A DREAM IN A SUITCASE

THAILAND

Koh Phangan and Koh Tao

Thailand

Koh Phangan and Koh Tao

Thailand was a long-awaited vacation. We had been working non-stop for 6 months, which might not seem like a long time, but if you are a travel addict, like us, that’s an eternity. 🙂 We usually play it safe and book our stay long before the date, but this time we wanted to go a bit “wild” and not have anything booked, except the first night. Said and done.

We decided to go to Koh Phangan, an island in southeast Thailand, famous for its nightlife, especially the Full Moon Festival, which is taking place every month. We flew from Dubai to Bangkok, with Emirates Airlines, a 6-hour flight, even less if you are lucky. We travelled during the night, so everyone was sleeping, except me. I can never sleep on flights, even when I was a Cabin Crew and had my break in the Crew Rest Compartment, I would just lay down, resting my eyes, but I couldn’t fall asleep, probably because I knew I had to wake up in a little while. Anyway, once arrived in Bangkok, we had to transfer from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK - International) to Don Muang Airport (DMK - Domestic). The distance between the airports is of 47 km.
There are 2 ways to get from Bangkok to Koh Phangan, either by flying to Koh Samui, the closest airport and then taking a 20 minutes ferry or the longer version, by flying to Surat Thani, followed by a bus and boat transfer. First option is faster, but much more expensive, so we decided to go with option number two, which took us around 8 hours in total but was less than half the price. Normally, it should take much less than that, but we were very “lucky” 🙂 (you will understand later).
So, we took a domestic flight with AirAsia to Surat Thani, which lasted about 45 minutes. In the airport we were given a sticker, which we had to wear in order to be guided towards the correct bus. It took us about 2 hours to get to Donsak Pier, by bus. That’s when we missed the ferry, by 5 minutes, talk about luck, and had to wait another 2 hours for the next one. The last leg of our journey was the ferry ride between Donsak pier and Thong Sala pier in Koh Phangan, of about 2 hours and a half.
It was a long and exhausting trip from Dubai to Koh Phangan. We wanted to experience both options, so on the way back we came directly from Koh Samui to Bangkok. Just to give you an idea of the price difference, the long trip from Bangkok to Koh Phangan, costed 119 $ for 2 persons, while from Koh Samui to Bangkok, the 1-hour flight was 290 $ for 2 persons.
Tired and wishing for the day to end, we checked into our first villa, where we stayed only one night. The next day was pouring rain, but we had to look for accommodation, as that particular villa wasn’t available anymore for the upcoming days, even if we wanted to stay longer. We rented out a scooter for about 5 $ per day (it will be even less if you rent it out for a longer period of time) and started visiting hotels and villas around the island. After a challenging search through the rain, we decided to stay at Haad Son Resort.

Located on a private white sandy beach and decorated in a modern Thai style, the beach retreat will offer you a unique stay amongst tropical greenery and clear blue waters. We were very happy with our choice.

We spent a lot of time on the streets connected to Haad Rin beach, where you can find a variety of pubs and restaurants and where the Full Moon party takes place. You can eat the famous and delicious Thai dish - Pad Thai, cooked right in front of you, for the price of 50 baht (1.5 $) and one of my favorite deserts ever, Mango Sticky Rice, for about the same price.

Best sunset view in Koh Phangan

After a quick search on good old Google, we decided to go for drinks at Bluerama, a bit before sunset. With a live DJ playing at their Sky Bar and an infinity pool facing the ocean, we witnessed one of the best sunsets of our lives. Cocktails and food were delicious. It would be an amazing option for accommodation as well, to stay in one of their sea view bungalows or villas. If we ever go back to Koh Phangan, it will definitely be our first choice.

Half Moon Party

Because we arrived a few days after the Full Moon Party, we decided to go to Half Moon Festival, which happens 2 times in a month and is supposed to be just as incredible as the Full Moon party. We had heard so many crazy stories from these parties, that we decided we can’t miss it, this being one of the reasons why we chose to go to Koh Phangan. The regular ticket costs 1500 baht (45 $) and it includes access to the festival and 1 free drink. The location of the festival is in the forest near by Ban Tai Village.

