Koh Phangan

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

From Bangkok we got a taxi to Hualampong station and arrived an hour earlier than our train was due to depart. The tickets had the train and carriage number on so we found it easily and boarded an hour early. My first impression was something you'd use to transport prisoners from one prison to another but if you ignore the aesthetics, it's actually very practical and comfortable. There are upper and lower bunks (upper more expensive) and each has storage for your bag which you share with another bunk. You also have a curtain both sides, a pouch for your belongings and a freshly packaged under sheet, pillow, pillowcase and blanket which they make up for you. The beds were surprisingly very comfortable and after setting off at 7.30pm, the three of us huddled on my lower bunk until about 10 when the girls went up to their own upper bunks. I sat blogging for an hour and went to sleep at 11. I woke up a few times during the night but managed to sleep quite peacefully until half 6 (we set an alarm as our track record shows we're not great at getting up on time), although we needn't have as we were running an hour late. The train was a little jolty but very quiet which was nice as I had visions of not being able to sleep due to rowdy passengers. The air con was a little cold but we luckily packed long bottoms to change into while sleeping. You can buy food and drinks on board and while there's no WiFi we did discover plug sockets.

At around 8am (12 and a half hours later) we got off at Surat Thani station and after showing our tickets were quickly directed to a bus, loaded our bags, hopped on and departed a few minutes after. I think we expected chaos and confusion but it was all very streamlined and organised. The downstairs seats were train-like with 4 opposite seats with a table inbetween, but a little more plush and comfortable. It was a nice change to see palm tree after palm tree instead of building after building in Bangkok. After an hour or so we arrived at the port and we were shown to the correct ferry within a few minutes. Needless to say it was a very hot and sweaty 2 and a half hours but the views were beautiful. Clear blue sea and gorgeous island after island. When we arrived in Koh Phangan we individually got on the back of motorbike taxis where our backpacks were placed in front of our drivers and our rucksacks on our own backs. Surreal but very fun and fuss-free. A taxi would have involved a much longer wait and after 2 and a half hours in the blazing sunshine, we wanted to get to the hostel as quickly as possible. For 150 baht per person, we were more than happy to hop on the back. 

Checking in was pretty quick and the staff were so friendly. We got a drink (100 baht for a double vodka Sprite which is £2) while we waited ten minutes for our room to be ready. We were upgraded from a 12 bed dorm to a private room and although we were slightly disappointed as we were looking forward to meeting other people, it meant we didn't have to worry about securing our stuff every time we left. Our room had a double bed, a single bed and a bunk bed so we had plenty of room to make a mess, of course. The room had a lovely balcony with a gorgeous view as well as aircon which was a lifesaver in the heat. There was a 6 bed dorm on our floor but the aircon wasn't working which meant we had the whole floor and bathroom to ourselves which was a blessing in disguise. 

We quickly changed, grabbed some food from a cute shack-type place across the road and walked a few minutes to the beach. White sand, clear blue sea and palm trees everywhere. We literally stepped into heaven. We walked a couple more minutes down the beach and found some sun loungers outside the resort with free WiFi and a swimming pool. Cocktails were all 100 baht (£2) and the staff were all happy to help. We weren't quite sure whether they knew we weren't staying there, but that problem was avoided when they asked for our room number for the drinks and Kate scanned around saw an apartment number and gave them that. We paid for the drinks separately by the way, we didn't leave some poor couple with a bill for three strawberry daiquiris.

After heading back, eating and getting ready we went downstairs, got a drink and sat in the outside area where everyone seemed to be. The atmosphere quickly picked up and before we knew it we were part of the longest ever flippy cup table known to man. Everyone mingled and got to know each other and we ended up at a pool party which was so much fun. When do you ever just 'end up' at a pool party in England? Luckily we'd been told to wear bikinis underneath our clothes for the waterfall party we planned on going to (lack of rain meant we didn't fancy a rock party) so soon after arriving we were all in the pool. After Kate squatted in a bush to relieve herself of the bucket she drank, we decided it was home time and hopped in a taxi. Taxis are a weird thing on the islands - one big truck which fits about 12 people in, although I'm sure about 25 squeezed in on the way there. Again, something you'd never come across back in England.

