Ao Thong Nan Pang Yai is one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand; a crescent of soft sandy beach and green sea which is so sheltered and shallow it’s very safe for the kids.
The beach side has a scattering of restaurants most of which (in fact all except one) serve great food and good cocktails. The beach is also home to the Flipflop Pharmacy which appears on Conde Nast's best beach bars. It’s no Ty Cock but the swinging seats, pooltable, great views make up for the lack of Welsh accents. Before Kaney and Amanda arrived we’d already spent a few nights sampling the drinks in Flipflops. We’d also attempted and just survived the dusk scramble around the headland jungle to reach the posher (but nowhere near as nice) sister beach of Ao Thong Nan Pang Noi. We were covered in sweat and dirt after the scramble so looked just the part as we came down through the £200 a night private pool villas. Despite our appearance we were still invited to dine at the £20 a head BBQ. That may not sound like a lot but it was nearly ten times what we sometimes payed for a meal. We politely declined the invitation and walked along the beach till we found the only cheap eat.
Kaney and Amanda arrived the following day (23rd - the day of the infamous full moon party: coincidence? I think not).
What a pleasure to see them and now we were 6 friends and the kids. Yey!
That night whilst the kids and I stayed on our beautifully serene idyll. The other 5 (Mikey, Al, Claire, Kaney and Amanda) all braved the neon face paint and full moon party t-shirt clad teens to dance till dawn on Hat Rin beach. I wasn't sorry to miss the hangover they all woke with and whilst a good night and many sangsam buckets were consumed, I think I'm happy to have missed out. I have partied on Hat Rin once before as a mere slip of a lass (24) and I'm happy to remember it back then.
The following night was Mikey's turn to babysit. We headed up the road to the south end of the beach to a hilltop bar hoping the trek qould be worth it. And it was.
On arrival, there was not much room left to comfortably fit the 5 of us so they pointed to a step ladder and asked if we wanted to sit on the roof! Of course we said yes. Shakily with the aid of a tree we climbed onto the roof where we were brought cushions to get comfy on and cocktails to consume. After about 4 'one for the road's we were forced down from the roof by an encroaching thunder storm. Sitting on the roof of the only building at the top of a hill didn't seem the wisest place for a drink. So another couple of roaders saw us drenched walking back home for the last night at Baan Puri bungalows on Ko Phagnan.
The next morning we awoke to continuing rain as the storm was well and truly upon us. The beach had disappeared and the sea had turned from into a surging mess of huge breakers. The closest bungalow to the beach which had yesterday been the prime lodging had been evacuated and was in the midst of being reclaimed by the sea. There was more excitement when a longtail boat that had been moored a few metres from shore was rescued by being hauled by about 30men, both locals and guests, right up onto the path between the bungalows and the restaurant. Even the staff weee videoing the storm so I can only guess it was unusually fierce.
And this was the day we were booked onto the ferry (well actually a smallish catamaran) to sail to Ko Tao.
Surely the boat wouldn't run in this storm?
Oh yes it would.
Well surely the boat must be safe if they decode to run?
Jury's still out on that one but needless to say we will not be getting a small boat in that kind of weather ever again.
As soon as we left the shelter of the island and hit the first couple of waves the whole boat screamed. After a few minutes everyone silenced probably in terror and it was only the biggest waves that elicited the odd terrified scream - the ones where the window view immediately alters between full sea and full sky and you have to hold the arm rests to remain on your seat. It was like being on a rollercoaster but without the safety bars and with no guarantee that you were actually safe.
Some poor soles had opted for the open air top deck and came in at various stages of the journey, when they'd summoned enough courage to climb down the external stairs and make it back inside. These people all shared the same look: wet through, wild eyed and shaken as of they had come face to face with death.
Once such unlucky soul slumped into a spare chair next to Claire and me and immediately burst into tears.
How were Jess and Otto, I hear you ask. Otto slept the whole way and Jess watched Frozen albeit with a bit of a moan as the screen kept toppling over.
When we pulled up to Ko Tao our nerves were shot but we were relieved to be safe. Or so we thought. Only to be scared witless once again in the taxi - back of a pickup - up and down semmingly vertical hills. Once again we were clinging on for dear life and also catching our loose luggage too.
After all that adrenaline we decided to rent scooters the next day to attempt the vertiginous slopes on our own. It was mostly successful and we found a beautiful beach Coral Bay. We only had to jump off the bike once on a particularly steep bit which to be fair had a warning sign for one rider only which we ignored only to run out of steam half way up the steepest bit. I managed to jump off with the kids and Mikes managed to push the bike up the hill with the help of Claire and Amanda (where were the boys??).
The evening saw us administering first aid to a Japanese girl who we witnessed coming a croper head first off her mountain bike on the descent to where we were eatimg dinner and apart from a minor skid by Al on the way home we'd made it through another day safely.
All that proved too much for us and the next day Claire and I booked in for a 2hr yoga class where we tried not to giggle at the ohmmm shanti shantis. Followed by booking into a gorgeous hotel with a hilltop infinity pool. And relax.
Our friends all abandoned us the next day and we left the islands uneventfully the day after. We've retreated a couple of hours up the coast to Bang Saphan Yai which is cheap and very quiet. We are at a lovely place called @myhome. It has the feel of a French campsite rather than a Thai beach place. Perfect for now. It has a big lawn for football, a nice restaurant, pool and table tennis, and even a petanque pit.
And relax some more.
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Kelly and Mikey (but mostly Kelly). We sold up in the UK to travel with our two littluns for a year or so. If you want to know more click the about us!