Category Archives: Thailand

#TheBeachTrail2017-Featured in Media

One of the purpose of travel is to be able to transport people visually and sensorily to a place they have not been before. You first travel in the mind, before you get to the actual place and then you start merging the place in your mind to the reality and the concoction can be quite heady and awe-inspiring when you do that.

#TheBeachTrail2017 was a great journey for us, and its a great honour to be able to tell this story to out to a wider audience. This post talks about the places where we were able to reach out to a larger set of people to tell our stories on #TheBeachTrail2017

  • The folks at Musafir Stories featured us on their long form-content story telling podcast show. The ‘Musafir Stories’ are India’s only Travel Podcast show focussed on listening to traveller tales.

You can listen to it here.

 

#TheBeachTrail2017- Part-IV-Discovering Angthong and Songkaran in Koh Tao

The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the fourth and final post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-1, Part-2Part-3

Once we had folded up our all night vigil at the Full Moon Party (Watch this video to see how it went), we had a van waiting to transport us back to the sea. Back to the blissfulness of staring at the vast expanse of the sea, but this time, we would see a lot more islands jutting out, and infact 42 of them surrounding the Angthong Marine National Park. Each of those 42 islands resemble a virgin paradise, with limestone cliffs, white sands on the periphery and lagoons around some of them.

The 42 islands of the Angthong Marine National Park
The 42 islands of the Angthong Marine National Park
Sailing in the Gulf of Thailand
Sailing in the Gulf of Thailand

It’s fascinating to be on this trip, since its like a slice out of your dreams as you keep staring at the wonders around you, and the wonders beneath you, as your little ferry’s motor slowly switches off  signifying that its time for some snorkelling!

While you snorkel under the surface of the water, a whole new world opens up. It seems very peaceful, and is interrupted only by the humans swimming besides me. Every time a human swam beside me, a whole new series of bubbles would impair my vision of this perfect life with the beautiful colours of the aqua marine world. If I ever get to be God, I would maybe create a world a-new that would just be so colourful and beautiful. As I settled into that thought, it occurred to me that we are humans for a reason and our world is chaotic, since its an option that we humans have. You could either be in the peaceful underwater world but be ready to be eaten any time of the day. Every day survived, is every day lived. You could be a human, live in a complex and chaotic world, without being worried about being eaten, but its a slow death in the concrete jungles of life, where you spend a life time trying to just commute and earn your bread, let alone eating. Such is life!

Our next spot was the Angthong Marine National Park, which has a steep jungle hike on the hill, that opens up beautiful panoramic vistas of the 42 islands. It was searing heat that we had to climb up the hill, and being a tropical place we were sweating heavily in the climb up.

A walk too far? Climbing on the hill trail in Angthong
A walk too far? Climbing on the hill trail in Angthong

There are resting points every 100 metres for you to contemplate if you have the energies to get up to the next point. If you cant quite climb up any further, each of these resting points make for great selfie spots for the young -at-heart. There are totally around 6 such points The entire ascend takes about an hour for people who are not used to any physical activity.This park has basic tented accommodations and a bungalow with 2 rooms. If you have time, you should probably camp here.

Tenting and Camping at Angthong Marine Park
Tenting and Camping at Angthong Marine Park

It’s a beautiful feeling trying to stay here, away from the crowded paradises of Ko-Samui, Ko Tao and Ko Phangan. You may need to bring some ready-to-eat foods, and cans of water, as there may not be too many resources if you plan to stay here for a day or two.  Adjoining the park/island are beautiful beaches that have coral reefs around them, making it hot beds for snorkelling. Inside the park is a beatiful green-emerald lake that is believed to have an underground connection to the sea, which probably still does not explain how does it get its greens.

At the base of the hills, Vikram perched himself to help himself with a couple of soft drink cans to beat the heat. These soft drinks are given on the boat, as part of your boat charges.There is also a little pool of water which people can use on themselves to freshen up with a mug, right after the sweaty trek and trail.

Chilling by the Bay at Angthong Marine Park-Thailand
Chilling by the Bay at Angthong Marine Park-Thailand

After our day out at Angthong, we got back to our boat, having a minimal Watermelon lunch by a cove/island. The speedboat has a way it cuts across the sea, and you need to hold on to dear life if you are sitting like us on the front deck. In choppy weather, be aware of finding a seat inside the closed door of the speedboats, as you are likely to rupture a muscle or two. It works well for the Thai Tourism industry as they would have sold you a tour on a speed boat and a Thai massage in the evening, to work on your body sores.

