Koh Samui was next on our island hopping experience in Thailand, the second largest island in the country.
To read about our time on the east coast of Thailand, click this link.
Ao Nang > Koh Samui
It was a long eight hour journey by various modes of transport including minibus, ferry and Tuc Tuc to get from Ao Nang to our hotel in the Chaweng district of Koh Samui – the most developed area on the island.
We booked a half-day trip to see 12 pigs on the aptly named ‘Pig Island‘ on our first full day, but unfortunately it was cancelled in the morning due to bad weather at sea.
You probably think of the Bahamas when you picture these feral farm animals swimming in the sea and on the beach, but Thailand has its own version on the island of Koh Madsum.
Having to quickly change our plans, we decided to save a bit of money and lounge by the beach in hammocks for the rest of the day.
4×4 Wild Jungle Safari
We used the money from the refund (2800 THB / £69) to book to go on a 4×4 Jeep Safari with Mr Ung’s Magical Safari Tours the day after.
Our tour guide picked us up in a 4×4 army Jeep and then drove to the first sightseeing destination, the natural phenomenon Hin Ta & Hin Yai (Grandmother and Grandfather) Rocks. Without being too crude, one of the rocks looked rather like a male body part…
We then had another brief stop at the Guan Yu Shrine, dedicated to Chinese deity Guan-Yu Koh and glass casket of The Mummified Monk of Phra Khru Samathakittikhun who’s under-composed remains were visible for everyone to see.
I learnt more about Thai Buddhism in the next 5 minutes than I did throughout our time in South East Asia. The guide explained that Thai men over the age of 21 have a choice to make when it comes to serving in the army.
He explained they can either volunteer for six months, become a monk, OR take their chances with an annual lottery draw where the man has to pick one of four cards out of a bucket blindfolded.
If they draw a black card, they skip military service, but if they choose a red card then they have to serve in the army for two years. I think I’d be willing to take the risk.
The Jeep was then cranked into 4WD as we made our way to the Na Muang Waterfall in the jungle. This wasn’t anything special, but it was so refreshing to go for a swim.
After lunch, we had a brief stop at the Secret Buddha Garden, a private sculpture park built by a local Samui fruit farmer in 1976.
Before setting off to Wat Teepangkorn, a standing Buddha overlooking Koh Samui at one of the highest points on the island, we were given water pistols to spray at people along the way in the other jeeps, which was such good fun. Everyone was wet through by the time we reached the top of the mountain.
The views from the top of Pom Mountain would have been amazing on a clearer day. On the way back down we were thrown left, right and centre because we sat above the drivers seat which was also a really good laugh.
To end what was a thoroughly enjoyable day, we saw Wat Phra Yai – Koh Samui’s Big Buddha temple and Wat Plai Laem – modern Buddhist temples which incorporate elements of Chinese and Thai traditions.
Koh Samui > Koh Tao
The day after we got the Lomprayah Ferry over to Koh Tao where we were staying for the next three nights. Our studio apartment in the mountains had stunning views of Sairee Beach – the main tourist hub on the island.
In the afternoon, we had a look around and then watched one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen from Fishbowl Beach Bar. The colours were out of this world, almost as if the sky was on fire.
Koh Nang Yuan Snorkelling Trip
Koh Tao is the smallest island in Thailand, yet it was one of my favourites. There isn’t a great deal to see but backpackers flock here to become PADI Certified. Em started working towards this scuba diving qualification at home before we left but couldn’t quite finish the course in time.
Because of the abundance of tropical coral reefs in the area, we thought it would be a good idea to book onto a full day snorkelling trip for 800 THB / £19 p/p.
The day began with a visit to Koh Nang Yuan Island around 800m off the north west coast of Koh Tao. Here, we went on a a short 20-minute hike to a viewpoint to get panoramic views of the clear blue water and white connecting sandbar. The view was what you would see on a Thailand postcard. Simply stunning.
We spent the rest of the afternoon snorkelling at five different open water locations. To be honest, I struggled with this because we had to swim a considerable distance from the boat to get to the coral.
Watch below to see a time-lapse video of the sunset from the balcony of our room.
Koh Tao > Koh Phangan
Another day spent travelling. Checkout was at 11:00 AM this morning and the ferry to Koh Phangan didn’t depart until 15:00 PM so we made the decision to chill on Sairee Beach.
By the time we arrived at our hotel in the Haad Rin area of Koh Phangan at 17:30 PM, the day was nearly over. We decided it would be a good idea to have a quiet night in because we had a busy day ahead tomorrow.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
We looked at going on a day trip to Mu Ko Ang Thong Marine Park – an archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand consisting of 42 islands from Koh Samui, but we prioritised the 4×4 Wild Jungle Safari instead.
It was an ideal opportunity to visit the Marine Park today on a day trip with Orion Cruises for 4200 THB / £104 because we had nothing else planned in Koh Phangan (other than the Full Moon Party later tonight).
It took just shy of two hours to sail over to Koh Wao – one of the most northerly islands in the archipelago where we had 45 minutes to snorkel. I preferred it here because the spot was in an enclosed bay.
A short, steep climb to see the Emerald Lagoon surrounded by limestone cliffs on Koh Mae Koh island from above was next on the agenda. On one side, you could see the lagoon and on the other, you could see a selection of the islands.
After taking in the views, we then kayaked from Ao Ka Beach to another area of Koh Mae Koh. This was a challenge because the oars were so bloody heavy.
Before setting sail back to Koh Phangan we went on a challenging 50-minute hike up 714 steps on Koh Wua Talap Island to the most spectacular viewpoint overlooking Ang Thong Marine Park.
Honestly, this was one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on. The view was UNREAL.
Koh Phangan Full Moon Party
Koh Phangan is famous for hosting the biggest party event in Asia – the monthly Full Moon Party where around 20,000 visitors flock from all over the world to party on Haad Rin Beach. We planned our South East Asia travelling itinerary around experiencing this…and it didn’t disappoint!
We paid 400 THB / £10 for the entry wristband; 500 THB / £12.50 for merchandise to wear and take home as memorabilia, as well as an additional 600 THB / £15 to have UV body paint splattered onto our arm.
At 22:00 PM, we started fighting our way down the side streets to get onto beach. I’ve never seen so many people drunk in the same place at one time. It was carnage.
It didn’t take long for a cocktail bucket to be in our hands. I’d learnt my lesson from the mistake I made in the Phi Phi Islands of just how lethal these buckets are. Two was more than enough for me to enjoy the night!
Just by chance, we happened to bump into Elizabeth and Imogen around 00:30 PM – the two sisters from London who we’d met at the Chai Lai Orchid Elephant Sanctuary near Chiang Mai, so we spent the rest of the night with them.
By now we’d been up for 18 hours. I knew we ran the risk of burning out, although I thought we’d be able to power through.
Em, being the young spring chicken she is at 25 felt fine. On the other hand, I was exhausted. I told myself that I’d only be here once, but I could only muster up the energy to last for another hour or so. Eventually, we stumbled back to our hotel room around 03:30 AM.
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but we slept in until 14:00 PM the next day and then sweated off the hangover whilst lounging by the pool. I guess we must have just really needed the sleep!
…and with that comes an end to our Thailand Island Hopping experience. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the incredible time we’ve had. Next, we fly from Krabi to Singapore where we’ll spend the next five nights.
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Thanks for reading, until the next time…