Koh samui we flew from chiang mai to ...

Trip Start Apr 01, 2001
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Trip End Ongoing


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Saturday, October 20, 2001

KOH SAMUI

We flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, then on to Koh Samui. Paul got stopped at Chiang Mai airport because he had left his Leatherman in his hand luggage. They confiscated it for the duration of the flight, so that he couldn't use it to hijack the plane. Fair enough... at least we know these guys are doing their job properly. At Bangkok airport Paul got stopped again. This time they took away his bottle opener. Seems a little hard to imagine anyone hijacking a plane with a bottle opener, but best be safe, hey?

At Bangkok Airport we met up with Nikki, Tonya's cousin who we had last seen in Padova, and her friend Mairead. They were on the same flight as us to Koh Samui, so we would be spending a few days together.

At Koh Samui airport there was a "Limousine Service"... a minibus charging 100 Baht per person to go to Chaweng Beach. Tonya walked away and found a group of taxi drivers who were all very keen to take her to Chaweng Beach. She haggled one guy down to 200 Baht and agreed to go with him. Then she yelled over to Paul, Nikki and Mairead "This guy will take us all for 200 Baht." The taxi driver threw a hicky-fit and screamed "No... No... 200 Baht PER PERSON". We walked away, and eventually agreed to pay him 250 Baht. The guy was still making a killing... the ride was only 7 minutes, but we had saved 150 Baht, so we were happy.

The taxi dropped us at O.P. Bungalows, at the north end of Chaweng Beach. In true backpacker style we spent half an hour trying to negotiate a cheaper room rate, but they wouldn't budge. So, we left Paul in a bar (always dangerous) with all our bags, and set off down the beach to look for a better deal. Chaweng Beach used to be backpaker territory, but in recent years it has been invaded by the package tour companies. It is Thialand's version of Malaga: beach bars, nightclubs and resort complexes line the beach. This means that the standard of accomodation has risen, but so have the prices. We settled for O.P. Bungalow's fixed price 700 Baht ($17) with A/C.


Highlights of Koh Samui:

- Reggae Pub

We followed the sounds of Bob Marley to "The Reggae Pub", a huge nightclub with open air dance floor. By the time we got there Bob Marley had been replaced by the resident Live Thai Band, who kicked off with that great reggae classic... Copacabana!?! Barry Manilow would have been prowd of them! They followed this with their own rendition of La vita loca... whatever happened to the reggae?
Every so often the DJ would drop the word "police" into his banter, and all around us people would stub out their joints, and the aroma of Ord Rd would subside; a policeman would appear, be shown around, and leave. A few minutes later the scent of Ord Rd would waft back across the dance floor.

- Renting a 4WD Jeep

We spent the day exploring Koh Samui with Paul at the wheel, Tonya navigating and Nikki and Mairead in the back. We took the tarpaulin roof off and had Nikki and Mairead climb in ond out of the Jeep over the sides. This was quite amusing as they were both wearing "travellers trousers" purchased on Khao San Rd - the wrap around type that do not allow you to do anything practical in.

In the evening we took the Jeep and drove across the island for a meal in another town. While we were eating it poured with rain and by the time we were ready to drive back to Chaweng the road was flooded. We stopped and watched a car come towards us... it's numberplate was under water. We debated the risk of having our rental car flood and die in the middle of this "river" versus the fact that it is a Jeep and should be built for these conditions. We decided to chance it. Water came in the wheel arches and ended up all over the back seat, but that would soon dry.

- Mid-life-crisis males

Chaweng Beach is well geared up for your mid-life-crisis male: Most of the bars have several young attractive Thai girls beckoning (even dragging) customers in to the bar. But be warned, do not drink too much as some of these young attractive girls are boys... and its hard enough to tell... even when you haven't had a drink.

- Big Buddha at Bohput Beach

Paul has develpoed an obsession for visiting Big Buddhas... perhaps he's considering converting to Buddhism... he's certainly got the belly for it!

- Namuang Waterfalls and Elephant trekking

We did some serious haggling and eventually managed to get an elephant trek for Nikki and Mairead for 300 Baht each (instead of the quoted 700 Baht). The haggling was extremely hard work and we almost left without them getting an elephant ride at all. We promised not to tell anyone about this good deal... Ooops!
Indiana-Paul climbed down a riverbank, through the river, up the other side with Nikki's camera in his hand to take a photograph of them on the elephant at the second waterfall. What a hero!