Feeling slightly worse for wear the next day, even after a mammoth lie in, we booked tickets for The Challenge. The taxi took about 20 minutes and we paid 500 baht each which is an all day ticket for about £9. I found The Challenge online back home in the UK when researching things to do and it surpassed all expectations. It was honestly one of the funnest things I've ever done and and if you visit Koh Phangan you'd be silly not to go. It's basically like Total Wipeout UK with big inflatable obstacles in the water. Looks easy? We were so mistaken. It's so knackering but SO worth it. We had the best day being catapulted off giant inflatables, dropping into the water off a rope swing, climbing the inflatable wall and tackling the big red balls. Some people really hurt themselves being catapulted due to the sheer force hitting the water but I made sure I wore a life jacket and tried to enter the water like a pencil (after letting out a massive squeal) and it didn't hurt at all. Hands down my favourite day so far, and a surprisingly effective hangover cure. We then walked about 10 minutes down the road we were staying on to a small coffee bar and got the most English thing on the menu - chip butty. It was SO typically and embarrassingly English but so amazing. Bread smothered in butter, filled with chips and topped with loads of ketchup was literally heaven in my mouth. Hate on me for not embracing the Thai food, I have had a couple of Thai dishes since being here, but I'm an English gal and I'll always love English food, even 4000 miles away from home. The chocolate milk here however, is AMAZING. Nesquik but a million times better.

That night was the jungle opening party before full moon which was 550 baht for taxi and entrance per person (£10). Our hostel is the party hostel so people from other places come to Nomad House for the pre-party. The outside area was packed and at least five times busier than the night before, but it meant that the atmosphere was even better. The measures here are ridiculous, 3/4 of the cup is vodka and the other quarter mixer which is great for saving money but probably the equivalent of a treble/quadruple back home. After playing flippy cup and beer pong we got free shots and face paint and hopped on the back of another taxi to get there. The actual party was pretty cool with different jungle themed statues, music and food. I was so hungry when I got there so my first port of call was a slice of pizza and a ham and cheese toastie. Isn't drunk hunger just the worst? We didn't stay for ages as we were knackered so headed back around 2am and met a couple of Swedish girls who love watching Ex on the Beach on MTV. Small world, huh.

Sunday morning we got up earlier than the day before so we could make the most of the sun and nipped across the road to get done washing done (117 baht around £2 for 3kg) en route to the beach. We headed to Milky Bay Resort which is the beach resort we found on our first day and had lunch before making the most of the pool and sun loungers. The sea was so shallow so we were able to go far out into a white sandy bit which was literally clear blue sea. At 31 degrees we had to keep hopping in and out of the pool but we managed to get a full day of sun and it was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Around half 5 we headed back to the coffee bar for another chip butty after a big lunch. They were just closing but the owner kindly stayed open for an extra hour just so we could eat. Tip-worthy service. And that brings us to the infamous full moon party which is the main reason we went to Koh Phangan first. It falls on a specific date each month and the reason behind the name is pretty self explanatory, however there was meant to be a super blood moon eclipse. We picked up some cliche full moon party tees and went down to the pre party at 9 which was so much fun. Don't ask me how, but we met a girl and a guy who have just graduated from Trent as well. What are the chances 4000 miles away from home at the same time in the same hostel. Such a small world. 

At half 12 we headed to the full moon party and to be honest, I expected more. Don't get me wrong, it was nice to be on the beach (softest white sand ever, by the way), but the music was all a bit samey and it looked as though pretty much everyone was on acid - no lie. I had a really fun time (hunger and tiredness hit about 3am) but the girls wanted to stay to watch the sunrise. Oh, and we met Jesus. We got home about 6am and I've never been happier to get into bed and close my eyes, especially after all the sexual groping I witnessed. I don't mean to sound like an ancient prude, but quite visibly rubbing a man's penis is not proper beach etiquette. The full moon party is so hyped up whenever Koh Phangan is mentioned and I just feel it was more of a normal beach party. One of the girls we were with said she came to the same beach a few nights ago and it was pretty much exactly the same except for more people. It is fun and you should experience going, but I preferred the pool party. It was however only 100 baht entry (£2) and the taxi back was only 200 baht (£4) although Abby did try and get away without paying by putting the money in her Cheetos bag. 

