Lomprayah Pier, Chumphon to Thongsala Pier, Koh Phangan
At five in the morning Daniel and I were awake preparing for the days journey and making sure everything was in order. After we grabbed coffee and breakfast, Thai fried bread and sticky rice with condensed milk pudding in banana leaves we headed to the terminal to wait to board the ship. The four hour journey on choppy seas could leave one’s stomach feeling uneasy. We were lucky and sat in the nice cushy seats inside, didn’t have to worry about the rain or ocean spray as we rocked from side to side. First stop was Koh Tao, as the new passengers board you could tell they over sold the boat. Passengers sat on plastic stools in the aisles, people stood in the stairwells, and filled every open space available. We were glad to have our nice seats inside!
As we neared Koh Phangan Daniel made way to luggage storage where he had stashed our packs while Francesca and I waited to disembark. The passengers piled of the boat and gathered on the dock to wait for the luggage to be handed off the ship. It appeared that most everyone had exit that was getting off however there was no sign of Daniel. Francesca and I scanned the dock but did not see him, then we notice a few stragglers coming off the lower deck of the ship. Apparently, all the packs had been piled high. no rhyme or reason, and our packs where near the bottom center of the pile so he had to patiently wait as packs were sorted through and passed to their respective owners.
As soon as Daniel disembarked with our packs in hand the rain started again, people began to disperse looking for any covered shelter but luckily it was just a drizzle and we made our way down the pier. Francesca spotted a slide from about 500ft away and called out for joy. She had to go play and so we did, its what you do when your toddler had just spend 4 hours on a boat confined to a seat. We ran around the play ground until she was ready to go then hiked to our hotel about half a mile from the pier, Cosy Bungalows on Thong Sala Beach. We found this budget beach front property on bookings.com and since neither Daniel nor I had explore the western side of the island we thought it would be a good option.
The Cosy Bungalows is a larger size property with about 40 small bungalows, restaurant, bar, tattoo studio, scooter rental, laundry, ping-pong table, and travel agent. Pretty much everything you need in one area. Our bungalow was a lower budget room with fan for about $12 a night, there were rooms with AC options that would have increased the price about $5 a night. The bungalows were very simple consisting of a bed on built in platform, no other furnishings in the room or decor, we did have a private bath tiled with leftover pieces of mismatched tile and a cracked hand held shower head, no hot water which Daniel loathes. The front porch did have a set of plastic chairs and small table, as well as a hammock hung from the corners that you could attach to a nail to move it out of the way. At first we were a bit concerned with the temperature of the room but soon discover the evening blessed us with a cool breeze that chilled the room, we searched for our blanket in the middle of the night.
As we had made our way to the hotel I notice a sign: Koh Phangan Street Market, every Saturday from 4:00 to 10:00. Just our luck it was Saturday! We could spend the evening roaming the streets of Thong Sala, perusing the market, admiring the art, searching for tantalizing tasty treats for our tastebuds. Francesca was in the mood for pizza and we found a authentic Italian pizzeria that was selling slices for 50฿, we roamed a bit further before finding delicious veggie curry puffs at a daily food market for 20฿ each, spring rolls at 10฿, fruit shake for 30฿, Som Tom 50฿, corn on the cob for 30฿ and fresh pineapple sliced for 40฿. For about $8 we each were able to have a filling dinner and I had some fruit for the morning. Francesca even scored a bicycle keychain made of wood from a vendor that was unable to resist her cuteness.
Phaeng Waterfall was located about seven mile from our bungalows, the National Park was free to access. Daniel and I decided that we should walk there since it had been a few days without riding our bicycles; we thought the exercise was need. We loaded Francesca up in her stroller, because we were not going to be carrying her on our 14 mile journey in the hot sun, and headed inland to find the waterfall. The walk was rather easy with no uphill climb until we reached park and probably wouldn’t have been memorable until the chaffing set in then every step had a burning discomfort associated with it; for Daniel that was part of the walk there and all of the walk home where I luckily didn’t get the chaffing until we were almost back to town.
