Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ko Pha Ngan: Trouble and Paradise

We heard that no trip to Thailand would be complete without a visit to the beautiful beaches of Southern Thailand, so after big city fun in Bangkok, we headed down on the overnight bus to the small and relaxed island of Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand. As with all paradises, it comes with a price.

When is a ticket not a ticket? When you want to take the Raja Ferry to paradise. Despite a ticket to get on the ferry, we were informed 5 minutes before boarding that we had to trade in our ticket for another ferry boarding ticket. Oh, and the ticket office was about 2 km from the dock. In a moment of panic, Dennis pulled our bags off the bus while Kristi hopped on the back of a motorbike taxi and sped towards the ticket booth. We made it just in time--a very adreneline charged way to begin the 'relaxing' part of our trip.

After landing on the island, we had to wait two hours for enough passengers to fill our sawngthaew taxi ( a pickup truck with two opposite-facing benches in the flat bed). We made it up the mountainous and muddy road to one of the most secluded beaches on the island. As you can see from the picture, our bungalow life was great--the becah was steps from our door and we had our choice of about 10 good restaurants , putting tot ht etest our theory that we could happily eat thai food all day every day. We got lots of sun, wandering, and swimming in the big waves, as well as lots of sitting on the porch and reading good books.

The two caveats to our paradise: 1) Dennis made a poor sandwich decision earlier in Bangkok and had 5 days of stomach issues--the less said about that, the better. 2) While Dennis was laid up, Kristi spent a day mopeding around the island and trekking to different waterfalls. After an hour of torrential downpours in the morning, the roads were worse than ever, so after a couple of wipe outs, she dragged herself back to the bungalow to recover. We found that having a well bandaged arm gets you a lot of nods from people on the island asking simply, 'motorbike?' It was more embarassing than anything else, especially when you see entire Thai families piled onto a motorbike, driving one-handed, talking on a cell phone and weaving through traffic, while the kids do their homework while snacking on the back (no exhageration!). Yet despite the trouble, paradise is still paradise.

-K & D

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