After spending our first couple of days relaxing at our new favorite resort, we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from our poolside loungers to do some exploring. I mean we can’t go all the way to Thailand just to hang out at the pool all day, right…?
Located in the Gulf of Thailand, just west of Koh Samui, is a collection of 42 jagged, jungle-covered, uninhabited islands known as: Ang Thong National Marine Park. And thanks to Alex Garland’s famous backpacking novel, The Beach, this Marine Park is one of the most popular locations in all of Thailand. Sound familiar?
We decided to book our tour with Tours Koh Samui because of the favorable Trip Advisor reviews, the cost (1,800 baht–or about $53USD–per person), and we liked that they used a speedboat–which meant getting there faster and spending more time in the park.
Boating, island hopping, snorkeling, swimming, AND the chance to see one of the most famous Lagoons in all of Southeast Asia… sign me up!
Not long after we began our journey across the sea, I could see the vertical limestone cliffs rising up from the cerulean colored sea, and within 45 minutes we stopped at our first snorkeling location: Koh Wao. Unfortunately the marine life was scarce and the visibility was limited, so I was delighted when it was time to head towards our next destination–which also happened to be the highlight of the day: Koh Mae Koh and Talay Nai.
Koh Mae Koh is most famously known for its “Emerald Lagoon;” a gem-colored, salt-water lake surrounded on all sides by tall, limestone cliffs and dense rain forest. A quick hike up to the lookout revealed the famous hidden Lagoon, as well as a lovely panoramic view of the Marine Park.
And by a “quick hike” I should clarify that I’m referring to a near-vertical, 500 meter hike, often times basically climbing a ladder to another platform almost out of reach. Did I mention the temperature was well over 100 degrees that day? This hike is definitely not for the faint of heart, or for small children, but the views were worth every bead of sweat that poured from our foreheads. (Let it be known that it’s not always glamorous here at Pictures and Plane Tickets). ;-)
The Emerald Lagoon
Stopping to catch our breath at the top, we salivated over the emerald-hued water. I think Cody would have given his first-born child for access to the Lagoon to cool off, however, sadly for visitors, entry into this lake is strictly prohibited–there may or may not have been a serious discussion of breaking the rules and jumping in anyways. ;-)
I could have spent a lot of time getting lost in the viewfinder of my camera, but there was that pesky threat called heat exhaustion basically smothering us. So after some quick photos we made a bee-line for the water to cool down and you know, not die.
The “other” James Bond Island
After our death-defying hike I needed some food, and luckily for me it was time to head to lunch. Now I like to think of myself as an adventurous, low-key, not-super-high-maintenance, kind of traveler, but when we arrived at the Sea Gypsy village I was a little nervous. Our “restaurant” was surrounded by dilapidated buildings, questionable smells, and dark, murky, muddy water. Thoughts of food poisoning, parasites, staph, and hepatitis flashed through my mind… OKAY, okay, I’m exaggerating,
slightly; however, the hesitation subsided when I saw our hosts standing at the dock smiling and waving. I felt instantly welcomed to this village, and secretly hoped that I wouldn’t regret it later.
Well, not only did we survive the meal, but would you believe that it was Cody’s favorite meal of the entire trip? You definitely couldn’t get more authentic food in Thailand.
Song Pee Nong Beach was our last stop of the day, and it was absolutely beautiful. A long stretch of soft, white sand was backed by a dense, bright-green jungle. Fellow visitors converged around the beach bar talking over cold cans of Chang Beer, while other sun-loving explorers competed in a lively game of beach volleyball. Kayaks were available to rent for an extra 300 baht, and although it sounded fun, Cody and I were completely content people watching and swimming around in the water.
We explored four different islands in eight short hours, however, at times I couldn’t help but feel like we were being rushed around. Next time, I would consider visiting fewer islands and spending more time at each location, yet for our first visit, this tour was exactly what we were looking: an introduction to the marine park and its beautiful photo-worthy islands.
Would you visit Ang Thong National Marine Park? Are you up for a hike to the Emerald Lagoon?