Saturday, July 13, 2013

Snorkeling and Relaxing in Koh Tao, Thailand

I left Myanmar on June 18 and made a quick stopover in Bangkok. I enjoyed some good food, bought a few supplies and was ready to head south to the islands! I am planning on the next month hopping from one island to the next looking for some relaxation, snorkeling and a little break from sightseeing. I am tired and need a break from sightseeing. I need to just to live life. I may even try to find an apartment for a week just to decompress and get ready for China. Yes, this daily life traveling is hard work! Ha, ha! But I love it!

My first island of choice was Koh Tao. I have decided to skip Phuket and Phi Phi since it is rainy season. I booked the night bus leaving Bangkok and a ferry to Koh Tao. Why Koh Tao? Well, it is in the Gulf of Thailand and it is not rainy season. Most people head to Koh Tao to get certified to scuba diving. With asthma, I know better so I was planning a snorkeling trip and relaxing in a hammock while I figured out where to go next.

The bus trip was long and hot. You put a bus load full of westerners on an overnight bus and it is long, hot and sweaty. Add in that it was the week of the full moon party in Koh Phengan and it was an adventure on its own. People were drinking on the bus and it felt like the days of a frat party! Not in the good way, the bad way. It was a long trip to the ferry. After 7.5 hours we arrived at Chumphon to wait 2 hours for the first ferry to Koh Tao. As we boarded the boat and left the harbor I was happy to be at the sea. I have noticed I get calmer when I am surrounded by water. The ferry ride was pretty rough. Guys were throwing up over the side....probably from the beer on the bus all night. On of them was shocked as he talked to a scuba diver and realized he had to take tests. He actually thought he could just put on the gear and go in the water. He asked if he had to be sober. Seriously!?!?! The ferries first stop was the national park Koh Nuang Tuan. It was beautiful. Three small islands connected by sandbars. Only one hotel/bungalows were on the island. The water was crystal clear.  I knew when I saw it that I wanted to get back over to swim at this beach. It was beautiful! 
Moondance Majic View Bungalows
I was lucky I had read the reveiws to request a pick-up at the pier. The hotel was on the east side and a 10 minute ride but 45 minute walk to the main town. You definitely need 4x4 to get there as the raod was not paved and a rocky. But when I arrived at the hotel I was happy. I had a great bungalow overlooking the ocean with a fantastic bamboo hammock on the porch.  
It was a small hotel and more suitable for newlyweds so I was prepared for some quiet time. When I checked in to the hotel, I was greeted by Tony. He does everything and makes sure the guests get what they want/need. He showed me the path to get down to the water and where to find the snorkel gear. I told him thanks and asked for breakfast first. After 3 weeks of eggs and toast I was happy to see museli, yougurt and fruit on the menu! Afterwards I decided to hike down to the beach and enjoy some swimming. The hike was fun and felt a little adventurous. I enjoyed the water and had it to myself. This was perfect.
When I went back up to the restaurant, I sat and had a beer with Tony and met a couple of guys that were traveling. We shared stories and felt like old friends in no time. The joys of a small resort means making friends quickly.
I scheduled a snorkeling trip for me second day. It was a full day of fun. Our guide was jovial and made sure everyone had fun. He was one of the few guides that got in the water and would take and show you the area. 

I learned quickly to follow him. As we were swimming, he went down and got a clam. It was huge. was watching and he grabbed my camera and handed the clam to me. I think it weighed 15 lbs. I started sinking.

Then, I felt bad that he had picked it up off the ocean floor. Later, girls were screaming because they saw barracuda. He looked at me and told me to follow him. I was stupid and did not realize we were going looking for the barracuda. Ha ha! He liked the few of us that were open to anything. I loved snorkeling and was looking forward to more of this over the next few weeks. At the end of the trip, we stopped at Koh Nuang Tuan beach for 2 hours. It was so relaxing and beautiful. 

At then end of the day I had swallowed enough sea water and was ready to go back to the bungalow. Tony was waiting and I told him it was a great day. He had cold beer waiting and I sat and talked with the other guests. It was a nice little group of fun and relaxed people just chilling and enjoying the views. I went to bed tired and happy. 

I decided to extend my stay on Koh Tao and went down to the beach for another day of relaxing by the ocean. I was swimming with a couple of German guys. We see what we thought was a dolphin and all start swimming towards it. Then, we realized it was a shark. The German guys almost drowned me trying t get to the steps first! I gave them a hard time about how chicken they were. It was a baby reef shark and does not like to eat humans. It was a good laugh over beers.

I talked to the knowledgeable Tony about my next plan. I was trying to decide between Koh Phangan and Koh Samui when he had a better suggestion. He suggested Koh Lipe as a beautiful quiet resort. I asked him if he could book transportation for me. Yes! I decided to take his suggestion and was headed on my 2 day trip to Koh Lipe.

I left Koh Tao the next night on the night ferry. Tony had told me it was like the trains for sleeping. Stupid me thought that meant I was getting a bunk bed. I was happy to have a bed for the 8 hour trip to Saranhatti. It just was not what I had expected. I walked the plank to board.... it was a plank and I had two backpacks on! Thank goodness Noah, my personal trainer, had made me work on my balance for the previous 2 years! I was happy not to be in the water! The beds on the ferry were pads that were laid out on the floor with a pillow. They were small, Asian sized. All of the westerners were complaining our feet hung out over the board on the aisle. The aisle was down the center with 31 beds on each side. 
I laid down and looked around. I realized this was going to be a fun social experience. Stupid old me! Maybe back in the 1990's but today, everyone was on their iphone, ipad or had their headphones on with music. Nobody was talking to each other. I am still shocked as I see this. We have more and more technology and people turn to it rather than talking to the person next to them. I am an oldie and love the socialization of these types of travel. Two girls sit down next to me and I said hi. They start talking and I bring up that nobody talks. One of the girl said that her parents had backpacked after college and are amazed that she does not meet more people. She said it was because everyone has all their entertainment with them. They don't need to talk. Ha ha! So true! But I find it sad. they don't know what they are missing. She talked tome about   her travels to India and encouraged me to give it two weeks. I will love it or hate it. Hmmm...still thinking about it. I have to make a plan. I am starting month 5 and will have to decide what is next.

We arrived at 5 AM and I had time for a quick bathroom break before my minivan was ready to leave for Pakbara, Thailand. Thank goodness I had time because that was it until I arrived in Pakbara at 4:30 PM. My minivan driver took me to Hat Yai where I had to switch vans. The problem was he could not find the location where I was suppose to go. We went to 3 bus stops and I followed him around as he tried to find my minivan to Pakbara. I arrived an hour late and expected to have to spend the night in Hat Yai. Lucky for me the minivan was waiting for me to arrive. Whew! I felt bad that 12 other people were delayed. I apologized and waited to take the bad seat nobody else wanted. it was the least I could do. The van driver was nice enough to take me to a hotel where I could spend the night and catch the ferry to Koh Lipe in the morning.

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