Island life has always held something special for me. A lot of this can be attributed to tropical fruit, the concept of island time and the beautiful views often found in these remote places. Obviously I’m talking about sunny isles slightly more exotic than the UK! Whether I’ve been whale watching off the coast of San Juan Island, USA, spotting monkeys in Ilha Grande, Brazil, or driving 4x4s on Fraser Island in Australia, I’ve always loved being on an island. Oli is a keen diver, so when we talked about our next destination after Bangkok, the islands in the gulf of Thailand were our obvious choice.
We had three islands to choose from – beautiful but tiny Koh Tao, party central Koh Phangan or the bigger, but more touristy Koh Samui. We started with Koh Tao, and decided from there that Koh Samui would be our next stop.
We’d heard rave reviews of Koh Tao – the tiny island filled with natural beauty. In Thai, Koh Tao translates to turtle island so I had very high hopes for some sealife spotting. Unfortunately Koh Tao didn’t really live up to the hype. We stayed in Sairee Beach, which was full of 19 year old gap yah backpackers who were there do their PADI open water and drink cocktails from buckets. We thought we’d keep out of their way a bit and hired a motorbike to explore the less touristy parts of the island. Sadly as it’s such a small island, and it was packed, everywhere seemed touristy! Everyone seemed to own the nice parts too, so if you wanted to see a view or visit the beach you had to pay for the privilege.
OK, negativity over. Despite it being backpacker central, we still had fun. The motorbike (nicknamed Gok) gave us freedom to go anywhere on the island and we enjoyed exploring. I think the view from Mango Bay (photo below) was my favourite part of the island, as well as the bike. I’d had ‘ride a motorbike’ on my bucket list for some time and now have a big tick next to it! Oli was in charge of Gok and I just clung onto the back in a co-pilot role, but it’s really good fun. Don’t worry mum, we wore helmets! Proof:
We also weren’t miserable and boring oldies amongst the youthful backpackers. One night I talked Oli into drinking out of a bucket, a pink one nonetheless. He was a good sport and took his new accessory round the shops. He wouldn’t let me keep the bucket to make sand castles with though…
One really strange observation is that Koh Tao was full of gingers! Travellers rather than locals I must note. I hadn’t seen many at all until I got to the island and was amazed by how many Travelling Ginges had gathered there.
After two nights in Koh Gap Yah we were excited to head over to Koh Samui, a much larger island with a reputation of being more family and couple orientated. We found cheap accommodation in a lovely area called Fishermans Village (Bo Phut), where we were suddenly surrounded by some very well-heeled folk. Surprisingly nobody asked us if we were on a honeymoon but it seemed like that kind of place! We made friends with the hotel staff, including a Scouser named Kevin and a few dogs, and were able to hire a motorbike again. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Samui we would highly recommend Siam Shades House in Bo Phut. It’s surrounded by frangipanis and is a few metres from the beach. A few days in Kevin said we could stay for a year and offered us jobs – tempting but London calls!
Every day the Travelling Gs would get on the bike (Gok II) with a new mission of places to see, and views to find. One day we rode around the whole island. Another we rode to the top of Samui’s highest mountain for the views. My favourite day was when we discovered some secluded beaches, mainly from us just deciding to go down a road and see what was at the end of it. It’s great to have the whole beach to yourself and take in the scenery with no distractions.
We’ve seen some interesting things and met a lot of people in our journey. One of those was a man we found releasing sea creatures into the sea from a plastic bag. We asked what he was doing and he explained that he’d bought them in the local seafood market and wanted to return them to the wild. I was speechless – what a great act! I was quite shocked though, as he’d bought turtles from the market that were destined for somebody’s dinner. Do people even eat turtles?! 😦
Oli is a diver and is set on turning me into his dream woman, aka a fellow diver. As a non-amphibious creature myself this is a bit of a challenging mission, so we’re starting with baby steps. Snorkelling 101 started in Koh Tao where we saw barely any sealife in Shark Bay’s shallow waters. I was deemed good enough at that point to buy my own snorkel mask and mouthpiece. Feeling like a pro I went out with Oli in Crystal Beach, Koh Samui and… almost died. Something about being in deep water, which was cloudy so you couldn’t see far ahead, really spooked me. I’m just glad Oli is such a strong swimmer and could keep me up during my panic. I think he enjoyed his role as hero after the incident and he can now blackmail me as he’s saved my life. I’m thinking armbands might be a good investment for next time…
Where to next?
Next stop for the Travelling Gs is Khao Sok, back on the mainland. It’s a rainforest and we’re hoping to stay in a tree house above the jungle so we can hear the wildlife below. I’m also praying to my lucky Buddha that I see a wild elephant – keep your fingers and toes crossed!