Watermelons and Noodles for Lunch
Watermelons and Noodles for Lunch

Our hostel, wore a deserted look. Haad-Rin had morphed into a sleepy town over night, after the full-moon party. We chose to hit bed early so that we had more energy leading up to playing Songkaran over the next 3 days. Since there were lesser people in our hostel, we ended up getting closer to the air-conditioner and slept like a log, before I woke up to alert the rest that our ‘Songthaew’ was waiting for us to be dropped to the port. Our next ferry trip was to Koh Tao, to celebrate Songkaran by a beach town, before we would take a train to Bangkok to continue the Thai New Year celebrations.

We had to board the ‘Songserm’ ferry operator’s morning ferry, and these were air conditioned seats, and we were glad to pick up some snooze time in the A.C. It was a short ferry ride of about an hour from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao, before we got off. Usually there is confusion between the staff on what luggages to offload, and while we were searching for our luggage, we noticed that it had already been offloaded and it stayed abandoned in a corner. So much so for safety!

We move our luggage, and find a cafe to spend the rest of the day, since we have our ferry to Chumphon from Koh Tao only at 3 pm and its about 9 am in the morning. Most of the cafe’s near the port are expensive, and I really don’t need their Wifi to spend the day. We spot a quiet cafe a little distance away from the port, and keep our luggage there, and Vikram decides that he wants to maybe rest by the beach, that adorns the cafe’s outer fringes. We then decide to find a cheaper breakfast place, and no better place on the little island than these Banana pancake shops.

Breakfast over Nutella Pancakes in Koh Tao
Breakfast over Nutella Pancakes in Koh Tao

I help myself to a couple of Banana pancakes, with Mango, Nutella and Peanut butter. It goes down, melting and warming the inner tubes of my food pipe, letting the stomach know that energy is arriving. As we wrap up our breakfast, a sudden jet of water is thrown in by an expat, that made my vest completely wet. He was spraying all over taking giant steps on the road, and there was a huge tanker coming with local people who had bigger guns. The games needed to start, to welcoming the new year!

Let the games begin! Songkaran in Koh Tao
Let the games begin! Songkaran in Koh Tao

We boarded a little van, that said that the festival was being celebrated in a grander manner at Sairee Beach in Koh-Tao, and off we went with little cash, a Go Pro and an iPhone in boot. The next couple of hours were spent like a child, trying to stave off requests from people who wanted to spray water on us, forming secret guerilla groups to target unsuspecting people and having water from 4 directions, which would stop when the person smiled and walked away.

 

That feeling when you get suddenly hit by a wave of ice chill water
That feeling when you get suddenly hit by a wave of ice chill water

 

Firing water on people from an open jeep in Koh Tao celebrating Songkaran
Firing water on people from an open jeep in Koh Tao celebrating Songkaran

 

Boarding the train at Chumphon

After all the celebrations in Koh Tao, as we proceeded to Koh Tao’s port, we were leaving behind memories of an amazing trail, and the only part missing as in the movie ‘The Beach’ was the train ride, which was up next. A train ride to Bangkok from Chumphon(The closest railway line from Koh Tao).  #TheBeachTrail2017 was a wrap! Thanks Thailand for all the memories!

If you want to watch what happened between the photos, do watch the 4th episode of our #TheBeachTrail2017 documentary

 

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

Look out for cheap flights to Bangkok which starts at about 10,000 INR from Chennai to Bangkok. From Bangkok you could directly fly to Koh Samui through Bangkok Airways, but since its a private airport, fares are usually high. You could alternatively fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok, which has direct connections from the airport to the pier and to Koh Phangan/Ko Samui.You could take the train from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Chumphon or Surat Thani, and head to the respective piers in those cities to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan . Alternatively you could fly to Bangkok, and book a Lomprayah Bus + Ferry ticket directly from Bangkok to Koh Phangan

#TheBeachTrail2017- Part-III-Discovering Chaloklum, Mae Haad and the Full Moon Party

The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the third post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-1, Part-2, and Part-4

After our adventures the previous day, we discovered we had a lot of fuel still left in our bikes, so we decided to drive a lot more on our next trip. We could go east or go extreme North. As we were choosing Abhi told us that he wanted to be closer to the waterfall trail, so that he could go for a quick dip, so we decided on 2 other beaches called Chaloklum and Mae Haad.

