Saturday, January 24 – We finally arrived at the first of 3 islands, Koh Tao, in the Gulf of Thailand following a night train from Bangkok to Chumphon (9-hours), a bus ride (1-hour) to arrive very early in morning for the ferry to Koh Tao (another 1-1/2 hours). The English translation for Koh Tao is ‘Turtle Island’ as it apparently resembles a turtle & is a breeding ground for turtles. The island was also used as a penal colony in the early 1930s for political prisoners.
Relaxation was welcomed after the past 2-weeks on the move & we entertained ourselves by walking, hunkering down with our novels & snorkelling. It was a bit unnerving initially swimming with the numerous sharks, but we didn’t bother them & they ignored us. The coral & marine life was stunning with a kaleidoscope of colours & we finally hung up our fins late afternoon after enjoying the underwater world for several hours.
Monday, January 27 – On the move again, we headed to Koh Pha Ngan, about a 1-hour ferry ride away. Koh Pha Ngan derives from the word “ngan”, meaning “sand bar” for the many sand bars offshore.This island is known for its infamous full-moon party every month, & for you movie buffs, it was the location for the movie ‘The Beach’ starring a young Leonardo DeCaprio.
The island is also known for its coconut farms. It was fascinating to watch monkeys scramble up trees, freeing the coconuts to drop to the ground where they were gathered & loaded into a truck by the workers. We also saw women at a coconut processing plant (with mounds of coconuts) manually removing the hard outer shell on a razor-sharp spear to reveal the hairy core – such hard work for no doubt menial wage.
We were tempted to rent scooters, but decided to err on the safe side; walking & biking are more to our style & apparently much safer since we saw several bandaged limbs in our travels.
Friday, January 30 – Koh Samui, the largest of the 3 islands & a 45-minute boat ride from Koh Pha Ngan was our destination today. It is much more touristy & offers much of the same as the other islands. The beach is by far the nicest thus far with soft, white sand stretching about 7-km long. Our plan is to stay 4-nights before moving on.