad”. It was best birthday gift ever, and I couldn’t thank her more. The last day couldn’t have been better than this in Koh Samui.
It was time to bid Adieu to our lovely resort and koh samui. We were heading back to Bangkok as our last destination. It took us almost entire day, riding on a boat to Surat Thani and then boarding an AirAsia flight to Bangkok. Since we both had been to Bangkok before we were not at all interested in sight seen and there were only three things in our mind shopping, shopping and only shopping. We stayed at Prince Palace Hotel which is aptly located near all major shopping centers. We had arrived late in the evening and were very tired of long journey so recharging our self with some massage was absolutely necessary.
Next day was completely dedicated to shopping and we started hopping malls and markets since morning only to stop by late in the night. Bangkok is a great place to shop so my advice to guys never take you girls there ….. You will never understand how she can shop so much and you will find it difficult to keep a broad smile while your pocket is burning.
And like all the dreams it also had to end, leaving sweet memories behind, a perfect honeymoon, where we faced fears together, share laughter, got amazed and had lot and lot of fun. Travelling together is a great way to explore not only new places but our self and each other. It helps you discover, understand and realize aspects of life like no other way.
At the end I would like to thank my parents and In-Laws, without their support this marriage was not possible let alone the honeymoon. My younger brother Anurag who gifted us the flight tickets to Bangkok, Richa for constant support, my colleagues and friends for Keeping “Ipad” the secret. And at the end Ritika for been a great girlfriend and now being a loving wife. Thank you all……………………