I preferred to play pillion to do all the filming and be ready to focus on places to capture/experience from the road and also be the one coordinating between Vikram over the directions. The 4G signals were very good in Thailand, so most of our communication would be over Whatsapp video calling, as we would frequently lose each other, blame it on having different interests in gazing at nature’s bounty every few kilometres.

 

2 wheelers for rental in Koh Phangan
2 wheelers for rental in Koh Phangan

As we made our way down the valley from Haad-Rin, we chanced upon a cafe on the hill, which had a beautiful view. The place, by itself had a greek feel to it, with white and blue paint, resembling Santorini, and having a few chairs for guests. The view of the sea changing colours as the day went by is quite an activity to occupy yourself. We had done that a couple of days back in Coco Huts, so we were itching to go back to the beaches, after the previous day was spent with waterfalls.

Viewpoint Cafe- True To its Name
Viewpoint Cafe- True To its Name

We were back on the scenic highway, that had a few more miles to clock, post Paradise Waterfalls, and this highway was starting to look beautiful at a point, when we had the green canopy of the trees on either sides, and in the distance the sea emerged on the top. The wind hitting our hair, music in our ears made us part of a new world, to which we had just gained entry. This whole island of Koh Phangan, was famous only for the Full-Moon-Party, and there were so many sides to this beautiful island, if only people cared to explore beyond the ‘Songserm Buckets’. This scene reminded us of the famous yesteryear classic “Country Roads, Take Me Home”, where heaven was waiting for us at the end of the road, and our new home for the day was the beach life that was awaiting us at Chaloklum

Country Roads- Take Me Home
Country Roads- Take Me Home

The heat during the day reduced, thanks to an involuntary gathering of some Cumulo-Nimbus clouds over the island, and the weather turned overcast and love was in the air, due to the cool winds. We decided to survey the place, after parking our bikes to wander around the bay. The only choices our brains had to make, was to go left or right. We went right, because it curved and something exciting looked like being around the corner.

Overcast Day at Chaloklum Bay
Overcast Day at Chaloklum Bay

I hoped we will find some desolate beach, where I could be ‘ship wrecked’ for a couple of hours. The good thing which such stress free exploratory trips, is that fantasy can run wild, and that means that brain is all in order and corporate life has not had any adverse impact on it.

The Wide expanse of Chaloklum Bay
The Wide expanse of Chaloklum Bay

Once we were at Chaloklum bay, we looked around, and wanted to explore the right end of the beach. The beach was having a long curve, and we realised that we had a lot of distance to cover. Each of us ambled at our own pace, before we perched at a corner of the beach, which ended in a lagoon, which got deeper as you set your legs further with soft soil. Every time you took a step, inside the water, a fish would probably see an explosion of sand particles. I decided to lay on my back, with the water covering me till my neck, while I paddled about, feeling the sun on my watered back. It was a strange feeling of heat and cool at the same time. I wondered what next. Should I go to the other side? It was glowing in green from the afternoon heat, and since there was a port of sorts there (where you get the boats to Bottle Beach, which you could also go via a forest trek), we thought there would be too many people.

The Greens of Chaloklum Bay
The Greens of Chaloklum Bay

We saw a tyre partially buried in sand, and saw a little paradise on the other side of the lagoon. Endless trees dotting the foothills of a little mountain, having a little patch of sand, not having any human settlement or commerce. It seemed like our ‘Robinson Crusoe’ moment at finding a patch of paradise, to spend an afternoon. The lagoon was deep, and could not be navigated by our limited knowledge of swimming. My friends, said they wanted to go back and maybe explore the other side. I could not quite resist the option of getting to the other side, but I had to do it safely. As Paulo Coelho says in the Alchemist-When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and so, I find a boat coming my way. Since the lagoon is not really far to cross over, the boat-man is confused, as to why I wanted to go over to the other side. He says there is nothing that side, and he wont come back. I would have to walk 5 kilometres through the hilly path down to the Chaloklum village. I say yes, looking at the oppurtunity to be ‘quasi-marooned’ for a while.

