Beach parties and waterfalls on Koh Samui…

So we’re back with Oz Bus after three months of gallivanting around South East Asia on our own! After meeting up with our new leader Michelle on Monday evening, we had an early night at our lovely Bangkok hotel, ready for a 5 am start the next day. We were off to Koh Samui – one of Thailand’s most popular islands!

On the bus we were introduced to some of our fellow Oz-busers – a huge group this time round. There are 25 passengers on Oz Bus 21, compared with 12 on Oz Bus 19. The journey to the ferry port at Surat Thani took around 10 hours in total – made easy by watching re-runs of ‘The Inbetweeners’ on the on-board TV.

We managed to catch the 4pm ferry which takes around an hour and a half to reach Nathon on Koh Samui. The views on the way there were great and we were glad that the sun was still shining as we stood on the top deck, having a beer with a few of our new travel buddies.

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Once we landed, a minibus was there to take us to Mae Nam on the North of the island where we were staying. Our hotel (Home Bay Resort) was right on the beach and we each had a bungalow on stilts to stay in!

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Once we’d settled in, Rich and I went to have some dinner in a restaurant down the road – it was called the Peace Kitchen and the food was lovely! Mae Nam town and beach are fairly quiet and we didn’t meet many people as we wandered around, but it is still ‘off season’ so I’m sure that’s why!

That night we went to sleep with the sounds of the waves lapping against the beach and looked forward to getting out and about the next day to explore the island.

After breakfast the next morning, we hired a motorbike from around the corner and rode along the north coast towards the main town, Chaweng, on the East. Chaweng has the most popular beach on the island and is where most holiday-makers head for when visiting Koh Samui. The town itself was still fairly quiet but most people, we discovered, were on the beach! Despite some debris left over from Thailand’s recent storms, we could tell that the beach here is usually fantastic. The sand was fluffy and white and the coastline stretched for miles.

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We walked along the beach for a while before walking through the town to see what was happening. It’s a lot livelier here than in Mae Nam – a big giveaway being the amount of bars dotted around the main road and in the side streets! Another noticeable (and not so welcome) difference was the amount of Thai Silk suit salesmen jumping out at you as you walk past asking you to ‘go shopping’!

After having some lunch we jumped back onto the bike and headed further down the east coast towards the second most popular beach, Lamai. Again, the town itself was fairly quiet, but seemed to have plenty to do during high season. The beach is much more laid back here and slightly more ‘unspoilt’ with the bay flanked by lush green hills on either side.

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We spent the rest of the day riding around on the motorbike, stopping at a few viewpoints here and there – luckily the rain stayed off despite a few looming clouds and we escaped a drenching!

Later that evening we went back to Chaweng to sample some of the famous Koh Samui nightlife. We checked out a few bars around town before heading to the beach where the Ark Bar was having one of their Wednesday night beach parties. It was absolutely packed! The bar itself is made up of funky sun loungers arranged around tables, with neon lights and huge speakers playing funky, chilled out dance music. There were people walking around with giant Iguanas trying to scare the girls into having their picture taken and others selling bizarre face-masks to revelers, leading to a few table-top dances from Osama Bin Laden and Hitler (weird to watch).

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We had a great night and headed back to the hotel happy that we’d managed to catch a great beach party despite the low key feel of the rest of the island!

The next day we swapped the motorbike for a little Suzuki 4×4 and planned a route around the island. We wanted to take in a few of the waterfalls as well as drive right the way down to the south coast, taking in some mountain scenery along the way.

Our first stop was the Hin Lad waterfall, not far from Nathon town. We had to trek for around 40 minutes through an extremely overgrown and humid forest reserve! Not having foreseen a trek like this we struggled a bit in our flip flops, clambering over the slippery rocks whilst sweating absolute buckets! I haven’t been that knackered since my last spinning class!

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After Hin Lad waterfall we drove to Na Muang. Here, there are two waterfalls, aptly named one and two! Na Muang One is 18 metres high and roared down a cliff with loads of force due to the recent rains. We had to wade knee high through a pool at the bottom of it to get to a good vantage point for a photograph!

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Nam Muang Two is just a couple of minutes away and can be accessed through the Na Muang Safari Park. We walked to the bottom of the waterfall first where people were swimming in a couple of the natural pools. This waterfall is 80 metres high and whilst impressive from the bottom, we also wanted to see it from the top!

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We overheard some people talking about a swimming pool right near the top of the waterfall, as far as you can climb basically, so decided to follow them through the forest. We fell behind due to our over-zealous photo taking and completely lost the trail!

The trek up to the waterfall was one of the steepest, most difficult climbs I have ever done! On more than one occasion we thought that we must have been lost as we couldn’t for the life of us find a path. We had to climb up rocks dripping with water and overgrown branches covered in ants, clinging on to any piece of vine we could find – and all in our flip flops whilst carrying water, change of clothes and two bath towels!

It took well over an hour but eventually we spotted the people we had initially followed sat on a rock in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief that we had gone the right way after all! As soon as we got up to the small pool at the top of the waterfall, they left and we had it to ourselves! At the far end of the pool is an overhang where part of the waterfall flows through – there is a rope attached to somewhere behind it which you can use to pull yourself under. The force of the water is tremendous – but standing underneath it was so refreshing, especially after the climb we just had!

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We swam for a while and soon the sun started to get very low. At 5.15 we thought that we had better start climbing down as the last thing we wanted to do was get stranded hundreds of feet up a mountain in the dark. Now, we’re not quite sure how this happened but we came across a rubber tree plantation on the way down, telling us that we had definitely not taken the same path that we did on the way up there! Hoping that we would still end up in the same place somehow, we clambered down past the trees, trying not to kick over the coconut halves that were collecting the sap. To our surprise came out at the bottom of the waterfall! It had taken a mere 20 minutes this way!

Since the light was almost gone we went back to the car to continue our drive around the island, stopping for some dinner in Chaweng and then heading back to the hotel. We were in bed by 11pm, not only because we were worn out from our day, but we also wanted to get up early to drive to the middle of the island and seek out one of the viewpoints that we hadn’t yet managed to fit in…

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