Having arrived on the island of Koh Pha Ngan, we decided to try out what everyone else does on the islands – ride motorcycles!
Rental was easy – bikes are available everywhere and at just 200 baht (about £4) each for 24 hours, they’re a really affordable way to get around and explore the island.
For this first rental, we were only supplied with 1 helmet per motorcycle (the bikes were delivered to our hotel and they didn’t realise we’d be carrying an extra passenger each). We were actually surprised to learn later that it is against the law in Thailand to ride on a motorbike without a helmet – surprising because apart from most fellow tourists, we haven’t seen anyone in Thailand wearing a helmet on their bike! And you risk a 500 baht fine is payable if stopped by the police.
Anyway, because we’re young (ish!) and a bit reckless (sorry mum and my neuro-ITU friends!), we decided to ride anyway, giving the kids the protective headgear…
And it was great fun! I’ve never ridden a motorbike before and unbelievably, this is something that had completely bypassed Aaron! I have ridden on the back of friend’s bikes in the South of France and LOVED it! And after those experiences, I talked for a while about getting a moped back home for the commute to work… But to date, I’ve never actually driven one. And for my virgin ride, I had a kid on the back too! Eeek! But anyway: after learning how to start the engine, we pulled away, with me, driving a very slowly!
Koh Pha Ngan is a small island, measuring around 40km around the perimeter, and it’s not hard to cover most of it in just a few hours – even if you ride slowly! The island is part of the Samui archipelago and is found just off the south east coast, in the Gulf of Thailand, between Koh Samui and Koh Tao. Most famous for its Full Moon parties, Koh Pha Ngan was the inspiration behind Alex Garland’s book (and later film adaptation) ‘The Beach‘. A lot of the island is protected National Park, much of it inaccessible mountainous terrain, so most of the infrastructure and population is based around the coastline.
On the bikes, we were trying to locate Bottle Beach which is supposed to be one of the best beaches in Thailand. Its quite hidden however, and despite our best efforts, including a very hot walk down a canyon, we just couldn’t find it! What we did find however, was Coconut Beach; a beautiful place, hidden away and not at all touristy. We stopped off and had a very refreshing, well deserved swim after all the hiking!
Our ride covered much of the island and included riding past several elephants being washed down near the side of the road- not something you see every day! We also nearly ran over a large lizard, which was scampering across the track, just as we were approaching!
Later on, safely back at the hotel, both kids couldn’t decide who they preferred riding with the most: Daddy, who drove fast and let them take control of the throttle every-now-and-again? Or Mummy, whom they agreed “wasn’t as good at driving as dad…” but the fear factor of this almost made it as exciting! :-O