Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Koh Phangan, Thailand – Deserted Beach

The day before we left Koh Tao, we were sitting in probably the most comfortable chairs in the world at a bar right next to the beach. We had delicious iced coffee, good books, and a vast view of the ocean. I remember telling Bryan how we should stay here one more day, so I could do this “tomorrow” too. He looked at me and said, “it’s time to go.” I was a little disappointed but when we finally arrived to our bungalow in Koh Phangan (pronouched like “Woah” with a K, then “Pah-nyong”), I looked at Bryan and said, “why haven’t we been here the whole time.”

We left Koh Tao early the morning after “the worlds most comfortable chairs” day and found a group of Germans who were going to the same side of the island in Koh Phanang we were. They were going to a different beach than us, but same side. This was important because the roads to the East side of the island really aren’t roads at all and taxis hate driving it unless they are paid a lot. Having a big group made it a lot cheaper, just a tad cheaper than the shuttle taxi which only leaves once a day near the ferry terminal.
Our taxi looked more like Bryan’s little white Nissan truck but with a cover in the back and two benches on each side for people. After a bumpy and adventurous ride, we finally made it back to one of our favorite places in the world.
The Treehouse was one of our favorite places when we traveled through S.E. Asia 3 1/2 years ago. Pam and her Thai husband were the owners of the Treehouse in Koh Chang, but when they divorced she moved to Koh Panang to start another Treehouse. She gave a lot of love and care to the place, decorating it with flowers and colorful walls and mosquito nets. The food was good and it was quiet and peaceful. Unfortunately, we heard they had to vacate the place and the Treehouse was no longer the Treehouse, but we wanted to make sure this was true.
The Treehouse was completely abandoned and it looked like a ghost town. We went and saw our old bungalow and while it still looked pretty in tact, the bungalow next to it had a tree on top of it. It was sad. Later we learned that Pam had to leave because she was not Thai and was no longer married to her Thai husband. We also learned that the Treehouse property has been bought by a big resort type company. Sad. We left and went to the Bungalows the next beach over (just a 5 minute walk through the jungle) and made it to Mai Pen Rai.
There aren’t many places like it in the world. Mai Pen Rai is owned by a local family, the bungalows have vast ocean views for $15-20 a night, the beach is small and nestled in between the jungle, there was one restaurant (two more during high season), power was on only a couple hours during the day and night, and there was no hot water. Life was simple here and it gave us the opportunity to be away from technology and the craziness of the world.
Our bungalow was one of the best. It was placed on top of a high rock, overlooking nothing but the Sea and our balcony had a hammock. Enough said. I could stay here a long time, and currently, this is my favorite place in the world winner…yes, I said winner! :)
Getting to our bungalow from Mai Pen Rai Reception/restaurant was a bit adventurous at times, though. We had to walk on high rocks, walk by crazy looking spiders, make sure not to step on those big Monitor lizards, and make sure not to bump our heads on the rock tunnel (it is crucial to duck the entire way through the tunnel). This is just another reason this place is the current winner in my eyes.
Really, we didn’t do much. We lived simply…drank fresh fruit lassies, ate delicious local foods, read, listened to music, took pictures around the island, swam in the sea for exercise, and just relaxed. There was hardly anyone around. I think the most people I saw was about 10 in the restaurant. This gave us the opportunity to form wonderful friendships with people who also thought Mai Pen Rai was something special.
Later in the week we met, Cecille, a solo traveller in her 40′s from Switzerland. We ended up doing a two hour trek through the jungle with her for a day trip. It was hot, adventurous, and many up and down paths. We finally made it to the beach, and while it was nice, it was way bigger, more expensive (stupid resorts), and not as nice as Mai Pen Rai. We ate lunch and then made our way back to Mai Pen Rai using a long tail water taxi. Hiking back was not an option as we would not have made it back before dark. Plus, we needed an excuse to finally ride on a long tail boat.
A week and half later, it was time to go to Malaysia. This was a sad sad day, mostly because I had the terrible thought that this place would also turn into some big expensive resort with hot water, 24 hour power, and expensive food. I want it to always stay the same, and I hope the owners will forever hold on to such a magical place.

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