Spring Holiday, Part 3: Koh Pa-Ngan

Have you ever been to Paradise?

Its brightness is startling. It has an abundance of sunshine. The sea, the flowers and the sky have the most beautiful colors you could ever see.

Have you ever been to Paradise?

If you were there you would know what Paradise really is.

Have you ever been to Paradise?

-excerpted from Carolyn A. Helmbrecht’s poem, “Have you ever been to Paradise?”

The first thing you notice about the beach at Haad Salad is the glorious turquoise of the water. It never gets old to me; for sheer natural beauty I posit it is hard to beat tropical waters.

Then you walk out onto the fine white sand, and as you come out from under the shade of the palm trees lining the avenue to the beach, the January sun hits and warms you, and then all you want to do is plop down with your bamboo beach mat, a good book, and a Jason Mraz album and just soak it all up.

If you’re me, you’re also spending a few minutes baffled and amazed by the combination of “January,” “sun,” and “warmth” all being uttered together in a sentence.

Yeah, okay, Koh Pa-Ngan is a tourist spot and yeah, okay it’s best known for the wild Full Moon Party (which I’ll get to in another post) every month, but there’s something to be said for showing up on a tropical beach and having it be exactly like what you imagine vacation should be. Haad Salad is also a quieter spot; there are more families and retirees there than at other spots on the island, and the pace of life on that particular location is very much the slow, relaxed beach culture that is so nice to get to after frenetic and stressful travels.

Highlights include fresh, cold coconuts whacked open with what looked like a meat cleaver and drunk while admiring the gorgeous aquamarine view; snorkeling in the bay and meeting a school of some adorable and curious stripey fish, as well as a number of sea cucumbers and other odd wildlife; a swing tied to a tree that swings out over the water; and spa hour at the little thatched-roof massage hut– the girls got coconut oil massages, and I opted to get a mani/pedi while looking out over the vista, sipping delicious rooiboos tea and snacking on delicious little baby bananas.

Oh, one more note about the snorkeling– unfortunately, the two days we spent snorkeling in Haad Salad were the only chances I got during the vacation, despite lugging the snorkel gear (okay it was only the mask and snorkel, but still) along with us for most of the trip); and that particular beach is not known for its reef system, so most of what we were seeing was just shallow water marine life. Also, the first day we went, the sea lice were out in force and we kept getting stung the whole time we were in the water. It’s not bad, mind you, but still annoying and not very pleasant when you can’t see what on earth is biting you and causing such odd discomfort. We’d been warned that on windy days, you ought to stay out of the water because the jellyfish get blown into the bay (?) so there was mild concern when we first started getting stung about jellyfish; though that was quickly dispelled when we realized a) there was nothing visible and b) Justin told us it was sea lice. Apparently it’s pretty cheap to get SCUBA certified in the islands, so that’s another regret– maybe in May…

Our little bungalow had a hammock out on the porch, but we spent most of our evenings at the hostel’s restaurant. It’s open-air, basically a big porch with tables and chairs as well as a living room setup with couches and a tv, which thankfully was never turned up loud enough to hear from the rest of the tables; there were also a few little– I want to call them “pavilions,” little seating areas like at a tea house with low tables and the Thai-style triangular seating cushions. The restaurant’s curries were absolutely outstanding, and we also all got hooked on their coconut shakes– what I assume to be basically sweetened coconut milk blended with ice. Yum!

I’ll stop here– next up, Full Moon Party and all its attendant insanity.

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Posted on February 14, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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