Travel Blog: Week 73
Southern Thailand – Koh Phangan
Week 73: 31.03.2014 – 06.04.2014
So I woke up early which was good as I had a few things to do before locking up and leaving.
Ocean messaged me to confirm she could take me to the airport which was a bonus in so many ways.
I stripped the bedding and put on a couple of loads of laundry. I had breakfast using almost everything in the fridge and then set to with the final packing. I left as much as I could and thankfully it almost all fitted into the huge zip up bag I’d bought from a little Aladdin’s cave of a store I found a few days ago. The pile of things left in the downstairs storage room was my only legacy at this wonderful place, although I have many fabulous memories.
Ocean came round and we had some time to catch up on the events of the past few days before I loaded up, and left my dear little home. I had my big pack on my back and Ocean had my small pack wedged in the front – the scooter was well loaded with us both and my bags and did us proud. A last trip around the moat road and then we were soon at the airport. It’s strange to think this is my last day in Chiang Mai and I’m very grateful to have seen it from the back of a scooter, my good friend’s scooter to boot.
Ocean left me at the domestic departures main door, the best way for a swift farewell, and I went in search of my check in desk. Very slightly over my limit but a blind eye was turned. Clutching my boarding pass I took the escalator to the departure gates. I was rather early and so had plenty of time – time used to browse the surprisingly interesting shops and then for a 45 minute foot massage. It would be cutting it fine but what the hell this is Thailand. There’s always time! The massage was amazing and reminded me that I really need to get back into this wonderful routine. I think beach massages will be on my list of priorities for the next few weeks along with swimming and generally taking it easy.
A final pause through passport control and security – I’d forgotten I’d packed a bottle of water. Although they spotted it and asked me to place it in the bins provided, they never made sure I did. Bonus – I kept it and so had water for the flight. The boarding gate had changed and so by the time I found the right one I joined the end of the queue and was straight through. A comfy seat and a great meal – LAMB and rice, now that is a great meal. Before I knew it we were already halfway there.
So many feelings to consider today. I’d left Chiang Mai – my wonderful rural homestead, my wonderful friends (although many have already left and are currently scattered around the globe pursuing their own journeys), and my emotional guide for the past few months. I really have found myself here. I’ve had highs and lows, experienced heart bursting joy, lived in the moment like at no other time, felt total acceptance from amazing people, had a sense of belonging, and learned more about accepting myself for who I am than I ever have. It’s also been here (and Australia to be fair) where I’ve let go of those things which no longer serve me. And for now I’m saying goodbye! I’m also saying hello to the south of Thailand. A place which did not resonate with me when I first arrived a year ago. This will be a new challenge. Will my eyes see it differently now I’ve lived in this country a while and can speak a few words of Thai? I’m also spending 2 weeks at the beach which I haven’t done for a while. And so onto my final consideration, home. Back to the UK. I guess the journey home has started.
I’m trying not to have expectations, but it’s not easy to keep my mind from wandering into that sphere. How will I see this old world now that I’m new, and how will the old world see the new me? Will my inner peace stay with me? All will be revealed. My intention is to close this blog when I get back to the UK, so you may never get to read about it. But then again it may be an interesting exercise to document this very separate journey! Watch this space.
So, Samui airport is the cutest airport I have ever been too. Off the plane into covered electric vehicles like the sort you get at wildlife parks. A short trip along the edge of the runway to the airport building. It looked more like a spa resort and even the toilets were super clean and modern. There was just one open air carousel and the cases came through in super quick time.
I followed the crowd and the exit sign and soon found the desk for boat tickets. I bought my 350THB one way crossing to Koh Phangan and also met Jo there. A young, probably 20 something year old, Brit travelling alone for a few weeks and like me winging it with the tickets. We were both going to Koh Phangan and so waited together for the inclusive mini bus ride to the pier. A very well mannered young man who graciously helped me with my bags – top marks to his parents! It was only a short ride to the pier, and after stopping at 7/11 to buy water, we took a seat in the shade to await the boat.
About an hour and a half wait. We met Susan, a 60 something Californian. The three of us got along famously and the time at the pier and then on the beautiful 50 minute ferry crossing flew by.
