Look out for cheap flights to Bangkok which starts at about 10,000 INR from Chennai to Bangkok. From Bangkok you could directly fly to Koh Samui through Bangkok Airways, but since its a private airport, fares are usually high. You could alternatively fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok, which has direct connections from the airport to the pier and to Koh Phangan/Ko Samui.You could take the train from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Chumphon or Surat Thani, and head to the respective piers in those cities to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan . Alternatively you could fly to Bangkok, and book a Lomprayah Bus + Ferry ticket directly from Bangkok to Koh Phangan
After downing soups and milkshakes, we infused some much needed energies in our tired bodies. The wifi was not present at the hostel, but only at the reception, which meant we were largely to rely on our own cellular data. A slight bummer, but the thing is these public wifi speeds usually falls flat in the light of dedicated 4G speeds on your cell network, so we put it behind, and chose to explore the city in the night. One thing I always note about Wi-fi passwords is also that it says a little about the owner. If the password is simple and guessable the owner must be a nice guy. If the password is complex, it means that the owner is shrewd. I have this little part of my brain that analyses the owner, based on the wifi password. Have you ever thought like that?
The markets were buzz with activity, and we noticed pre-made pizza which was heated and given to people. It gave us an idea about how these markets were estimating for people passing by for a quick bite. There were not too many vegetarian places to eat, so we ended up having a piece each of Margerita Pizza, before proceeding to Haad Rin Beach. I was still a little sleep deprived, and was walking around slowly, when we spotted the fire place on the beach at Haad Rin.
There were scores of people walking through a layer of fire on a horizontal pole rope, which started initially at your shoulder height and went all the way to your knee’s height. The number of people going through the fire would steadily decrease and only the local professionals would bend their bodies to go past it. What struck me was the sense of bonhomie that most of the people present had. Random people helping you, if you got stuck,or cheering for you as you walked your path through the fire. The only change in this rite of passage over the last 30 years has probably been the invasion of smart phones being flashed at everyone, and probably people being less inebriated since they have already heard enough negative stories from media/friends, so most people on the island that I saw were rarely out of their elements.
We woke up the next morning, albeit a little late, as we had gone to sleep at about 3 am. When we woke up and went to the bathroom, we could see a lovely lake besides the back of our hostel. I only hoped that all our stomach’s wastes were not directly landing into the lake.
The road to our hostel, which was very festive last night, was all quiet despite the banners and colours on display. The local shops which sold clothes were open, and so were the 7/11 convenience stores. For all the heat and humidity coming in, I thought the people on this road, had done well to put out curtains to block out the heat. It looked like the westerner crowds were living their timezones, despite being in Thailand as they would stay awake till about 6 am local time, and then sleep the day away. We left our phones to charge at the hostel, while we made our way device free to find our morning meal to start the day.
We tried our hostel for some breads, but we felt that it was not quite whole some, so after a round of ‘french toasts’, we shifted to the Indian restaurant at Haad Rin called Om Ganesh, to satiate our hunger with some Indian food involving Naan and Dal. The food is tasty at Om Ganesh, but as an Indian you are low in the pecking order for the hotel, and the westerners are treated better here. I am not sure, if the owner sees you and accords service based on ‘potential revenue’. Om Ganesh cafe also has hostels and bike rentals, and cannot be missed, as its right in the middle of the Haad Rin, in the road leading to the beach.
Before we started on our plans for the day, we kept going back and forth to our bunk beds in our hostel. We had far too many equipments to charge, and too less points to charge them from. The hostels at Jaya were clean, but got messy as people started filling in. The air-conditioners were less effective during our part of the stay. Its usually advisable to pick a room with lesser number of people (6-8) rather than pick a 20 person room, as the Air conditioning is shared between all of the people. Our beds that we selected were the lower beds, so the air-conditioning was only partial.
