Ang Thong National Park (Codename : 'Operation Avoid the Moon')

Ang Thong Travel Blog

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Samui harbour scene

Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your Internet Service Providers.  Today I look upon you and the world with new eyes… but only because I managed to roll over on the night boat to Samui travel guide">Koh Samui and flatten my glasses last night.   “Darn it, they’d lasted 2 years!”. 

Anyways.  Enough silliness.  I gotta focus for today is the launch day for Mu Ko Angthong or Angthong National Park.  A journey codenamed ‘Operation Avoid the Moon’.  Yes, after many a long week of consideration and deliberation my darling sis and partner, following a last minute change of plan from Koh Tao have settled on Koh Phangan as the venue for our reunion.

Fishing boats ahead of their days departure
  Lovely and God love ‘em… only problem being is it’s Full Moon!  An unhappy coincidence of timing (for me).  To quote my e-mail to my sister earlier this morning, if we’re lucky all the ‘teeny chav-packers, drunks, pill-poppers and thieves will have dissipated by the time we arrive on the 12th‘.  Owing to a Buddhist national holiday the Big Party (of which Koh Phangan is the epicentre these days) is being deferred from the 9th to the 10th this month.  “Yikes!” that’s tonight!

Yes full moon, in full and terrible bloom with all its peculiar effects upon the backpacker species.  It is well known and observed to turn a perfectly well meaning, free-loading, beer-chugging pseudo dippy-trippy-hippy bunch of schmucks into… oh it’s just ghastly!…well, precisely the same rabble actually.

  Just even drunker and more drug-addled than usual. “Aaaaagh!”.  The stuff of nightmares (for me).  All caused by the mysterious corruptive powers of Lady Lune’s milky magnificent influence.  Drunk on moon beams (and moon shine).  Full Moon on Phangan is one of the top 5 things I listed to avoid like the plague whilst in Thailand along with Phuket, Pattaya, Pat Pong (“Oops! Went there.”), and surgically inverted penises.

So ya get the idea.  An encounter I’m looking to avoid.  So a change of plan at the last minute sees me boomerang off the night ferry to Koh Samui from Surat Thani (arriving at 5.45am) onto the 8.30am boat to the Ang Thong National Park for which I purchase a ticket only half and hour after docking at Samui.

  “Phew!”.  ‘Operation Avoid the Moon’ is successfully off the ground ladies & gents!

The Ang Thong National Park is a collection of forty two little predominantly limestone islands sat within an 82 kilometre square designated marine park area of the Gulf of Thailand between the mainland and Koh Samui.  About 2 hours by boat from the latter.  A couple of tour boats make a daily round trip to two islands of principle interest within the Park.  Snorkelling and kayaking are potential activities for punters and meals and drinks on the day are included.  The real trick I think - which almost nobody does - is to stop at the main island and Park HQ Ko Wua Tulap overnight.  Your ticket is still valid for the onward leg of the ‘tour’ and return to Samui the following day.

  This way as soon as all the day-trippers p*ss off to the next island (which happens after a ridiculously brief 90 mins or so on Ko Wua Talap!) you have the entire place, unspoilt, hushed and to yourself in its entirety.  No need to rush up to this or that viewpoint with a load of other sweaty grunts getting in your way and in your pictures.  No need to dash around.  Just relax.  Feel the island and all its nature and beauty breathe a sigh of relief in time with you once you‘re alone together.  Take it nice and easy. 

There are various forms of accommodation (huts/ bungalows etc) at the Park HQ, and I will be bunking down in one of their tents for 150 Baht (£1.50).  50 Baht extra for some nominal bedding, but no need as this increasingly resourceful little backpacker’s dried out the life jacket provided to him by the tour company and will use that as a pint-sized mattress instead.

  Clothes bag for a pillow.  Perfect.

So basically I just chill, reading and taking in the scenery on pretty little Ao Kah beach whilst everyone else dashes off for their 40 minutes kayaking and 20 minutes (crap no visibility) snorkelling or to brave the ascent of the island’s chief viewing point (doing both activities pretty much impossible in the time allotted).  Soon enough they’ve all jiggered off and aside from the skeleton crew staff here at the HQ I now have the entire island to myself!

First stop I clamber all the way up to the viewing point near the top of island; the Pha Jun-Jaras Nature Trail.  Whilst there is a good rope ‘banister’ to cling to and pull up on the entire length of the ascent, make no bones that this is a strenuous little 40 minute plus clamber.

The tents at Ang Thong (my accommodation for the night)
  There are easy and pleasing viewpoint ‘catch your breath’ platforms at several intermediate points but the final scramble to THE viewing point is certainly not for the fainter of heart.  The ropes are there to assist again but the rocks at this point have somewhat the consistency of razorblades caked in dried toothpaste.  A little painful at times but plenty of footholds.  

The view from the summit though, north over the visible spread of the Angthong islands immediately remedies you of any bodily fatigue by feeding the soul one of the finest views I would imagine probably available in southern Thailand.  Incredible!  And as with all those ’postcard’ panoramas, there’s no beating seeing this vision, this spectacle, taking in its colours as the natural light bathes upon it, breathing the winds and air that wreathe around it, way up high with all your senses in situ.

