January 27th - we departed for Koh Samui, a larger island to South-West of Koh Phangnan. Once we arrived we immediately booked a trip for the next morning to Anthong National park. It is a unique national park because it is a marine conservation park and it is a cluster of 41 islands. We inquired about staying the night because we had read in a Koh Phangnan guide that this was possible. Strangely enough though there is only one company that takes you to Anthong from Koh Phangnan and it only leaves three times a week. Also the fact that you can stay overnight is not advertised on Koh Phangnan. Koh Samui has many companies that can take you everyday to the park so this was a major reason why we wanted to head there. We found out that we could stay there and that our tour company would pick us up the following day at no extra charge. We also couldn’t believe the price of only 250 baht per night. We could tell we had stumbled on something quite special. We booked a guesthouse on the nicest beach on Koh Samui, Chaweng, and made our way there. Koh Samui is
much different than Koh Phangnan, much more lively and way more built up. It was quite exciting. Chaweng is a very nice white sand beach and it had quite a bit of life. Around 4:00 pm, all the restaurants start bringing out lounge chairs and set them in the fat setting. Then they put three of them together and they place a small table on top. It is a very unique way of dinning.
The next morning we arose at the ungodly hour of 6 am. We were the only ones in a group of 100 that were toting backpacks. I think we both looked like we were over packers for a day trip. Our first stop on the tour was to a blue lagoon (well blue-green). It was very cool. No one was allowed to swim in it but there was an observation deck at the top and the bottom for some wicked views. You could see the marine life on the lower observation deck and the upper one gave a nice view of the islands in the park. After lunch we landed at our destination for the next 24 hours. It was another stunning white sand beach.
We booked a tent on the beach and sat back to relax and wait for the other tourists to leave. We happened to be the only people staying overnight. We were quite lucky on our timing because the following day 20 Canadians would be arriving. We found out from a staff member that only Canadians seem to be aware of the overnight facilities.
Once the tourists vacated, we made our way to the bar for a drink. The bartender was quite a hilarious character. We asked his name and he said “Me.” And I said “what?” and he said his name was “Me.” I imagine he has a pretty comical time introducing himself to people who speak English. We ordered two coconuts and a couple shots of Malibu. Me informed us that this drink is called Cocoloco. He suggested we take the 40 min hike up to the viewpoint before the sun went down. We were warned that the hike was a little treacherous from our guides but we thought they were just trying to scare the unfit. Turns out they were being 100% truthful, who’d have thunk it?? And yours truly decided to trek it in flip-flops; yes,
flip-flops; worst idea ever. I am actually going to buy hiking boots today. So it was pretty steep climb most of the way up, but my favourite part was when we reached a sign that said “rock climbing leg.” I’m sorry, does that sign actually say that the last portion of the hike includes a rock climb??? How many hikes have you been on that included a rock-climbing portion! I had already come this far in my flip flops that I couldn’t wimp out, but man, I am afraid of heights to begin with, being in flip flops was not appropriate. I did indeed make it to the top by taking my sweet time and repeating, “oh my god, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.”
We got back to the bottom right as the sun was setting and we went for a walk along the beach to enjoy the rock formation that is usually covered by water at high tide. Later that night we tucked into our tent just in time for a wild windstorm. I awoke for the sunrise, my first one in years. After breakfast we took the other hike up to a
stalactite cave. You would think after the pervious nights hike I would have learned my lesson about wearing appropriate footwear but I can’t quite seem to grasp this concept. In my defense, I suppose I figured the hike would be easier considering we were going to a cave. Who new there could be caves way up the side of a mountain. So I made another treacherous hike up in my flip-flops. The cave was so cool. We had the place all to ourselves and explored it as much as we could and as far as my flip-flops would take me. Thankfully, this was quite far as I had the added courage of rock climbing in them the evening before. We heard some bats but never saw any. On our way back from the cave Jonathan spotted a couple Langur’s (monkey like creatures). Of course by the time I got to him they had moved out of sight but we waited a bit longer and they came back. Unfortunately we were unable to get a good shot.
After lunch we took a stroll behind the restaurant only to find a whole family of Langur’s just chilling in a big tree.
It was one of the most incredible sites I have ever seen. There is nothing like watching animals in their natural habitat. Of course I didn’t have the camera so I had to run back to the tent and once we were taking pictures, about 11 or so shots, my memory card runs out. We were frantically deleting bad pictures to get more space. I eventually got my other memory card and followed the langurs to the edge of the jungle. At one point a langur came about 1 foot from my face. Some of them have pretty scary faces, and this one did. It was a truly amazing experience.
We got back to Koh Samui around 5 and headed back to Chaweng for our last night on the islands. After dinner we took a stroll on the street and came across a man who claimed he could cut our silhouettes from film paper in under a minute and we could pay him whatever we wanted. The man was quite cocky but with good reason. He actually cut our silhouettes in about a minute and even managed to get the dumb smirk on my face. We were really impressed.
No zoom on this shot
He said one man made him cut two silhouettes and that you could take both to the light and they matched up perfectly.