 

A tyre buried in the sand at Chaloklum-Koh Phangan
A tyre buried in the sand at Chaloklum-Koh Phangan

A minute later, I find myself on the other side of the lagoon. My friends wave away, and one heads for the Paradise waterfall, while the other just wants lunch somewhere by the sea. I go and find myself on a remote part of the bay, and enjoy my silence. I lay on the water as, small waves come and go in a rythmic motion, lulling me into a peaceful mid-day siesta with my head in water. For a good part of the next 45 minutes, I was in a blissful sense of peace, closing my eyes, and while head got gently massaged by the movement of waters in a rythm. I wake up after, closing my eyes for a long time, and look at the beautiful blue skies, and its a wonderful feeling of happiness as you transition from a dark background to a bluish sky. It’s a kind of a visual orgamic high that lasts for a few fleeting seconds, and its gone, as your eyes adjust to the new light.It is a working day in India, and I chose to send this photo to my friends who are at work, right after lunch. I am reasonably succesful in transmitting ‘Vitamin-J’ to the rest of the world, connected virtually on Whatsapp (Note- 4G in Thailand is present in the remotest parts of the country),

Shaking a leg to the sound of water's music
Shaking a leg to the sound of water’s music

I woke up, and trudge through the forest to find a lady and her son, who are there in a car to meet a therapist. They are done with their work, and they were heading back, so I manage to get a lift uptil the local 7/11 store, from where I hop over to the local food store, where I gorge quickly on a bowl of Pad Thai, waiting for Vikram to turn up, while a mellifluos tune from an old lady singing a Thai tune catches my ears.

I hop over to the next beach on our 2 wheeler, and go there to catch a beautiful sunset. The sunset always works like an agony aunt of sorts, as there is something in the orangish sky and sea changing colours to blue over a sunset, as the stillness of the sea, makes me ask the questions to myself, that usually get lost in the hum-drum of daily life. A sunset makes me notionally wiser, as long as I can jot down what my mind tells me.

A beautiful sunset at Mae Haad-Koh Ma (Koh Phangan)
A beautiful sunset at Mae Haad-Koh Ma (Koh Phangan)

Post the sunset, we were heading to the full moon party, back near our hostel. To know how our day went and our time at the Full Moon Party, do catch the documentary which traces what we did in detail between the photos. Here’s- Part 3 of our documentary

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

Look out for cheap flights to Bangkok which starts at about 10,000 INR from Chennai to Bangkok. From Bangkok you could directly fly to Koh Samui through Bangkok Airways, but since its a private airport, fares are usually high. You could alternatively fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok, which has direct connections from the airport to the pier and to Koh Phangan/Ko Samui.You could take the train from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Chumphon or Surat Thani, and head to the respective piers in those cities to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan . Alternatively you could fly to Bangkok, and book a Lomprayah Bus + Ferry ticket directly from Bangkok to Koh Phangan

#TheBeachTrail2017- Part-II-Discovering Coco Beach and Paradise Waterfall

The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the second post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-1, Part-3 and Part-4

S T A R T I N G  T H E   D A Y 

When the day started for us, at 10 am, the city was buzzing and active. I had actually woken up at 6 am, walked my way to the beach, just before sunrise, felt the waters and then come back to the hostel to sleep. We woke up late, since we had been up till about 3 am at the resort nearby(Coral Bungalows), at their pool party. The way we landed there makes for an interesting story. We had a free pick up van roaming near our hostel street soliciting people who wanted a free ride, and we decided we should sit in the van and explore this place. Once at the party, which was basically loud music around the pool, we found our corner of the pool, to relax and soak in a 18-21 hour journey from India to Koh Phangan (depending on where each of us came from). Since a lot of popular music was playing,  Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of Me’ was all over, and people were swaying to it, while jumping in and out of the pool. ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Summer of 69’ had a new successor in ‘Shape of Me’, which would play on until the mP3 files are erased due to frequent use. Our first night at Koh Phangan, was more so spent relaxed at the pool, listening to songs and we decided to walk our way back to our hostel, which was about a kilometre from where we were, and by about 3 am we had settled into slumber.

Getting back to this morning, I woke up at 6 am, because I am habituated to wake up around this time. The little island town was quiet. I took the quieter lane to the beach, which had some people who were probably around from the night, as they did not quite look that they had got up like me and come to the beach. I had my phone with me, and sat at the beach, waiting for the orange layer to percolate into a dark sky. The fisherman were active, and were probably still transporting people back from the parties advertised at Secret Beach, that happens every evening. Their ‘sun-set’ was approaching, after making money on tourists who wanted to go around for parties around boats and islands advertised as ‘secret parties’. As I was watching the sun-rise, I started to fall asleep. That moment, I decided that seeing the sun was inspiring, and it was time for going back to catch dreams, before I start the #TheBeachtrail2017

