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A Taste of Tropical (...and the Tooth)

THAILAND | Sunday, 10 January 2010 | Views [582]

Another by Andrew....

At the beach, it's hot. It's VERY hot. The first day we arrived at Ko Samui, after an adventurous 6am start from the national park, was the kinda heat I expect most sane people would stay comfortably inside their air conditioned apartments to escape. All things being even, I guess the combination of early morning travel, another 'back of the ute' taxi ride then a 2 hour bus trip to the 2 hour ferry was always going to be a little uncomfortable! I'm setting the scene for our first foray into the beautiful, touristy, tropical environment of Ko Samui, Thailand's tourist mecca. It's also home to the one place that has dentists outnumbering 7/11's and the most obese people this side of England whom are happy to strut all of their stuff on the beach. Ahhhh, it's a crazy ol' Island.

Our first day began with the quickest meeting ever, the group now sporting 2 new additions; The lovely Jen and marvelous Rich - whom are both from Melbourne. I was wrapped to have another couple on the tour finally and I'm sure Rich and Jen enjoyed our company too. After the pleasantries, we headed to the beach for some solid sand and sun time, something I had been looking forward to for a while.

Our hotel was absolutely amazing, easily the best place we had stayed in Thailand and only a couple of minutes walk from the main shopping area, a few dentists and the beautiful Lamai beach. I enjoyed most of all spending time in the bath-temperature ocean water, battling the huge crashing waves and body surfing into the white sandy shoreline. Fair to say, I got hammered a few times by the surf as well. Nothing was going to stop me spending about 3 hours swimming, diving and sun bathing at this beautiful location.

Kristy, as keen as she was for some R&R... had the small matter of a tooth to fix. You see, somewhere between the taxi, bus, boat and van she had lost a filling out of one of her teeth. It wasn't that sore, it was just annoying, so she couldn't really get into the beach action fully. Instead, with the help of Dong translating, she was able to book her an appointment at the local dentist (next to the supermarket, where else?) and began the travel insurance claim process.

...which was a total waste of time.

Dear reader, if you've ever wanted a crown done or any major dental (and you're told it's going to cost more than $1000 of any denomination) head instead for the travel agent at book a trip to Ko Samui. Dental work here is absolutely top notch and bargain basement cheap. After getting clearance for a maximum claim of AU$500 Kristy's tooth re-fill came to a grand total of $35. Yup. That was it. It's a great job too! As well as doing basic dental fillings, most dentists here do really cheap tooth whitening, some have the fancy laser one and they cover everything from check-ups to root canals and even prosthetic teeth! If you can get over the receptionist not being able to speak much English, your dentist will most likely be fluent in it and the surgery Kristy was at was clean, simple and professional. All round, a fantastic result and left both Kristy and I able to enjoy our days at the beach, shopping and enjoying the fabulous restaurants.

...and there are plenty.

From a classic rock bar (with an amazing guitarist belting out solos for Layla, Stairway to Heaven and Metallica's 'Enter the Sandman' note perfect) to an Australian themed restaurant complete with Cricket playing on the big screen! It's a food lovers paradise, though not quite what Kristy and I were after. The beauty and charm of Chiang Mai that we fell in love with was missed horribly, as we wandered around, trying to find 'that' location that we could enjoy a local meal. It's oddly hilarious to think we really struggled to find a decent Thai restaurant in Ko Samui!

What we did find though, on one of our beach escapades, was a fantastic Thai massage 'hut' situated right on the beach front. Was definitely one of the best Thai massages I received since arriving and the ladies there were provided with a grateful tip from both of us. Yes, it was a tough life getting up, shopping for cheap clothing and beaches and recieving massages in hour portions, so by day two we were ready for something different...

A Ladyboy Cabaret

Okay, let me explain what happened. Dong had been going on about this thing for about 2 days solid saying it was great entertainment and so on. Kristy, Jen and Sarah (one of our other group members) had all decided it was their thing and they were going there after dinner. Myself, Nick (Sarah's brother) and Rich were about as interested in Men with boobs as we were with fat British tourists in speedos, but we'd had plenty of the latter so what could go wrong, right?

