I’m gonna go ahead and say this just as carefully as possible so there are no mix ups: Thailand is great. Koh Samui is great. I’ve barely been here three days and I’ve already done so many great things… kinda makes me wonder what I’m going to do for the rest of the time here. Lazing around and doing not–too–much of anything is looking pretty appealing, though.
- Day one
Waking up at five in the AM has never been my cup of tea. Hell, it’s still dark outside, and if airports weren’t so picky about people checking in late I’d probably demand an extra hour or three for sleep. But hey, I’ve got a plane to catch — gotta meet Scotty, Emma, and Pamela at the airport at 6:30, and God forbid I let them down.
Emma and Pamela won’t actually be joining us for our little vacation, they’re headed to Phuket for a shopping spree, but by a happy coincidence we’re on the same flight from Perth to mainland Thailand and the same flight home. It’s nice to have plane buddies. But as it turns out, there’s no Wi–Fi at Perth International Airport and no Wi–Fi on Thai Airways flights… so I’m internetless. As an added bonus, there are no electrical outlets (unless you count the shaver outlet in the bathroom), so computer time is at a premium on this twelve–hour trip. Scooby Doo might just be the worst film I’ve seen all year. Thank god for the free booze on international flights.
Fly from Perth to Phuket for six hours, say goodbye to the girls and hang around in Phuket for an hour; fly from Phuket to Bangkok for an hour and a half, then spend two hours in Bangkok talking (or not talking, I’ve lost my voice for some reason) to a nice girl from Perth named Ruth; fly from Bangkok to Koh Samui for an hour and a half in a turboprop the size of a school bus, then spend half an hour looking for your luggage. Catch a cab to your hotel, dump your gear, then step outside to inspect the local scenery.
Heading out to the streets on the first night probably wasn’t such a hot idea. The smells, the sights, the traffic, the hookers; they all kinda blemish whatever ideas you might’ve had about this tropical paradise. If your first experience with a new country is fighting off a feisty hooker, you’re probably not going to give it a great evaluation.
Night time is crazy. The stores on Beach Road don’t open until about midday and they all shut at midnight, so the hours between nine and midnight are about as hectic as they come. Shopkeepers shouting at you to try their wares, hookers grabbing your ass, cab drivers tooting their horns just to let you know they’re available should you need a ride; it’s about as in–your–face as it gets. The buyer/seller dynamic is strange — you’re just walking down the street, minding your own business, and everybody is trying to sell you something; and they ain’t subtle about it. If you like what you see, you immediately offer them just a little better than half their asking price. If they scoff and look a little insulted you know you’ve gone too far, but if they think about it for a second before they counter–offer, you know you aren’t too far off the price you’ll end up paying. You have to wonder how many people get screwed paying an over–inflated price for a two dollar watch, especially with the language barriers inherent in such a tourist wonderland, but everything is negotiable.
Walking down the streets of Koh Samui is like walking down the streets of Bedrock. Every fifth store is either a clothing store, an internet café, a massage parlour, a bar, or an art dealer; and if you walked past them all fast enough you’d assume the background was on a loop. The art dealers are all selling the same cheap copies of famous paintings (although, to be fair, they are all painted by hand… which is pretty cool), the clothing stores are all selling the same brand–name knockoff clothes, the bars are all full of the same yelling Thai women, and the internet cafés are all, well, none of them have Wi–Fi and all of them close at midnight. So I won’t be watching the keynote tonight, obviously.
As the clock strikes twelve and the stores start to close, the streets suddenly die. The traffic subsides, the lights go out, and the racks of shoes and sunglasses are nowhere to be seen. Chaweng Beach goes to bed and gets ready for a new day. So do we.
- Day two
For reasons beyond my understanding, I’m awake early. It might be the heat that does it, or the early–to–bed/early–to–rise/early–to–bed again pattern that’s been forced upon me these last two days, or the fact that Scotty would appear to be an early–bird and we’re sharing a room, but for some reason we’re awake, fed, and on the beach by nine in the morning.
This is what should command your first impressions of this island: the beach. The white sand, the blue water, the coconut trees, the women in bikinis; it’s the paradise you were expecting all along. Sure, the big, dirty, bustling city is there right behind you, but the beach is probably all you need. Jet skis are great fun, but as a word of advice: don’t hire out a jet ski then ride a banana boat… the banana boat pales in comparison. Better yet, forget all about the banana boat — just ride the jet ski for twice as long.
As an additional word of advice, don’t go too nuts trying to pull sharp turns at top speed — you’ll just end up flying off the jet ski and hurting your shoulder pretty bad in the process. Then you’ll be bitching and moaning about your sore shoulder for the next couple of days, but at least your voice will have come back for you to be heard.
And oh yeah: wear sunscreen. It’s so goddamned hot over here you’ll burn to a crisp. Aloe vera after–sun gel is your friend.
Take a nap.
- Day three
Hiring a motorcycle is probably the smartest thing you can do on this island. Suddenly the walk to the other end of Beach Road isn’t an hour long in the sweltering heat, it’s a ten–minute wind–in–your–hair ride away. The bike is 150 baht per day (about six Australian dollars), plus fuel (70 baht will fill the tank, and that tank will last a full lap of the island… and then some), and you can do pretty much whatever the hell you want with it. The police don’t seem to mind who rides what around these streets, as long as you don’t crash into anything, and the relaxed pace on the roads means even the most bicyle–inept person can manage themselves. Buy yourself a pair of bad–ass aviator sunglasses and you’ll look like a total stud.
The only problem with a hiring a bike is that you feel pressured to see everything. We don’t plan to hire one every day, in fact we figured we’d only bother getting one today, so we circumnavigated the whole damn island. The aquarium, the tiger zoo, elephant trekking, monasteries, waterfalls, beaches, towns… it really doesn’t leave too much left to see. There’s the full moon party on Koh Pha Ngan in a couple of days, of course, and a snorkeling trip to Koh Tao we’ve booked for a few days after that, but we’ve basically seen everything we wanted to see. We didn’t plan to do much shopping while we were here, and aside from that pair of bad–ass aviator sunglasses and a few gifts I need to pick up for loved ones back home I’m pretty–much done with the shopping. So it looks like the beach will be garnering most of my attention for the coming seven days; which is as it should be.
White sand, blue waters, women in bikinis. Awww yeah.