The next day we made the long trek to Bangkok. We were up again at 6 am to get into a taxi, to be transferred to a bus, to get off and get on the ferry, only to get back on the bus and then off the bus again, transferred to a pick up truck, and driven to another bus to take us to the airport. We flew on the plane and then we were into another taxi. I will never forget the taxi driver that took us into Bangkok. He was a very complimentary man from Laos. After about 10 minutes in his car he let us know how he felt about “muslies” (Muslims). He wasn’t too happy with the muslies. There is quite a bit of turmoil in the far South of Thailand and he has many friends in the Thai army that have died in the conflict and one returned with no legs. After he regaled us with some surprisingly funny and animated stories (his communication was impeccable, his English was limited but
his gesticulations always made it quite clear what he was getting at). I have to say it was quite refreshing to see someone this outgoing in his attempts at English. We were then privileged to witness a small concert of Laos music by a Loas musician and our taxi driver himself. It may have been the best taxi ride I have ever had. He just had good energy despite his muslie hating.
We arrived at Koah San road, a full on 24-hour market and a complete assault on the senses. What a change from our island life. I was in market excitement overload. I could already sense my need for shopping rising and I was anticipating the anger Jonathan was going to feel. We both shopped for a couple hours spending my whole budget in this time. We delighted in all the eclectic food being offered. My favourite was a Thai pancake dish, it was much like a crepe with bananas (Thailand also had the best bananas I have ever eaten, even when the outside was all yellow and brown the banana still tastes like it is just ripening, as if the outside should be a greeny/yellow.) sweet milk,
and chocolate drizzled all over. Mmm delish.
The next day we woke up early and headed to the grand palace. We heard that your knees need to be covered and your heels. And so we wore flip-flops for some reason, thinking that we would skip the temple. On our way we stopped to check our map and while sitting there, looking like complete targets, we were approached by this nice man offering his help and asking how long we were in town for. He said that we needed to see this temple and check out the “expo.” They offered us a Tuk Tuk (a small 2 seater, 3 wheeled vehicle) for only 40 baht for the whole day. (note: when things are too good to be true it is because they are). We were taken to a nice temple to start and viewed a Buddha. Then our driver said he had to go to the washroom. While he was in the washroom we happen to strike up a conversation with another nice man. This man asked us where we were heading and we told him we were going to some expo. He looked surprised and said that he was
there yesterday. He told us that the government puts this diamond and sapphire show on and it is usually for Thai business men only but this year they opened it up for all Thai’s and tourists but only for the last three days of it and today happened to be the last day. He said his parents came up from Phuket especially for this expo. He told us what a great deal the diamonds and sapphires are. He said the sapphires are running out so their value is going up. He mentioned that when you buy sapphires or diamond in another country you have to pay a 200% tax but this was waived at the expo. He told us that this is how Thais fund their foreign education; they buy the sapphire necklace or what not, take it to a Tiffany’s in their country of study, and sell it for a profit. After about 10 minutes of this and our driver nowhere in sight we start to get a little suspicious. This nice man was sounding like a salesman.
When we arrived at the “expo,” which looked a helluva lot like a run of the mill jewelry store, we
were greeted by a woman who looked very disappointed. She asked us how old we were and if we were students. Clearly the poachers had picked the wrong class of suckers. After about five minutes of feigning interest we headed out. The scam was confirmed when our driver started to sell us on the sapphires. “ Were they too expensive? It is such a good deal, etc.” He took us to another temple and we walked in and decided we wanted to go back to Koah San road. We had to go back anyways to change our shorts and shoes. So we get back and told our driver this. His response to this was to try and sell us more diamonds and also offering up a tailor service. We said “no, no” but he insisted. Then he tells us he needs us to go to one of the places so he can get a gas coupon for all his troubles. We grudgingly obliged and headed to the tailor. We spent about 1 minute in the tailor and our driver finally toke us to Koah San road. All in all we were taken for quite a ride for only a dollar.
I believe the dollar was well spent for a ride on a Tuk Tuk and a funny if not frustrating story.
In the afternoon we were a little tired from the morning festivities but we gathered our energy and made our way back to the grand palace. We paid the high price of 350 baht per person for the entrance fee and entered the grand palace. We were really impressed with the ornate architecture. Every building seemed to be glowing gold with diamonds. The next stop was the reclining Buddha. Luckily it was located right next to the grand palace. Not so lucky that the palace is huge and so it’s a couple of blocks to walk around it. I really enjoyed the reclining Buddha. He looked so peaceful and at the same time he seems to be smiling at you. The size of the Buddha was also quite impressive. He was at least 150 feet long.
That night we overestimated the time it would take to get to the airport and made it there for a full 4 hours before our flight left. This was even sadder when I realized I had no more money to spend.
At the airport we happened to run into a mutual friend of ours from our Oxford course in Toronto. He had been in Korea for the same amount of time as us, and he is teaching in Incheon. We caught up and met a bunch of teachers he had been traveling with (7 in all). It was a nice surprise. At 11pm we boarded our red eye plane for the long journey home. After taking two buses in Korea we arrived back home at about 12 pm and I was back to work the next morning. There are only two more weeks of school here and then another week of vacation, where I believe I will be teaching another camp and then on March 1st the New Year starts and I get a new co-teacher. Let’s all pray she loves English.
I would love to hear updates from all of you when you get the chance. I hope all is well in Toronto or wherever you may be.
Love to all
Until next time………
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