Coming to you live from Koh Phangan – YES! We are certainly getting around the islands of Thailand.
I’m going to go back to the end of last month though, when we spent 8 days on an off the tourist trail island in the middle of Phang Nga Bay called Koh Yao Yai. The name of this blog is what Michael renamed the island and it has kind of stuck with us along with memorable moments of wading through quick sand, getting shipwrecked on a desert island and mini crocodiles……
Phang Nga Bay is the famous area full of sheer limestone cliffs that jut out from the Andaman Sea – needless to say, extremely scenic which means a happy photographer.
Koh Yao Yai is seriously underdeveloped and an absolute paradise. The island is only inhabited on its coast by little fisherman villages and ports, the rest is jungle. Of course it was up in the jungle that we stayed. It sounds wild and adventurous but was actually a beautiful, ecologically designed resort set very cleverly in amongst the jungle with a breathtaking outlook from the pool and restaurant.
Though the jungle does come with its own community of creatures great and small. First morning I woke with Michael gone! Thinking he might be down at the ‘exercise hut’ I went outside to put my trainers on and join him (in Thailand shoes are always kept outside the rooms). After a few unsuccessful attempts at putting my shoe on, I looked inside it and found a frog. My first thoughts were that my Prince Michael had clearly turned into a toad overnight!! Talk about new and interesting. Little fella stuck around, co-habiting with us for the entire duration of our stay, making his mark twice daily in our outdoor living space, right outside the door to our room.
Walking around the jungle at night, we’d like to veer off from the set paths, often hearing large rustling in amongst the bushes which we assumed must be cats. HHHMMM! One morning we discovered just how wrong we were as we turned to see the animal rustling in the bush beside us was indeed a huge Monitor Lizard making his appearance. I had no idea what this was before encountering one so will say for those as ignorant as myself, that it’s the size of a mini crocodile – and that is no joke. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Michael on the other hand, compact camera in one hand, went off trying to get a shot of it only to be approached by a second lizard coming at him from the other side – it was then his turn to jump out of his skin. After this encounter we had a new appreciation for the lovely paved pathways lit up at night and stuck to them!
Not keen on people packed tours, after being on the road awhile we’ve learnt how to do things in a more ‘local’ manner. So we went down to one of the main piers on the island, found ourselves a lovely girl who spoke English and through her arranged a few of our own day trips to see the various sights in the bay.
Our second trip we were headed out to see a lagoon and do some snorkelling but instead got stranded on a remote island. Michael had spotted a photographic opportunity and got our captain to ‘pull up’ to this very small island. This was deviating from our planned trip but out we got and went to scope the area for some good photo ops. It wasn’t as photo worthy as expected and the island was tiny, so we were back at the boat 15mins later only to find the water had disappeared and our boat was sitting in the sand. The captain and his friend were trying to manoeuvre the boat which looked wildly optimistic from where we stood.
The tides change very quickly and in an ideal world, the captain would have some knowledge of the tidal times. We couldn’t decide if he was doing the classic Thai move of wanting to please us and not being able to say ‘no’ to our requested detour or he just wasn’t quite as on the ball as we might have liked him to be…..?? Regardless, we were stranded there for 4hrs until it came back in again. Granted, it could have been a lot worse – like being stuck on the Victoria Line underground for 4hrs – but I was not at all pleased as I was super keen to snorkel and this was far from it. The shore was full of rocks which were impossible to walk over and the sea streaming with enormous jelly fish that sting so swimming was out of the question. On a lighter note, we got to pass the time eating fresh seaweed as well as freshly collected oysters and eventually got to see a beautiful sunset.
Heading out on the afore mentioned trip, we had spotted what looked like a picture perfect beach on the island. It seemed to go on forever, ending with a long sandbar dotted with coconut trees. Keen to explore it we went there the following morning for a nice long beach walk. Unfortunately all the beaches on the island looked idyllic from afar but the reality of them up close was a little different as they aren’t kept at all (a sign of just how underdeveloped the island is) so there’s lots of garbage and all sorts from the sea that’s been washed up. This one wasn’t too bad, although the sand had a bit of a muddy texture about it.
It was a stunning and long walk out to the end of the sandbar with not a single person to be seen. A huge highlight for Michael was the sighting of lots of families of Mudskippers along the entire beach. These are fish that have the amazing ability of being able to survive in the water and on land.
Sadly our return walk was anything but idyllic!!!! Clouds had swiftly moved in a there was a huge downpour for 15 mins. Not really such a bad thing given the heat and we were in our swimmers anyway. However, the rain has an effect on the sand (the muddy textured sand) and when you team this up with the tide having rapidly changed and come about 5 metres up the beach the picture we made wasn’t a pretty one.
Every step saw our feet sink down until the sand was knee high, then once finished battling this part of the beach – an hour + later – we had a half hour more of wading through the same muddy sand topped off nicely with waist high water. The high tide meant there simply was no more beach and we were having to walk out into the water to make our way around the mangroves. Talk about a serious 3hr morning workout!! The trek was made that bit more exciting by a race against the clock to get back in time for breakfast AND the icing on the cake, poor Michael in the last minutes was badly stung across his ankles and feet by a jelly fish. As I said, far from idyllic but certainly very memorable.
After 8 days of exploring the sea by boat and the whole island by scooter we had slowly but surely been eaten alive and were ready to leave. I know, we did feel a bit ‘city folk’ but you have to know when to back down and admit defeat. As beautiful a paradise as Koh Yao Yai was, it seemed to have lots of little unknown creatures in addition to mosquitoes about the island, that left Michael with a very interesting looking upper back and the backs of my legs and arms filled with rather unsightly welts.
Recovering now, next news will be from our new destination – Bali!