Hidden Asia: Koh Samui, ThailandPosted in Where to Travel to Now
Coconut trees prove to be a near fatal hazard, night-swimming in the Gulf of Thailand and a copious consumption of Red Bull at the Green Mango club await readers in Seb King's next escapade.
The distance we needed to cover was substantial; a mere 650 kilometres separated us from the south coast of Thailand. Hitchhiking was not an option. We happily forked out 550 Thai Baht for a ride on a public bus.
A monstrous 16 hour journey from Trat Province to Surat Thani awaited but we were determined that hunger wasn’t about to make our transfer any more uncomfortable than it needed to be. We were prepared for the long haul. A plethora of biscuits, crisps and rice bread rattled around the bottom of my satchel, which, no doubt had now capitulated into crumbs.
First things first, never lose sight of your luggage. The stop off point at Bangkok meant we had to squirm toward the double doors of the bus to grab our packs before a brazen crook with gold teeth and a C shape scar on his cheek had auctioned them to the highest bidder on the black market.
“Push!” screamed my Skinny Friend.
“I am for god’s sake! What do you want me to do crush this woman’s bones like fried whitebait?”
The lady in front glared at me. Did she understand English? Did she know what whitebait was?
“Stop pushing like a bloody girl and push! Do you want to see your stuff ever again? Push you numpty!”
Considering the contents of my backpack included a selection of faded tee-shirts, soiled underwear and a few pirated cds I didn’t share my Skinny Friend’s sense of urgency. Then again, I’d formed a close relationship with my fluorescent Karamor, a bonafide artefact from the 80s, despite its worthless contents. I pushed.
We burst outside. Bags were strewn by the curb side. Bright green and pink stitching, a departure tag from Heathrow and a broken zip; my pack stood out as though it were a blood soaked tramp trying to hitch a ride on a motorway. Amongst the sea of brand new suitcases, bags and rucksacks it was blatant to anyone with half a brain that it contained nothing of value.
My Skinny Friend rescued his luggage while I negotiated the knotted straps and busted zips of my backpack. Our gear was safe.
We didn’t have to wait long at the Southern Route Bus Terminal on Borom Ratchachonnani Road to catch our ride to Surat Thani. We scrambled aboard, flashed our tickets and made ourselves comfortable on the back seats.
Urban city blocks disintegrated into luscious countryside. I slept with my face against the window and awoke in a pool of dribble. It was dark.
My Skinny Friend emerged from the opposite seat. “Bout time you woke up you slacker. We’re nearly there. You take anything to sedate yourself?”
I shrugged my shoulders , “nothing that I knew about anyway”.
“You’re generation are all the same, competing with the sloth is your only motivation.”
“You’re just jealous of my capacity for self-sedation.”
There was a silence.
Filled with the shadows of the night, The Gulf of Thailand bobbed as though it were a conveyor belt that operated on planes of various heights. We’d arrived at Surat Thani, the nerve centre that provides the islands of Koh Phangan, Koh Samui and Ko Toa with daily doses of fresh tourists.
Above: If You're Stopping Off @ Surat Thani Be Sure To Buy Some Rambutan Fruit As They're, Allegedly, The Best In Thailand.
We caught the last ferry of the day and arrived at Bo Phut, on the north coast of Koh Samui.
“To Chaweng Beach and step on it,” I said to a nearby tuk-tuk driver as I handed him 50 Thai Baht.
The driver had the look of a man for whom humour existed in a black hole that was out of touch. His eyes were empty vessels. He nodded and started the engine. Polychromatic lights and a trippy rendition of the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty announced our arrival at Monkey Bay Beach Bar; the driver seemed to think this was perfectly normal.
Above: View Of Chaweng Beach By Air
We stepped out onto the gravel road. Cars, not mopeds paraded down the main road; a tell tale sign of wealth.
A nearby vehicle crawled the curb. Speakers the size of Bagdad had been mounted to its tin roof. A thick Thai accent announced with dramatic flair, “Come to Chewang Beach. Eight o’clock. Best fight in the world, ever. Tonight. Don’t miss it.” Something told me that the ‘best fight in the world, ever’ was a daily occurrence.
Monkey Bay is the social hub of Chaweng beach. Late night parties with fire-dancers, electro house and reasonably priced drinks make for a potent concoction of commerciality. So it seemed only right for there to be budget accommodation on the beachfront.
Above: Late Night @ Monkey Bay
The restaurant leads onto the sallow sand of the beach and boasts a drinks area complete with a pool table. It’s also possible to take your beverages to your sun lounger provided that you bring the glass back to the bar. This is not Blackpool.
Huts forged from bamboo and banana leaves are the cheapest option at 100 Thai Baht per night. These boudoirs might not be fitted with air conditioning, but they do sport a rather powerful fan. However, if you want a spot right next to the waves you’re better off forking out the 250 Thai Baht daily rate for a more substantial upgrade. With money to burn and time ticking away my Skinny Friend and I booked our deluxe huts. We ate. We slept.