We set off in the direction of the sea, jay walking our way through hills, and swathes of concrete road. We could see the sea in the distance, and as long as we were walking towards the direction of the sea, we were fine. We chanced upon a little hill which we climbed up and down, a little tired from the whole experience, as the mid-day sun and the humid weather was making us pant and sweat.
Between all the greenery, we ended up seeing a pristine patch of the aquamarine sea in the distance. Maybe Paradise was near, but it looked like a big hotel near the beach. We decided to walk in through the hotel, and once we found our way to the beach, it really looked like nature had planned something for us to spend our day amidst the greens of the trees and the multiple hues of blue between the sky and the sea.
As Vikram and I settled into our routines of spreading our blanket on the beach, and playing in the water, Abhi decided to leave a little later and head to the spa at the Coco Hut Beach Resort, which had a beautifully shaped window from a Flintstonish house of rocks, from where you could still sleepily catch all the action happening.
We chose to spend our time at the beach, feeling profusely thankful to nature, which extended us an invite to this beautiful beach. The tall trees and all the greenery around made us feel completely at ease. I was not quite sure where all the peace emanated from. Was it from the greens around or the blue hues of the sky and sea? Not quite sure, but you’d take in all the relaxation from the beach.
We made friends with a local Thai man, playing volleyball in the evening and found out that his house was basically a street away on the hill, with a room facing the road. He asked us whether we wanted some Pad Thai, but we chose to say no, as we were not sure of the levels of spicyness or non-vegetarian elements in the mix. However, we were all ears from him on which beaches to plan for the next day on our own. From his suggestions and our map research it became clear that we needed to basically go north and then north west first. The other route was south east and then east, but speaking with him, made us sure of our choices.
The next day we set out on our bikes, and rode through the hills, and the feeling of good roads, lovely sights enroute and a sea that was playing hide and seek with us, made us very happy while on the road. We would stop at various points to see the view of the sea, that was starting to show up. There is a different thrill in your body as you bike your way down right into the aquamarine sea with views of other islands across the gulf of Thailand.
Given we were on a tight budget, we decided to pick smaller cafes away from the main city area, where the prices were cheaper and you would easily get a table to sit and laze around your brunch. Usually our menu was also restricted to French Toast, Omlettes, Fruit Bowls and Tender Coconuts, since there were not too many vegetarian options.
Another way to stay healthy in body,mind and purse and help the local economy was to purchase a basket of fruits every day and keep nibbling at it, taking breaks whenever we wanted. We stopped at forests, beaches, large tree trunks, and we would make that our brunch break spot. It’s a beautiful way to stay hydrated and being closer to nature in the woods.
Our next stop was the waterfall appropriately named as Paradise Waterfalls, set in the middle of a deep forest which had a mud path that was anything but straight, leading all the way to a hill, from which we had to carefully walk down to reach ‘Paradise’. The waterfall had a little cafe in the woods, where you had some mats, which were probably remnants of the morning Yoga class. We selected one of the reaches and levels of the waterfalls to cool ourselves from the tropical heat. Once you are in the waters, there is a sense of music and calm that pervades your senses of the serenading waterfall that keeps flowing, of the birds that keep chirping, of the sounds of silence that fill the trees away from noises of honking or Ed Sheeran.
The day was spent swinging from a rope (tied to a tree) right into the waterfall. We did this in a loop and the thrill of being in the air, before we jumped into the waters was brilliant. It felt like we gained energy every time we did this, and we quite forgot about our need to have lunch. As soon as we took a break out of the waters, we realized how hungry we had been. The little cafe at the hillock was closed for lunch, so we decided to go a little further and check for some spots for lunch.
Of course, even with a hungry tummy, we could not resist stopping by at scenic places enroute.
And finally we settled in on our lunch. Some Vegetarian Pad Thai and Noodles.
While Abhi chose to end the day, playing with a little dog, that was curling upto him.
There ended days 1,2 and 3 of our trip. We have not covered everything in this post for a reason. To know what happened in between the images, do hop over to our second part of our documentary film, now showing at a Youtube screen near you.