The incredible spread of the Ang Thong National Park
  Visible before you  Ko Pai Luak, Ko Pee, Ko Mae Ko, Ko Saamsao and many, many more islets spreading into the distance.  Like a little scattering of semi-precious stones upon a velvet turquoise carpet.  Blissfully alone, I just stand and take in the scene for quite some long time before descending again to relax upon the powdery white beach, undisturbed, reading my book and swimming with the shade of the many giant coconut palms above me.

This place is just such a perfect contrast to the insanity I suspect is cranking up on Koh Phangan right now as I unwind in Angthong.  My SpicyThai pal Jon (NYC) made great efforts to attend Full Moon on Phangan in January just.  It quote unquote “wrecked” him.  A scar on his neck from jumping through a hoop of fire and a stay in hospital for a full course of rabies injections after a dog he drunkenly stepped on at the party later returned the favour with a bite were some of his more noteworthy injuries and losses on the night.

There's a better pic of me up here, but I place this one as a reminder to myself of the moment I realised I had begun to lose a little too much wieght on my travels...seeking to remedy this at the time of writing.
  So yeah, whilst nominally I’m all for en masse moments of human collectivity, celebration and euphoria and ok, the occasional “paaaarty man”, I am officially 7 days into my Thirties and therefore fully licensed to start sniping in a cynical, exaggerated (and slightly envious) manner at the cultural car-crash that such events seem to be to me.  Getting p*ssed, breaking one’s camera and dancing on broken glass all night, not my idea of fun no more…

… nope I’d much rather be where I am right now!  On top of the world again.  I climbed all the way back to the viewpoint summit to watch sundown over the Angthong islands.  It’s so, so calming to feel it’s nothing more complicated right now than just you and whatever nature conjures for your entertainment.

The scary final rope climb to the top of the island.
  Butterflies flit about.  Strange insectoid noises and rhythms pierce the still, silent air.  The trees to my left rustle and I get the briefest glimpse of one of the island’s star inhabitants, a Dusky Spectacled Langur monkey.  His little black face with comedy white ‘spectacle’ goggles visible around his eyes for a second before he disappears into the forest canopy.  A small cluster of evening clouds, a little while gathered here abouts head gently over west, gathering pace as if they wish to catch up with the sun and cushion his fall as he tumbles through the evening haze towards the ocean.  A wreathe of smoke puffs up from the carpet of palms.  Signal of a waste fire burning at the HQ down below.  A solitary red kayaker floats, stock still way, way, way below upon the darkening turquoise sea, its colour set off captivatingly in the same manner the red trim of the boat from Ko Samui this morning had blazed against the same waters.
  To the west, a few fishing boats pull their nets behind them and chug towards the sunset.  Maybe the fish are chasing the sun too?  A mean looking bee, black and blazing-orange abdomen, buzzes for high flung nectar, comfortingly far from me.  The gentle distant ‘putt-putt-putt’ of a local’s Long Tail boat breaks the silence accompanied by evening bird song.

Everything’s aaaall mine!  The white sands, the cool evening breeze,the green green trees and turquoise seas so you can take your Full Moon party people and… and… and well, yes… you can shove it where the sun don’t shine!

Stevie_Wes says:
Cheers bSchu, yeah it's a lovely place just to chill for 24 hours in great surroundings without too much of the surrounding Thai island chaos. That's not to say it's untouristy - it most definitely is, but it depends on the season, and mostly Ang Thong gets the day-trippers stop for a few hours and then they breeze away. It'd been cool to stay another day and kayak around the atols actually (probably with a guide) but I had to be moving on at that time. (Take food/ snacks out of season!)
Posted on: Apr 20, 2011
bSchu says:
Incredible blog, you really had a great idea to stay the night. I've added this to my must do list for Thailand.
Posted on: Apr 18, 2011
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Samui harbour scene
Samui harbour scene
Fishing boats ahead of their days …
Fishing boats ahead of their days…
The tents at Ang Thong (my accommo…
The tents at Ang Thong (my accomm…
The incredible spread of the Ang T…
The incredible spread of the Ang …
Theres a better pic of me up here…
There's a better pic of me up her…
The scary final rope climb to the …
The scary final rope climb to the…
Early morning, Ko Samui ferry port.
Early morning, Ko Samui ferry port.
Beautifully painted boat prow (Ko …
Beautifully painted boat prow (Ko…
Protective flower offering tied to…
Protective flower offering tied t…
Ang Thong boat (detail)
Ang Thong boat (detail)
Approaching the larger attols of t…
Approaching the larger attols of …
Approaching our destination
Approaching our destination
A cetation skeleton housed in the …
A cetation skeleton housed in the…
Sun going down over ang thong
Sun going down over ang thong
The Little Red Kayaker and the sea.
The Little Red Kayaker and the sea.
Portrait by headlamp.
Portrait by headlamp.
Full moon over Ang Thong.
Full moon over Ang Thong.
Ang Thong
photo by: Stevie_Wes