Thursday, February 20, 2014

Island Hopping - Part 1

Some of you may know that the Gulf of Thailand / Siam is dominated by three major Thai islands, namely Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui (order from north to south). Especially Koh Phangan has earned its name for the so called Full Moon Parties, which are infamous for visitors being drugged and robbed big time. Or to put it in a nutshell, just imagine thousands of respectable westerners overcrowding a single beach in Koh Phangan for once in a month, while not only destroying their livers and brain cells, but also leaving one hell of a mess on the beach as well. Needless to say that I'm not keen on witnessing those party animals, I could visit a zoo just as well.

But hey, there's more to see than grounded party-tourists, so I decided to visit all these three islands anyways, starting with Koh Samui, the biggest one of that trio infernale. From Surat Thani in the mainland there are in fact quite a few ferry agencies who organize daily boat passages to those islands, the most iconic agency being Lomprayah. With a speedy catamaran the passage only took about 1 hour and besides the sea through a little window there was not really much to see. Oh yes, there were those noisy westerners heading to Koh Phangan, but they soon calmed down as the seasickness kicked in. How I loved the look on their faces. :D

The earlier mentioned Lomprayah catamaran
As for myself, I was lucky that I found a splendid bungalow on the island, for a lousy 300 Thai Baht a night. Now that's what I call a deal! The island itself offered quite some sightseeing, both on and off the tourist-beaten track. Let's take a look at some stuff I went to see:

Nathon, probably Samui's most important town
Hin Ta and Hin Yai - two rocks formed in a, err, certain shape. Google it.
Palms, palms everywhere.
Again up for some scooter action, high in the mountains.
The «Magic Garden», a kitschy exhibition of some stone sculptures chiseled by an eldery farmer
And surprise - more palms.
Mr. Durian - here we meet again!
Getting off-road is where the fun begins...
... and where secret places are revealed.

Wat Silangu

The higher you get in Koh Samui the better, believe me.

Wat Plai Laem, one of the better temples on Koh Samui!

But don't be dissapointed by thinking that there are no obscure places on Koh Samui, as the following one will blow you away...

Wat Khunaram - this one is really memorable! This here is actually a mumified monk who sits here dead for more than 30 years in a glass display.  During that time someone actually put him on these rad sunglasses. Excellent.

This signboard actually made me crack up - unlike that waterfall.

Quoting Axl Rose: Welcome to the Jungle!

Hainan temple in Nathon - I actually adore these Chinese-styled temples!

A few kilometers west of Koh Samui lays also a Maritime National Park called Ang Thong. I thought it would be worth to take a look a these group of islands along with a snorkel trip. In hindsight I'd better put on more sunblock on my back, as later you could peel of the skin like a bletted tangerine.

Koh Mae Ko, with its blue lagoon (lower right picture) inside the island

And what's better than a deep digestive nap before going Kayaking?

In the next part of the Island Hopping post I'll tell you more about my stay in Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Thanks for dropping by!

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