Monday we woke up about 2 and went straight to get food. After going out pretty much every night since being here, we were all feeling mentally and physically exhausted. Although you're in the best place having the best time, you do have moments where you wish you could be at home for the day and Monday was one of those days. We just didn't really know what to do with ourselves and I don't think getting in at 6am helped. We've found that getting in the pool always makes us feel better so we went to Milky Bay Resort at about 4, got some sun loungers by the pool and just chilled. 

At 8 we went to a place called Food Factory about ten minutes down the road which was an American sports bar. We all got stone baked pizzas which were huge and presented on a wooden platter. We should have known to share one when we saw them coming out but our eyes were bigger than our bellies, as usual, and we ended up coming home with a boxful of leftovers. It was an open front bar and restaurant playing all the current football and rugby matches and the menu offered burgers and pizzas. Our bill came to 820 baht (just under £15) for three pizzas, three drinks and a water so while not expensive, it all adds up if you eat out like that all the time, especially on a budget.

I don't think the three of us could have been any more exhausted and I think the whole hostel must have felt the same because when we returned at 9, when pre drinks are usually kicking off, it seemed dead. Clearly the full moon party ruined everyone and we all had the same idea to get an early night. Travelling combined with going out and drinking night after night takes its toll. Although you've got the day to chill, there's not been a day since being here when I haven't felt tired so we hoped an early night would do us good. Early night resulted in staying up chatting and reading our books until 2.30am, by the way.

Tuesday was our last full day in Koh Phangan so we decided to go and explore to find a nicer beach. We asked at reception and the lady gave us a few options so we decided to get a taxi (500baht) to Haad Khom to the Cononut Beach Resort. It's a very small, quiet and peaceful beach with a few shack-like food places dotted about, but if you're looking for adventure and water sports then you won't find it there. It's more of a hidden gem and while it's very scenic, there's not an awful lot to do other than sunbathe on the small stretch of soft white sand. The sea was lovely and warm and we ended up eating spaghetti at the Haad Khom shack as it was only 80 baht compared to 200 at Milky Bay Resort. After food we settled down on pillows in a wooden chillout area and watched the sun set while relaxing, reading our books and taking in the gorgeous views.

With no WiFi it was the most relaxing 6 hours of the entire trip so far. The beach was so serene and beautiful, by far my favourite day along with The Challenge. We literally immersed ourselves in our books, dozed in and out of sleep and floated in the sea. At half 6 we walked back up to the road as our taxi driver had offered to come and pick us up at it was in a bit of a remote area. We got back, packed all our stuff up ready to leave the island the following morning and walked to 7eleven to get food. En route someone driving past launched a HUGE water balloon at me which exploded on my stomach. Water balloons are funny in a water fight but not when you're innocently walking to get a ham and cheese toastie. International victimisation or what. On a lighter note though, Cadbury Dairy Milk here legit tastes like advent calendar chocolate. 

Since being on the island we've spent quite a bit on taxis, and while it's only a few hundred baht here and there it all adds up. Scooters are a much cheaper way of getting around and being able to explore without constantly having to pay for someone to drive you around. Pretty much everyone in our hostel had one which meant they had loads more freedom so we may try them out on the other islands to save some money. Most people left the hostel on the Tuesday and to be honest, we'd have been happy to leave too. While Koh Phangan has been so much fun, five days is quite a long time to stay in one place and because it's one of the more expensive islands because of the full moon party, we're excited to be able to do more for less when we get to Koh Tao.

In terms of the hostel, I'd definitely recommend staying at Nomad House if you want to stay somewhere clean and tidy with a laid back, social and fun atmosphere. Everyone wants to get to know each other and while it's a party place, there's places to go and things to do if you do want a night off (especially if you have a small dorm or private room). We paid £163 for the three of us for 5 nights which works out about £10/£11 per night which is a fab price for full moon party time. Definitely pre-book accommodation if you're heading to it as hostels and hotels get booked up pretty quick and some of them have a minimum night booking rule - ours was 5. Booking hostels or hotels for the island you're visiting next is super easy to do as there's WiFi everywhere. We did it on Hostel World on Kate's iPad a few days before arriving in Koh Tao. You pay a small deposit and then settle the rest upon arrival. We are now getting a ferry over to Koh Tao for two days which is a lot of people's favourite island, so we're excited to see what it has in store. 

1 comment:

  1. Fab read, can't wait for the next installment, thanks for the memories xo