Koh Samuie, Thailand
9° 30' N 100° 0' E
Jun 08, 2009 10:11
Distance 2076km

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Blog 13 - Ko Samui


OK so Bangkok airport domestic departures is not exactly the most exciting place in the world… We made the mistake of coming straight off our Hong Kong flight and checking in to the Ko Samui domestic flight thinking we would have a departures lounge to pass the time in. In reality, we spent about four hours sitting in plastic bucket seats in an exposed concrete waiting room with air conditioning set to about 15 degrees.


We finally got on our puddle jumper to Samui and arrived an hour later at an airport that can only be descried as quaint. The small buggies that collect you from the aeroplane would look more at home in Disneyland while the baggage collection hall is the first open walled, thatched roof facility I’ve come across at what describes itself as an international airport.


Unsurprisingly, we were met by someone offering a taxi ride to the hotel but for 240Baht (about 4 pounds) we thought we might splash out.


Arriving after dark at about ten pm, we were welcomed to the Le Murraya hotel with a complimentary drink while we filled in the forms and were shown to what can only be described as an outstanding room for 29 quid a night. A large bedroom area, kitchen / dining area, full proper bathroom, balcony with a view of the pool… - bliss!


Having decided that this week was all about relaxation and re-charging our batteries (we hadn’t in fact stopped project managing since we finished at work) we spent the next three days lying around the pool and sunbathing. Despite the forecast of thunder storms, we experienced terrific sunshine every day with temperatures which felt warmer than India.


It appears that we have arrived at the lowest point of the season though and the main Chaweng Beach ‘strip’ is sadly very quiet at night – to the point that many of the bars and restaurants are completely empty. Walking the strip therefore becomes a nightly gauntlet of restaurant touts and Indian tailors who ‘just want to show you their shop’ then grab you by the hand and try to measure you up for a suit.


Thailand appears generally still fairly cheap to live but there are quite a few restaurants on Chaweng Beach whose prices are comparable to the UK so worth shopping around. We read about a place called ‘Ninja’s Crepes’ which is basically a tin-roofed shed in the middle of the main strip with plastic chairs and tables serving very decent food for cheap prices.


Ninja’s also seemed to typify the Thai people’s hospitality, politeness and friendliness which we have experienced in almost every place from the hotel to restaurants and bars.


It could be a horrible slur on perfectly respectable tourists but there are a suspiciously large number of middle aged European men hanging around with young Thai girls, suggesting the area’s reputation is justly merited.


On Wednesday night, we were passing yet another massage parlour and decided to give it a try. Vicki wanted a foot massage but I decided to go the full hog and have a traditional Thai massage. At only 200 Baht (about 4 pounds) for an hour it seemed like incredibly good value, especially when compared to 350 Baht for the foot massage.


After having my feet washed and being led upstairs by a masseuse (I was beginning to wonder if something had been lost in the translation!) I soon discovered that all the warnings about a Thai massage being painful were true.


Lying in excruciating agony as the masseuse pushed and pulled my legs and arms into positions they weren’t meant to go I was quietly willing the hour to be up when she instructed me to roll over and started walking up my legs and back. The Thai women may be small and dainty but someone standing on your thigh muscle with one foot still hurts!


Thinking I had finally survived, she told me to sit up but I then found she had saved the best for last. With a Vulcan death grip manoeuvre she managed to send waves of pain down my neck and shoulders before sticking her thumbs into the back of my neck in an area that I didn’t even know could hurt!


After struggling home, feeling like I had been beaten up with a baseball bat, I did in fact get a good sleep and felt far better for it the next morning.


On Friday, we both headed out on a boat trip to Ko Tao, an island about 45km north of Ko Samui for a day’s snorkelling on a coral reef. The reef and aquatic life around it was quite spectacular but the combined boat transfer time was around 5 hours which only left about two hours for snorkelling so on reflection, probably not really worth the money.


