So, if you’ve been following my little blog you’ll know that a week ago we left Hong Kong and flew to the small(ish) Thai island, Koh Samui. This is on the Eastern side, in the Gulf of Thailand, and we were expecting tropical paradise. Landing on our almost empty plane was incredible – we flew low over Koh Phangan, its neighbouring island (there’ll be a blog post about that too eventually!), and landed into a tiny airport which was like somebody’s back garden, full of plants and flowers and rather than the usual airport bus to take you to the terminal, just a tiny little open sided wagon, which seated about 12 of us. And when I say terminal, well, that might be debatable… the entire airport consisted of an outdoor shack, with our bags arriving almost immediately, so we could go past two immigration officers and out into the ‘arrivals hall’ – just a few tiny kiosks offering taxis and luxury resorts. We were sorted straight away with a taxi, which whisked us off to luxury accommodation of our own – a hostel!
The hostel was very new and modern, made almost completely out of shipping containers which had been cleverly piled on top of each other to make dorms and private rooms. These were all centred around a small but inviting pool with wooden decking and huge beanbags for basking in the beautiful sunshine. It was a short walk into Fisherman’s Village, a hub of bars, restaurants, shops and spas all stretching along the beach.
Trying to find our feet and our bearings, we happily sat for a little while having a Chang (who knew I could develop a taste for lager!) and watching the sea gently lapping the golden sand about 5 metres in front of us. We had already scouted out the spa we wanted to try, Cyan Spa, amongst the highest rated on good old Trip Advisor, and happened to stumble across it within minutes of being in Fisherman’s Village. Best of all, they were offering 20% discount off the already low prices, plus we could have any treatment we wanted in the ‘VIP seaview room’ – we were sold. Cue two hours of being thoroughly pampered – first with a traditional Thai massage, consisting of hands, elbows, and feet being used to pummel and tease out every last knot, then an hour of foot massage and reflexology – sheer bliss! This entire lot set us back the grand total of £15 each – actually just under!
We had pre-booked the ‘Thai experience’ for our first night – basically a dinner party for people travelling or holidaying in Samui who wanted to get to know others, eat Thai food, drink cocktails and learn a little about Thai culture. Confusingly, this was run by an English lady, Claire, and her team of Thai co-workers. We had a very fun and enjoyable evening, meeting people from all over the world (amazingly, we were the only Brits) and learning some essential information about Thailand – how to ask for a curry ‘not too spicy’ (“pet nit noi”), why all Thai bathrooms have a ‘bum gun’ – and how using it will revolutionise all your toilet experiences (seriously!), and how to differentiate between ‘Thai massage’ and ‘Thai massage’. We made our own Thai cocktails, which then became unlimited, mine consisting of ginger syrup, lime, red chilli, cucumber-infused gin and tonic water – a must-try once I’m back home. We also made our own dipping sauce for the street food course, being taught how to mix together salty (fish sauce), sweet (palm sugar), sour (lime juice) and spicy (chillis) to make a dip to our liking, then once we had our base, another little tray of jars came out for us to add salted onions, tamarind juice, ground roasted rice and more chillis, again specifically tailored to each of our likings as each of us made our own. The food was delicious, all Thai flavours but deconstructed a bit and modernised. We left after a few hours with full bellies, happy heads and new friends.
Day two dawned and we decided to head out of Bophut, where our hostel was, into Chaweng Beach, to see what all the fuss was about, having read it was full of beach bars and lively pool clubs. Having walked to the main road from the hostel, we managed to hail a ‘taxi-bus’ – literally a pick up truck whose back has been altered into a rickety, open-sided people transporter (of sorts!). I enjoyed having a good haggle with the driver and managed to persuade him to take us for 80 Baht each, rather than the 200 he had suggested. Feeling smug, we enjoyed the bumpy ride and soon found ourselves on a beautiful, long, wide beach. We wandered around for a bit before making a VERY bad lunch choice – Ark Bar – one of the few places that had a pool that was open to the public (for a fee, of course) and turned into a club later in the day. Our lunch was expensive and at best mediocre, and we were surrounded by young, super skinny, tanned 18-21 year olds who were possibly auditioning for ‘Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents’. Not for us. Instead we managed to find Mini Bar – a tiny, cute little beach front place with a good value Happy Hour, and we enjoyed watching the world go by for a while with our mango daiquiris and mai tais.
Braving the taxi-bus again, we ended our day back in Fisherman’s Village with a beautiful sunset and our zen was restored with another fantastic foot massage from Cyan Spa. We found a small local restaurant for dinner and ate watching the waves, all for less than £10 between us.
The following day we had a lazy morning relaxing by the pool and trying to do something about our still definite whiteness. When we were too hungry to relax any longer, we headed back into the village for lunch, followed by sitting on the beach at Coco Tam’s with the most delicious coconut shake – so fresh and full of chunks of coconut. We’d been told we would need to buy our boat tickets for Koh Phangan that evening to ensure our transfer bus would be able to collect us the following morning, so again I was able to use my best haggling skills to knock the price down slightly, and we headed home to get ready for dinner excited about the next few days and what the other islands would hold.
Dinner for our last night was as usual decided by Trip – the somewhat oddly named ‘Ninja Crepes’. The only thing remotely ninja was the walk to the restaurant – not very far but on pitch black roads and almost turning round to go back, before it magically appeared on the next bend. Also, not a crepe in sight! The man who owns the place was brilliant – eccentric and energetic, running backwards and forwards from restaurant to the kitchen, bringing us delicious Thai food made by his wife and family in the kitchen whilst grandma Ninja sat outside in her rocking chair washing and drying the crockery. Trip wins again – Ninja Crepes deserves its number 4 rating for the whole island, and we will be back, not least because it was yet another amazing meal, this time 3 courses each including beer for less than £15 between us!
The following morning was spent packing our rucksacks and checking out, then a quick minibus journey to a surprisingly large and well-organised ferry port to wait for our 30 minute catamaran crossing to Koh Phangan. Keep your eyes peeled for instalment number 3…