Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wasping from Singapore to Thailand - Part 2: Beyond the Full Moon Parties, Koh Phangan



6th August 2013, Day 4, Don Sak to Koh Phangan

We got to appreciate the resort when there was daylight. It was surrounded by limestone mountains and forest. Giant sunflowers and roses adorned the garden in front of the reception. The field right in front of our rooms was too enticing for me not to ride a bit of off road.




The ferry port was just two minutes ride away from the resort. We had to queue up with other vehicles to purchase the ferry ticket.



Airing the boots that were wetted from last night's rain. The smell got Ah Weng pretty high.

Met another Vespa rider who lives in Koh Phangan.

At Koh Phangan pier, we were received by BamB of Warpigs Motorcycle Club. Our mutual friend, Jap introduced him to us. After a nerve wrecking ride on narrow steep undulating roads plus a minor mishap with Ah Weng, we arrived at Seagarden Beach Resort & Spa. There is bike parking just right in front of our rooms. Ah Weng reenacted how he slowly wheelied up the slope and landed in the drain, pinned down by the weight of the scooter, to our amusement. Fortunately he was not badly injured.



BamB runs the Backpackers Information Centre in Koh Phangan and is also the British Consular agent. He has been living in Koh Phangan for 10 years.

Koh Phangan is famous for none other than the Full Moon Party. Every month during full moon, Haad Rin beach is thronged with 20 to 30 thousands partygoers, mostly Westerners. The party is wild from what my friend described - music, dance, fire rope skipping and also a drug culture. 

On other days, the island is pretty serene and its beautiful beaches and other attractions are often overlooked by many.  Most travellers just pop by Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party and after a night of boozing, just cannot do anything else there.

After we settled in our rooms, BamB gave us a run through of Koh Phangan over beer and shared about living in Koh Phangan. He also introduced us to Rosie who has been working there for the past 2 years. She likes the island but then told us about the dark side of living in Koh Phangan as a Westerner.

The immediate impression of Caucasians in Koh Phangan is they are tourist, rich, transient visitors who does not return, "scammable". But for Rosie, she came to the island with nothing and it was not easy having to live there with that discrimination. It is like the American black and white discrimination but reversed situation this time round.

She gets charged higher price for things here than the locals. BamB added on, he wanted to buy a bottle of antiseptic at the pharmacy and was quoted 260 Baht. When his wife, who is a Thai, went to buy it, it cost her only 60 Baht.

BamB did not expect us to be coming in scooters. He reminisced about the 60s, the Mods and Rockers era in the UK, they hated each other. BamB identified himself as a Rocker. Things got violent back then. They used to drop bricks from bridge hoping it will hit their rivalries. It was madness!

The Warpigs Clubhouse, Pirates of Koh Phangan.



The website that BamB has set up.
We headed down to 'My Friend Restaurant' which BamB recommended. They have Thai and Western food. I order the Green Curry. I must say I like it, the flavour was rich backed by the creaminess of coconut milk.



And my all time favourite Thai dessert, Mango Sticky Rice....



A man on this kup kia stopped outside the restaurant and was selling ice cream from his top box. We bought 2 for 20 baht each. (Later BamB told us that it only cost his wife 10 baht. See! ) I think it is coconut ice cream topped with peanuts and corns. Beneath the ice cream was sweet sticky rice. The peanuts rendered the ice cream a very interesting touch. I love it.



Compliments left by customers from all over the world

BamB brought us to a Italian restaurant ran by an Italian called Johnny. Opportunity to practise italian, so I seize it. I asked for recommendation for a pasta. He suggested Ravioli with Ricotta Cheese in Mushroom Cream Sauce.









We chatted over beer after dinner. BamB talked about the drug culture in Koh Phangan. With corruption rampant on the island, it is very difficult to curb down the sale of drugs there. It is illegal but dealers have the money to pay the police off so they will not disturb them anymore. And yeah, they said they arrested people for dealing drugs but those arrested maybe only scapegoats who are paid to get arrested. So, the masterminds remain hovering around.

Earlier this year, during the New Year Party, a British was shot dead. BamB showed us where. The bullet was intended for someone else and unfortunately the young man became collateral damage of local gangs rivalry. Tourists getting killed as a result of fights is not something new. People get high, drunk and hot headed at party. If you see fights there, get out of the way.