Once we reached the national park we collapsed the stroller and stashed it because there was no way to push it up hillside. We climbed the steep uneven ground to a small waterfall and pool area where Francesca and i played for a while; enjoying the cool water and warm sun. There were a few tourist sunning themselves on the rocks, serenity of the jungle was calming for all. After a while we thought we would attempt to climb to the top to get a view from the lookout, Daniel went ahead to see if we could make the ascend. We had been told that it was a rather difficult climb, Francesca and I lagged behind but decided to follow to see if we could make it. The path had been washed out and the climb was difficult, our little troop did an excellent job scaling the steep rocky path using tree roots and branches to stabilize. Francesca did most of the climb herself minus a section where I held her as we balanced on a safety rope on the cliffside. When we met up with Daniel he was making the descend and surprised to see how far we had made it. He said the climb got worse further up and a few others had already turned back, Francesca had had enough and was ready to turn around. She had worn herself out and Daniel and I took turns handing her off as we navigated the steep root entangled vertical decline, one wrong foot placement could have caused a huge tumble down the rocky face.
As we approached the more used area of the hike, where walkways and steps had been constructed things got a bit easier and Francesca was again on her own. We past a family with their grandparent in tow and over heard them saying how out of breath they were, we relyed to them the hike up was much more intense and the terrain got worse. They though we might have been joking but I assured the lady it was not easy and if she felt that this bit was hard she may want to turn around when the bridge way ended. As we continued down to the start of the hike it was only a few minutes before they joined us and thanked us for the information. We were proud that our little one was tough and brave enough to climb it with us, at this rate she will be scaling Everest, one day. As we headed back to town, Francesca asleep in her buggy, the rain blessed us with its present and we held up in front of a convenient store until it subsided and we could finish our seven mile hike back to the bungalows.
Beaches of Phangan
Thong Sala beach is not the greatest, had I done a bit of research before booking our spot we probably would have chosen a different area. The beach is surrounded by a reef and as it appears, it is rapidly dying or already dead. The ocean floor from the reef to the shore is filled with sharp broken dead coral and the water is never more then a couple feet deep. Had there not been tons of jagged coral pieces, that could easily slice your feet up, the water depth would have been great for Francesca but since there was no way around the danger we didn’t venture out in the water. Francesca did enjoy walking along the shoreline discovering dinosaur bones, which is what she called the large pieces of washed up coral. She wanted to venture further out, following the few people that were snorkeling but we convinced her it wasn’t the safest.
We did take a few trips to other beaches on the island that were much prettier and better for swimming and snorkeling. One day we did Mae Haad Beach on the north side of the island, the sand was lovely and water refreshing. We rented an umbrella and some chairs of 200฿, Francesca found a friend that was attempting to crack a coconut on which they pounded on for a good 30 minutes before giving up. Afterward Daniel spent another 30 minute shucking the coconuts shell to gift it to an Israeli that had watched the entire process, he then cracked the nut to eat the meat inside. Francesca and I played chase up and down the beach until she was hungry and we decided to leave. On our ride back we spotted a bunch of ripe bananas hanging on a tree, Daniel stoped for me to pick a few. A local spotted me and called out for me to stop, evidently your not suppose to pick the bananas but I managed to grab a few that Francesca enjoyed on the ride back to town.
Our other beach excursion was to the south side of the island and the more popular tourist destination as it is home to the full moon parties, Haad Rin. When we arrived Francesca spotted a lifeguard stand and promptly climbed to the top, she is such a little monkey. After we persuaded her to come down she ran towards the water, staying just out of reach running to and from the incoming waves. The beach on this side is fine grain sand perfect for sand scrub which Francesca discovered as she assisted a young girl rub sand all over her mother bathing topless at the waters edge. Daniel and I showed Francesca how to make drip sandcastles and watched them get washed away in the rising tides. The sun was strong and within an hour we had been kissed by its brutal rays, enough so that we all applied aloe after our shower when we returned to the bungalows.