- Praying with Buddhist Monk

We wandered into a "Temple and Meditation Retreat" and met a Buddhist monk in all his orange robes. He insisted that we step inside the temple, then he lit us a joss stick each and started praying in Thai... punctuated by the odd word of English: "Blah, blah, blah...England, Blah, blah, blah... happy, Blah, blah, blah... Thailand, Blah, blah, blah... journey, Blah, blah, blah..."

- Hin Tai / Hin Yai

At the bottom end of Lamai Beach we stopped to see Hin Tai and Hin Yai "Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks" - they were obscene! Exactly like a vagina and a penis. It is a bit hard to believe that nature sculpted these rocks so perfectly right beside each other.

- Pineapple

On the beach we got a whole pineapple all peeled, cored, and chopped into
bite-sized pieces, and 4 bananas for 30 baht - What a deal; that's about 75
cents (not $7.99 as a pineapple used to cost us in Bermuda!)

- Confirmation that Paul really does look like a "scuzzy backpacker"

Tonya left Paul on the beach while she went back to the bungalow to collect a book, and when she returned Paul was grinning from ear to ear. "I must really look like a backpacker... I just got offered some grass!". Some bloke had come along and tried to sell him a sarong. When Paul had said "No" he asked whether he could get him "anything else... some grass maybe?" Sensibly Paul sent him packing.

- Small World

We were walking along the Chaweng Rd, heading to the pub to watch the Leeds v Liverpool game when we spotted two horrendously loud "pulling shirts" coming towards us. We recognized the shirts, but couldn't quite place them, until we heard an equally loud voice shout, "Where's the Vodka?" It was Bubbles and Funky - our friends from the Trans Siberian Railway! Talk about small world! We chatted for a few minutes, they had their packs and were also heading to O.P. Bungalows, so we arranged to meet in the pub.

At the pub we ordered a meal and a Carlsberg. "Sorry no beer". Now, having lived in Bermuda we understand that on occasion the island can run out of a particular larger. So we said, "OK make that a local beer." But they couldn't do that either... We were in a dry pub! We couldn't believe it. It transpired that the government had imposed an island-wide alcohol ban from 6:00pm Saturday to 12:00am Sunday. We ate and watched the game, then moved back to our bungalow where we spent the evening on the verandah catching up on what Bubbles and Funky had been up to since we parted company back in Beijing and drank our mini-bar dry!



KOH PHA NGAN

We were the oldest people on board the ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Pha Ngan. We were also the only people without either a nose ring, pierced belly button or large tattoo.

Sunrise Beach in Hat Rin was crowded with backpackers and hundreds of mangey dogs. It was littered with beer bottles, garbage, joint butts and other such delights. Paradise? Not quite!

One evening we took a taxi to a quiet bay about 15 minutes away. We climbed on to the back of an Isuzu pick-up truck (a Koh Pha Ngan taxi) and set off. After 5 minutes we got stuck. A lorry had broken down in the middle of the road - the only road around the island. Rather than push the lorry to the side of the road, the driver had left it where it had died. Our taxi driver got out and walked over to see what was happening, but in typical Thai style he just shrugged his shoulders... Shit happens! We waited ages. There were several taxis all waiting to pass, but none of them thought to club together and help push the lorry out of the way. Eventually we persuaded our driver that there would be taxis stuck on the other side of lorry; so why not just trade passengers. Thai people don't seem to be able to think of simple solutions themselves, but once someone explains what to do, they run off to negotiate a price and make a deal. Our driver soon reappeared having struck a deal with another taxi driver. I wonder how much we were "sold" for this time?

We walked past the lorry, hopped into the back of another Isuzu truck and went on our way. We arrived at Copa Resort at 10:30pm; quickly ordered some food, ate, then sat on the beach until 1:30am with Nikki's firends who had built a campfire and were singing 80's pop songs at the top of their voices. Two Thai blokes (staff at Copa Resort) drove us home. We couldn't believe it... the lorry was still in the middle of the road, and its driver was asleep on the side of the road! Our Thai driver got out, looked at the situation, stepped back in the Isuzu and promptly put two wheels "off road" and squeezed past - For god's sake, why couldn't all the others taxis just do that. Isn't that what 4WD vehicles are for?

Life in Koh Pha Ngan consists of laying on the beach or watching videos by day, drinking and partying to Rave and Trance music all night. This is not a place we would have expected to stay in, but the weather was terrible and at least here we could catch up on all those films we've missed over the pasat 7 months, and recharge our batteries.
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