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Published: February 1st 2009
It had been some 21 months since our last long haul visitation, although jaunts out in Bongo are more than fulfilling, you just can't beat a little sunshine & buffoonery around the otherwise chilly festive season of Goodwill.
We'd scored flights on a previously untested airline - Qatar, about the best deal we could get despite the ******* fuel surcharge. (memo to self: Next time - wait for the price of a barrel of oil to drop by $100 before buying tickets.) They gave a pretty good service all the same. Edible food & plenty to keep entertained on the TV thingy if the free beer didn't knock you out fast enough.
Leaving Gatwick at 8am got us to Bangkok around 9 the next morning, after a 2 hour stop at Doha. Coming out of the arrivals terminal for a fag break en route to Ko Samui was the first warm welcome to alert the senses that we were as near as dammit to the equator - in the middle of winter. The feeling of that first blast of genuine heat, not from a fan or a radiator but proper hot air, warmed by the sun with a rich
Waking up on the first morning with a bit of posh is not to be knocked.
hearty feel to each lungfull is like the taste of a Farleys Rusk. You may think you've forgotten it but have one tiny taste years later & it all comes flooding back.
The final leg of the journey was courtesy of Bangkok Air for the 45 minute zip in a baby Airbus to Samui. We took advantage of the weak dollar on this leg & forked out an extra 20 bucks each to fly Bees Knees class. Big proper reclining seats, better food with real metal cutlery & our bags came off first at the other end too. Bees Knees really is the Mutts Nuts!
Samui airport has unfortunately evolved. Its become less of a quirky set of open walled sheds & more of a mini Stanstead. You still get the quaint little trolleybus ride from the plane to the terminal, however the main block has been expanded now, filled with little boutique shops that don't really fit but that's progress I guess . . .
We were picked up promptly by a little man in a big van & taken to our Xmas hideaway at Arayaburi Resort. A nice spot on the very northern tip of
Best to check if you spend top dollar on a 4X4, that it actually is 4WD. This, unfortunately was not. Fine on tarmac but as much use as a pork chop at a Jewish wedding once up the hilly tracks.
the island that we'd sourced on t'internet. We'd chosen this particular hideyhole to suit our initial criteria for the first 3 days. A : Near the airport. B : Out of the way a bit but with a nice beach. C : A bit posh. It fitted the bill but to say that it was somewhat on the quiet side would be an understatement. We were one of 5 or so of the 65 bungalows that where occupied, the staff outnumbered the guests by 3 to 1. Terribly nice from a service point of view but hardly the sign of a successful business. A few funny moments there, one of which was when Mum ordered some nosh one evening, in the big restaurant which turned up fifteen minutes later in a local pick up truck ambulance & carried from cab to table by a very smart uniformed guy. The strange becomes the norm here after a while though. 'Tis a very strange land indeed.
As we were staying over Christmas, we rented a pick-up for a couple of days to maximise our time. Looking at what was available in the book of pictures at the agents, we could
Life's A Beach.
In fact, here, life is a string of beaches.
choose from ropey looking Suzuki jeeps for around £15 a day up to the top flight Toyota HiLux at thirty quid. We asked for the big black posh Toyota one to be delivered the following morning. When it turned up however, it had morphed into a Ford, which was initially not a problem as the Ford Ranger is mostly a Bongo in drag so Dad felt confident with it. Spent Christmas Eve doing a circular tour of the islands main road stopping off at some familiar old haunts & checking out some new. Evening time found us back at The Waterfront in Bophut (regular readers will be aware of the soft spot we have for this place) & booked our traditional xmas dinner for the next day.
Christmas day was a fairly relaxed affair. The old people had dressed up a little tree outside the bungalow with christmas crackers & seasonal wrapping paper to display the small humans xmas pressies. She really loved that! Then a late buffet breakfast at the big restaurant, similar to the day before but this time the bacon section was bare. Dad asked if they had any bacon to which the reply was "Bacon?
Setting Up For Christmas Din-Dins
Sue & Robin went to great lengths to prepare a feast for 30. !st class effort, despite the rain!
Oh yes, we have . . . . tomorrow!!"
Last time we ventured here the pound was worth nearly 70 baht. This time, because of some greedy men in expensive suits, we were lucky to get 50. Re-assessment of the economy was required. Zipped to Tescos for supplies & a chance to fathom out prices for various things we were likely to barter over with street sellers & market stalls. 'Tis better to keep the local economy flowing by purchasing from those that live & work there rather than the Corporation Monsters that are afflicting eventual poverty on the populace. Its not just Tesco now that have their claws in Samui. Makro & Leclerc have popped up since our last visit, great for convenience but every job created within these places equates to three lost to failing local business that just can't compete.
Enough of the soapbox for the moment though.
Armed with the knowledge for the future that T -Shirts go for a little over a quid, packet of Marlboro about the same & beer around 40p, we trundled over to Bophut for a first class 5 course Christmas lunch on the
'Tis The Season To Be Jolly!
Christmas in Thailand ticks all the boxes for me. Ho Ho Ho!
terrace by the pool. Fantastic job by the Waterfront team, of course. The weather held out until just after starters then the heavens opened & the rain came down. When it rains here, it really does rain. Most scampered off undercover taking their culinary delights with them but our little gang sat it out with napkins as hats. After all, the rain was warm, better than we're used to back in the cold place. A couple of hours later, stuffed & watered, we made our way over to Jungle Club, set high on the hills overlooking Chaweng for sunset drinkies. Our pick up, however, turned out to be the only 2WD Ford Ranger on the island. Bit of a bummer when we had to abandon it half way up the track due to the torrential rain and scary slippy clay but - that is one mother of a steep track that only the sturdiest of 4X4s can manage.
Jungle Club was pretty much as we'd left it last time, which was nice. Sometimes its disappointing to revisit favourite places. Times change, people move on & the magic is lost. Not here though. The same friendly atmosphere, same crew
Chaweng View From Jungle Club
As out of the way as you can get on a fairly commercialised island. Stick this on your itinery if you're planning a visit
& same stunning location - Truly one of Samui's best kept secrets!
On our way back to Arayaburi late in the evening, we stopped at one of those money machine things to score some cash. Despite the fact that the grown-ups had gone to the trouble of visiting the little bank back home to warn them we were heading South for Christmas, The System had detected a "spike" in account activity & shut the cards down. AGAIN. (There's a tale of this in a previous post, Chip & Pin?. Skint & Grim! Ko Samui
) Boy were they mad!! The fone number on the back of the card was out of date, resulting in calls to various people in the UK to get a contact number we could ring. All the 24/7/365 helpline numbers had the same message though. "We are currently closed over the Christmas period. Please call back after the 27th" Bah Humbug. These evil bankers need a public flogging at the very least. Nearly scuppered our plans as we were due to leave in the morning & set sail to the next island.
As it turns out however, the security systems of these organisations are flawed. Its still possible to use
Home from home. Truly hard to beat. The epitome of an island paradise - keep it to yourself though, we don't want it being spoiled now do we . . .
the cards on the old fashioned swipe machines so thankfully, we could settle our bill & move on. Annoyingly, any fraudster could do the same so knocking out the PIN facility does no more than inconvenience (read severely piss off
) the legitimate card holder, whilst Mr Robber bounces happily from hotel to shop to airline, swiping far more than just plastic.
Early start on Boxing Day, still fuming at Halifux PLC & whoever programmes their systems, took a minibus to Mae Nam for the 40 minute jaunt to Ko Panghan. Enjoyed a delightful tropical downpour while waiting for the ferry but the skies cleared after a few minutes & we set sail for the next chapter.
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