Thai islands...for some it's the sound of the ultimate vacation and for some, like us, it's the sound of tourist infestation. While there are still places remote and wild enough, with not enough comforts for package tourists to be willing to settle and multiply, most relatively easily accessible on budget places (very easily accessible if you have a private plane or a boat) will have swarms of tourists. Some of them may be responsible and considerate tourists willing to explore the surroundings and see local culture, but a lot of them are obnoxious, dull and with a heavy touch of racism. Russian tourists are of course one of those who make me majorly doubt the future of humanity. Trashing beaches and surroundings "because it's not my country", treating locals like monkeys and bullying them, creating demand and promoting all forms of irresponsible tourism and being blind to the fact that they are doing so - are only some of the things that make me ashamed of my own origins.
Anyway, with good company fun times by the beach are guaranteed. We decided that after Bangkok we should go to relax to one of the islands in the gulf. Full moon was coming up and that's the time of one of the biggest beach parties in the East - Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan island. Originally it was just a hippie gathering on full moon by the beach, doing some light drugs, painting themselves, playing with fire, etc., now it's a much commercialized enterprise - with entry fees, passes, merchandizing, music stages, and huge amount of alcohol for sale. So it's basically a 2 km long beach party that starts at about 8pm, picks up at about midnight and goes on till the morning - people are walking around with buckets of cocktails, dancing, doing crazy fire games, painting themselves with fluorescent body paint. Can't say it's amazing or anything like that but for party lovers it's worth seeing.
Besides the full moon craziness once a month, Koh Phangan has a bit more to offer for explorers. Traveling to it is not very exciting - we took a train from Bangkok to Surat Thani town, then a van to the port, then a 2 hr boat to Koh Phangan which also stops at Koh Samui - an upscale sister island of Koh Phangan.
On the island if you want to have a bit of quietness and relaxation - avoid the south end of it, thats where all the parties are going on (Haad Rin beach) and they say the party is heard from long distance there. We stayed on the Eastern coast in bungalows right on the beach and we loved it - a lot of chilling on the beach, nice bungalows and a great little town nearby where you can buy fruit at the market and have a dinner at night food court. As for swimming - it seems to be a pattern for Thai islands - low tide after noon makes the water really far from the coast in many places, so wake up early enough to swim.
One of the most fun things we did is renting motorbikes and going up the coast to the North of the island and back. The scenery is amazing, the ride is quite easy, anywhere you see a good beach on the way - you can stop and have a dip. You can do snorkeling in some lagoons as well, but we were very disappointed with it after Indonesia and Philippines, the underwater life was very lifeless and pretty dull in comparison to what we saw at the reefs that are still alive.
4 days on Koh Phangan was really enough and we moved on to the Khao Sok National Park jungles and lake adventure. Stay tuned!