Our second day on Koh Samui started at the very early time of 07:15 to join our boat for a day trip to Ang Thong National Park. 1hr45m north-west of Koh Samui, Ang Thong National Park is a collection of 42 small islands covering an area of 102km2. With only one or two of the islands offering accommodation, many of the evergreen islands are largely undisturbed.
After checking in and boarding our Samui Island Tours boat, we were greeted by Mr Om and the speaker box attached to his belt. Reminding us (many times) to remember we were on “bo nummer toooooo, red-white stripy roof” (Samui Island Tours were running two boats that day. Boat number one had a yellow roof, in case you were wondering), we set off towards our first stop: Talay Nai, also known as the Blue Lagoon.
Before setting off, Mr Om had offered passengers sea-sickness tablets which Tessa and I thought a little unnecessary as the sea was very calm that day and the skies relatively clear. Little did we know, Chinese girls really don’t like travelling by boat. Literally, within ten minutes of setting off, the girl sat next to us had her head in a black plastic bag bringing up the free croissant and banana that Mr Om had laid on for breakfast (Tessa: “She was very very whiney about it as well”). We headed up to lie on the sundeck on top of the boat but were serenaded the entire journey by Chinese girl after Chinese girl retching in tune. Surprisingly (or maybe not), no Europeans, Chinese men or other on the boat had any problems with sea sickness – quite peculiar.
Shortly before arriving at the Blue Lagoon, Mr Om’s assistant, Mr Chao came and told us that we would be in group number two for kayaking (bo toooo, groo toooo) which meant that we’d be visiting the Blue Lagoon first before kayaking back to another island (group one would be doing the reverse). By this point, we’d made friends with an Australian family from Brisbane (Glen, Glen Jr and…Sheila?) who were also assigned to group two for kayaking before being told to go down and get ready with group one below-deck, told to come back up as they were in group two, told once again that they were in group one before the Mr Om stepped in and clarified the situation, assuring them they were in group number two with us.
The Blue Lagoon is a salt water lake surrounded by limestone walls which is believed to have been formed by a collapsed cavern. We climbed the incredibly steep stairs from the beach to the viewing point on top of the small island to witness the spectacular lake within. Deepest aquamarine and completely tranquil, it is no surprise this paradise was featured in the Leonardo di Caprio film; The Beach. Taking the even more steep steps down to the lower viewpoint at the water’s edge, we enjoyed the near-silence from inside the bowl before clambering back up and over to the beach where we started.
Next, it was our turn to kayak back around the Blue Lagoon island. Despite my repeated attempts, Tessa didn’t seem to understand that it is much easier to steer from the back of the boat than the front and kept skipping strokes on one side to straighten up so we didn’t get into too much of a rhythm. (Tessa: “SO not true! What TOM didn’t realise and still doesn’t understand is, that every time he stopped paddling it was nearly impossible for me to move the kayak forward. Also what he doesn’t understand is that every time I tried to steer the kayak into a different direction it was because of a rock Tom wasn’t able to see in the back!!!” Tom: As I said before, if Tessa had kept in a steady rhythm instead of trying to take control, we would have been fine. Every time she missed a stroke one side to correct, I’d have to miss two strokes or we would have been more off-course! Tessa: “Don’t believe what he’s saying!”)
Despite our travails, we kept with the group and stopped off at a couple of beaches on our journey for photo opportunities.
Rejoining the boat, we sat for lunch which was a very nice chicken casserole-type dish with rice, spring roll and fresh pineapple and watermelon for dessert.
Our final destination for the day was Koh Wua Ta Lap where we were given the option of swimming, snorkelling or walking to the viewpoint on the top of the island. We’d already made up our minds earlier in the day that we’d go up to the viewpoint so we headed straight for the steps. The route was a little ‘unkept’ compared to your average National Trust pathway and Tessa remarked after 50m of uneven steps that “I hope it’s not like this all the way up”. Famous last words. There are actually four viewpoints along the route at 100m, 200m, 350m and 500m. The first 100m platform was a challenging but not uncomfortable climb but after that the path steepened markedly. By the 350m platform, we were drenched in sweat and our flip-flops were becoming quite dangerously slippery and we’d often lose footing. Finally staggering to the top, we took in the truly spectacular view of all 42 Ang Thong islands spread out before us in a picture postcard scene. Pleased with ourselves for persevering, we turned around to see another bloody platform 50m above us!
On the short return journey from the final final platform, we realised that we were probably going to hurt ourselves on the decent in our flip-flops so we changed into our trainers (that we’d purposefully packed in our bag earlier. No idea why we decided we didn’t need them on the way up!). The journey down was rather slow owing to the gigantic steps and frequent overhanging tree branches but we made it down safely, and with enough time for a cold drink and a swim in the ocean before we departed in 30 minutes. No sooner had we dipped our toes in the water, Mr Om started shouting for boat two to come back to the pier. Slightly peeved at having our swim time cut short, we soon realised the urgency – Mr Om was pointing at the very ominous clouds just breaking over the top of the mountain behind us. ‘Here we go again’, we thought. We walked quickly to the pier to join the boat as Mr Om clearly wanted to get going away from the clouds as soon as possible. As usual, one or two members of our party had different ideas; sauntering back to the boat as Mr Om implored them to get a bloody move on! Fortunately, we were able to keep ahead of the clouds all the way back to Samui and we sat and chatted to a couple from Belgium; Steve (his Anglicised name) was completing his PHD in Chemistry (specialising in pharmaceuticals) and his girlfriend Matje(?) who gave us some great advice about an elephant sanctuary to visit when we go to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
No sooner had we got back to our room, the heavens opened so we ate in the hotel restaurant and got an early night, tired from our exciting day.
The next day we fully intended to have a lazy day so headed down to the hotel pool after breakfast for a bit of sunning. Unfortunately, we were (twice) interrupted by rain so semi-sun, semi-air conditioned day ensued. Discussing what to watch on Netflix in the evening, we had our regular discussion/argument regarding cinematic taste. Propositions included Fight Club (by me, 8.8/10 on IMDB), Narcos (by me, 8.9/10), American History X (by me, 8.5/10) and Dirty Dancing (by Tessa, 6.9/10) but we eventually settled on Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale which, I must say, deserves a higher rating than the Dirty Dancing-level 6.9/10 on IMDB.
Hoping for better weather on our final day on Koh Samui, we hired a moped and headed to Chaweng beach followed by Coral Cove beach for some sun bathing. Despite getting horrendously sunburnt through the clouds on our Koh Tao snorkelling trip, we didn’t learn our lesson and proceeded to apply no sunscreen (it was very cloudy) and got even more sunburnt on this day. Hobbling back to our room in early evening, we gingerly applied the aloe vera gel to our entirely red bodies before heading to the Fisherman’s Village at Bophut for dinner. After a lovely Indian curry, we even more gingerly rode home and promptly crashed out before 10pm hoping that our scarlet skin would heal a little overnight before our 6:45am alarm for our ferry back to the mainland and the lush rainforest of Khao Sok National Park.