After getting our necklaces at the entrance, there is a variety of options for face/henna/UV painting, so I had made a cute flowery UV painting on my arm. 🙂 The Main Floor is The Tribal Stage, followed by The G Floor with The Funky Stage and The Cave with The Urban Stage. We went everywhere, but chose to stay mostly at The Urban Stage, where was more underground music, compared to the main stage which had commercial music. I can’t say that it was the craziest night of my life, but we had our share of fun. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, some went crazy, others were more chill. The atmosphere was really good, the setting was incredible, surrounded by woods, so overall it was a great experience.

To balance things a bit, we were in search of a yoga and meditation center, so during one of our bike tours around the island, we found Orion Healing Center and decided to try it out. It was already cloudy when we started our meditation session. The setting was idyllic, a bamboo lodge surrounded by palm trees. Towards the end, a noisy tropical rain made us lose focus and just listen to the heavy raindrops. It was a beautiful afternoon, probably the initial moment when I realized that this is something that I want in my life!

Koh Tao

Koh Tao was recommended to us by a few lovely people that we met in Koh Phangan. We were planning to visit it anyway, but probably just for one day. I am very happy that we decided to spend a few days, because the island is very beautiful and much smaller than Koh Phangan, therefore the time spent on the scooter is much less. You will find a lot of restaurants, beach bars and clubs near Sairee beach, which is probably the most famous beach on the island.

We arrived at Mae Haad Pier, Koh Tao, early in the morning, after a ferry ride of approximately 1 hour. You can find the price list and the schedule here by clicking the ferry button below, just keep in mind that if you do the booking online, it has to be made a few days in advance. So, we rented another bike from the pier and we were off to our new accommodation.
I found on Booking.com a resort situated on top of a hill, built into rocks with incredible views over the Gulf of Thailand, called Moondance Magic View Bungalows. While sitting in your comfortable hammock, you can either enjoy the sea view or listen to the birds singing, as you breathe the fresh air from the trees that surround you. With bungalows made entirely out of bamboo, an outdoor shower and a lovely spacious terrace, we felt more connected to nature than ever. Each morning we would sip our coffee at their cliff-edge located restaurant, with the most magical views. 🙂 You can even go down the cliff, following some rudimentary steps carved into the rocks, for a morning swim or snorkeling, as long as the waves are not too strong.

I will never forget the talking bird that they had somewhere in the middle of the resort, which would greet you every day, either by saying “Good morning” or by imitating your sounds. If you would whistle in a certain way, the bird would do it identically and you could continue like that all day long. 🙂
The next day, we were off to explore the island. We did snorkeling both near our accommodation and at Aow Leuk Beach, where besides the colorful variety of fish, we saw a baby shark. They say the island is famous for one of the best scuba diving spots in Thailand, but we were really happy with snorkeling, so we choose not to do it this time.

We wanted to find a view point of the island, so after asking around for a bit, we decided to go to Mango Bay, where you can find multiple spots for panoramic views over Koh Tao. The road was not easy at all, especially with the scooter and we had to pay a fee of 100 Baht (3 $) to access the view point, but it was all worth it. We left the scooter near a small restaurant and did a 15-20 minutes hike, but when we finally reached, a beautiful perspective over the island opened up in front of us.

Our relaxing days on this charming island passed very quickly and it was time for us to go back to reality. Our trip was filled with ferry rides, so, again, we took the ferry to reach Koh Samui. With a short stopover in Koh Phangan, where we didn’t have to get down from the ferry, in less than 2 hours, we found ourselves in Koh Samui. We took a direct flight to Bangkok, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article and sooner than we knew it, we were again on an Emirates flight, going back to Dubai this time.
If I were to choose between the 2 islands, I would probably go with Koh Tao, just because it is less touristic, people are much more friendly and the coral reef and marine life is abundant. Koh Phangan is more exciting from a partying and going crazy point of view, which I am all in, but in this case, I guess I was looking for something more balanced. Our vacation was a perfect combination, so I would definitely return to Thailand.

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