After getting married in September 2010 we decided to do the opposite of settling down; so we packed up our life, stuffed it in our parent's attic and hit the road for what is essentially an extended honeymoon! We started our trip on 29th December 2010 spending 4 months travelling overland through Europe, Russia and Mongolia to China. After many a train and bus journey we caved-in and flew from Western China to Malaysia, and worked our way north to Thailand and Cambodia. The time came for us to replenish our bank accounts, so we headed to Western Australia for work in July 2011 and lived in Fremantle until February 2012. After a couple of months back home seeing our families and friends, we headed back down-under. This time we headed for New Zealand and we are currently living in Wellington. Our blog started as part of an elaborate wedding present from two of our very good friends. The idea was that on our trip we should blog from every country we visit, detailing the sights, sounds and smells and most importantly, the beer. We have certainly had fun writing it - but moreso, living it!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Ang Thong Marine Park & Koh Tao, Thailand (27th June - 2nd July)

Relaxing on the balcony on Koh Tao.

Our trip to the Gulf Coast was short and sweet, primarily to see Ang Thong National Marine Park and go diving off Koh Tao.

Our journey from Railay over to Koh Samui (from where we could access Ang Thong) pretty much epitomised everything we were starting to get annoyed with whilst travelling through Thailand, namely being herded around like cattle and trying to extract money out of you at every turn. We took a longtail boat back from Railay, sat and waited whilst being encouraged to buy drinks etc, eventually a mini bus turned up to take us into Krabi town (not far), sat and waited for ages again, got a big bus to Surat Thani, sat and waited, a big bus to the pier, sat and waited, a boat over to Samui and a mini bus to our accommodation for the night, taking around 11 hours to travel just over 150 miles. Joy! Although Liam was feeling smug after he went round the corner from the cafe we were waiting at and bought 6 litres of water and some fruit for a fraction of the cost most people had paid for small bottle of water and a sandwich. We last visited Samui in 2004 and enjoyed ourselves immensely, being in good accommodation on an amazing beach. It was the first time we had been to a tropical beach so it was always going to be memorable but this time round we actually passed the accommodation we had stayed in, and were surprised how much in that area had changed – even the streets were narrower due to sheer over development! Samui these days seems to be a warren of cheap hotels with lots of drunk Europeans hanging around, little sign of any local culture and a general air of a place in decline, a shame really.

The main event came the next day as we were picked up to head off to Ang Thong National Marine Park. It took 2 hours on the boat to get there and we enjoyed croissants and fruit along the way (this was one of the few package tours we took on our trip so the free food was a novelty!). We arrived in the Marine Park after an hour's journey on a boat and split into two groups. Our group spent some time snorkelling, swimming and jumping off the high platform of the boat whilst the other group kayaked. The snorkelling wasn't great due to lack of visibility but it was more than made up for by the sheer isolation of the place, and the strange bulbous rock formations that made up the nearby islands. It was then our turn to kayak, paddling our way around the islands and through rocky tunnels – fantastic. Sea kayaking is something that both of us really enjoy, even if Liam does end up doing most of the paddling while Charlotte takes photographs! The guide set off at a cracking pace so it was pretty good exercise too. We watched one of the Thai guys who was keeping an eye on us all prising shellfish off the rocks, free lunch! Back aboard the boat we had lunch which was billed as 'Traditional Thai', despite being more like a mixture of Indian and Chinese with extra sugar and cream. Arriving at the next destination, half the group didn't want to kayak any more (quite strange since we had all paid for what was billed as a kayaking trip around the Marine Park!) which meant the rest of us could all kayak for as long as we wanted – hurrah! We stuck to the back and enjoyed losing everyone else from view. After pulling into a sandy bay we climbed some seriously steep steps – not for those afraid of heights! - to get an amazing viewpoint of the Emerald Lake, the lagoon which inspired Alex Garland's book 'The Beach'. The lagoon was an almost unnatural shade of green but unfortunately it was a cloudy day and the photos just don't do it justice! We spent a while up there enjoying the peace, and the view, and were fairly perplexed at the rest of the group's tendency to get to the top, take a quick photo and head straight back down. It seemed that most of the group were of unimaginative tour-group mentality; get the activities over with, quick photo then “where's the beer?”. After the climb down we kayaked out into the bay on our own (our guide seemed surprised that we had bothered!) before returning to Samui, sunning ourselves at the front of the boat and spotting flying fish along the way.

The next day we travelled over to Koh Tao on a Catamaran, watching – horror of horrors – Britain's Got Talent. The first impression of the island was 'uh oh, nightmare...' as what felt like hundreds of touts vied for our attention. We jumped in a 4x4 taxi and travelled down the extremely bumpy and steep road towards New Heaven Huts at the other side of the island. The accommodation turned out to be lovely, and on a quiet little stretch of beach. The bungalow were spread out at spacious intervals up in the rocky cliff-side from the beach, certainly kept us fit getting to and from our room! The main attraction for us here was the diving, and we were keen to use continue with our diving after doing our Open Water course in Malaysia. The two of us went with Neil from Coral View Diving and did two dives, one at King Kong and one at Shark Island. It was great to get under water again, and we saw some amazingly colourful shoals of fish and had to contend against fairly strong currents at Shark Island. The rest of our time on Tao we spent snorkelling and hiking about the island. We enjoyed eating food at a restaurant where the staff were really friendly – this unfortunately is a bit of a novelty in some of the more touristic parts of Thailand. We had a a great time but we were starting to feel a bit beached-out, so were very much looking forward to heading up to Kanchanaburi for a dose of history and some beautiful national parks.

Ang Thong National Marine Park & Koh Tao, Thailand

No comments:

Post a Comment