Tag Archives: currents

Kayak to Koh Nangyuan

Off the North West of the island of Koh Tao, there lies another much smaller privately owned island of Koh Nangyuan.  Since being on Koh Tao for the past couple of months now, I’ve always thought to go visit Koh Nangyuan as I’d heard spectacular things about it.  Of course it has popular spots for diving and snorkeling, but it also has a bit of hiking and provides beautiful views looking back on Koh Tao.  To get there however one must either go on a snorkel/diving tour or hire a taxi boat.  Since I was on my own I couldn’t justify paying the price for a taxi boat, however I knew that Anna (my neighbor in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica and whom I’d visited in Scotland and she’d visited me in Italy) was coming for a 5 week trip to Thailand.  So I waited for her to come to do some of the activities that aren’t near as fun solo as with a traveling buddy.

When Anna first arrived we were absolutely lazy.  I stopped doing Muay Thai, we slept in until 10 every day, had cocktails nightly on Sairee beach and generally lounged about.  When I’m on my own I’m in travel mode which means saving every penny and taking advantage of every day.  But when a friend arrives who is on vacation mode, the spending increases and the relaxing skyrockets!  Isn’t that what people do on vacation??  After the first week however we snapped to and started actually planning activities that extended beyond reading books and napping on the beach.  Afterall, there is literally so much to do and see on this teeny 21 square km island that it’s impressive!

One of the activities I saved for her visit was to visit Koh Nangyuan.  But instead of going there the “conventional” way, we opted to kayak there :).  Deb and Rick (friends I’d made on the island who own my favorite coffee and sandwich shop on the island, Through the Looking Glass) suggested where to go to rent the kayaks.  So semi-early one day after a couple of cups of coffee, Anna and I made our way to Wind Beach for the kayak rental.  For 600 baht we rented a double kayak complete with life jackets and a dry bag for the entire day.  We were supposed to give something as a deposit for the rental (passport- though recently I heard it’s actually illegal for people in Thailand to hold your passport, monetary deposit, room key, something!) but as we didn’t arrive THAT prepared, after a few minutes the guy simply said, “no problem, just write your name, where you stay on the island and where you from”.  Good thing!

We packed the kayak with our stuff and a large plastic bottle of water, snapped on the life vests and headed out to sea!  I’d only done sea kayaking once before in my life and that was years ago in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica in a single kayak to boot.  Riding in a double kayak is a teeny bit different.  First off communication is KEY!!  For if one person is paddling right and the other left, well no one would get anywhere!  Since Anna is similar in nature to myself however, even when we did goof up or get out of sync, we simply laughed it up and got back in communication.  It did take probably the first 10 minutes or so for us to completely organize ourselves with our respective duties on the kayak (Anna in the back would call out commands- left, right, steering!!- and I in the front would look out for obstacles) but once we did we rocked it out!

The morning sea while not insanely choppy did have quite a few waves to overcome.  The channel between Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan is often frequented by passing dive boats, tour boats and taxi boat traffic which added to the waves, but we took it all in stride.  Currents were another thing to contend with as we found ourselves often being spun toward land so we had to paddle to the left much more than to the right, which of course exhausted that side faster.

We crossed the channel safely however and then were faced with a new question… Where are we supposed to park this thing over there??  We weren’t given any instruction when we left so who knew where it was appropriate to land… The first little bay area we reached, just next to the pier where the boats came in, was where we decided to go and we very slowly and carefully navigated our way to shore.  I say “slowly and carefully” because just beneath the surface were tons and tons of coral and sea slugs/cucumbers!  We had to paddle very shallowly as well so we wouldn’t knock any corals and navigating became a bit trickier to avoid the living marine life.  We thankfully made it to shore without incident to marine life however and pulled the kayak to dry land.

It just seems that each beach that I’ve been to in Thailand just gets more and more beautiful than the next.  Koh Nangyuan is no exception!!  The structure of the island is essentially two small island connected by a sandbar which on either side exists beautiful ocean bays full of a ridiculously lush array of sea life!  We immediately had to get in the water to cool off and do a bit of snorkeling.  The snorkel didn’t last terribly long that first time however because the fish in that particular bay kept nibbling at us… Guess they knew we were new to the island, lol!!

As we emerged from the first “dip in the pool” we were approached by a Thai gentlemen who obviously worked on the island.  He asked if we were the ones with the kayak and then said we had to each pay 100 baht to be on the island…  It was then that we were told that this island was privately owned and hence there was a fee to walk about it and play in the waters surrounding it… We did come with plenty of money, but it would have been nice to know in advance of this extra charge.  So I’m sharing it for future travelers!  Also, I don’t know if for the taxi boats, if the charge to get there includes or not the 100 baht fee to be on the island… In any event, just be aware of this additional cost.

