Koh Samui's Delights

17th November, Koh Samui, Thailand

Manda writes:

It's amazing to think that the first two travellers set foot on the sands of Koh Samui in 1971, having taken a coconut boat all the way from Bangkok. How things have changed. Looking around, there is no shortage of plush hotels and accommodation to suit every kind of budget. The island is very commercialised and Thais are definitely in the minority here. Not just in relation to the swarms of holidaymakers but also the fact that the island's inhabitants refer to themselves as 'chao samui' (Samui folk) rather than Thais.

The area we are staying in, Hat Lamai, is calm and relatively small. Being the second most popular tourist location after Hat Chaweng, it has its fair share of night life and tourist offerings. There is a strip of sand backed by a busy main road and green hills in the distance. It is not a bad spot!

To get to see more of the island, we hired a motorbike today. Ann told us a story about a friend of hers who had crashed into another motorbike driven by a young lad. At first the young boy, realising it was his own silly fault, was very remorseful and wanted to make a quick apology before fleeing the scene. But seconds later, the locals gathered around and a few officials were also summoned over. The friend ended up paying roughly £100 in compensation money (which is a lot of money by Western standards, let alone Thai standards) to the young lad - even though it was not his fault. What was the rationale? Well, tourists should not be driving on the roads of Thailand in the first place - if they weren't there, the accident wouldn't have happened! The fact that the 14 year old was too young to drive and didn't have a licence was irrelevant. Armed with this knowledge, we were extra careful on the roads. Hell, we'd managed to drive around Saigon unscathed so this shouldn't be too much of a problem! But we exercised caution nevertheless.

Our first stop was at Hin Ta Hin Yai (Grandfather and Grandmother Rock), a kilometre south of Lamai. Legend has it that a local old couple had been shipwrecked, drowned and washed ashore. Thus creating these unusually shaped rocks. Before you think it is a cute and cuddly version of the old folk, think again. One word describes it all - phallic - if you get my drift. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Grandfather Rock.

Grandmother Rock - from a slightly less obscene angle than that used on postcards here!

The Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai was next. We drove all the way up to the northeast of the island and across a causeway to get to this wat. At 12m tall, the golden Buddha is visible from several kilometres away. The view up close is even more spectacular and we took lots of photos of the Buddha silhouetted by a blue tropical sky.

The Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai.

Having had our fill of the sightseeing spots, we took a drive over to Hat Chaweng. As we drove along the main street, both Ian and I noticed how similar it looked to Crete. I'm thinking Malia or Chersonisos here. The main road runs parallel to the longest beach in Samui, and is basically a highly commercialised strip. Restaurants, bars, clothes outlets, fake designer gear - basically, a you-name-it-they-probably-sell-it kinda place. This was definitely the happening place and makes Lamai look like an OAP home in Western-Super-Mare. We drove up and down the street taking all the commotion in. Eventually, we parked up and took a stroll. We ended up at a bar called The Deck and had a couple of cool beverages, watching the world go by.

Chaweng's main drag.

We had planned on going to see the mummified monk at Wat Khumaram but ran out of daylight. Chaweng had absorbed us and we'd been truly running on Thai time!