Sunrise at Haad Rin
Sunrise at Haad Rin

D I S C O V E R I N G  C O C O   B E A C H 

Almost by accident, we walked on the hilly path leading to Coco Huts Beach. As we ambled along post our breakfast at Om Ganesh Cafe (One of the two Indian cafes in Haad Rin), we happened to double check our path. We had no real choice to make, and decided based on gut, that we’d take the road leading down the hill on the right instead of going straight or left. It seemed to be a good choice, as we made our way through a 5 star resort called the Coco Huts Beach Resort. The view that we had, left us gasping for breath. Palm trees swaying to the wind, a little hammock between them, Clear Blue Skies alongside a different shade of blue with a white sand beach, and the picture postcard was complete. We were in Paradise, and were savoring every second of this view. The colour of the sea was changing its shades of blue, depending on the weather and we were lapping it up

The perfect life at Coco Huts Beach-Ko Phangan
The perfect life at Coco Huts Beach-Ko Phangan

Some clouds on top, and the shade of blue became bluer, and we took turns at the swing between the trees. The rythmic motion of the swing, as we swung up and down, made us feel like we were flying in an arc seeing the sea in front of us. Initially I did feel apprehensive that I may fly off the swing and land straight into the sea bed. None of those fears came true, thankfully. The sea bed was also having very small waves, so we could just aimlessly float and feel motionless on the beach, as the waves came every now and then to look us up, if we were wet enough or not. The feeling of waters slowly curving around you, the feeling of sand in your ears, and a near stationery mind is the kind of bliss that we came in search of. Vikram and I chose to find some shade and read some books on our phones, while Abhi chose to walk along the expanse of the beach, and discovered the spa, and came out after a marathon session at the spa.

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We had prepared for a long day out at the beach, and had brought with us some cookies and fruits to spend the day, since we did not want to go back to take a break to eat. One good brunch, and some cookies for lunch, apart from a couple of tender coconuts to keep us hydrated seemed to take care of our energy levels. The whole coastline seemed to be curving beautifully across the hills, but it had very few people on the beach, and boy, were we enjoying the quietness on the beach? We sure were

Is this what Paradise looks like?
Is this what Paradise looks like?

Abhi loves his massages. Being a frequent traveller to Thailand, he is a connoisseur when it comes to the spa treatments in Thailand. He tells me that the Spa at Coco Huts, took very good care of his afternoon, post which he came over to join us for the sunset. He got himself a good break from the routine life of running around, with his newly formed start up.

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The beach has a beautiful walkway going right into the sea. It is not a permanent structure but a semi-plastic-fiber structure that goes out into sea. As you walk, its firm to the point that you wont slip off, but it is shaky since the waves can topple you, if the water inflow is stronger at that point. After a nice siesta post a round of freshly cut tender coconuts, we woke up in time to see a rousing sunset across the right end of the beach by the mountains. While some chose to chase the sun on the walkway, some chose to transmit this moment to their virtual world by clicking a selfie against the golden light of the evening sun.

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We welcomed the sunset with a few games of beach volley ball. After a day of being well rested on the beach, this was the perfect way to get those muscles active as I ran around, the court in an attempt to play a competitive game with some fellow travellers. The evening was relaxed, and my body was now ready for the invasion of vegetarian Pad Thai in the Thai places down the hill this evening.

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D R I V I N G  A R O U N D   P H A N G A N 

The next day, we decided to drive around the island after taking bikes from a bike store near Om Ganesh Cafe. Petrol for the bike is usually sold at 50 Bahts a litre on the smaller shops in Haad Rin, but when you go on the highway near Phaeng Waterfall you get a proper Petrol Station that sells fuel at 37 Bahts, which makes it a few more rides on the beautiful roads of Koh Phangan. The ride from Haad Rin to the northern parts of the islands involves crossing a hill and then going down. As we were going down the hill, there was this beautiful point where you could see the sea from the top of the hill, and it looks like you are heading straight for the sea. It is a surreal scene to catch, and if ever you find yourself there here’s the point to stop and gaze

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The scenery around the drive is beautiful, and calls for driving with an open mind, without having any fixed destination. We off-roaded a little around an orchard and found this beautiful place and stopped there to gaze at the tall trees and the sea beside us. Paradise was finding us, rather than we finding it. We were grateful to nature that we could soak in such sights.

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Fruits! We could never be far away from it, since most of our energy came from tender coconuts, bananas and mangoes that we would buy at the local markets. It helps the locals earn a living and for us to keep our budgets low and keep us on a healthy diet in the tropical Thai weather of April.

