Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ko Pha Ngan Island, Thailand

Party Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We set out early from Battambang, Cambodia in a taxi to Poipet and the border with Thailand. We walked over the border and got a tuk to tuk to the train station at Aranya Prathet. We had some Pad Thai, whilst waiting for the train to Bangkok.

On the train we got speaking to some art students from Bangkok, who were coming back from a field trip. They spoke excellent English, we chatted mainly about music, football and a little bit about Thailand, their King Bhumibol Adulyadej and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Opinion was mixed , between the students, about Thaksin who was ousted out in a military coup on Tuesday 19th 2006. But They all loved The King.

Jamie and Ellie were in Thailand just after this coup and remember seeing Tanks with flowers in the guns in Bangkok. Thaksin has been living in England and has famously bought Manchester City Football Club. He returned to Thailand on February 28th 2008, to face charges of abuse of power during his time in office.

Having reigned since June 9, 1946, King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world's longest-serving current head of state. Thai’s love him, there’s pictures of him, including huge billboards and posters the size of buildings, all over the country.

In November last year he was in hospital having heart treatment. Thai’s started wearing pink clothes to bring their beloved King good luck and health. A story on the BBC explained ‘Thai commentators said pink first became an important colour for him earlier this year, when royal astrologers determined it was a good colour for his health.’ And that Since King Bhumibol's 60th anniversary on the throne in 2006, many Thais have worn bright yellow shirts every Monday, because that was the day of the week on which he was born.’

The students had all the latest gadgets, we swapped ipods and they picked out their favourite Thai and western bands to play us. We were in Bangkok in no time.

We had dinner, the first of many tasty Thai Green Currys, at a street cafe near the station. We decided we’d catch the night train straight down to Surat thani, rather than stay in Bangkok. The only problem was we couldn’t get the excellent sleeper tickets, with bed, so we had the less comfy recliner seats, but managed to sleep a bit, although freezing from the full power air conditioning. We arrived in Surat thani the next morning, where we got a bus to the port and then ferry, via Ko Samui, to Ko Pha Ngan. On the island we got a sawngthaew (a small pick up truck, shared taxi/ bus, with two rows of bench seats down both sides of the trunk) from the port Thongsala to Ban Tai. A long journey!!! Over 30 odd hours in all from Battambang to Ko Pha Ngan.

We checked into some bamboo bungalows at Bay Hut, a beautiful place Jamie and Ellie had found last time they were here, and dived straight into the sea. It was a great place, super chilled, with hammocks to laze in under the shade of coconut trees and hardly anyone on the beach. The sunsets here were stunning!

There was supposed to be a Jungle Party, Jungle Experience, happening in Ban Tai but it had been cancelled due to the recent death of The kings sister, Galyani Vadhana, Princess of Narathiwat on 2nd January 2008. There was an official mourning period of two weeks, which was later extended to 100 days. Organisers had been asked to cancel parties in respect of her.

We were only a short ride away from, Hat Rin, home of the infamous Full Moon Party. Hat Rin is always busy, and even though it was weeks before Full Moon Party it was still packed with music and plenty of messy action on the beach. The music was OK, with the best being up at Mellow Mountain, with its infamous shakes. We had some Sangsum ‘buckets’, Thai Whiskey (made from rice and tasting more like Rum) topped up with coke and extra strong red bull, served in a plastic bucket with Ice and straws. Lethal.

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