The train from Bangkok afforded some spectacular views as we made our way to Hua Hin, fuelling our hopes of a vibrant, authentic Thai port town. Our hostel, Chancala Cafe and Hostel, was a great place with exceptionally helpful staff. Setting out for a first time look at the town shortly after arriving, however, it was not the genuine, culturally and historically rich town we had been led to believe, but a town completely transformed to cater to the every need of 90% of its lobster-skinned, beach-loving Western tourist population. Our first walk led us to the famous night markets, but the stalls were filled with cheap, bulk-produced ‘tourist tat’ and burgers instead of the local produce and incredible local food we had hoped for; we spent our first night questioning if we should cut our stay short and move on, as this seemed a heartbreaking case of tourist invasion rather than immersion. I’m glad we didn’t. The next morning we braved the beach where all Westerners seemed to spend the day, if not taking a day trip to the one historically significant site a few hours drive away, and for a short time enjoyed the white sands and passing pony rides before the overcast clouds and wind-whipped sand forced us to retreat to wandering the streets. The second night we ventured farther to the Grand Night Market and had some truly delicious food, super cheap, whilst enjoying browsing the tourist-marketed stalls. In the end, it was really important for us to see the impact tourism can have on a place like Thailand; it is not all “undiscovered” paradisal beauty and everyone has a responsibility to ensure the preservation of such destinations or risk losing it. I hope other people feel the same and something is done to prevent Hua Hin fully transforming into the next Benidorm.
Koh Tao – what an epic place. An early start and 4hr bus ride took us from Hua Hin to the port town of Chumphon, where we caught a 2hr Catamaran ferry to this beautiful little island. This picture was taken within the first ten minutes of being on board, flying through the waves and salt-sprayed. Shortly after, the boat became a place of desolation and plague, as most passengers got violently sea-sick for the rest of the journey. This was the case for all ferry journeys to come.
Koh Tao was beautiful, less touristy and populated and our hostel was incredibly cool, Gecko Republic. The first day was taken up mostly with Blake being unwell, but in the afternoon we hiked up to an island viewpoint (which explained why we were the only ones not renting mopeds) and down the other side to the amazing Sai Daeng beach. Heaven on earth, if only for a few hours.
The second day was set aside for Sairee beach and paddle boarding, but it was not to be. A huge thunderstorm rolled in overnight and held us captive in a small nearby cafe. It was a brilliant day, filled with coffee shakes and a new friend who introduced themselves by taking a nap for 3hrs in my lap.
Next stop was Koh Samui, a bigger island two hours away by boat and more popular tourist destination. We stayed at Chill Inn Cafe and Hostel, and this place truly lived up to its name (see day 3). The first day we spent mostly hiking up to one of the island’s famous waterfalls, Numuang 2. It took us two hours in very hot and challenging track conditions (possibly made longer by our stop at a roadside American diner for much needed ice cream and waffles) before we reached the entrance.
Our second day was a trip to the Ang Thong National Marine Park. It was an early 6:30am start, but meant we got this view heading out…
After lunch on board, we then split into kayaks and pretended there was no competition to row round a second stunning island. This island offered a second climb to the Emerald Lagoon, another out-of-this-world view. Felt very lucky to see such scenery first hand and even get to swim in those clear-blue bay waters.