Day 6, 14 November
We’re a little sad to leave Ko Tao this morning. She’s been good to us. As have the kind folks at Davy Jones Locker. I really do highly recommend them – so helpful, friendly, professional and personal. Han and Debbie have bought our ferry tickets at a travel agent in the adjacent road and I’m hanging around watching some bored masseuses play volleyball and a slightly mangy street cat enjoying the morning sun. DJL organise a lift to the pier for us, but it’s a long wait before the ferry to Ko Samui leaves. Debbie practices her salsa dancing on narrow short walls, Han goes shopping for cheap sunglasses, and I have an awkward restaurant bathroom search and take my last photographs on the beach.
Finally we leave and it’s the same monotonous droning sensation for the entire trip. About half of the younger, more party-orientated passengers get off at Koh Phangan, but we have no intention of going there and certainly not to partake in the Full Moon Parties.
Of course Ko Phangan is not all bad. In fact, I witness one of the best marketing tactics I’ve seen in a while. A Thai woman stands on the pier holding a cooler box with ice-creams, signage displaying the prices, and a small plastic basket attached to a long pole. You shout to her what you’d like (from the ferry), she pops your Magnum in the basket, hoists it up, you take your ice-cream and drop in the cash, and you’ve just made a purchase! Bob’s your uncle.
A gentleman approaches us with his brochures and we humour him and listen to his ‘deal’ he has to offer. It sounds good, so we agree to check it out. Debbie does most of the negotiating and he asks her name. They shake hands and he says something along the lines of: ‘You’re strong Amy’. It’s too awkward to correct him and Debbie gets a new nickname.
Samui is gigantic compared to Ko Tao, so you can see it from miles away. And it takes ages to eventually hit the shores. We want to make our way to Chaweng beach so we obviously attract a host of pushy taxi drivers. Of course they don’t have meters (another popular Thai ‘scam’), but we take what we can get and it’s always a lot less painful when you split the cost by four.
We find the notorious Palm Island (at least it exists), but the amazingly priced rooms advertised to us on the ferry are hardly worthwhile and the furthest from the beach. We barter for a much nicer room that comes to 1700B – about R300 per person. We’re only here for a night anyway. By now the once ominous-looking clouds have burst and we experience our first island downpour. It’s still hot and humid, but the rain makes the beach certainly less appealing.
The skies clear and it’s a good opportunity to walk down the beach in search of a lunch spot. Chaweng is packed with resort upon resort on the beachfront, their deck chairs spilling out onto the sand. We’re obviously not the only tourists and we have a little subtle giggle at the Russian-looking beast of a man in a tiny red thong. I think Bruce is the most scarred … During lunch we are also amused by some people in the shallow waters nearby who are quite clearly failing at snorkelling. Shame.
Palm Island Resort does have a pretty sweet palm tree-lined pool and since we are paying to stay there (and seem like the only guests), we might as well enjoy it. We take some fun underwater GoPro snapshots and lounge on the deck chairs under warm but overcast skies.
The four of us have by now ventured into ‘unbooked territory’ in our travels. In other words, we don’t know exactly where we are sleeping tomorrow night. Well, we have an itinerary and we’re heading to Ao Nang on the western Andaman coast, but we still need to book a flight there. It turns out to be a frustrating afternoon with broken wifi, retyping passenger details on Debbie’s iPad for the billionth time, and Bruce eventually asking the front desk if we can phone Bangkok Air and book that way. Finally, we have success and the relief that we are going where we planned! We celebrate with a dusk massage with some ladies at a little enclosure on the beach. This time we all get to go at the same time, but agree that the Ko Tao lady is still coming out tops. Still, rather wonderful to get massaged with the scent and sounds of actual ocean.
We take a walk into town for supper. Compared to the chilled quiet vibe of Ko Tau, Samui is over-developed, loud, and harsh. I know some people love that, but we came to the islands to not feel like we are holidaying in Bangkok.
It’s an experience to walk around and take in the sights and sounds. The blaring bakkies advertising Muay Thai fights are horrible (think of the eTV guy announcing Friday night action nights through a blown speaker) … but the guy singing John Mayer at a quiet outside hotel restaurant is lovely. And worth stopping for.
The random restaurant we pick is incidentally just across from a cabaret bar, and at all times there is someone standing outside on the sidewalk trying to lure people in. These are the notorious lady boys. Transgender characters in gorgeous figure-hugging cocktail dresses, killer heels, or glittering bikinis. Most have fabulous legs. It certainly is a sight to behold and my curiosity causes many a backward glance. It makes for a good distraction from the comic sans typeface in the flip file menu.
Another thing I’m curious about is Ark Bar. A friend of mine raved about the place – it’s a beach bar with nearby accommodation – so I just want to see it. I convince the others to humour me and we go. It’s like a mini full moon party. Glow sticks for days. Fire dancers. Beanbags, drunk tourists, thumping house music. 600B cocktails. Amazingly, we see they sell Savannahs!
We stay for about six minutes.
We walk back up along the beach but veer into and through a massive resort that looks like a jungle themed park. Some of these resorts are truly incredible!