It looks like a postcard, doesn’t it? Picture perfect Ang Thong National Marine Park is one of my favorite places in Thailand: there’s nothing better than camping with your 3 closest friends and having a pristine beach all to yourselves.
Most people will take a day tour from Koh Samui to Koh Wua Talap and other surrounding islands like Koh Mae Koh, spending an hour or two exploring lagoons or kayaking, then the rest of the time eating or in transport between islands. Being the adventurous and knowledgeable teachers we are, however, we opted for the slightly more unusual but totally doable route of camping on Koh Wua Talap for two nights.
You can rent a tent from the park headquarters for 250 baht, or bring your own tent and borrow some sleeping cushions for an extra 50 baht. Either way, you’ll take the tour boat in with the other 40-50 island hoppers, say “sayonara” to the tour guide and tell him you’re going to stay overnight. The large groups clear out by 4:30 pm, and then you get the island all to yourselves, until around 10 or 11 am when groups arrive again.
When you want to go back to Koh Samui, you’ll hop back on the boat and spend the rest of your day doing the same group activities mentioned above. I can’t remember the name of the tour boat company we went with, but they were fantastic because they let us purchase tickets for the boat ride and activities for 800 baht each (and the tour companies near the pier were asking for 1100 to 1400 baht).
Maybe it helped that we showed up so early (around 8 am); it also probably helped that we spoke Thai and weren’t afraid to bargain. I loved the fact that we were treated like all the other passengers and allowed to pig out on free croissants, fruit, massaman curry, and coffee even though we probably paid a lot less than any other person on that boat.
Know before you go:
The most important thing you should know about Koh Wua Talap is that there is a beautiful viewpoint – but the hike is not for the faint of heart or the weak in stamina/shoes. Blake “found” the viewpoint on his own on the first day on the island and his pictures convinced us we had to go – some pictures and a story are here.
The second most important thing you should know is that you can rent kayaks directly from the national park for 500 per kayak per day. One caveat: make sure your kayak is safe and not taking on water before you take off! We may or may not have started sinking within 20 minutes of kayaking. Luckily, there was a beautiful beach around the corner to rest on.
Lastly, you should know that the campground staff is incredibly friendly and awesome. P’Gon welcomed us warmly when he found out that we knew his former coworker (our future landlord!), and he joined us after dinner one night to play his composition, “Don’t Eat My Cat,” on his guitar. We later became acquainted with Doc Wak, who seemed stern and unapproachable at first, but we eventually won him over by — what else — speaking Thai. Last but not least, we met the drunk cook, whose name escapes me. He came to sit with us after dinner and talked a million words a minute in southern Thai, giving us impromptu massages and free food. My favorite part was when he took away my bottle of wine and put it on another table, just so he could refill it himself. Will I ever learn that you should leave your glass full if you don’t want it refilled? Probably not.
Ang Thong is one of those places that I could stay for a long, long time – especially if I brought more snacks and money for food — but if you asked me to go again, I might hesitate because I wouldn’t want to change how perfect those few days were. Believe me when I say that I pinch myself sometimes, thinking about how wonderful and how lucky we are to have the chance to take two boat rides to spend three days in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to – and this is just the beginning of our vacation!
(I’ll also point out that I feel lucky that our kayak didn’t actually sink…although I’m sure the bottom of the ocean is just as gorgeous…)