This isn’t the usual sort of post that I write, but I needed to share the stunning experience I had with some friends in Thailand. There are certain days when you wonder how you’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by such amazing natural scenery. This was one of those days.
We’d been staying on Koh Samui, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, about an hour’s flight from Bangkok, when we decided to hire a boat and explore the surrounding islands. There were a dozen of us friends, so it didn’t seem too extravagant to get our own speedboat (ok, it was a bit extravagant, but you need to do these things sometimes, don’t you?).
I was expecting a pleasant day of swimming, snorkeling and a few beers on a boat. What I was not prepared for was the beauty of the islands, rising from the water like an archipelago of Poseidons overseeing their kingdom. Proud, timeless and shimmering under the burning sun, the striking rock faces melted into unkempt jungle that met golden beaches at the waterline. And at times it seemed as if they were ours, and ours alone, to explore.
Our guide for the day was ‘Tony’, a name which was probably anglicised for our benefit, seeing as he introduced the other crewman as ‘Tony’ as well. But both Tonys were as Thai as could be and knew these islands as they know a home they’re proud to show off to any interested tourists.
There are 42 islands in the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, an area of about 100 km2 of which about a fifth is land. Its environment has been protected by government decree since 1980 but long before that is was attracting visitors in search of a temporal paradise. It’s here that Alex Garland set his novel ‘The Beach’ on an uncharted island where a group of travellers decided there was no point travelling anymore because they had found their nirvana.
You can kind of understand why he chose it as the location. There’s something about being out on the islands that makes you feel like the rest of the world doesn’t exist and even if it did you would never want to go back to it. There was a serenity about our day that’s hard to find, and that makes it even more magical when you do.
Although the island are now a popular tourist attraction and we saw plenty of other boats doing the same as us, there were also large tracts of time were we were all alone. Snorkeling off one island, surrounded by an enormous school of fish close enough to touch was a highlight. As was the ‘discovery’ of our own private beach, nestled in amongst a few small islands.
You really do have to pinch yourself sometimes.
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