Nick is from Tasmania and he's a hilarious guy. I've enjoyed having some more 'sane' people around as we miss Carthiga and her card playing skills, Jeremy has gone a little, er... well, crazy doesn't quite cover it, but I won't get into that here. Needless to say us lads have been getting on gangbusters and with Pat (the 'Grandad' of the group) providing us with some old-man comedy, you can imagine it was quite a hilarious bunch of blokes headed for the ladyboy entertainment. Nick and I had already said we'd give it half an hour max and Rich reluctantly came along. The girls (and Pat) had front row steats for the show.

...and it began.
We had it all. Ladyboy Christina Aguilera kicked off the gig with Ladyboy Madonna, Ladyboy Pussycat Dolls and Ladyboy Kylie Minogue amongst many others performing song 'numbers'. Honestly? It was hilarious. The highlight of the night was Ladyboy Whitney Housten "doing a line of coke" in the middle of her lip-synced song number. It was all over the top, lip synced choreographed camp madness but 2 hours later all us lads were put to shame as we were laughing and loving the show just as much, if not more, than the girls.

What happens in Thailand, should really stay there for that night. But, the short version is by the end of the show Nick had been dragged (pun intended) up on stage, whisked out the back and literally man-handled by the majority of the performers, then stuck in a black mini-skirt and sent back out to perform a number with one of the, er... Kristy, do I call them girls? He had to introduce himself to the audience, so naturally, chose a fake name and used Pats! He said he'd come here with his boyfriend Andrew (...which is another long story, involving a Frisbee in the door joke gone awry) and naturally, the ladyboy host lapped this up.
Sure enough, another 'audience participation' number occurred as the closing act and the 'host' of the night headed straight for me, being his "boyfriend". Time for some of my own 'man-handling' backstage and lets just say, ladyboys MAY dress as ladies but their approach to clothing whilst backstage was anything BUT ladylike. Very liberal was the use of clothing and my eyes saw some things my brain was unable to compute. I did see some great fake boobs though...

Either way, you've come this far, so enjoy laughing at what I looked like when I was rushed back on stage after being groped and re-dressed as a belly-dancer in blue, complete with brown wig (which was whipped off during the musical "dance-off" as my final finish). It's fair to say; I stole the show.

...oh and, when asked my name? I was Nick from Tasmania, with my man Pat. Biggsy 1 - Nick 1

There was other ladyboy malarky. Pat got sat on, not in the Dr Suess style I might add and we all got a little toasted. We had a fabulous dinner at Chewang beach which is the main "tourist" beach at Ko Samui. It's not ridiculously expensive, but there are certainly a bunch of munters around. We'd escaped them by staying at the much quieter Lamai beach and although I had been quite excited by the sound of Ko Samui night markets, they turned out to be very 'same same, but different' as we've come to call them now. Kristy and I preferred our crazy local supermarket-come-clothing store back in Lamai where we scored some real bargains so didn't end up doing much spending at the night markets in Chewang. Between the horrid shirtless yobo's from the UK and partially dressed local ladies on the hunt for, well, use your imagination... it wasn't a particularly great place to do your shopping.

Ko Samui was an eye opening experience for both of us. It showed what absolutely amazing beaches Thailand has and how lucky we were to experience them. It also showed us alot of 'tourism gone wrong' and won't be a place either of us will visit again. We enjoyed an 'ATV Adventure' experience on some awesome little 4x4 off-roaders but skipped the Elephant Riding and other tourist-themed stuff, mostly because we weren't comfortable watching a 'Monkey and Elephant show' and our decision felt the correct one when we saw some pretty sad looking monkeys and elephants. It's a shame, they're so far removed from their natural habitat in the North and compared with what we saw in the Hilltribes to Ko Samui, I would caution anyone and suggest they think twice when going to the tourist-areas and riding an Elephant. Spend the extra money instead on a fantastic hill-tribe trek and experience the REAL Elephant riding up north. It'll not only be cheaper, but you'll help the local hill-tribes and keep the elephants there, instead of in these tourist places which looked anything but ideal.

All in all, Ko Samui was a relaxing break from the constant traveling and it was fantastic to have a beach right next door. For me, the best part of Ko Samui was the new group bonding. It's strange how important the group becomes on these trips and they really become an important part of the experience. It wasn't something I even considered when booking the tour and now I'll do it again looking forward to meeting the great new people. In a strange way, the Ladyboy Caberet really saved our Ko Samui leg, we all made friends that night and it got us all into a really good mood and excited for Ko Tao.

- Andrew & Kristy

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