Koh Phangan looked like paradise from the boat. We soon disembarked and found a ride into Thong Sala. There I met Oli, who gave Jo some pointers for great places to stay. We waved Jo off and went to the night market to grab a drink – mint and lime juice….WOW!
I loaded my bag on my back again and we set off towards the accommodation Oli had found. A cute little and very quirky house a stones throw from Chaloklum beach. It looked tiny as we approached the front through the coconut grove, but actually it was narrow but long and stretched a way back. A front porch complete with hammock, a lounge area, bedroom, small kitchen (with the sink outside!!) and a bathroom. It was perfect.
I kind of unpacked a few things and then we took a walk along the beach just as the sun was setting. Then we went out for dinner. A great seafood restaurant with a table overlooking the beach. Fabulous fresh squid! To help digest the food we took an evening stroll around the town.
We were followed home by a dog which obiediently sat outside by the doormat. Which is more than can be said for the geckos!!
Got up early as my stomach was crying out for some food. After removing the bug from my shoes (it was a whopper) we went to breakfast at The World End’s cafe – great veggie breakfast and pancakes. We were just leaving when we met Caroline and Joan. At some point during this trip we would all get together for dinner.
We travelled some of the way around the island and stopped off at Mar Haad beach. The tide was out and so it was possible to walk across the sand bank to the small island of Koh Mah. The perfect spot for some swimming and watching the fish and sea cucumbers.
We downed a deliciously cool fresh coconut and continued the drive around the island. We shopped at Thong Sala which was hot and sticky and so sought the sanctuary of the cool aircon in 7/11. We finished our visit the with a mint lime juice and just the right amount of spicy papaya salad (topped with salt and vinegar crisps – sometimes you just get a craving for home flavours!!).
We stopped at Big C to buy a few groceries and then headed back and slobbed out.
The final stretch around the island covered many very steep ups and downs. The roads not being that great meant a slow cruise and lots of holding on!
We took another spin out on the scooter for dinner. A few places were closed already so ended up at a place near our little home. Just a light dinner you understand………pizza and pasta and a shrimp donut thing for starters.
It was a lovely evening so we walked around the town. There was a twee little gift shop, the cutest black dog, a crafty shortcut and a hat from the 7/11 to keep us busy before we called it a night.
The morning was split between time in the hammock, meditation, breakfast at Mar Haad, which was a disappointing muesli and yoghurt, and working on my photo book – the wifi was slow so it could be frustrating at times! Sitting in a cafe overlooking the beach. I continued to work through the day, stopping only for a lunch time burger, with Tommy K. I originally had 3 months to put this 100 page book together and I managed 13 pages in 2 and a half months!! Now the deadline is looming and so to get the most of the 70 quid I spent on the photobox voucher I have 83 pages to complete in 10 days.
We eventually left around 5. While we still had some light we took a stroll along the beach, which did actually smell pretty strongly of drying squid…hhmmmmmm! The evening started to draw in and locals started to gather on the beach to harvest, I’m guessing, some shellfish from the sand. We found a great place called Chaloklum Bay Resort – a restaurant and pool. We stopped to have a drink and a Thai meal. By the time we’d eaten it was dark and we had to pick our way back along the beach to find the scooter.
Tonight we took a drive around the island again in search of a live music slash magic event called Balance. The music was great and we lay on mats looking up at the stars (much better than looking at the back of a tall guy who decided to kneel in front of us) – it was well attended but mostly by yogi hippy types who were ‘really into the music (and smokes!!) man’. After a hour or so we headed home – I can’t do the hippy thing for long!
At last the wifi came back on in the house. And just in the nick of time – I had a Skype call with Dad at 10. Despite the random internet signal we were able to talk for a while and swap travel stories. Dad was in Cambodia after having spent some time in Vietnam. We also talked I little about my imminent return home. We lived in an area surrounded by locals and during my call with Dad an old man came up to the window and put his head through – obviously very interested in my phone conversation. How random!
Out for breakfast at Worlds End – eggs Benedict, yum!! Then out to our new found pool to do more work on my photo book. It was a blistering day and so time in the pool and walking on the beach and in the sea with two friendly dogs was mandatory.
We had dinner at the pool restaurant which turned out to be a very spicy curry before walking along the beach again. We headed home and called it a night, apart from a trip to a cafe called ‘Texas’ for a coconut smoothie and some fruit.