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P A R A D I S E   W A T E R F A L L 

Our next stop was the beautiful and serene Paradise Waterfalls, which has a bumpy path right off the beautiful highway, which prepares you for the contrast. The drive is inside a jungle that becomes denser as you drive in, and when the sound of the bats and crickets becomes more than people/vehicles. The waterfall is multi layered and we chose to start with the bottom layer to hold on to a rope and swing our way into the natural pool that the waterfall empties into. The simplest part was to get off all the sweat, from the drive to the place by jumping right into the waterfall. Emotions go from ecstatic to orgasmic to relaxing to jubilant. The water is the same, the force is the same but nature somehow manages to distill different emotions like the staccato of a track that has its ups and downs.

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So the afternoon drill was all about jumping inside the pool, and swimming till the rocks, and then coming back to do the jump all over again. Sounds like a good plan? To experience bliss, you need lesser people and trust nature. In ‘The Beach’ Leanardo Di Caprio also discovers a waterfall this side of the island and jumps from a far higher height. We were having a beautiful #TheBeachTrail2017 so far.

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After a few jumps, I chose to cool off around the fringes of the waterfall, and listening to the music of the forests, observing happiness all around. This is the kind of stuff that needs to go into our system instead of all the negative vibes from the news. We have a beautiful world to look for inspiration, and I have just started.

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 P H A E N G   W A T E R F A L L 

Right after Paradise Waterfall, we decided to search for one more waterfall nearby, since when we had started the day, we did a quick map search and found 2 waterfalls by the highway. A quick drive away from Paradise Waterfall was Phaeng waterfall, which was part of the Than Sadet National Park. As soon as we made our way inside, post a round of Pad Thai, we found a beautiful dense forest that was filtering the golden hour light across the greens into the water at one of the levels of the waterfall. Abhi did a trek all the way to the top of the waterfall, while Vikram and I found solace in observing and playing with a kid and her mother who were enjoying the sunset at the lower reaches of the waterfall.

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There was a girl who was spending her whole evening drawing patterns on the sand near the water source. It occured to me that it had probably been ages since I had idled time away in this creative manner away in nature. The glorious sunset was lighting up the greens, and it probably also let us knew that we were so far having a great trip accompanied with great weather and discoveries of places to spend our time!

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With that ends, Part-II of #TheBeachTrail2017. Here’s a map trail of the places covered so far in Koh-Phangan

Map Trail in Koh Phangan of #TheBeachTrail2017
Map Trail in Koh Phangan of #TheBeachTrail2017

While a Photoblog and text can only convey so much, I suggest you watch our documentary to know what we did in between the photos. Here’s presenting Part-II of the documentary #TheBeachTrail2017

Look out for cheap flights to Bangkok which starts at about 10,000 INR from Chennai to Bangkok. From Bangkok you could directly fly to Koh Samui through Bangkok Airways, but since its a private airport, fares are usually high. You could alternatively fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok, which has direct connections from the airport to the pier and to Koh Phangan/Ko Samui.You could take the train from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Chumphon or Surat Thani, and head to the respective piers in those cities to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan . Alternatively you could fly to Bangkok, and book a Lomprayah Bus + Ferry ticket directly from Bangkok to Koh Phangan

 

 

 

#TheBeachTrail2017-Part 1-Settling in Koh Phangan

This episode talks about settling into our comfort zone at Koh Phangan on Day 1 of our trip. The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the first post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-2Part-3 and Part-4

Once you are on sea, there is a sense of calm in your body. Your blood doesn’t run haywire, as it does back in the city. The kind of calm, that you have not felt or seen. The mountains and the sea seem constant, they dont move. There’s nothing that’s vying for your attention. Your mind is not having to be at many places and act like its at one place. Your mind is still, your body is still, you are still (despite the fact that you are moving on a constantly moving sea) and that takes some getting used to, and if you are like me, most of that emotion ends in being transported to you to a world where you dream, despite being amidst paradise in reality.

Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand
Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand

A journey on a little ferry/ship in the afternoon sun, was about testing 2 contrasting feelings on our skin. We wanted the soft warmth of the afternoon sun on an alternating overcast and sunny day, and the winds on our face. We got both, while we were perched in our seat. The only bummer really was, you could not quite move on the top deck of the ferry, once it picked speed. You would shake and lose balance while trying to move, and if you did find balance the strong wind would knock you down. The whole afternoon was spent either sitting on one of the seats, or sitting on the floor. We did have some inventive travellers who started to create a party of their own, by drinking against the direction of the wind, protecting their plastic cups with their hats. It was fun trying to see if they would spill the ‘Songserm’ whisky on themselves. They fought with the wind, and with every plastic cup downed, they would be inebriated to repeat the act more. One of my friends on the trip, joined in and did this until his hat flew right into the sea.

