How I saved my dad’s life and ended up getting sunburn so badly: kayaking in Koh Chang

Yes, I saved my dad’s life or perhaps I’m exaggerating a little bit…

It was a lovely sunny day…

…in Koh Chang, Thailand, our last day in the island before going back to Bangkok where our trip was going to come to an end. The day before my parents, my aunt and I were planning what to do next day, our last day and, after discussing and evaluating the options, we agree on going to Kai Bae beach where two days before we saw that we could rent kayaks and go sea kayaking to Koh Man Nai. We thought we could have some fun and do something special, something different, something to remember  (and that´s for sure) on our last day.

My mum and my aunt started a loop, they were like kids, so funny and so frustrating: “I do it if you do it”, “but are you going to do it then?”, “then I have to do it too”, “no well I’m not sure”, “ok, let’s go for it! let’s do it!”. More than two hours later they were still discussing about that, same sentences, same order, again and again. I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

So back to the actual morning, it was a sunny and a beautiful day. The sun was shinning and sky was clear blue. The day couldn’t have started better. We got a songthaew to go from White Sand beach to Kai Bae beach and guess what! Yes you are right, my mum and my aunt started the same discussion again but it ended with a no. They jumped out of the boat, aka kayaking plan.

To be honest, my dad didn’t look very excited and I knew he was going to do it just because of me, because I wanted it so badly and I needed a kayak buddy, he didn’t want leave me alone. We walked around the beach trying to find a place to rent a kayak and we spotted two places, one north of the beach and the second one at the south. We finally rented the kayak in the south place because we didn’t bother to go back to the first one (it was a 10-15 minute walk) and we thought it didn’t really matter. It matter: the guy in charge of the place was not very keen on helping us or giving  us any type of advice, he didn’t give a s**t and actually ignored us for nearly 10 minutes. It was out of the norm, people in Thailand are usually very kind and helpful, but there is always the exception. Who knows, perhaps he had a bad day. We were actually thinking on doing the 10-15 minute walk to the north when he finally attended us.

So we ended up renting a double kayak for my dad and I and, just in case, a snorkel kit for me because I was obsessed with fish and doing snorkel in the middle of the sea. Bear in mind that I can be very, extremely actually, stubborn when I have an idea in my mind and my idea had a name: snorkel, no matter why and no matter how.

And our adventure began…

We had the equipment so we were set and ready to start our adventure: sea kayaking in Koh Chang. My mum and my aunt waving at us when we departed, with a smile in their faces thinking that they managed to escape. They had the next 4 hours for themselves, to relax, lay on the sand and do what? nothing! In the meantime, my dad and I were paddling further and further. Our first aim was to reach Koh Man Nai, a very tiny privately owned island that it´s actually on sale, anybody thinking about it? (see here). This island is easily reachable from Kai Mae beach so it didn´t seem so challenging. We were approaching the island when my dad said “There is someone in there”. Sorry I forgot to mention that it was so early in the morning that there were no others kayaking yet. So my dad saw “someone” on the island with no kayak nor boat, nothing. He didn’t say it at the time but we was scared about the fact that this “someone” could steal our kayak and afraid of us ended up stuck at the island. He didn’t want to stop so we changed our direction to paddle around the island. Do you want to know who this “someone” was? Nobody! there was a branch with a piece of clothes, perhaps someone forgot his/her t-shirt in there and my dad, whose sense of sight is not that accurate anymore, thought it was a guy, bless him. It was hilarious and we felt like fools. Anyway, paddling around Koh Man Nai was so nice, and we laugh so much afterwards that it didn’t matter. By that time other people were arriving to the tiny island with their kayaks, making a quick stop at the tiny beach, so my dad was not scared anymore about our kayak being robbed. We stopped by the beach to rest and relax a little bit and I took the opportunity to go to find Nemo. No trace of Nemo I have to say but we saw a huge crab walking on the sand.

