So I made it back to the hustle and bustle of bangkok. booked myself a combined bus + Ferry ticket down to Ko Tao for the next day - If I'd known I could have booked it for the same day I would have just done that, but instead I spent a night in a cheap guesthouse. Anyway, it broke up the Journey. I left Lampang at about 6pm and arrived at the guesthouse in bangkok at about mid day the next day. After spending the night in bangkok, I got on the bus at about 7pm. It got to Chumpon, the port-town, at about 4am, where we waited until 7am for the ferry. The ferry got to Ko tao at about 11am, so if I'd done all of that in one go it would have been one helluva journey!
At Ko tao I bumped into 3 welsh girls that I met in chiang mai, which was really nice. They left the next day so we all went and had a night out that evening. However, before that (and before getting any sleep, and still half-cut from all the chang I drank at chumpon and on the ferry) I signed onto the open water scuba diving course, watched the instructional safety video, and passed my first test.
Scuba Diving was AMAZING. the course was hard work - started at about 8.30am every morning and finished at about 6pm each evening, by which point everyone was so tired it was just a few beers with dinner and then to bed. Unfortunately most of the coral around Ko Tao was dead, and we didn't see any sharks, but it was still really fun. The act of scuba diving is really relaxing, and gets you almost into a dream state - all you can hear is your breath (you sound like darth vader), and it feels like you're flying, filling/emptying your lungs to float or sink whilst calmly kicking your legs and keeping your arms tucked away.
There was 3 of us on our course, with one dive instructor and one dive master, so it was good teaching. Unfortunately, me and the french dude Jean weren't so good at saving our oxygen, so our dives only lasted about 40minutes. We started at 200bars of pressure in our tanks, and had to surface when we got down to 50bars (which me and Jean got to at roughly the same time). However, when we hit 50bars, the girl we were with still had 90, and the dive instructor still had 150! hopefully I'll get more practise and be able to save my oxygen better.
Anyway, I passed the course, and decided to move on to ko pagnan. I intentionally avoided the full moon party, and arrived about 5 days before the black moon party (the exact opposite of the full moon). I initially decided to avoid haad rin and all my preconceptions of the large crowds of drunk chavs, and stayed a night on the quieter southern coast, ban tai. I immediately regretted this, as it was absolutely dead. My bungalow was a shit hole and full of mosquitos, and there was no one around. at some point during the first sleepless night, I decided to move up to haad rin.
I got to a place called coral bungalows, which was a 5min walk from the haad rin beach (home of the world famous full moon party), and because it was quiet season and so far from full moon, i only paid 300baht for a bungalow which is usually 1000baht, and goes up to 2000baht at full moon in the high season!
Coral bungalows was amazing. I had such a good time, and ended up staying there for something like 11 nights, over which point i moved into about 4 different rooms as I shared with people I met to make it cheaper for all of us. I made a really good group of friends there and got stuck in the lifestyle of waking up at mid-day, chilling by the beach, having dinner, having a few beers, then going out and partying all night, fire-breathing, fire-limbo, fire-skipping... anything to do with playing with fire, we did it at haad rin. We went to the black moon party, which was amazing (particularly because of the "special happy mushroom milkshake" we downed before hand), and had a few pool parties at coral bungalows. When there wasn't a party going on, we just went to haad rin and partied at cactus bar.
The day times were spent at the beach, by the pool, riding scooters around the island, and generally chilling. Ko pangnan is absolutely beautiful.
The staff at coral were all really cool. A couple of times after the pool parties we sat up with them until the early hours of the morning drinking and smoking spliffs. They were all Burmese, so they taught me a few phrases in burmese, and we all made really good friends. Most interestingly, they all had cockney accents! apparently one of them got taken in by a young traveller from east london, who taught him English. He acquired the cockney accent, then got a job at coral bungalows and taught the others to speak english, in the same accent. The crowds of drunk chavs probably helped...
the re-occurring theme of the islands from then on became the infamous bucket. one of these couple probably end the night for a lot of people. however, after two or three, you're not going to sleep until long after dawn! A small, conical bucket - the kind you might make a sand-castle with - gets filled with ice cubes, a 40ml bottle of cheap thai rum (sangsom), a 33ml can of sprite, and a bottle of the life-changing M-150. M-150 is like redbull except stronger... and don't forget that in Thailand the redbull has amphetamines in! this alcohol / super-amphetamine-redbull concoction will relieve you of any hangover, get you in the mood for dancing, drinking, and chatting bollocks on the porch of your bungalow for hours on end...
Luckily, we decided that we'd been on ko pangnan for long enough, and myself and the two girls i'd been sharing a room with decided to make the journey over to the west coast. I avoided Ko Samui, because all I heard about it were bad things