Salty Tales from the Islands of Thailand

Trip Start Nov 07, 2009
Trip End Jun 17, 2010

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Next on the agenda was to head south to see the Thai Islands. To get there was a taxi, a coach, a boat and a pick-up for a journey of over 20 hours to get to the island of Koh Phangan. All went well - its just a bloody long way! We arrived a bit jaded but easily found accommodation (as with almost everywhere we've been so far, accommodation found us in the flurry of touts on arrival) 
As we waited for the pickup truck to leave the docks to take us to Hadrin another tout came past asking who wanted to see his hotel. Most people were brushing them off politely apart from the Scottish guy sat opposite me who answered, "I don't give a f**k I just want to get sh*t-faced."  Hmmm, another fine ambassador doing everything he can to dispel the British lager lout stereotype then. Grrr.
Koh Phangan is known mainly for its Full Moon parties on the beach at Hadrin. As is usual for the island there is a build-up of tourists just before the full moon and then lots leave straight afterwards. Arriving on the 3rd of Jan just after a combined full moon / new year / new decade party meant that the island was quiet - quite nice for two party veterans to settle into things!
We installed ourselves in Hadrin and used that as a base for exploring the rest of the island. Hadrin now has a couple of gyms and a long flat beach so we took the opportunity to work off some of the Green Curry baggage we'd been building up by getting a gym pass and - surprising ourselves - doing a couple of early morning runs on the beach at sunrise. We started feeling a little bit old at this point as we were bumping into the people who were still partying from the night before whereas we'd settled into a restaurant to watch a movie or read a book.
Although the Full moon party wasn't due for a few weeks there is a party every night: Half moon, Quarter moon, Black moon, and then warm-ups to all of the above. In the morning when we woke up we could always here the beat from a club still going form the night before. I had been to a Full Moon Party before and they are great fun but 7 years on it seems the place has become even more overrun with beer-swilling tourists and every scam under the sun to try and get said tourist as drunk and penniless as possible, ASAP. Costa del Thailand...
The rest of the island is a tropical paradise which we spent a few days exploring. Particularly up on the north eastern coast there are lots of white sandy coves which are exceptionally beautiful so we spent a couple of days up there relaxing under palm trees, playing in the waves and drinking fresh coconut - just what we were looking for. Almost a week slipped by so we made our next move over to the neighbouring island of Koh Tao which is based around the rather more wholesome diving industry. In preparation for the rest of trip's Scuba diving opportunities, Gaby wanted to get her PADI qualification and I needed to do a refresher course. Again before we'd even set foot on the island we'd been talked into seeing a particular diving resort; one of the biggest on the island: Ban's.
Whilst there must be hundreds of dive schools on the island there are 3 big companies of which Ban's is one. Its a bit of a production line (Ban's give out more diving qualifications than any other company in the world), but has good quality equipment, excellent safety standards, they take you from zero to qualified open water diver in less than 4 days, and its one of the cheapest places in the world to do it. Gaby signed up and 2 hours after our arrival was in the classroom whilst I lazed by the beach ;-)
I signed up to go on the same dives as Gaby so over the next 3 days we went on four dives at various sites around the island. As they were focussed on the group getting their certificates, the dives weren't the best, but we got to see some great fish; the best being a blue spotted stingray resting under an outcrop of rock. I was playing with a waterproof camera housing and managed to get separated from the group twice on the last dive but in the shallow coves with so many divers it would be tricky to ever get into trouble.
Gaby's diving group was made up of guys from the UK, US and Scandinavia. There were two instructors; one guy from Birmingham who was an Ibiza DJ (Eden) during the summer and a dive instructor in Thailand during winter. Not a bad life at all!!
On the last day of the course there was a guy from the dive school following the group around with a video camera who by the end of the day had turned it into a DVD which we watched in the resort bar. As the only girl in the group Gaby featured pretty highly so we bought a copy - too big to post here you'll be glad to hear!
On the last night we went out as a group to celebrate everyone passing the course. We had a fun night ending up at a beach party further down the coast boogying until the small hours. We'd arranged to leave Koh Tao the next day and had to be up quite early so Gaby was the voice of reason at 2.30am suggesting we should go home. It took her 45 minutes to get me out of the bar and the short walk home with me protesting every inch of the way that we should stay at the party and go straight to the bus the next day. My final tactic was to tell passing women that my wife was broken and I needed a new one (one woman agreed!), but eventually Gaby won; resistance was never really an option. Darn, that stereotype again...
Via a stop at the pancake stall where the guy had been telling us every day so far that they were the best in the world, and strangely he turned out to be right, we got back to the room and crashed. The next day was the mammoth journey back to Bangkok and as the hours dragged on I began to appreciate Gaby's clarity of mind the night before!
On getting back and unpacking I realised I'd left my flashgun in the hotel on Koh Tao. We only had a few nights in Bangkok before we were due to fly out to Indonesia so assuming at the back of my mind that it was lost, I phoned the resort. Not only did they find it, 12 hours later I had it in my hands again and I didn't pay a penny. A nice end to our last few days in Thailand. 

 Gaby has been writing a blog for the PT company she was working with before leaving so if you're interested you can read that here:

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