It was a long trip but we finally arrived at a nice hotel on Ko Phang Ngan. A few hours later, Paddy, Ola, Tomek, and Iza came as well. Now there are nine of us. This island is about 15km across, very green and scenic, has some beautiful beaches, and is known for its legendary parties and buckets.
Ah buckets. It’s exactly what you would imagine — a small pail with which a child would play in the sand. However, instead of being filled with sand it gets filled with ice, cola, red bull, and booze. The actual ingredients change but the kick it delivers stays constant. With a handful of straws, the bucket is always ready to please and make the night longer, and more fun. What it does to the morning depends on how many buckets you have spent the prior evening with.
Any talk of Ko Phang Ngan cannot go past three paragraphs without mentioning the parties. The biggest is the full moon party. Giant beachside speakers, abundant buckets, loud music, fluorescent body paint, and of course the full moon combine into an event which goes on until the late hours of the morning. But since usually there is only one full moon a month, and people want to party, there are black moon parties, half moon parties, and Shiva moon parties. When no easily identifiable phase of the moon is gracing the sky, there are plain old pool parties. And when there is no named party per se, people are still on the beach listening to music and drinking buckets.
When we were there we had the good luck of having the black moon party. By a strange twist of fate it was right in our front yard. There was everything I mentioned earlier, and there was also fire. Flaming devil sticks, twirling balls of fire, burning jump ropes, and fire breathing provided hot entertainment. We stayed up until well past the sunrise.
One of my long time dreams was to dive with whales or whale sharks. Every now and again we were told that whale sharks can be found at some of the dive sites were were at. However, these are fairly elusive creatures and seeing one is a rare treat. Sail Rock is one of the dive sites where these giant fish occasionally make an appearance, so we decided to go diving.
Luck was on our side. When we got to Sail Rock, people had already seen a whale shark. For us it took until the second dive, but the experience was phenomenal. This particular shark was not very large as far as whale sharks are concerned. It measured about for to five meters in length. It is still a magnificent beast. Whale sharks are very docile and essentially harmless, as they are filter feeders and mostly eat plankton. They swim around with their wide goofy mouth open and swoop up water. They are not afraid of divers and can be approached. I thought that the Komodo manta rays were the best dive so far. Now the moment where the whale shark swam at me and passed within a foot or so will have to contend. The emotions cannot be described.
When not diving or partying, we spent copious amounts of time on the beach. The one which was in front of our latter hotel was simply fantastic. The sand was fine and light. The water was pleasantly cool and unbelievably clear. When it came time to leave, as it inevitably always comes time to, some did not want to go.
We are still in Thailand today, but are en route to Cambodia. We will most likely stay there for about two weeks, coming back to Thailand early in January.