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June 19, 2006 – A journey to Coasts of Thailand, Thailand in Asia

Along the Andaman and Gulf of Thailand Coasts

Originally wanted to overland it all the way down to Indonesia from Bangkok. But that didn't happen. Rick wanted to rest after Tibet and before heading over to India. Also both of us somehow contracted conjunctivitis ("pink eye") in China or Tibet. And that meant not doing anything too hyperactive for a few days, because we couldn't see too well through our swollen, tearing eyes.

So, what did we do for the past few weeks? Wandered around the coasts of Thailand!

In order of preference:

Koh Phi Phi (Andaman coast side), June 6th to 11th
Koh Phi Phi reminded me fondly of Ilha Grande, Brazil. The only modes of transportation on the small Thai island are by foot, bicycle, or longtailed boats. No cars, motorbikes, traffic, noise, but plenty of peace and quiet. The island itself is beautiful and incredibly green and lush (e.g., I got attacked by hundreds of mosquitoes while trying to hike to the second viewpoint – forgot to put on some DEET, duh!).

path to second viewpoint on Koh Phi Phi Don – where mosquitoes attacked me viciously

at the top of the main viewpoint on Koh Phi Phi Don, can see both Ton Sai Bay (left) and Loh Da Lum Bay (right)

Koh Phi Phi is the perfect island getaway, with calm, warm, crystal clear water in different blue and green hues. A plethora of marine life can be observed either by snorkeling or diving. Full day and sunset snorkeling trips around the islands of Koh Phi Phi Don (the main island) and Koh Phi Phi Leh (satellite island) are offered. Both stop at Maya Beach, which is where part of the movie, The Beach, was filmed.

just another day in paradise

my photo doesn't do the actual color of the water any justice

snorkel me

Did a two-tank dive with Visa Divers. Highly recommend them, since I got to dive in a very small group, which was actually only with the divemaster. The divemasters in the shop seem to be mostly locals - and they know the best spots. Even though it was low season (for diving), I got to see an incredible amount of sea life. What I saw (many firsts): leopard sharks, black-tipped shark, lionfish, scorpion fish, huge schools of a cornucopia of tropical fish, octopus, harlequins, clownfish, puffers, lobster, many types of corals such as huge colorful sea fans, nudibranchs, and too many other sea creatures to name.

Accommodations are quite nice and reasonable. During low season, a night in a private room can range from 400 baht ($10 USD) to a nice bungalow at 1100 baht ($28 USD) to a luxury suite at 5800 baht ($153 USD). Meals and drinks are relatively cheap too – you can eat for a dollar per meal if you wanted to.

Planned on staying only for two nights. Ended up staying six.

Koh Tao (Gulf of Thailand side), June 16th to 18th
Koh Tao is the smallest of the three popularly-known islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Phangan and Koh Samui are the other two). But Koh Tao is still at least twice the size of Koh Phi Phi. Motorbikes and cars are allowed on the island. Lots of young farang come here on their way to Koh Phangnan for the Full Moon Party each month.

The island is known for superb diving in crystal clear waters. Since many of the accommodations are linked with dive resorts here, it was kind of hard to find something economical to stay in. Luckily, found Bungalow Mr. J and Baan Tao Bungalows affordable (in comparison to 1300 baht+/night if diving, 2100 baht+/night if not diving). Mr. J is also quite a character to talk with if you're bored or in need of some "island advice."

Full day snorkeling tours are also offered on the island (500 to 600 baht/person). Since we didn't have too many days on Koh Tao, decided to go on a snorkeling tour rather than going on a couple of dives (1800 baht/2-tank dive). Funny thing is, noticed that the snorkel spots that they stopped at were right by the dive sites. So, instead of paying for five separate dives, snorkeled at five different sites around the island. Even snorkeled at a particular dive site (e.g., Japanese Gardens by Koh Nangyuan).

The coves around the island and the waters by the island nearby, Koh Nangyuan, do boast very beautiful crystal clear waters. That's why I put Koh Tao as my second fave!

Mr. J's signs are posted all over the island

very diveable/snorkelable waters between Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan

reef and fish as seen from the boat at the Japanese Garden snorkel/dive site

Krabi (Andaman coast side), June 12th to 14th
Turned out Krabi is just a jumping off point to Koh Phi Phi. The beaches are okay here. Most don't have very clear blue/green water. Lots of people come here to rock climb though.

Aonang Beach

recommend staying at Hat Rai Leh Beach – the west end has a nice beach with some pretty decent waters (though saw quite a few huge jellyfish on the beach when we were there)

Phuket (Andaman coast side), June 4th to 6th
From what I heard from locals, Phuket used to have beautiful beaches with clear blue-green waters before the tsunami hit. Sadly enough the tsunami really devastated the waters here, which have turned sandy and light brown. Phuket reminded me of Oahu and Cancun combined together. It's a huge, rather developed island with quite a bit of nightlife. It’s best to rent a moped for transportation (150 baht or less than $4 USD per day). Taking a sawngthaew/taxi/tuk tuk from beach to beach costs $5 USD each time. Local buses are cheap though, but waiting for one sometimes takes awhile.

Patong Beach - according to some of the locals, the waters and beaches are still recovering from the tsunami

Also, saw quite a few married old farang men with their young Thai girlfriends here. Guess this is where they take a vacation from their wives. Ha! :(

Ran out of time to visit Koh Chang, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui. Maybe next time, hopefully at the time when the Full Moon Party comes around.

Some great sites for booking accommodations, air tickets, and such:
Jet Star Asia
Fly 1, 2 Go
Air Asia
Bangkok Air

Found that sometimes going through a tout at the pier turns out to be very helpful, if staying for more than a couple of nights (e.g., Koh Phi Phi). Even better than the web.

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