A lot of westerners seemed to find the same low far on Air Asia that I had. The flight to Surat Thani, a ferry ride away from the island and the full moon party, was only an hour long and probably about half full - mostly with westerners going to the party.
Despite knowing that I haven't been washing my own clothes nearly as often as I would have been back in Canada and not getting consistent hot showers recently on the trip, sitting on that plane for an hour it struck me just how much backpackers stink. I think every backpack should come with a free stick of deodorant.
Very conveniently there was a bus waiting at the airport to take us all to the ferry docks. It's almost as if this is a regular occurrence. I hadn't realized how far out of the way the airport was as it took over an hour to get to the docks and Surat Thani isn't a large town with traffic problems - it was purely a distance issue.
The boat ride to the island was uneventful but I'm glad I hadn't seen the vehicle deck until we where docked at the island. I think it was a bit over-loaded, especially considering the age and condition of the ferry.
Full moon party that night was as expected...pretty intense. Met a few guys on the taxi ride over. Locals say the crowds where pretty low, about five or six thousand people out whereas during peak period upwards of 12,000 or more can be on the beach. Still, it was good. I'm not sure where an extra six thousand people would fit on the beach so it was probably better this way. No deaths this event, so that was another plus. Usually at least one person dies at the full moon party - be it from drugs, fights, drownings, etc...(usually due, in part, to copious amounts of alcohol being consumed).
Rode back to the hotel hanging onto the back (literally) of a taxi (ie - a truck with two benches inside a canopy on the back filled with people) around 5am, just in time to watch the sun rise over the hills of Koh Pha-Ngan.
I got up one afternoon and found a flyer for a muay thai boxing match on the island. I was intrigued - it was something that had to be seen in person, at least once - especially IN Thailand.
The ticket was 500 baht, about $16, for six fights. I later found out that locals only pay 100 baht but even at the foreigner price, it was much cheaper than I would have paid in Bangkok or any other bit city in Thailand.
The fight ring was down an alley off a street in Thong Sala, the biggest "town" on the island. The nice thing was that, because this was a fight on the island - and not in a big city - the crowd was probably less than a hundred people and anyone could have "ringside" seats if they wanted to. It was a pretty informal setup.
Grabbed a beer, found my plastic seat, and sat down. Very nice. I've seen thai boxing of TV but this was pretty intense in person - and so close. I would not want to piss off anyone in Thailand after watching this. One event featured two girls, maybe 16 to 19 years old. Either one of them could have easily kicked my ass or most people that I know, pretty easily.
The feature match at the end was actually very good - both the fighters where much more professional than the earlier fights since they tended to be younger than the two guys in the final fight. Only one fight, the girls, lasted the full rounds and that one ended in a draw. The other five ended with a knockout, some of which where very brutal. It was interesting to watch and something that has to be seen in Thailand but probably not something I would go to again.
After the match, headed back to the resort and met up with a couple from Calgary, Scottish bloke I had met at the full moon party and a couple of drunk Swedish girls looking for a party. We ended up at a nearby "club" called Aqua. Really a high end pub but it had a cool feature - a swimming pool. The next thing I knew, it was another sunrise as we ended up swimming in the pool after the bar closed. Good times but watching all these sunrises in person is starting to affect my sleeping pattern.
I ended up renting a scooter, again, to check out some areas away from the resort and the nearby town. Only a couple of paved roads on the island - one goes partway around the coast and the other cuts through the center of the island. I headed up the coast road to check out some sites.
First 15 or 20 minutes were uneventful and I stopped for some gas at a small roadside petrol vendor. Five minutes after filling up the back tire started to feel weird...almost flat-like. This wasn't good. Pulled over and walked the bike to a nearby cafe where the owner summoned a bike repair person. Diagnosis - flat tire that would cost 250 baht to fix, or about $8. no worries. I got to sit around and chat with the owner and her friend while the guy went to get his supplies.
1/2 hour later or so and I was back on the open (and narrow) road. Ko Pha-Ngan is very hilly, as I had discovered hanging off the end of a 'taxi' truck coming back from the full moon party a few days earlier, but scooty the third had some pep. I got to a couple areas on the north side of the island but then the road started turning bad. Pavement to gravel with huge potholes and cave-ins on some pretty steep inclines. I wasn't far from the center of the island and a supposed paved road but I didn't feel like chancing it so I turned around and went back the same way.
The next day, when I returned the bike, the front tire had somehow gone flat overnight. suspicious. I had to pay 200 baht to fix that, which I found out, is the local price I should have paid for the back tire. 200 baht to rent the bike and 450 baht to fix both friggin' tires. geesh.
Otherwise, I pretty much just took it easy at the resort. A swimming pool was literally right outside my room and it had a swim-up bar - 'nuff said. And, if I got bored of that, the beach was only a few steps from the pool.
My return flight was at 10:45am from Surat Thani on the mainland so to save some money on accommodation I took the night boat to the mainland. It left at 10pm and got in at 4:30am, six and a half hours later. When I originally came to the island the ferry only took two and a half hours. Something didn't add up here.
The night boat was old. very very old. No cars, just passengers and the passenger deck consisted of single mattresses on the floor, one after another. If I got an hours sleep I'd have been lucky.
Not surprisingly, the boat was greeted by a plethora of taxis when it arrived at 4:30 in the morning, full of disorientated backpackers. With nothing else to do I grabbed the cab to the airport and arrived with more than a few hours to kill. I guess the first flight wasn't until mine - 10:45 - and the airport didn't open until 8:45. It gave me a good opportunity to watch the third sunrise of the week. Granted, this was the first one not in some way viewed because of heavy alcohol consumption.