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Published: March 28th 2008
Charming RestaurantKo Samui
Our favorite place to splurge!
Currently we are in week three of our stay in Chaweng Noi on Samui Island and I must admit it is not easy to think back and write about our arrival and first impression of the island because just as it is hard to remember what is was like before you could read or drive a car, it is hard to remember Ko Samui before I learned to love it. But I’ll try…
I’ll start with the same preface that I faced before arriving. First, every word of mouth account of the island we heard was less than enthusiastic: something like, “its okay… a bit dirty and touristy… but okay, I guess. I wouldn’t go there again though.” Next, our trusty travel book highlighted recent rapes and murders of foreign tourists on the island where poor local fishermen were accused of the crimes (yes, those poor vicious Buddhists?
) and reasoned that such instances “…reflected a deep seated-turmoil on Koh Samui…” Turmoil raised from resentment by the local community (a community where our book says less than 20%!o(MISSING)f the population are benefiting from the intrusive tourism) against the foreign community that owns and benefits from such tourism.
A Locals' Beach
We didn't even bother taking pictures of the touristy Chaweng Beach... this one is much more peaceful!
So back to our arrival, we fly into the island on a crowded plane of smelly Farang (Thai for white people) and land in hot and heavy rain. Quickly we are whisked away by a cab that costs twice as much to take us half as far as a cab in Bangkok would. We arrive at our hotel and as we are checking in for the month we are literally attacked by vicious mosies (mosquitoes). Seriously, fifteen minutes later my entire arm was swollen and I was light headed from the loss of blood! Our room was small (or smaller than the one in Bangkok) but at least had two huge corner windows that overlooked a forest of coconut trees. But then we looked down and saw the neighboring village of tented homes and huge trash piles. In fact, for our arrival there was a robust trash burning ceremony that wafted in through the non-closeable bathroom window. Fabulous… nightly trash burning by a village that we’ve been told to fear from our trusty travel guide…
All in all we are actually quite impressed with our little place. For about $300 U.S. we have found a charming, tropical home
The Gulf of Thailand's Calm Waters
The shallow shores stretch so far on these beaches. You see fishermen walk out to the horizon with the water only up to their knees... but don't let it fool you, we have seen hight tides and some pretty fun waves!
for the next month of our training course. So after unloading our luggage we headed out to tour the town… too bad the town didn’t seem to want to be toured by us--on foot at least. Cars were racing by with no rules on a tiny road with no sidewalk and motorcycles were swarming in and out of the barely there walk-way. Thinking of our lives we gave up the journey and opted for a simple dinner of chips and beer from the corner market across the way from our hotel—vowing to try it again in the daylight. When daylight came we followed the big signs to Chaweng Beach, the biggest party beach probably in all of Asia. It is apparently such a party beach that goers from the night before couldn’t even manage to bring their clothes and shoes home with them, let alone throw away any of their other trash. Yep, the beach is gross and the frontage road is full of the ever so pleasant morning-after hookers. As Brian would say: “Welcome to Chaweng Beach!”
Remember though, this was only our first impression. Since that weekend we have made some friends and learned more about the
Isn't he Cute!
Now, that's a picture for you, Judy!
island on our own and through experiences of those who actually live here. Like when we learned the sad truth behind the fearful warning of the “deep-seated turmoil” our travel book told of. In actuality it is strongly believed that those incidents of violence were committed on tourists by
tourists not by the sweet Buddhist fishermen that have shown nothing but kindness to us. However, as in most publicized crimes, somebody had to take the fall…
Our first turning point in getting to know the real Samui was after our first day of school when our new mate Anthony invited us to dinner at a restaurant up the hill and further away from Chaweng. The restaurant is simply named the Charming Restaurant and is right on a beautiful, tropical and clean beach! With our feet in the sand and eating authentic Thai food while watching the calm ocean sparkle in the moonlight, we realized that there was a bit more to Koh Samui than overpriced services and disrespectful Farang polluting the popular beach that now all Thais and other ex-pats avoid.
In fact, the next weekend was a huge improvement. We went with Anthony on a kayaking and
It Sure Beats Denny's
dinning at the Charming Restaurant I mean.
snorkeling trip in Ang Thong Marine Park, a series of heavenly islands like you thought you would only ever see in a beer commercial. These islands are visited by tours daily but have no real development and no residents so they have managed to stay quite pure and natural looking. Our day consisted of kayaking around a small limestone island and snorkeling in, well, rather boring waters but off the shore of an amazing beach! After a filling Thai lunch served on the ferry boat that brought us all there, we made a 500m trek/climb up ladder/stairs to witness one of God’s most beautiful creations, a salt water lake in the middle of the island called the Emerald Lagoon. After this we overtook the private front end of the boat home and with wind in our hair chugged on Heinekens and laughed over how dreadful our new lives in Thailand would surely be.
Since then we’ve been touring different bars, restaurants and beaches making sure to communicate to Thais that we are not tourists but are poor yet highly respected teachers. This is usually followed with a more respectful bow and a cheaper price on cab rides or a
Home is Where the Lizards are
Fortunately this is the biggest reptile we've faced when coming home... so far.
free dinner here and there and as we walk home or through the town we are greeted as Teacher Claire and Teacher Brian. So I guess the moral of this story is that if we were merely tourists we would have left the island with the same grim outlook on Samui that our travel book and word-of-mouth accounts had had. But we are not; we live in Thailand now and are entering a profession that is a respected part of the community. We are learning to see even the touristiest of areas in a different light, a brighter light and that my friends, is pretty cool.
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