We left Nakhon on Thursday afternoon, hoping to make the ferry to Koh Samui by the evening. After a 4 hour trek, we arrived at Chaweng Beach during a small rainstorm, secured a hotel just a two minute walk from the famous island’s main beach. Great right?
Well, as the main beach on the tourist-central island, the strip is crammed with a configuration that resembles:
The beach is almost inaccessible except for the narrow alleys between Shop.Bar.Restaurant.Seven-Eleven.Tattoo Parlor. Our hotel was only a two minute saunter from one of those alleys. So we were lucky to have easy beach access.
Okay, so Koh Samui was not quite paradise. Stuffed with sleazy-looking foreigners only in search of the bottom of a bottle, we declared our business on the island to be quite simple.
1. See the new Harry Potter, on release day, in English.
2. Visit an English-language bookstore and try very hard not to drool on ALL the books. Bring back delicious literary loot.
After one night we contemplated staying on the island. It wasn’t quite the ideal tropical getaway but was alright. A few friends revealed vague plans to go to a nearby island, Koh Phangan (notorious for being a party island).
Party island eh? Hmm. Not really appealing.
Getting away from throngs of tourists though…
The friends assured us the secluded beach was far from the thumping beats and throngs of partiers. Secluded. Only accessible by boat.
Okay. We decided to risk it. Checked out of the Green Hostel, which emitted a strange odor anyway, and hopped a late afternoon ferry to Koh Phangan.
One blustery and choppy hour later, we landed on Phangan’s Party-Central beach (Had Rin) around nightfall.
At this point, we were apprehensive of these new plans. Staying on Koh Samui would have been safe. Known. By this time, it was dark. We hadn’t secured a place to stay for the night. We weren’t sure if our friends would even be at the designated beach. Time to make a decision. Stay where the people are? Or risk looking for the beach?
Of course we snagged the first longtail taxi proffering a lift to this nearby, quieter and more secluded beach.
Won’t know unless you take a chance.
Ten minutes into the misty longtail boat ride we rounded a rocky corner and tucked in a bay, we could just see glimmering lights strung low along the water. The bungalows on the beach were illuminated like a sprinkling of fireflies along the edge of the beach. Sloshing out of the boat and onto shore, another tingle of apprehension. What if all the bungalows are occupied? What if the friends aren’t here?
Only one way to find out. Under a navy sky, we meandered in toward the north end of the beach nearing what looked like a boardwalk along the rocks, only hoping that on the crest of the forested hill would be a bungalow, unoccupied, waiting for us.
We slowly tested the rickety, cobbled-together boardwalk, the only path leading to the gathering of bungalows and a restaurant on the cliff. A little gentle scrambling up the steep, domed rock led to the most magnificent view of those firefly lights speckling the beach.
A generous dusting of good luck. There was only one more bungalow available.
After checking in, we joined our friends at the covered restaurant perched precariously on the mounded cliff over the water. Under the glow of warm lights and the rising full moon, the our successful evening adventure waned over a glass of wine, laughter and delicious curry (finally, brown rice!).
The next few days’ adventures were fairly mellow. Most days looked a little like this:
Breakfast on the beautiful ledge overlooking the beach. Eggs, fruit, coffee.
Lounge on the beach with a newly-acquired book (thanks Samui!)
Dip in the ocean to cool off.
Dry off with a few pushes from a friend on the wooden paddle swing.
More reading on the beach.
Massage by a female Muay Thai teacher with muscles that would drown a sumo wrestler.
Another dip in the ocean.
All of this interspersed with a bite of phad thai with shrimp or spicy green curry from one of a half-dozen bungalow restaurants on the beach.
When darkness fell, we spent our nights, again, on the ledge, watching the full moon rise a burnt orange on the horizon and the lights glimmer until late in the evening.