Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals *****
There's a few ways to get to these islands, you can either catch a ferry from Surat Thani or fly in from Bangkok. I decided to catch an overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani and then a ferry to the islands. Unlike the overnight train from the north to Bangkok, this train was much small, and significantly less comfortable. On the train I met a group who were travelling to Singapore and Malaysia and got chatting to a few of them to kill some time. They were at the beginning of their 6 month adventure and seemed very excited, it helped me a second wind as I was about halfway through my summer and getting quite exhausted.
The three islands are very different, but the one thing that connects them all is the feeling you are in paradise.
Koh Samui is the largest of the islands, and also the busiest. Whilst not quite as noisy or humid as the north, there was definitely a feeling of a busy island in certain places. I had met a few people in the north of Thailand including one who lived in Koh Samui so she showed me around some of the main sights which I was thankful for. First stop was the lookout point, a part of the island where you can look out across the island also the sea surrounding the island. Stopping off the side of a main road, I managed to take a few pictures. Its strange, as soon as you step away from the road and look out over the side, you forget you are on a pretty busy island.
The Golden Buddha is possibly the main attraction in Koh Samui and its an imposing sight. A large, golden statue of Buddha on the side of a large cliff is impressive and definitely a unique sight. Surrounded by busy markets, you walk up a fair few steps before reaching the temple where the statue sits. You walk around ringing every bell in a clockwise direction before coming back to face the statue. I visited quite a few temples in SE Asia, but this did stand out.
The three islands
Koh Samui has a number of other sights, the grandfather rock (which wasn't that great) and a number of other temples dotted around the island. There are a lot of markets and a vibrant nightlife as well as larger stores in modern shopping centres.
One of the girls I had met in the north, lived on the island and invited me for a night out. I was joined by an American and Australian I had met on the train to the south. We started off at her house and ended up being shown night life around the island. She had friends, who taught English on the island, from different parts of the English speaking world and it was great getting to know them. It was one of the more fun nights I had in the south and I can't tell you how many different bars we actually ended up seeing, I eventually stopped counting.
Koh Phangan is mainly known for its night life, especially the full moon and half moon parties which are spectacular. Outside of these times, the island is quiet with a few markets in each side of the island. Other than the beaches with the nightlife, the one part of the island that really stood out was the road that runs through the island. Winding through forests and countrysides, you get to see some of the island that hasn't been touched as much by tourists. At one point the road gets so steep, sitting on the back of an open top van felt like I was on a rollercoaster. I took the opportunity to see the spectacular scenery of Phaeng national park.
It's at night that the island comes to life, with various fireshows on the beaches. It's pretty fun watching drunken tourists try to skip over a rope made of fire. Stay away, a lot of people got burnt on them. The prices of drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) are reasonably priced and its a strange feeling walking on the beach and moving away from one hut with music to another hut, lights in the distance with different music.playing. Every hut has its own character and there are loads of alcohol free options if you don't want to drink, if you do, there's loads of those as well.
Golden sand and blue sea's
Koh Tao was by far my favourite island. Catered to diving and snorkelling, it has the clearest waters and the most golden beaches. At times it feels like a postcard. Its also a good base to explore surrounding islands by boat.
The island is built around its nightlife and you can easily lose track of time, especially if you have an early morning excursion the next day as I found out the hard way. I went on an island hopping tour around Ko Tao that took in Shark Bay, Luek Bay, Hin Wong Bay, and the spectacular Nang Yuan Island. I can't begin to explain just how clear the waters are around the island, and combined with the golden beaches, it really does feel like paradise.
I gave snorkelling a go, so put on my best waterproof patka and jumped off the boat. It is an amazing experience, watching some of the most colourful fish I have ever seen swimming all around me. A few people that were on the boat claimed to see a shark and pretty much every white person on the boat started swimming to get a closer view. Not me, I went 100mph the opposite direction. Panjabi people don't live by water, the Midlands isn't by any open water, I'm not a water person.
Koh Tao has a strong community feel, its very small and after a few days I began to make friends with some of the tourists out there. There are also a coupe of gyms, one of which I decided to use for the few days with an Australian guy who was out there. I'd also recommend this island as a great place to use the laundrette services as the prices are cheap and the turnaround is very fast.
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British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.