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Koh Phangan is the Easiest Place to Be

Upon arrival we were informed that no liquor would be sold until midnight following tomorrow’s election. We tried to make the point that we were foreigners and couldn’t vote, and obviously we should be able to buy liquor.

We had it on good account that Bottle Beach was the bee’s knees of good beaches on Koh Phangan. So following the Full Moon party we made the north island our heading. G had convinced me that going by 125cc moped would be a dandy idea. Let me paint you a picture, two adults on a moped, with two large backpacks. We looked pretty goofy and it was uncomfortable, but doable. What wasn’t apparent on the map (on first glance) was the condition of the road leading north. In between us and Bottle Beach was a) a mountainous interior; b) jungle; and c) a road that turned into a dirt road with some steep grades. With bum space on the moped at a premium, my hips ached under the strain of my backpack as we slowly climbed the jungle hills. As we descended the mountain, dirt roads and steep grades meant that I had to jump off the bike and walk. Did I mention the temperature was +30*C? It didn’t take long for me to become annoyed with myself for allowing G to convince me that going by moped was a good idea. I wanted to go by taxi. At some point I put a good sulk on and waved down a truck, which I thought was a taxi (the ‘taxis’ here are trucks with benches in the back). In actual fact, it was just a Thai couple who were heading north to the town of Thong Nai Pan. Oops. However, they were amazingly gracious and drove me and the two backpacks into town. Their kindness saved our relationship. At this point, we decided to spend a day or two in Thong Nai Pan and then scout out Bottle Beach. We booked into a resort nestled right in the jungle. I can’t describe how magical this resort was. Tropical flowers, huge palms, white sand, quaint bungalows. The ambiance was very Robinson Crusoe-meets-the-Beach. We made a fatal error though. We thought we were the type of people who can operate without A/C. I woke the next morning, looked at G and said, ”First and last night I’m ever sleeping without air con.” We had both had terrible sleeps. So with 25 minutes before check out time we scrambled up and down the beach to find a reasonable room. And we found one with a beach front pool. Oh yes, we are ‘roughing it.’

We spent about five days in Thong Nai Pan, soaking up the sun and windy ocean breeze. Despite it being a complete mission to reach the north, the rewards were plentiful. At some point we decided to take our moped further northwest to Bottle Beach. Getting into BB made our mission north look like nothing. Pot holes, steep gravel grade and hairpin turns. We burned into Bottle Beach sweaty and dusty. We poked around for a bit but decided against packing our lives up and relocated largely because a) there were no reasonably priced A/C rooms (and lets not kid ourselves again); and b) getting in and out was a challenge, we’d be pretty much isolated. I have to say, the best beaches and Pad Thai are tucked away in north Koh Phangan.

After a week we were feeling devoid of other backpackers in Thong Nai Pan and headed south to Haad Rin. If you read my earlier post, this is the location of the Full Moon party. However, being the week following the party it was pretty empty. We checked into Coral Bungalows and got our social on. Backpacker FYI: Coral Bungalows steeply discounts their rooms for the 20 or so quiet days of the month and if you pay for 2+ consecutive nights you pay 100 baht less per night. Air con room, hot shower, triple private room for 400 baht/night. That’s $12 people, divided by the number of occupants. We met some rather dull German guys (but we didn’t realize they were painfully boring until the drinking games ended) and a nice girl from the UK who had just finished an elephant conservation home stay in northern Thailand (Carol). During our time spent at Coral four notable things happened:

1. We bought Lady Gaga tickets. G and I were watching BBC and saw a commercial for LG in Bangkok for May 25th. We looked at one another and were like, ‘Yeahhh!’ We figured that procuring tickets would be comparable to Ticketmaster in North America. So wrong, so wrong. We logged on to Thai Ticket Major and filled in all of the necessary information. Upon reserving them we weren’t prompted for credit card information. Rather, we were given a confirmation number and a five hour window to get to the nearest Thai Ticket Major outlet. Except…we are on Koh Phangan! Not to fret, we just needed to get to a 7/11. 7/11?! After a lot of banter with the lovely 7/11 clerks in Haad Rin and multiple phone calls to Thai Ticket Major customer service, we were able to pay for our tickets through 7/11 and received a receipt. Don’t lose the receipt. Success, we were going to Lady Gaga in the country of Pretty Boys. Perfect.

2. Local elections were being held on a Saturday. We were sitting in the restaurant in Coral drinking buckets, but weren’t convinced that there was enough alcohol content to get us drunk fast enough. A natural concern for backpackers. We decided we would send out to 7/11 to buy ourselves some hard liquor, which is also cost effective. Another innate concern for the backpackers. Upon arrival we were informed that no liquor would be sold until midnight following tomorrow’s election. We tried to make the point that we were foreigners and couldn’t vote, and obviously we should be able to buy liquor. It didn’t work.

Nonetheless, a very good night was had. We headed down to a vacant Haad Rin and sucked some buckets back while lightning illuminated the horizon. Being some sort of prohibition, we were basically turned out by the bar owners. I mean, if you went to the washroom you would return and find that your chair had been packed up. Koh Phangan was making it difficult for the foreigners.

3. On our way back from the beach we got a little lost. We eventually determined that we could keep following the beach to our resort, as it is also located on the beach, albeit around a point. Midway the four of us were beckoned by a large beach front pool. The air was so sticky and the surface of the pool so still. Seemed like an invitation for us to do some pool crashing. We sneaked in and silently swam about. At some point Carol from the UK whispered, ”There is a tiger over there! Shush everyone!” Or at least that is what I heard. She pointed to what was actually a ‘Thai guy’ asleep on a pool chair. ‘Ohhh, a Tiger!’ I laughed.

‘No, a Thai-guy!’

‘You are so funny, he totally is a Tiger!’ The joke was lost on her.

So we swam up to the tiger (pool guard?) and did some funky dance moves and then called it a night. The following night we’d crash the Best Western’s beach front pool again and I’d recommend that more people do it.

4. On our last day in Koh Phangan we decided to take our  moped all the way to the west side of the island and then to the centre of the island. We would make a day of it and visit some waterfalls. Carol would rent a moped and come with us. We set out and not more than 500m from Coral did Carol crash her moped. It was such a shame. She and I spent the next three hours at a clinic where a doctor picked asphalt out of her leg and foot, and then stitched her up. She had a hole in her foot that was 2cm deep. So gross and unfortunate.  Our last day in Koh Phangan turned out to be a bust and Carol’s first experience on a moped was bad enough that she will probably never get on one again.

Next stop: Koh Tao.

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