Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Day Twenty One - Ko Samui - Thailand

We got up on our last morning on Ko Pang-ngan and had breakfast by our bungalow. We had really enjoyed our stay but we were also looking forward to some air conditioning after our few muggy nights in our (non sir conditioned) palm tree bungalow on Ko Pha-ngan. We had booked a ticket on a wooden taxi boat to Ko Samui and in true Ko Pha-ngan style we went out onto the beach and waded out into the sea to get on board.

We stopped off at another few coves and passed more secluded bungalows hanging onto the edge of rocks. We also passed idyllic small islands home to a few palm trees along the way before we left and crossed the sea a few kilometres to Ko Samui. The whole journey took about an hour and a half before we were dropped off at the north of the island. We then got a bus the short distance via the islands airport to our hotel in Chaweng to the east of the island.

Ko Samui instantly had a different vibe to Ko Pha-ngan. It's more developed here and there are shops and restaurants lining the streets side by side with glass fronts and branding! McDonald's sits opposite Burger King with Starbucks a few doors down. Huge electrical wires that are a familiar view in the city's line the streets linking the shops up to electricity. In some places there are so many you have to duck to get into a shop. Markets all selling the same knock off brands of clothing, perfume, cosmetics and leather go on for miles along the main street. Men outside greet you with 'my friend' and 'where you from' trying to get you to come in and see what they're selling. Westerner's with meaningless tattoos, white polo shirts, un-naturally tanned skin and fluorescent bikinis strut down the street while chewing on gum or wiz past you on a motorbike NOT a moped!

We arrived at our hotel the Chaweng Garden Beach Resort at midday. The hotel does actually sit on the sea front, as the name suggests, of one of the biggest strips of beach on the island. However, there are so many shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and power lines lining the beach road you can't see behind to the beach as you drive along or to the jungle the other side! There is no such thing as a beach bungalow here, just resorts which makes it a bit of a disappointment in comparison to Ko Pha-ngan for us. I guess it depends what you come on holiday for?

We settled in and went out to find some lunch, at least with the amount of restaurants here it's not hard to find somewhere good to eat. We had a dim sum platter for starter and a Thai Green Curry and Crab Yellow Curry for main before headings back to the hotel. We went out for a swim in the sea which is crystal clear and actually not too busy when you compare it to other holiday resorts but it still felt busy to us after having whole coves to ourselves the past couple of days. The people here are different too, most of them are here on package holidays and don't move from their resort. Jet skis tear up the water and there was a man selling a ride on a machine that makes you shoot out of the sea and hover ten meters up in the air on a board with a jet underneath. Then the noise of the many people's voices was broken by a huge plane passing over head from the international airport just down the road.

I know if you get out and explore this island it has a lot more to offer than just Chaweng, with equally as beautiful waterfalls and countryside just like Ko Pha-ngan. I just don't want to share it with the people that are round here! I guess that sounds snobby and I don't mean it that way but people here aren't here exploring and discovering - they have signed up to this from a glossy catalogue back in their country and probably don't even know about the islands sights let alone Ko Pha-ngan - thank god! It just lacks the magic here a little for us.

Our hotel is nice though and air conditioning is appreciated at last! After we spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach and the hotels pool we went out to explore a little more. We walked down the street south towards the quieter end of the beach. As we headed south it did become less chaotic with fewer market traders and banging bars that are present in the north.

We passed three guys that were fixing the power lines along the way. This consisted of one man sitting on a no entry fence holding the bottom of a ladder that was resting on the buzzing power lines, another on the ladder fixing something while the third guy held up a large amount of the lines that were getting in the way! This made me worried at the same time as amazed so I thought it was worth a picture!

We stopped off at a bar called The Library that Jamie had looked up and stopped off for a drink. It was like a breath of fresh air in there - literally! The air com had really cooled the place down and the interior was amazing! Polished concrete walls met steel shelves and fantastic lighting. The ultra high ceilings with the steel ventilation exposed made it feel spacious, open, trendy and laid back at the same time. We settled down in a seat at the front and watched the world go by from this peaceful bar. People went about their business going to and from work along the street outside. The peace was occasionally interrupted with a truck with 'we will, we will, rock you' chanting out of its speaker follower by a game show style American accent enticing people to tonight's big Thai fight! Boxing is very popular over here, there are even rings under shady palms in the most unlikely of villages.

We stayed at the Library moving onto their beach bar on the other side and watched the sun set from bean bags on the sand. By this time in the evening the last of the jet skis were being brought in for the evening and there were only a few bathers left on the beach. The vibe had completely changed, this chaotic beach from a few hours ago had chilled out into a relaxed yet trendy hangout for the evening. We decided to head back to our end of the beach and were greeted within a couple of hundred meters by neon lights and booming music again! We stopped in a hotel for dinner which after over three weeks of amazing food was quite disappointing but fine.

We decided the night was still young so went back onto the main street to see what was going on. The street looked completely different illuminated with neon lights! The folk from the beach earlier in the day were now wondering up and down - no doubt in search of the best booze deal. The whole thing was a bit dizzying to watch! Every bar had sports on wide screen TV's and there were wet t-shirt and drinking competitions everywhere! As much as we both wanted to compete we decided to call it a night! We stopped off quickly to get some ice cream and went back and hid in our hotel. We look forward to flying to Penang tomorrow and seeing what Malaysia has to offer!

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