Moving on.  The small island bit to the South had a walking trail that led around the edge of the island to a beautiful viewpoint, so we headed off on it to check it out.  Mind you, it is possible to sleep on the island so as we skirted along the very shady (i.e. sketchy) barely still standing wooden plank path, we were passing several pleasant-looking bungalows.  We went to the viewpoint that was on the southernmost tip of the island and then had to turn back as the wooden path was falling apart and almost demolished in bits beyond a point, and headed up the trail that led to the top of the island for another viewpoint.

Though it was very hot and the walk was completely uphill, it really wasn’t a terrible walk by any means and not terribly high either.  The only struggle really was competing for space at the top on the rocks to be able to take pictures without other in them!  There seemed to be quite a few impatient people really who wanted to simply scramble to the top, took ages getting “just the right shot” with them in them and then hauled down.  So needless to say it took us a bit of time to get some shots, and once completed we leisurely made our way down.

At this point it was time for a nibble of food and as we sat down at the only restaurant on the island with our plastic water bottle in tow, it was then we noticed the signs just about everywhere that read “NO PLASTIC BOTTLES”…. Ooooppsss!!!!  Apparently plastic containers are NOT allowed on the island and all beverages from the restaurant are served in glass containers.  Again, just another little tip for future travelers:)  We were never yelled at for having the bottle however and we made a very big point of being sure to carry the bottle home with us, regardless of it being empty.

After the nibble it was time to check out the North end of the sandbar to see what kind of snorkeling action we could get there.  Don’t worry mothers we did wait about a half hour after food to go swimming 😉  The North end of the sandbar was lined on both sides with umbrellas and beach chairs and seeing as the sun was out in full force, we opted to pay the 150 baht for the set-up.  This part of the island was by far my favorite and it as quite evident it was the favorite of just about everyone else there too.  The water was crystal clear and reminded me of the waters I’d seen at some of the beaches on the Island of Elba off the Tuscan coast.  I lovingly started to refer to that bay as the “kiddie pool” as the waters were very calm, quite deep, but so clear you could simply stand on the edge and see all the marine life.  All sorts of fish (including puffers!!), sea urchins, anemones an cucumbers could be found in a relatively small area.  The bay was large enough however to accommodate several dozens of snorkelers and several classes of divers working on their refresher course.  It was absolutely spectacular snorkeling that I spent at least an hour exploring.

The rest of the day was simply spent reading under our shade, dipping in the kiddie pool to cool off, snorkeling and generally relaxing.  Around 4 we decided to head back to Koh Tao to turn in the kayak and though the waters were calmer in the afternoon, we did have some harrowing moments as the boat traffic (we must have hit rush hour) was a bit on the ridiculous side!  But after about 45 minutes and dodging about a dozen boats or taxis, we made it safe to shore and headed straight to the Wind Beach bar for a nice cold beer.  We watched the sunset while sipping on our beers (though it was quite cloudy at that point so not the best sunset sadly) and I even bought a beach dress from a traveling sales lady.  Though we were both exhausted from our day of activities, we had plans for the night as well… It was time to check out the Lady Boy Cabaret!

On to Night with the Ladies

Back to Thailand

Favorite things…

Again, because I lived in Puerto Viejo for an extended period of time, it’s hard to recall everything, so on this page I will simply mention my favorite things about Puerto Viejo and why I lived there for as long as I did…  The below is in no particular order..

Cabinas Garibaldi

  • Absolutely my favorite place to live!   Just down the street from Tasty Waves in Cocles beach, Cabinas Garibaldi was absolutely fantastic!!!!  I can’t say enough about this place!!!  They have short and long term rentals available and the family that owns the land and properties lives on site!  Mancho (aka Martin) is the son of the elder woman Dona Rosa who originally owned the place.  Martin along with his mom and wife take care of the property and no one messes with Martin!  He once noticed someone trying to break into one of the bungalows and he chased him down with a machete in hand!  No one since that event has tried to rob any of the places in Cabinas Garibaldi since:)  Why do I love the place so much??  Simple: private apartment with kitchen, bathroom, hot water, WiFi, across the street from beach (literally) all for about $260 a month!!!!!  The people were fantastic, my neighbors were great!  Dona Rosa even did our bed laundry weekly… just superior and super place!!!

 

Wildlife

  • Howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins,  toucans, sloths, agouti, iguanas… Literally everywhere you looked nature was alive and beautiful around you!!  Puerto Viejo literally was the perfect blend of beach and Jungle right at your finger tips… The nature there is just so captivatingly beautiful and alive!  So splendid!