 

Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan
Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan

The wind hitting everyone’s faces and hair brought a beautiful sense of everyone being disheveled by the time we reached our first island stop. Wind is again like rain, it looks beautiful when seen for a fleeting second, but it can get irritating when the wind/rain bring their kin/kith along for a prolonged session. I was grateful to providence to be feeling such sensations, and to know that the a full week lay ahead before my flight descends into Chennai’s sweaty air.

 

Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan
Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan

We reached Koh Phangan, and were forewarned about the expensive taxis. We attempted to bargain with the ‘Songthaew’ [Shared Taxi Vans with an open back] and decided that with our luggage, we were better off to just pick a proper shared taxi that allowed us to reach our hostel. We decided that we will anyway be spending our time on the road, exploring places. It was better we stayed at some place closer to the vibe and energy of the island in the evenings, while we spend the day exploring. We were to get to Haad-Rin area to our hostel, which shared a small lane, across a small lake and had a grassy outback path to the sun-rise beach (Haad Rin Noi).

 

Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan
Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan

One of the things with landing in a place, is to walk around and observe what the place has. We also had some research planned on what would be the things we would explore on the island, since we had booked our return flights and booked accommodation for about 4 of the 8 nights, thinking we will figure the rest based on what we discover. We calmed our excited nerves by walking down the road that led to the beach, reminding ourselves that we were on a budget, and we stick to our fruit diet for the trip to minimise costs and stay hydrated in Tropical Koh Phangan.

Fruits at Haad-Rin
Fruits at Haad-Rin

We walked over to the beach, ambling about the Westernization of what used to be a quiet little Thai Town. Haad-Rin is pretty much like Calangute today, which we knew, but we were able to get cheaper hostels only in this part of the town, after a search on Hostel booking sites. As we made our way to the beach, we noticed people playing there trying to get under a rope of fire. Some of them sane, and some of them inebriated with a Chang beer in hand. As people get through below, the level gets tougher and from them only the fittest survive it. What was interesting was the camaraderie that was building up between strangers at the fire place, and that was very heart warming. I ended up knowing some of my to-be-hostel mates from the evening. We had just warmed up to the vibes of Koh Phangan

Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan
Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan

We have made a documentary on our adventures till we reached Koh Phangan. Watch Part-1 of our documentary below.

 

#TheBeachTrail2017-India to Koh Phangan in 24 hours-The First Day

This episode talks about travelling from Chennai to Koh Phangan on Day 1 of our trip. The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’.

“When you develop an infatuation for someone you always find a reason to believe that this is exactly the person for you. It doesn’t need to be a good reason.  But in the haze of infatuation, it’s just what you’ve been searching for all these years.”  (The Beach-1997-Alex Garland also made as a motion picture by Danny Boyle starring Leonardo Di Caprio)

6 pm– 7th April 2016
At the Airport
At the Airport

 

Walking in the heated cauldron, between the domestic and international terminal, I knew my infatuation was moments away.  In a few minutes, I would be up in the air flying to the object of my infatuation. It was 9 years, since I was infatuated and 20 years since the ‘infatuation’ came to life. It was a novel called ‘The Beach’ which was my infatuation. I connected with the book and the dialogues so much, that I had to probably relive the novel by traveling on the same trail. That beach trail! My object of infatuation and I had to celebrate 20 years of the book being written by being on the same trail!

 
March 2016
 
The DVD of ‘The Beach’ lay in my shelf, bruised from the number of times, its been called on for moments of inspiration. As the bandwidth became better over the years, I just chose Youtube and Google Play for playing it. But what was probably missing in these 9 years was to maybe do the trail that ‘Richard’ did. There’s a whole lot of a difference between real travel and vicarious travel, and at some point, I had to break the shackles that the ‘mental disorders’ I suffered from. As a traveller, who wanted to teach his little son the beauty of geography by traveling each summer to the lands that he was to study, I suffered from the normal mental disorders that city bred B-School educated people have by choosing the safe life which had 2 house EMI’s choking the explorer in me. My son and I had seen enough videos on youtube of ‘The Beach’ and the trail that lay ahead in Thailand. I mean enough videos that popped in my “Watch Again” list on Youtube.
 