After another trip to Ninja’s for dinner, we dropped in to an internet café cum travel agent, cum tour operator, cum dive school, cum car hire office and booked a ‘Sporty’ for the following day. 800 Baht for a small Suzuki jeep including insurance (at least I think it did – the actual English translation of liability was unlikely to stand up in any law court).


Ten o’clock the next morning our transport was delivered and we headed off to tour the island. We had been warned by the hirer not to drive offroad and after trying to negotiate one ‘on-road’ section (the concrete simply ran out and became partly washed away dirt road) where 1st gear was the highest possible and I still managed to scrape the bull bar on the ground at the bottom of a descent, I could see why we had been warned.


Stopping at one particularly scenic spot to take a photograph, we discovered that the handbrake didn’t work and even leaving it in gear, the car started off backwards. This of course made for an interesting hill start manoeuvre trying to use the brake with my heel while applying throttle with my toes but all worth it when you see the magnificent views of and from the jungle like interior.


Having heard that the elephant trekking was on the expensive side, we gave it a miss and instead spent a decent day’s driving just touring the island – including a visit to Tesco in Na Thon. After a couple of wrong turnings and some going round in circles (Vicki was driving at this point and seemed to think that my navigation was at fault but we had obviously been given a defective map), we found the snake farm.


Arriving just in time for the 12.30 show, we were entertained by two girls covering themselves with scorpions (including one holding a scorpion in her mouth during the routine) and a snake charmer dicing with death and kissing king cobras. The show itself was slightly tacky but I did get a chance to hold a three metre python and hold a balloon while a cobra attacked it and burst it.


After the show we were given a quick tour of the ‘zoo’ with the various snakes and reptiles. In what, with reflection may not have been the most sensible thing in the world, the guide invited me to enter the enclosure of the ‘friendly’ crocodile and pull its tail to see if it woke up. Maybe not something I would do again but a worthwhile experience.


Slightly more concerning was the spider’s web I walked into between two trees next to one of the exhibits. A two inch black and yellow spider, fortunately scuttled in the other direction but when I asked the guide if it was poisonous, he replied ‘just a little bit’. Coming from somebody who worked with deadly snakes and scorpions, that wasn’t particularly reassuring but it has made me slightly more conscious of checking my shoes before I put them on!


Saturday night the town seemed quite a bit busier than previous nights and we headed further south than we had previously ventured, discovering busy side street full of bars so for the first time in a month we had a proper night out and discovered the ‘Green Mango’ club which seemed to be providing all night entertainment on two roofed over but otherwise open air dance floors.


Having been dancing with a very nice Thai girl for a couple of hours I was beginning to get slightly concerned that I was going to have to pay for something, so called it a night at about half three and headed back to the hotel.


Waking up on Sunday morning to hand the keys back to the car hire company, we began to remember the negative aspects of a night out and the day turned into yet another of lying by the pool with the occasional dip to cool off.


One last trip to Ninja’s for dinner and it was back to the hotel for the traveller’s nightmare of packing everything back into a rucksack that seems to get smaller with every destination visited (nothing to do with the tat that I keep buying).


After another six o’ clock start (the 7.45am flight is the cheapest), we got to the airport and this time saw it in daylight. Wow – what a terminal! Like something out of a film, the check-in consists of a series of thatched-roof buildings (with computer terminals, x-ray machine, etc, all looking slightly out of place) connected by brilliantly clean open-air concourses.


Heading through to the ‘departures lounge’ (the usual chain-link security fences are replaced here by a moat with water lilies and lotus flowers) you are met by another open-sided, thatched roof building with beautiful views of flowering gardens. Comfortable lounge seats and courtesy (i.e. free!) snacks and drinks served by the smiling local beauties. If ever there was an airport that you didn’t want to leave, this is it.


Unfortunately though, the trip can’t stop here so it’s back to Bangkok to check out if its reputation is lived up to.

Photos / videos of "Blog 13 - Ko Samui":

Chaweng Bay Graeme pulling a crocodile's tail Le Murraya pool (our hotel)