Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thailand: Beaches, Breezes, and Bangkok

We caught an evening flight on December 19, poised for 12 days of fun in the sun, got in at 2 am Thai time after an hair-raising taxi episode where noone in the airport seemed to know the name of our hotel.

December 20:
My cousin Junichi met us at the hotel lobby for breakfast and graciously drove us to the airport for another full day of travels.
After a 1 hour flight to Koh Samui, and a quick taxi van to the boat harbor, we had plenty of time for the ferry ride to Koh Tao, our paradise "turtle island" destination. I mistakenly grabbed 2 seats in the front of the boat, and after Koh Phangan the seas got rough. Megumi turned quiet and green, barfing several times as we rocked and rolled into the headwinds. I am an experienced boater, but it was quite a roller coaster ride even in an 80 foot boat, and I also felt uneasy, but held on to my cookies. Many people around me were hurling during the 1 1/2 hour ride to Koh Tao from Koh Phangan. At last I could see the shadows of Koh Tao thru the misty front windshield. Thankfully, the waves subsided as the island now protected our boat from the heavy seas.
We checked into the hotel and I went straight to the beach for a massage. Our hotel bungalow, called Coral Grand Dive Resort, was very nice, clean and spacious.
December 21:
We took a day trip to neighboring island called Koh Nang Yuan, which is only 10 minutes on a long boat, and hiked to the top of its rocky hill. We took in the fantastic view, than hiked around the small island, and relaxed on the sand bar, took lunch. The island has an unusual isthmus shape, connecting the 2 rocky hills with a sandbar.
December 22:
A SCUBA day to Twin Rocks and White Rock. Unfortunately, the visibility was poor at only 5-10 meters at Twin Rocks, which was near Nang Yuan. Meg also could not depressurize on her first dive so had to give up after a few minutes. I had trouble getting depressurized initially, but after about 5 minutes, made it down to the bottom, which was only 10-14 meters. It was so foggy down there that I lost my group after 10 minutes, explored the bottom for 10 minutes, regrouped with 2 of the 4 divers, and headed for the surface after 30 minutes. The 2nd dive was more or less the same in White Rock, a reef closer to the island. Zannen! My left ear clogged up on both dives....We treated ourselves to a movie on the beach, and fire jugglers and cocktails at the famous Lotus Cafe, followed by our pleasant star-filled walk along the beach back to our bungalow.
December 23:
A hiking day down to the southern tip called Freedom Beach and Buddha Rock. The going was easy until we hit thick jungle near Freedom Beach. Meg banged her head on a rock and scratched her shoulder trying to navigate the thick brush near Ar Mae
Rock, so we decided to abort mission and caught a taxi from Chalok Baan Kao Bay back to the safety of our bungalow. Again we rewarded our hard work with a movie called Jackass on the beach and manicures.
December 24:
Xmas eve was kayak day. Again we headed south, this time via kayak down the west coast to Sai Nuan Beach 1 and 2. Again, a fierce wind made the journey a little tougher than expected. We had relatively big waves in our face heading back north, and I admittedly was stressing on the way back as our kayak was pushed rather close to the rocks of Cape Hin Saam Kon. We paddled continuously around 3 rocky points for about 1 hour, a decent upper body workout. It took us twice as long to return as descend given the heavy seas and current but we made it back without taking on much water.
Xmas eve party at the hotel was fun with traditional Thai dance show including lady-boy dancers. Sawadee, which means hello, can have multiple meanings depending which suffix you use.
December 25:
After much relaxing on the beach, we rented a moped in the late afternoon and visited the other side of the island briefly.
December 26:
We spent all day on a 4-wheeler exploring the rest of the island. Koh Tao only has one real main paved road. Most roads across the island are unpaved and require a decent off-road ride. Our 4-wheeler was perfect. We crossed the middle of the island, had lunch at Cape Thian, which had an awesome view o
f the southeast part of Koh Tao. We returned to the middle of the island and headed south to Thian Og Bay, where we found a nice secluded beach for snorkling.
December 27:
The ferry ride was much better going back to Koh Samui, as we were better prepared and the seas had calmed down since last week. (We had great weather for most days except some rain on the 27th). Our hotel in Lamai was cushior than Koh Tao and reminded me of a Hawaii. We set out after dinner for a good deal on tailor-made suits in Lamai.
December 28:
Yoga in morning at the Spa where the instructor repeated incessantly "your arms and legs are completely relaxed." Over and over 100 times. And repeat. Sailing on a trimaran with nifty foot steering and lie-down cockpit. Sailed past Grandfather rock with a tailwind. Boat would not tack as well as I thought so we landed 40 minutes late.
December 29:
Elephant ride, waterfall hike, and drive around the island in our jeep. We experienced Big Buddha and our first traffic jam in many weeks going thru Chaweng on the way back to Lamai.
December 30:
Junichi again picked us up at our Bangkok hotel and brought us to his friend's BBQ party, which was all Japanese. Felt nice to speak Japanese for only the second time in 10 days. We bumped into 2 of Meg's Japanese friends by coincidence on Koh Tao. One night in Bangkok and a very early flight back to Tokyo, very luckily ahead of a large fire in a Bangkok club, and after a political protest at Bangkok airport.
We had a great time and will be doing more globetrekking in April.

5 Comments:

At 4:36 AM, Blogger Christian said...

awesome, I envy you...

 
At 12:49 AM, Blogger David Motozo Rubenstein said...

all you need is a dollar and a dream..according to SE asia on a shoestring and NY lotto..

 
At 8:50 PM, Blogger Lil said...

hey got the link from meg..the trip looks awesome! was the water cold diving? The views look beautiful and whole trip sounds like alot fun! Where's your next destination for travel? meg says you guys might be stopping in aus! Great hikes here too

 
At 3:10 AM, Blogger mama said...

wa- ironna tokoroni ittanone.tanoshiso-.atama wo butsuketa kurai sugoi jyanguru dato hebi mo inakatta?

 
At 10:49 PM, Blogger David Motozo Rubenstein said...

our next trips might be NY, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India, and hopefully Aussie at some point. Depends on work this year...... hebi inakatta kedo ironna dobutsu, lizard to ka, meggu ha bikurri shita kedo, motozo ha tozen to itta!

 

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