Day-tripping to Koh Larn

Pattaya is starting to grow on me, especially now that we’ve found a better beach area to the north of where we’d been sitting before. This area, accessed by walking past the main drag that turns right to Pattaya proper, has many more trees, more shade, and, best of all, real sun loungers rather than beach chairs (we are so spoiled!). It’s not quite as crowded as the main Jomtien Beach area, although this is relative, since everywhere here seems full of people this high season.

While vendors do ply the sand here, they come in fewer and slower waves than further south where they are incessant. Still, the calls to buy are almost nonstop here; on offer are:

Food: fruit, seafood (fresh crab and shrimp which is cooked right at your chair), donuts and poon (?), ice cream (one vendor’s voice is so nasal it’d cut glass as he calls “Ice ceam, ca!” every 10 seconds)

Clothes: sun dresses, shorts, men’s t-shirts; sunglasses; baseball caps

DVDs and second hand books in English and German

Massage, manicure and pedicure

Souvenirs and wooden carvings; toy birds; jewellery; plush animals; cotton candy

One of the more unusual purchases here are tiny wooden cages of tiny finch-like birds which, for 100 baht (about $3.75), buyers set free. Although I intense dislike this practice, I did purchase one small cage of birds to release.

Yesterday Ty discovered that there’s a small “coral” island just 7 km off the coast of Pattaya that can be easily visited on a day trip, so, with 25 minutes to catch the 10 am ferry, we were out the door, into a taxi, and down to Bali Hai pier, just in time to pile onboard  the already seemingly full wooden ferry heading out to Koh Larn.

We settled ourselves at the stern as the boat headed out to sea, passing another similar vessel stranded just outside the harbour (not sure what happened to it but this ferry, too, was packed to the gunnels).

After stopping twice to allow passengers to disembark into longtail boats at two different beaches, we pulled up to Samae Beach, from which several long tails roared, pulled up alongside our vessel, picked up the mass of people pouring off the decks and out of the windows, and ferried all of us to the dock. The dock itself is made from blue plastic blocks which undulate as the waves strike it.

Once on the beach, we found ourselves ushered into deck chairs from which we could watch the passing parade.

The water here is gorgeous, that incredible light cerulean blue that I loved in the Andaman Sea, and clean, with a very large swimming area roped off from boat traffic. On both sides of the beach are green and rocky hills with viewpoints; one has a viewing pavilion, a large sting-ray shaped building in which are the controls for the island’s wind and solar power, and a couple of shrines.

The other has many small windmills, only two of which were working on this day. Along one side of the coast a raised wooden walkway has been built.

It is possible to stay overnight on the island, although at 2,500 baht for a pretty basic bungalow, it’s very expensive, at least on this beach.

Apparently, about 1,000 people live on Koh Larn full-time and many hundreds of people visit daily during high season. Various styles of ferry travel here, as do speed boats.

The ferry we piled on to return later in the afternoon was a top-heavy style, to my eyes too tall for its breadth. And, as usual, the vessel was absolutely jam-packed. I’m not sure how many people were actually on it – perhaps 200. And there were certainly not enough life jackets for all; none of the seats downstairs had lifejackets anywhere near them. When I saw the structure of the boat, I yanked two life vests from their stowage spot on the roof for Ty and I. These had been stuffed behind one of the metal rods holding up the roof canopy and took me quite a few minutes to dislodge (and certainly if the vessel had begun to capsize, because of the way they’re wedged in, I doubt they would have been available for use). Interestingly, only one other person had a life-jacket actually on her person.

As we pulled away, most of the people on the main deck were leaning on one of the side rails, causing the boat to list quite dramatically; at this point the captain stopped, came back, and admonished people to sit down before the thing capsized … sigh.  The water was very choppy with fair size waves and several times the captain had to slow the vessel down as it started rocking from side to side; after the first time this happened, I put on my life jacket and one of the men seated near us in the back also grabbed one for his son. Thankfully, we made it across the strait in one piece. Just another day here in SE Asia … it’s all good until the boat goes down.

Read more about Koh Larn here.

See more pics here.

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