“If I’d learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.”
― Alex Garland- The Beach
 
This quote got my goat. It felt like a bunch of words, slit me through my neck and told me ‘No more excuses’. I called up my friends over a whatsapp group and decided to go ahead and book. I was not quite sure when to go and whether #TheBeachTrail would be possible. We went over to many of the travel planning sites and started entering the destination pair rates one by one, and we found the visual map search on SkyScanner called ‘Inspire’ interesting that it allowed us to see prices of destinations from Chennai in one visual map.
Bangkok seemed a lot cheaper, than some of the other destinations like Colombo, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur. In one long WhatsApp Conversation, the three of us decided on Bangkok to plan our onward and return tickets, and to figure out the rest of things on the go. Tickets booked, we all knew that the that ‘slitting’ quote was behind us. We were going to Alex Garland’s world like Richard did.
 
Now
 
Ok. Who is Alex Garland? Who is Richard? Why are they even important?
Alex Garland was a writer who wrote a book called The Beach’ which was also converted into a Danny Boyle movie which was set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand to find that ideal place for life, where only happiness exists! Paradise basically. Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’.
9:05 pm– 7th April 2016
 
The Air Asia flight was in an hour, and I still had not checked in my luggage. The three of us had met earlier this morning having a look at our luggage for the trip. We had a small equation to solve before we checked in. I had 2 camera bags and a huge suitcase( mostly empty). My friends had single bags. Air Asia allowed us with only 1 bag weighing 7 kg for each of us, and one suitcase of 20 kg (which is the paid luggage we had declared). After 10 minutes of manic scrambling and re-arranging our baggages, we had our weights exactly showing 7 kg for each of the 3 bags, and 20 kg’s for the bag. The Air Asia guy at the terminal was smiling at our level of planning. He removed some heavy paper stickers on suitcase from previous trips, and it brought the weight down to 19.8 Kgs. Our first major port of trouble had been sorted! 
Winning the Luggage War with Air Asia
Winning the Luggage War with Air Asia
 
As soon as we got into the flight, we got our seats. 11A, 11B and 11C. Those numbers were about to transport us away from the familiar as the humid night of Chennai merged with the pleasant morning of Bangkok. Once the seat belts sign were lit up, our world back home in India switched off, as we were on an epic journey to relive a movie. A movie where we were viewers, to maybe a character in the movie. We trusted the armrests and minimal angle backrests with our dreams of our holiday as travelers, along with scores of tourists. I asked myself-why do we place so much trust in travel and places to transform our world. Was the hidden energies in the world subliminally telling us to listen in and call it intuition? Maybe
We landed in Bangkok, bleary eyed and ready for action, as we had to land at 3:30 am, and board our bus in Khao San Road, which was about 30 odd kilometres from the Don Muang Airport. A rushed card drive on an Uber, meant we were well in time at 5 30 am for our 6 am bus. I noticed a French co-passenger in an interestingly captioned shirt, which admonishes Mondays. We were in a zone that did not require us to know which day of the week it was. We were pleasantly teeing off the Saturday with a nice ride in a Lomprayah Bus+ Ferry ticket across the eastern nerve centre of Thailand’s tail.
Never Say Monday
Never Say Monday

Watching the Thai countryside unfold layer by layer, I noticed that the country had a wonderful roadway infrastructure. I never remember seeing pothole ridden roads on my commute 0n the Lomprayah Bus. It alternated between clean roads, crowded junctions, forests shrouded in green and brown until Hua Hin, and then from then on we started seeing beaches a couple of feet from the bus as we alternated between beaches and green reserves of forests, before making way inside the Chumphon National park to reach the pier.

At the Pier, we were blown away by what we saw. The transition from being spectators to being a character had been complete. We were in Thailand staring at a beach that had waters alternating between Green and Blue. We had enough green cover where the palm trees grew over one another on hills by the beaches. Our dream #TheBeachTrail2017 was about to begin.

Chumphon's magical colours-Thailand
Chumphon’s magical colours-Thailand

If you are itching to know what happened on the Ferry, do watch the below video film of our trip which has more details as part of the Trailer.

To view the rest of the posts, click below for

Part-1-Where we settle in Koh Phangan

Part-2-Where we discover our beach bum traits at Coco-Hut

Part-3-In Search of Chaloklum’s paradise

Part-4-Celebrating ‘The Beach’ in Anthong and Songkaran in Ko Tao