Morning broke. Cobalt skies and a silver sun persuaded me to click open my sun cream and slap it all over my Western body. The coffee at the restaurant was strong and partial to a cigarette. I watched the rings of smoke dissolve into heat waves on the horizon. Monkey Bay was busy. Girls in lurid bikinis waddled past as though they were peacocks.
Above: Sunrise @ Monkey Beach
“Mind if I join you?”
I was taken aback. A girl with hair the colour of straw and skin whiter than milk stood before me, her arm poised to pull out the chair next to mine.
“Sure. You smoke?”
She nodded, selected a cigarette and took a seat.
I asked the dreaded question, “Who're you here with?”
“My girlfriends. There’re still sleeping.”
“I see. Heavy night?”
She lit up and nodded.
“I don’t like seeing people alone in these places. You look like you could do with some company,” she eyed my notepad.
“Thanks for the pity-vote. I appreciate it.”
There was crash behind us. Whatever it was that had just fallen from the sky, it was big and heavy enough to crush even the most formidable of frames. A familiar looking man with a towel wrapped around his waist ran towards reception in a frenzy. My Skinny Friend jabbed his finger at a girl in silk robe then pointed to the heavens. After an array of flamboyant hand gestures he stomped toward us.
Above: Proof That It's Not Always Sunny In Koh Samui.
“Did you see that!”
I looked at the pallid face of the girl sitting next to me for answers and found none.
“See what? You forgot your shorts by the way.”
He stabbed an over-extended index finger above his head. “The tree that fell into my bathroom you moron, what else!”
Scaling the ribbed trunk of a palm tree a pair of men armed with crosscut saws hacked away at its shaft, releasing a trail of sawdust into the wind. Without warning the top heavy section snapped as if a hippopotamus had sat on a matchstick, the leafy head of the palm tree hit the ground below with a thud that rattled my coffee cup.
Bemused, my Skinny Friend grabbed a spare chair and joined the table. He furrowed his brow, “and who is this?”
She exhaled a plume of smoke that danced around her unblemished face like static on a television set, “I’m Pippa.”
“Right, now that we’re all well acquainted how about you help me force the receptionist to give me another room? My bathroom is full of insects and god knows what else. I could’ve died!”
We agreed to meet for drink that night. The receptionist gave way and offered my Skinny Friend a new deluxe hut on the condition he didn’t scare the guests by walking around in a towel.
Above: Chewang Beach Is A Good Place To Meet Other Travellers
The sun sank into the ocean. Dub blasted from nearby speakers. My Skinny Friend and I waddled back from our beach massage, sat at the bar and ordered a beer. I felt a firm prod in the small of my back. I winced and span round to face my aggressor.
It was Pippa. Standing next to her tanned friends she looked like a spectre. They were glammed up and ready to hit the clubs. My Skinny Friend and I were still in our beach shorts.
“You wanna go to the Green Mango with us?”
My Skinny Friend took a slug of his beer, “the Green Mango? What’s that?”
Pippa rolled her eyes, “it’s a place with dancers in cages, house music and cheap drinks.”
My Skinny Friend was taking a while to respond, his mind had drifted to the land of debauchery.
I cut in. “Right...Can we get changed first?”
Above: The Green Mango @ Koh Samui. You Get The Idea.
We finished our beers and donned our finest clubbing garments; faded tee-shirts and sweaty shorts.
Although Chewang Beach is conveniently positioned in the alongside the town centre it’s worth escaping the beach bubble for a few days. Namuang Waterfalls and the Big Buddha temple are a short moped ride from the bustle of town and make for fantastic outings if you get bored of sun bathing. If you’re looking for edge-of-your-seat entertainment then Chaweng Beach has a well established Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) ring. However, if you’re looking to party hard then Chewang Beach has an entire melange of bars and clubs.
Above: Praying Before A Fight Is A Common Ritual In Muay Thai
Red Bull is cheap in Thailand. It’s also very potent. Combine these two factors and you’re left with a product that’s cheaper than alcohol and will keep you wired all night. I suggest purchasing some from a nearby supermarket in central Chewang before heading out, being careful to hide the contents of your bag from the bouncers.
Above: Koh Samui Attracts A Lot Of Tourists Who Are Willing To Pay To Hold 'Tourist Animals'. If A Trader Lumbers You With An Exotic Animal And Offers To Take Pictures, Refuse As These Animals Should Be In The Wild. Some People Even Pay To Play Connect 4 With Kids Who Are Then Encouraged To Earn Money At Night And Skip School.
When you feet ache from all those intricate samba moves you felt inclined to demonstrate while topless on stage it’s time to lounge around in the sea. My Skinny Friend, myself and six glamour-pusses stumbled out of a taxi, changed into our swim gear and lolled about in the dark surf of the Gulf of Thailand until the sun rose in the East, set against a backdrop of diamante liquid.
Above: Koh Samui Is At Its Most Tranquil In The Early Hours Of The Morning
Top Tip: Keep a photocopied version of your passport in your wallet for backup in case you lose it. It speeds the whole process of applying for a new passport at the British Embassy a whole lot easier. It might be a good idea to take out some travel insurance online
to cover any mishaps.