Rollercoasters and beaches.

Trip Start Mar 03, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Thailand  , Nakhon Si Thammarat,
Sunday, June 24, 2012

We hopped off the boat at Thongsala and headed straight for a motorbike hire shop. The old Leyla and Phil would have taken a taxi to our hotel due to the volume of luggage in hand. Not anymore. By now we had become experienced riders trained in the South East Asian style of motorbike riding i.e. there is nothing that cannot big to be carried on a motorbike. We picked up a bike for 150 THB (3) per day from a place called T&A Travel opposite the pier. The guy was really helpful but stupidly tried talking me into renting a 300cc motorbike instead. Luckily for him, I had my sensible head on that day and declined his offer - I would have crashed that thing for sure!
I put our two massive rucksacks in the footwell and swung my legs over the top of them and off we flew.
The roads on Koh Phangan, particularly those around the party town of Haad Rin, are insane. It is literally like riding on the big dipper. Some hills are so steep that as you approach the peak to descend you cannot see the road heading down, it looks like a sheer drop. I shouted "scream if you want to go faster" but the pain of Leyla's nails digging into my sides told me I better stop my stupidity.

Anyway, we made it safely to our pad, Blue Lotus Bungalow. We picked this place as it was highly rated on Trip Advisor. We paid 500THB (10) per night for our own bungalow by the sea. Given we came here in the low season and the room wasn't that nice, I thought this was a little expensive. However we were here now and Leyla really liked it so we stayed.

Armed with our scooter full of fuel and a map, we set off to explore the island. When we hired the scooter we asked the guy why it didn't have off-road tyres (all the bikes in Koh Tao did). He said there was only one road on the island where you would need off-road tyres so he didn't have them. Well it turns out we found that one road almost immediately. It was a bloody nightmare. We nearly fell off the thing about 4 times. It had not rained on that part of the island for months so the dust had accumulated to be about 3 inches deep. Throw into that mix ridiculously steep hills and normal road tyres and you have a crap situation. We were going slow so we wouldn't have been injured had we fallen off but you can guarantee that the guy who rented us the bike would have charged us a fortune for any damage.
We travelled the full length of the island, from the beach in the south, over 400m high into the jungle mountain and back down to the beach in the north. It was a stunning ride. On the way we stopped off to visit a few waterfalls which came highly recommended. They turned out to be highly unimpressive but given the lack of rainfall, this shouldn't have come as much of a suprise.

On our travels we saw a place called OK Bungalows (god knows why they chose that adjective) and stopped by to see how it compared to the place we were staying. As soon as we saw one of the bungalows we fell in love. For 450thb (9) per night we could have a bungalow right on the sea front complete with a balcony, two hammocks, seating area, WiFi, power shower and two double beds (always great to have a spare bed for dumping stuff on). We booked the room there and then and told the lady we would be back the following day as we had already paid to stay at Blue Coral Bungalow that night.

We woke fresh and early the next day and set out to go on an elephant jungle treck in the mountains. We climbed onto the back of a 34 year old beast and was lead around a jungle track. From the ground elephants look like sturdy creatures, but once you are 15 feet in the air perched on top of one of them they feel very unsteady.
Despite being well trained it still had a mind of its own, often ignoring the guide to wander off and collect something tasty it may have seen. I remember trying to plan how I was going to make my exit should the thing make a dash for it.
It was an amazing experience to ride an elephant but I couldn't help thinking that I would rather see it loose in the wild. With the guilt hanging over me that I was helping to fund this animal's exclusion from the wild, Leyla and I bought a ton of bananas and gave it a real treat.

Later in the day we moved our stuff to our new pad. On the way we passed a police roadblock and were concerned our fully loaded bike would be an easy bribe opportunity. Fortunately, the police were distracted by a gaggle of helmetless tourists on motorbikes and we breezed past. Technically, you must have a licence to ride/drive in Thailand but this law is flouted by pretty much everyone, locals included.

We unpacked for the second time in two days (the life of a traveller) and went to investigate more of the island. We headed up the easy coast to a Haad Mae beach. In low tide the sea retreats and a walkway appears connecting Koh Phangan to the tiny island of Koh Ma. We pottered around and did the usual; sun bath, snorkel and read the kindle.
That night we went to the night market in Thong Sala to buy our tea. The food market was epic, selling all sorts of barbecued food, salted fish, prawns, noodles, cakes, everything. We were in heaven! We bought loads of food, a bottle of vodka, a few beers and had a mini feast on our balcony by the sea. We stayed up to the early hours playing games and talking rubbish. It was a great night.

The following two days were spent exploring the island. There are about 20 different beaches dotted around the island and we saw most of them. Koh Phangan really is a paradise island and we would have been happy to stay there much longer, however, our visa was reaching its end which meant we needed to get it extended. The cheapest way to do that was to make a visa run to Malaysia. So off we went.
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