A Year in Asia 2006- 2007 travel blog

Riding the ferry to Ko Samui

Dinner on the beach surrounded by beautiful glowing turquoise light. Too bad...

Chaweng beach: muddy when the tide is out, narrow when its in.


Everyone I know who has been to Thailand has visited Ko Samui. Obviously those people came with more cash than I did or they came for a shorter time. There is tons to do here: fishing charters, zip-trekking, sunset cruises, day-long kayak trips and fancy resorts with pools and expensive menus. But, we are nearing the end of our trip and also the end of our trip fund.

We find an a/c room in a nice guest house and enjoy the idea of having no bed bugs (our bites are really starting to surface now and they are really itchy. I have much more sympathy now for Matt's plight back in Hampi, India). We walk the beach in search of dinner and pass many restaurants with their candle-lit tables set up on the sand. Very romantic indeed. We choose the one with the best ambience, and apparently the worst service, and have a nice meal of spicy food (well, spicy for Laura, Matt didn't notice the spice!). The restaurant wrapped sheer light blue material around white lights creating columns of glowing teal that illuminated the white sand at our feet. Our candle-lit table filled with delcious thai food made a sight I won't quickly forget.

Our second day was overcast and we spent it meandering the town and relaxing. We bought our ferry tickets to Ko Phan Ngan, our next stop where the young and budget-conscious travelers congregate. Well, one 1 out of 2 ain't bad...


"Lady and Gentleman! Tomorrow night ... Tomorrow night! The best stadium! See Muay Thai boxing!" It is the fifth pickup truck to idle past us as we eat our ice creams. More will come as we walk back to our guesthouse, at least one every five minutes blaring into the crowd its endless offers of gratuitous violence.

Thai women sit at bars still nearly empty, their breasts barely contained in their tight tube-tops, waiting for customers. Every few steps brings us past a tailor shop and another young man trying to shake my hand and sell me a suit. Sunglasses, t-shirts, and bootleg CDs fill every shop. Posters advertise monkeys riding motorcycles, crocodiles with men's heads in their mouths, and sad-looking elephants with backs laden with fat tourists; such is the sensitivity and sophistication of the Ko Samui tourist. Pharmacies offer discounts on asprin to cure last night's hangover. Elaborate Italian restaurants with expensive modern d├ęcor (glowing glass tables, waterfalls, sculpted glass light fixtures) lure the five-star resort crowd. Frequently, a waft of raw sewage drifts through the air; it is the thick smell of watery excrement running beneath the sidewalk that is heavy enough that the smell lingers on your tongue. Bootleg CD music blares. Muay thai boxing ads pass by. An airplane passes overhead with a roar.

Such is the appeal of Hat Chaweng, Ko Samui's most popular tourist beach.

In the morning, we walk down to the beach in search of less expensive accommodation. Maybe we will stay awhile and explore. We pass luxurious resorts resembling large temples fronting the beach. Teak chairs are lined up in a perfect row. A red rope in the sand and several signs make clear that the area is for hotel guests only: riffraff are not allowed.

We find a place with less expensive bungalows in which a lingering musty smell prevails. It has a deck and would be a nice place to lounge. But as we eat breakfast, I see little to keep us here. The beach is narrow at high tide, long and muddy when the water is low. No one goes swimming. Few are sunbathing. It is the gauntlet of shops, restaurants, and bars that draw people from their resorts, it seems.

We decide to move on to Ko Pha-ngan, a smaller island to the north of Ko Samui. We buy our boat tickets, eat lunch, and relax in our room in the afternoon. The sky is overcast and there are no chairs on the beach that are available to rent. So we snack, eat, drink, then snack some more. I buy some sunglasses and a pair of pants to wear at a meditation retreat I'm considering attending on Ko Pha-ngan. It's in a temple and I'll need long pants that are cool to wear. I lost my sunglasses somewhere in Ko Phi Phi after holding on to them for nearly a year (despite their mostly broken, scratched, and dilapidated state).

When the top three tourist attractions (according to our brochure) are penis and vulva shaped rocks, an un-decomposed corpse of a Buddhist monk (complete with Blues Brothers sunglasses), and Minigolf International, you know its time to move on.

On to Ko Pha-ngan ...

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