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THAILAND | Saturday, 17 May 2008 | Views [1096]

Now here’s where my trip really begins! No office to call, no friends or family to depend on... here’s where I’m completely at a point on the planet, with only my creativity and vices to contend with. And boy is Thailand a good place to start!

Koh Samui

Samui is one of a number of islands off Thailand’s coast, second in popularity to the more famous west coast island of Phuket. It is also my first experience of a tropical island. But what I learned, and what’s also not shown in my or any other pictures I’ve seen, is the truly caotic nature of life on a 3rd world tropical island (which most are). You contend with almost complete disregard for road rules, potholes the size of car tires, and a modicum of motorbike overloading by the locals. But despite all the caution I received not to hire and use an motorcycle, and despite having learned the hard way – falling off, but luckily only my sunglasses were casualty – I can’t think of how I could have had such a good time on Samui without having done just that... whizzing around this tropical paradise on a scooter. And in reality it’s the first thing all other tourists did, fearing for life and limb on a regular basis, so when in Rome...

What’s also good about a scooter is that it gets past the rank smells faster than you can smell them, but more so, it lets you experience all there is to see and find on Samui. Although I’d choose to visit another Thai island next time, I think my 5 days in Samui was jam-packed with sightseeing, but I could have done with more time.

My first day, though, didn’t go as planned. I arrived to find the accommodation not as advertised. But instead of complaining immediately, I hit the road to “research” alternative accommodation to fit my budget. It’s in this 3 hour period that I learned all there is to know about Samui’s main town Chaweng’s beach road, and also the smells and potholes mentioned earlier. I got hassled to buy suits, DVDs, apparel, food and clothing at every corner, and then there were the offers of massages ;)

Like an idiot I footed it all the way, only to find that when I did in fact complain to my accommodation, they simply referred me to their sister resort (literally), which was located on the beach. So having wasted my time, and having forked over some extra cash, I managed to secure an airconditioned bungalow on the beach with only the pool, bar, and white tropical sand separating my door from the bath-like tropical sea!

Having learned my lesson, the next day I rented a scooter, and off I was to see the sights... with my trusty map, camera and water bottle at my side.

That night brought the first of Samui’s party culture, which only starts around midnight, and in off-street clubs, the best of which the locals frequent themselves. But be aware ladies: don’t leave your man alone... them there are no angels! :D

Every month in Samui, when the moon is full, Thai and tourist alike flock to neighbouring Koh Phangan island for a ritual moon howl (in modern commercial terms – with house, RnB and reggae music) for what is an all-night fun parade. I lost my friends before it even started, so I came away thinking “it lived up to expectations, but there was no oomph”. But what I can say it’s a once-in-a-life experience that you just gotta do if you’re going to go all the way to Thailand.

My last day returned to sightseeing and desolate beach spotting. I pulled up to a yet another beautiful temple that caught my eye from the road, only to be invited in by one of the monks! Now this is truly exceptional, and I didn’t bat an eye when he hit me up for a donation, but that’s only because of the time he took to tell me the whole life story of one of their buddahs. Reconnecting later with my friends for my last night jaunt, I recanted the story while sipping cocktails (respectable glasses, not the jugs of the nights before) before we finally succumbed to an invitation to see a lady-boy show.

Samui, Sarah and Rocco, thank you very much.


Ok, time to get serious! The fun has to be put on hold, because I’ve only got 3 days in Bangkok, and there are temples aplenty to see!

Bangkok was a rude awakening! I landed, got onto the airport shuttle, but by the time I found myself in the city, the clouds just opened up... and here I am: backpack, red suitcase, shorts and tshirt! And to make matters worse, none of the locals understood where the hotel was. But I learned a new lesson: when in a non-English country, get the directions translated!

Ah, such bliss when I finally saw my hotel room, but I was straight into the shower!

I awoke the next day to start my sightseeing. Grabbing a bus, I was walking to the first temple when “where are you going” interrupted my map-reading session. I looked up to see a Thai face and his friend smiling at me. They proceeded to tell me it was my lucky day, in that “today is Bangkok Tourist Day... didn’t you watch the news?” Of course I don’t understand Thai, so what’s the point of watching tv, but I didn’t say that. They proceeded to explain that I could use a tik tik (trike taxi) for the whole day for a single charge of 20 Baht (read: basically free). And not only that, but temples usually closed to public would today only be open... this is how an off-the-charts day began.

It ended with my having seen all the temples I wanted after being upgraded to a personal driver and tour guide in my own car who showed me all around Bangkok and patiently waited out my exhausting photo-taking session. He was great company too. I tipped generously when he dropped me off at my hotel, leaving me to begin my recovery.

My last day, devoted to accomplishing tourist odd-and-ends, started with a train to the Sunday markets, a visit to one of the huge shopping malls, and finished with a cocktail on the roof of one of Bangkok’s hotels, and a peak into the city’s clubbing scene.

Tags: bangkok, full moon party, koh samui, samui



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