The following morning, we woke up early to catch the sunrise and also to take some photos.



BamB brought us for a round the island ride and bought us to many beaches and Phang Waterfall.

I think he is the owner of a beach bar. He really takes care of the beach by cleaning it up.
Rode some crazy bumpy slopes, two Vespas fell, just to get here.
Malibu Beach
Feels like Alice in Wonderland

We also popped by a diving centre belonging to one of his friend, Chang. Chang's girlfriend, Te was there and we sat down and chatted over beer. I noticed that in many of the restaurants and shops in Thailand, there were photos of King Rama IX on their walls. The diving centre was no exception. Ah Weng was previously given an amulet encasing a Thai note which reveals the King's face. He asked Te why he is regarded almost as a deity. Te said that it can bring tears to her eyes if she speaks about what he has done for the people. Further reading up about the King, he really works hard for the people and even developed agricultural and environmental patents which benefits the rural people.

BamB told us he used to be an anti-monarchist (ironically working for the Queen now). He eventually realise the significance of a monarchy especially after living in Thailand. The Monarch serves as a beacon of hope for people especially when times are bad.

While one can be very strong in his or her views and opinions, it also takes strength to learn and understand from the opposing stand. To be able to put down past opinions amidst those pride then accept the new stand, takes a higher notch of courage.

I really enjoying listening to BamB talk. From our conversations, I can tell he is a very wise, smart and driven man. His youthful looks do not attest to his age but his words of wisdom do. Can you believe he is closing to his 50s?






Phang Waterfall without the water.
Unfortunately, Phang waterfall was dry so we did not get a chance to have a dip. Afterwhich, BamB brought us to his home and introduced his wife Ratchi, cute son Jorge and his 3 dogs, Amari, Bomber and Chopper. We just stay around and played with the dogs and Jorge. Before we took our leaves, I took a polariod photo of them as a family with our scooters as my form of appreciation.








Ah Weng, the dog and kid magnet.
Sharon and Ah Weng went back to the resort while Wei Jie and I head down to Amsterdam bar to catch the sunset. The bar was situated at the top of the hill. The road up was very very very steep. I did not engage the correct gear, think I hit neutral so I rolled back and fell. Bummer! No biggies. Back at the resort, Ah Weng told us that Sharon also fell during the ride back. Hahaha... All of us have at least one fall in our scoresheet. Ah Weng is still the top scorer.

View from Amsterdam Bar



While buying some drinks, Wei Jie spotted some suspicious-looking things in little bags at the counter.

On our way back, we rode past an accident. A lady, I believe to be a tourist judging from her brown hair, was lying facedown on the road, motionless. Apparently, there was a collision between two motorcycles. In Koh Phangan, one does not need a motorcycle license to rent one. I saw tourists riding like they did not know how to and a couple on a scooter covered with bandages.

"These people just don't listen, even after they fell, they still.....,"BamB said when I told him what I saw.

BamB said serious accidents like this happens on a daily basis. Deaths are not uncommon. Many motorcycle rental shops' business are going to be severely affected if the requirement of license to rent is strictly imposed. Even it is imposed, it is difficult to stop bribery from happening as well.

One thing dawned on me as to why corruption can hinder the progression of a nation. Improvement like road safety in this aspect cannot happen if there is no control on these motorcycle rental. Wiping drugs off the island cannot happen if the authority continues to be bribed into keeping it in.

Johnny posing in his restaurant
The friendly pit bull from next door.
After a day of riding, we returned to our room and I was appalled to find out there was no water after a big dump in the toilet. No water for flushing, for washing your hand, for showering. That is Koh Phangan for you. Before we checked into our rooms, there was some problem with water as well and it was supposed to be fixed.

I just went to sleep, harbouring remnants of dirt and sweat on my skin. Wei Jie had to hold his wastes until the next morning when the water supply resumed.

It should be Bye Bye Koh Phangan.

Sea Garden Spa & Resort

137 Moo6, Haad Rin, Bantai, Koh Phangan, Suratthani, Ko Pha-ngan, St, Thailand ‎
Tel: +66 77 375 281 ‎
Part 5: Phuket & Soi Dog Foundation
Part 6: Top Rope Climbing in Krabi, Satun
Part 7: Wang Kelian, Penang, Malacca

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