And just in a second, everything twisted…

A little bit disappointed by the fact that I couldn’t find any fish, we went back our kayak for further paddling. We headed to Koh Man Nok, the next tiny island, however the currents were very strong and we decided to change our plans. We headed then towards Koh Suwan, paddling parallel to the shore. We reached Koh Man Not, it was just a big rock in the middle of the sea with what it looked like a huge bonsai on top and with no place to stop by. “So then what?” we thought. We were there, in the middle of nowhere on our own because the rest of the people kayaking went back to the shore, when I thought that I could find fish in there. “It is the right spot!” I remember saying to my dad. He stared at me and said “No, there are no fish here”. Did I say before how much stubborn I can be? Right so guess what? I ignored my dad, I wanted to find fish so I jumped and, again, guess what? My dad was so right, there wasn’t even a single fish. Worthless. After 5 minutes with no luck at all it was time to go back to the kayak and come back to shore. I said to my dad “Ready? I’m going to get in so keep the kayak balanced”. He looked confused but I went ahead when I felt something, something was wrong and after 5 seconds… flipped! we flipped the kayak! my dad, my bag, the oars, the snorkel kit… everything was floating and moving away from the kayak, what the hell! we managed to collect all our belonging, flip back the kayak and put everything on top. It was our turn. I managed to get it but my dad was so scared, he rejected to try to get in scared of flipping the kayak again. I was trying to convince him with no luck (I’m stubborn for a reason, I’m exactly like him), what a stubborn man guys.

Think quickly, think…

So we were there in the middle of nowhere, we couldn’t ask for help, there was nobody around when we remembered that there were some outstanding rock at Koh Suwan. With my dad still in the water and myself on the kayak we decided to take the risk to go back to Koh Suwan to reach the rock and help my dad get back into the kayak. It was risky because the rocks looked very sharp, we knew it was dangerous but we couldn’t find any other solutions. I started paddling with all my strength but I have to say that I’m not very strong and I was paddling against the current. After 10 minutes we moved along only about 200 meters. I was exhausted and yet the rocks seemed so far away.

People say that when you are in a difficult situation your body reacts in a different way, somehow taking the strength that you need to face the situation, and somehow it happened, the kayak started moving faster, I felt it was lighter and getting closer and then I hear something: “What the hell are you doing? Wait, wait for me!” Guess what: my dad pushed the kayak without letting me know what he was going to do. So after I was release of the weight of my dad of course it was much easier to paddle but this was not the point. I´m not sure if I wanted to kill him, shout on him, laugh, cry… but now that we can say that we are safe, it was so funny seeing my dad there shouting on me as it was my fault, I didn’t know that he let go of the kayak. So I said “What am I doing? What are YOU doing!!!???” and of course because we are family we started an argument. He was trying to help me because he knew I was not strong enough and I was paddling as hard as I could even though I was not able to get further.

A boat coming…

And then, appeared from nowhere, a boat! With two men, just a couple of meters next to us. I looked at my dad for approval. My dad doesn’t like to ask for help. It´s always the same, he uses to get lost when driving but he never ever asks for indications, and it is even worse if we suggest him to do it. So we, my family and I, have learnt that he has to own and make the decision to ask for help. It has to come from him. So I looked back again, I was switching from looking at the boat and looking at my dad´s face from approval before starting shouting “Help, here, help!” but it never happened. We were alone again and we had missed our opportunity. I wanted to cry.

Like a miracle, the currents calmed down…

And somehow, the currents calmed down and could finally reach the sharp rocks of Koh Suwan. It didn’t look very safe, the sharp rocks, the waves hitting the sharp rock and ourselves in between, so we had to make it as fast as we could. On the one hand, I was ready with my oar ready to push to get our of there as soon as my dad was on the kayak, and on the other hand, my dad was trying to step into the rock to be able to get into the kayak. “1, 2, 3… ready! Let’s get out of here” and we paddle, as fast as we could, as hard as we could, we just wanted to reach the coast and step into the sand again.

Back to the shore…

We made it! Exhausted, we returned the kayak and we were going to return the snorkel kit when we realised that it was not there. We lost it in the middle of the sea. We had to pay a fin of 500THB but, to be honest, we were so happy to be back that the fin seemed nothing compared to the price of our lives.

We started walking and I said “My skin feels so tight as if I got sunburn”. Sunburn? LOL I never ever have been as red as I was then. Fluorescent red! It was so painful and I was already aching too. I had it all!

We met with my mum and aunt and after seeing our faces they didn’t dare to ask how it was until my dad said “she saved my life”. We explained them the whole story and when we arrived to the part when we saw the boat my dad said “I was expecting her to ask for help but she didn’t say anything, so we were both looking at the boat doing nothing”. So because of our no communication we missed the opportunity to get help. Family and human nature. Next time I will ask for help no matter what.

It was an unfortunate experience with a happy ending and we still talk and laugh about it. Although with some secondary effects: would you like to know for how long I was red? For three weeks!! And nothing to say about another week being a snake, peeling my legs.

This was our last day in Koh Chang and we came back with something to remember, something we are never going to forget.

Below you can find a map where I have specified the kayaking route:


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Do you have a similar experience? Feel free to share.

Thanks for reading and see you around witties!

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