Koh Samui is two bus rides and a ferry from Ao Nang, on the other side of the Southern Thai peninsula. The 6 hour trip cost about $15. The price of a songthaew taxi from the pier about a mile to my hotel was $6- they don’t call it the Taxi Mafia here for nothing!
My first beach here was Lipa Noi, on the west side of the island. It’s low season until next month, so it was pretty quiet, but very beautiful- one of the nicest beaches here, still relatively undeveloped and had lovely sunsets. My hotel was right on the Gulf of Thailand with the pool overlooking the water. My agenda for 2 days: swim in the ocean, walk on the beach, lay on the sand, swim in the pool, lay on a lounge chair and read Stephen King. Break occasionally for yummy Thai food from the little family owned places along the road, then repeat. Paradise!
Sunset entertainment- Russian gymnast, watching the fisherman, a water buffalo going for a walk (also met up with him later on the side of the road!) and a storm brewing.
Next on the agenda (after another expensive taxi ride) was Bo Phut on the north side for more sun and swimming. The little area called Fisherman’s village was really cute and I was there for the weekly “walking street”- a road is closed off and set up for vendors and food stalls. It wasn’t as authentic as the ones I’ve been to in mainland Thailand- lots of cheap souvenirs, but the food was great. The trick is to go down the little alleys off the main street where the real Thai food is – had some of the best green mango salad ever!
One of my splurges on this trip was a 3 day yoga retreat at a pretty fancy resort. The place was beautiful and the views were stunning. Unfortunately, the property is broken up into 2 parts- the “real” resort and a group of old bungalows a quarter mile down the road that are ‘sublet’ to the main resort- and guess which one I ended up in. I was not too happy. Plus the food, which was included, was awful and the timing of meals was contradictory to the yoga schedule, so by the time I finished class and hiked up the road, there was nothing left to eat. Fortunately, a 7-11 was nearby so I was able to stock up on oreos and green tea/chocolate cookies-my new favorite. The yoga classes were good- 2 hours in the morning and an hour of yin in the evening. The outdoor pavilion overlooked the sea and it was pretty awesome to practice there. I miss my Saturday AM classes in Hollywood- I need structure for my yoga- you tube videos just aren’t the same. The pool was really nice here as well. The last straw with this place though was that the power and water were off the last day I was there (of course the “main” resort had a generator, so they were fine) but those of us the “annex” were hot and dirty and the staff could not have cared less. So much for stress reduction- I couldn’t wait to leave.
Bangrak Beach was a working fishing town and home to the Big Buddah. The things I love about the smaller beach towns are watching the fisherman and how cheap a nice, clean beachfront room is - I paid $25 for this view.
The other planned highlight of the islands was a 3 day boat trip about an old Thai fishing vessel- snorkeling and kayaking in a marine national park off Koh Tao, a 3 hour ferry ride from Koh Samui. I was really looking forward to this as we’d be able to venture into parts of the park where tourists normally don’t get go and sleep on deck under the stars at night. Very unfortunately, I got an email at the last minute that the trip was cancelled. The owner said it was because the other passengers (there were only 3 people signed up) got sick and he wouldn’t run it just for me. I was sooooo very disappointed. I had already booked my ferry, so I headed out to Koh Tao anyway. Because I hadn’t planned anything there other than the boat trip I had to scramble to find another excursion. The one I chose stopped at 5 snorkeling sites around the island all but one turned out to be really good. Instead of reefs, the coral grows on giant rocks in the sea and there were tons of colorful fish, sea fans and big black spiny sea urchins. I just loved floating on top of the rocks and watching the comings and goings of the underwater community. The last stop was Shark Bay. This place is known for blacktip reef sharks and sometimes for sightings of green sea turtles. When we got there, it was about 4 PM and a bit overcast so the water was dark- perfect conditions for a shark attack in my opinion. The boat captain assured me it was safe, but I am pretty afraid of sharks, so I wasn’t exactly reassured. If I saw one, I was more likely to die of a heart attack than any actual shark bite. The place where the sea turtles are sometimes found was a pretty far swim from the boat and they don’t give you any flippers, so it wasn’t like I’d make it back quickly to the boat if I saw a shark. I stood on the deck debating for a few minutes, decided to be brave and go for it. I got in the water and the bottom was dark with sea grass and rocks and I could hear the theme from Jaws playing in my head. I started swimming and when I looked back at how far away the boat was I almost lost my nerve, but kept going. About 20 meters later, there was a big circle of white sand in the middle of the rocks, the sun had come out and in the middle of the sunlit circle there it was- a giant green sea turtle. It was freaking incredible! There were about 10 other snorkelers hanging on top of it, which I though was a bit intrusive, so I hung back a bit. Then the thing turned and swam right up to me- it was huge, about 4 foot shell, a big giant head and fat meaty arms and legs – definitely bigger than me. We just looked at each other for a minute and then he/she turned and swam off. It was an incredible experience! I followed it for a bit, then headed back to the boat and never saw a single shark -yay!
We also had a hiking stop on the trip at Koh Nang Yuan. It was a hot and sweaty trek but the view from the top was great.
Some of the beaches on Koh Tao were nicer than others- the most famous beach at Sairee had a lot of dogs running around (although this one was sweet) and some trash-due to some stormy weather, but the sunset was beyond beautiful.
Chalok Baan Kao beach was lovely.
Local shop on Koh Tao and the ever present taxi mafia awaiting their next victim.
My last beach on Koh Samui was Lamai and it was definitely the most developed. The weather was a bit rainy but it cleared up enough to do some stand up paddle boarding, climb on the rocks and enjoy the beach.
The street food scene during Lamai's walking street.
I loved this herb and vegetable cart selling mainly to the local folks.
The sex trade is alive and well- opens for business around 7 pm, but photos are discouraged then (learned this the hard way when walking in the Red Light District in Amsterdam a few years ago!).
There were the usual vendors walking up and down the beach offering massages, manicures, fruit, souvenirs… and while they didn’t sell the BBQ squid that I loved eating on Cambodian beaches, they did sell the next best thing- donuts! In the US I eat about 4 donuts a year, but it’s one of the things I’d been craving for a few months so I was super happy!
Thanks for all the sun, sea, food and fun Thailand! Next up- 2 months in England (and most probably much less sun!)