Beaches

  • Just north of Puerto Viejo was playa negra, the black beach, and as you moved into town the sand turned white all the way down the coast line to Manzanillo, the town furthest south in Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast.  The sands were wonderful and the water was always warm!!  Great snorkeling and scuba diving areas too!  Only word of warning: beware the currents as they could be quite strong!  Oh and lots of great surfing for those who enjoy either surfing or watching the hot bodies of surfers;)

Riding Bikes

  • Everything was accessible by bike or public bus!!  I never for one second missed having to drive a car anywhere!!  I loved simply riding around town, to and from work, etc on a bike!  And for those times where I needed to get out of town, public busses did the trick.

Caribe del Sol

  • Located just outside my house in Cabinas Garibaldi (aka Anna’s front yard) was the best restaurant Caribe del Sol!!  Great Italian cuisine and local casado menu!!  The floor of the place was all sand so it felt as if you were just dining on the beach with a view of the beach while not getting soaked by sea spray:)  The people were great and actually I just heard that the owner of the place married his long-time girlfriend (my friend as well) and moved to the States!  So hopefully the place is still as tasty as I recall it being!

Caribe horses

  • I spent some time riding with the Caribe horse club and loved every second of it!   You just simply can’t beat the views from horseback and the places you can get from the seat of a horse!  Great jungle and beach riding on safe and fun horses!!

Dogs, dogs and more dogs!!

  • Ah, I LOVE animals!!  So to live in a place where all animals basically were wild and free, I absolutely adored it even more!!  You see, while each dog had an owner, they were allowed to run free daily and do whatever they pleased!  Run along the beach, beg for food, run rampant on the streets, etc.  At night however, they all always seemed to simply disappear since most had an actual home where they would stay at during the night.  Or if the owners were going into town, the dogs would accompany them and chill with them in town before turning in for the night!  Each dog had their own personality and name of course, and you literally greeted them as if they were people wandering around town!  Now of course, this kind of life for dogs while great was also rough… Many did get hit by cars, damaged by other dogs, get mange attacks, etc. and they were treated as dogs, not necessarily as family members as we tend to do in the States.  So if an animal was injured, they wouldn’t necessarily be taken to the vet.  It was just part of the jungle life!

“Jungle”

  • Ok, now the following is not in any way intended to be racist, so I don’t want to hear about people complaining about it being so!  If anything didn’t work well or wasn’t quite working as it should, it was called “Jungle”… For example, the pool table in Tasty Waves was called a “jungle table” since it wasn’t quite level.  “Jungle coffee” referred to coffee made in the morning that had floating ants in it because I forgot to put the sugar away in the fridge! (First time that happened I was appalled!  Second and subsequent times I simply scooped the little buggers out and enjoyed my coffee:) Plumbing issues? “Jungle plumbing”…. you get the point!

Lazy Mon Sundays

  • I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere else already how every night was a different businesses night to draw in the tourists and crowds.  Well Sunday night was dedicated to the Lazy Mon hostel and restaurant almost smack “downtown” Puerto Viejo.  It is basically an open-mic night where people can come to perform.  Truth be told, it’s really more of a usual crew that come and perform for the tourists and my absolute favorite part of that show is the fire show!!!  Several men and women dancing to music while twirling various objects on fire!  Absolutely mesmerizing and was always a thrill to watch!!

A REAL community

  • People took care of each other in Puerto Viejo in a way that I hadn’t yet experienced.  People supported each other, their businesses, causes, etc.  You really couldn’t get away with much!  If you were a bad customer, didn’t pay your bill (many places allowed locals to run tabs and pay at later dates) or tabs or tried to screw someone over, everyone heard about it immediately and you would be shut out just as fast.  Of course not every society is perfect, but the people were always friendly.  People would look you in the eye and say good morning to you daily (imagine!!)!!  The sense of community there was brilliant.  You felt as part of something, and you did your part to take care of others as they did for you

Ahora…

  • “Ahora” in Spanish means “right now”… This is a very general term in Puerto Viejo and really Costa Rica in general… If you want something done or are waiting for the bus and ask “when will xyz happen?” and are told “hora”… that could be anywhere from “now” to two weeks from now… if you are told “ahora” it could be anywhere from “right now” to about a day from now… Love that relaxed nature!!

STREET MEAT!!!

  • I don’t know what the heck they do to their meat but MAN, I absolutely LOVE street meat!!!  Mind you, the street meat vendors only come out on the street as the sun starts to set because lord knows it’s way too hot to stand over a BBQ in the heat of the day, and luckily they stay open until the wee hours of the morning for all those stumbling out of the bars in search of something yummy to eat.  Basically they only sell chicken or beef on a skewer.  Sounds super simple, I know, but the spicy sauce they put on it is absolutely to die for!!  You can get it extra spicy or just regular spicy (I always got it extra spicy!!)!!  And I promise this basis of critique on the food is not because I was always drunk when eating!!  There were in fact several times that I went into town just to purchase a couple skewers of street meat spicy chicken for my dinner completely sober!!  My mouth is salivating at the very thought…

 

On to Characters in Town

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