Island Hopping – Part Four – Ang Thong Marine Park Posted by sasha on Apr 13, 2011 in Travel, Uncategorized
As I mentioned in the short video about Koh Tao, traveling around Thailand is a piece of cake, with an abundance of travel agencies all over the country. When island hopping on the Gulf Coast, there are plenty of options for interesting day trips in case you get bored with the beach bum lifestyle. For our last day on Koh Pha-Ngan, we decided to head out to the Ang Thong National Marine Park. Translated as “golden bowl”, Ang Thong is a stunning archipelago of 42 islands about an hour’s boat ride away from either Koh Pha-Ngan or Koh Samui.
The scenery is breathtaking and there’s plenty of fun to be had on a visit to Ang Thong, but be prepared to deal with massive crowds of tourists. On our visit, it seemed as if every single tour group from the various islands all decided to start the day out at the exact same place – the Ko Mae Ko (Mother Island). Encircled on all sides by limestone cliffs is the Emerald Lagoon, a beautiful seawater lake in the middle of the island. With steep, narrow staircases as the only means to catch a view of the lagoon, you can imagine the mess that ensues when hundreds of fat, out of shape Western tourists attempt to see it at the same time. Through some stealth maneuvering, we were able to shimmy our way in and out of the throngs of people to admire the pristine water, albeit for a fleeting moment.
Next up, we headed to Koh Wua Talap (“sleeping cow island”) for lunch and some fun on the beach. Unfortunately for our group, the boat we came in on experienced some engine problems, and our guides would be occupied with repair work for the remainder of the day. Our day trip had been packaged as a snorkeling/kayaking adventure, and most people signed up hoping to swim with the fish in some crystal clear water. With our technical difficulties, this became impossible. Not surprisingly, the lack of snorkeling would cause quite a bit of commotion later on. Thankfully, a family of monkeys (Spectacled Langurs) scampering across the beach provided a good distraction for a short while.
While some in our group chose to spend the day whining and complaining about the absence of quality snorkeling, I opted for some solo adventuring. With our guides working on the boat and the rest of the group lounging on the beach, I wandered off and found a hiking trail that claimed to offer excellent views of the entire marine park. The rocky and muddy path proved to be a bit of a challenge in my cheap plastic flip-flops, but I managed to get up to the 200 meter mark to snap a few photos. I would have continued on to the top if not for fear of being left behind and missing out on the kayaking.
It was a good thing I headed down when I did, as Rachel was about one minute away from giving up on me and heading out in the kayak with one of the guides. We cruised around for a while, admiring the many islands and the interesting rock formations. One particular island’s strange shape has given it the nickname of the Praying Monkey Island. Can you spot the spiritual chimp?
Although the snorkeling part of our trip didn’t work out, I still enjoyed our visit to the marine park. For those planning a trip here in the future, I’d recommend searching around a bit for a tour that stays overnight. There are bungalows on the Sleeping Cow Island, and you can even camp out if you so desire. Having two days or more to explore the islands should give you more time to explore, and with a variety of caves, lagoons, beaches, and hiking trails, you should have plenty of options for entertaining yourself in case your boat breaks down.
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