Koh Samui

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July 20th 2011
Published: August 9th 2011
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On Wednesday after we enjoyed another massive breakfast at the Park Royal, we packed our bags and chilled out by the pool for most of the morning as absolutely NOTHING happens in KL for tourists before 11am. Then it was a super quick trip across to Sengei Wang for some last minute shopping before catching a taxi out to Subang Airport for our Firefly flight to Koh Samui.

Traffic was horrendous right near the hotel and we were stuck in a traffic jam for what seemed like an eternity. Funny tho', when I told the driver that we were probably going to be late for our flight at the rate we were going, he was suddenly able to change lanes and duck and dive thru the traffic and we were on our way. It took about 40 minutes to get to Subang Airport which is KL's third airport servicing mainly the domestic regions via Firefly Airline. It seemed as tho' we were the only people checking in at the airport and we started to wonder if we are the only ones going on our flight? We cleared security / immigration on our own and eventually found all the other people waiting in the departure lounge (only about 80 of them for the two flights scheduled).

Our Firefly turboprop took off on time and the two hours were passed watching the landscape pass below. The kids had the window seats and got to enjoy first glimpses of Koh Samui & Koh Phangan as we arrived. Koh Samui airport is one out of the hat. It is very unique. Initially built and funded by Bangkok Air, it has the feel of arriving at Fantasy Island. You are transported to the open air tropicul bure style terminal in golf carts and even the toilets were like something out of a 5 star hotel lobby complete with an inwall fish tank. Immigration tho' was extremely slow with only one guy handling the entire flight. Grrrrr. Why do they do that?

Anyway, before long I'd changed some money and arranged a taxi to our hotel, The Amari Palm Reef on Chaweng Beach. Just out of the main boom boom bar area, but only 5 minutes walk along the street or beach to where the shopping and restaurants are. It was a good choice, good value (we got a great deal thru the Flight Centre - two rooms and breakfasts for only $240pn). Initially we were given two seperate rooms, quite a distance apart which simply wasn't going to work. It took a bit of negotiation to arrange a move on our second day to interconnecting rooms in another part of the hotel which were just perfect. We really liked the hotel but it turned out to be at the wrong end of Chaweng beach. Unfortunately this end (North) of Chaweng is awful as far as swimming in the sea goes and it was more than a short walk to a good area. Fortunately the two pools were lovely, one overlooking the beach and sea, the other set among gardens. Breakfast was brilliant (especially the fruit shakes) and the ambiance of the resort made our stay really good. Jordi loved going down to the beach and getting a corn on the cob off the vendors and instead of buying our drinks from the hotel, we just sent her down to the sand with a couple of bucks. Ashleigh spent a lot of time lounging on the couches in the bar using the free wifi to stay in touch with her mates back home. Teens!

What we did in our 10 days:

Angthong National Park: We did this day trip with a company called 100 Degrees East as they take small groups with a maximum of 12 passengers. They were more expensive than other companies for this reason. We were picked up from our hotel and driven to their offices near Bophut, fitted out with a good set of mask, snorkel & fins and loaded onto their speedboat for our 60 minute journey out to the islands.

We did the circuit that sounds typical of all companies, however we left later so that we missed the crowds from other boats and had areas to ourselves. We went snorkelling first, but to be honest it wasn't that good when compared to other parts of the world we have snorkelled. The visibility was terrible and by the time we had found some fish to look at it was time to leave. We did swim/snorkel thru a cave which was very cool. Apparently Koh Tao is much better. But all in all it was really disappointing. The Great Barrier Reef, Phi Phi Island, Vanuatu, Hawaii and Fiji were 200% better. I don't think they should even promote snorkelling here - it's that bad.

We then visited this island where you climb stairs to see an Emerald Lake and a view of all the islands of the National Park. That was pretty cool and aparently this hidden lagoon was what the movie "The Beach" was based on (even tho' it was mainly filmed at Phi Phi Island). Our third stop was meant to be on a picturesque deserted beach to laze in the sun and eat our lunch. Unfortunately the weather Gods were unkind this day and the sky opened, drenching us with torrential rain. No sun worshipping was to be had. As a consequence we ate our lunch under a little shelter and left earlier than usual in between downpours. At our last stop we did a very rushed kayak trip around a nearby island which I considered to be unnecessary and a pain in the ***. I felt like we were at bootcamp going flat out for a good 20 minutes. Not my idea of fun! By this point I'd decided that we had been really unlucky with the weather and that the day was a bit of a let down. On the return journey in moderately rough seas, we were instucted to put on a lifejacket (just in case) and the captain did a great job of going slower and riding the swells so that no bottoms left seats thank goodness.

Flying Fox (Zip Lining): This trip was simply fantastic. Again we were picked up from our hotel and taken on the back of a pick up truck to Maenam then up into the hills, eventually leaving the sealed road and heading off on a dirt track. This alone was exciting and a real highlight for the kids. Ashleigh now believes she is part dog as she loved sitting up having the wind blow thru her hair. Probably a different story had it been raining!

Anyway, after a "bit of a hike" up the hill thru the jungle we came to our first zipline departure point. Up on platform on a tree. Now I have a slight fear of heights and honestly didn't think this would be my cup of tea. But I put on a brave face and took the leap (literally). WOW, it was awesome. I felt completely safe as we had harnesses on and were attached to a safety wire at all times. The guys running it were really professional, so friendly and made everyone feel at ease. In total there were 7 ziplines, some longer than others and all in all I felt that it was a great activity to do. Highly recommended.

Car Hire: As much as I really wanted to hire some scooters like everyone else seemed to be doing, I'm just too cautious by nature and the whole lack of insurance just ruled it out. So we hired a near new Toyota Corolla type of car instead from the guys at our hotel for B1300 (including insurance) and cruised slowly around the whole island. It was brilliant! We went clockwise and took all day, getting lost a couple of times, but driving on until we found the main road again, stopping at lots of lookouts, beaches and generally enjoying the freedom it allowed. In hindsight, I think we should have hired it for a second day and explored some more.

Dining Out: We went to a different restaurant every night, plus some more than once and we all really miss the food and cocktails now that we are home:

- Islander, Khao San Restaurant, Ark Bar on the Beach ( I love that whole sand between the toes thing), Will Wait, Ninja Crepes (very, very cheap), Spirit House, Prego (The Amari Hotel), Elephant House (Fishermans Village, Bophut), Pancakes from street venders (OMG, I love these!!!).

Shopping: I was pleasantly surprised as I wasn't expecting so many shops in Chaweng. It was very similar to the Beach Rd in Patong. We also visited Big C which was very worthwhile for fixed price goods, but we didn't get to Tesco unfortunately. The Fishermans Village market on Friday night was also really interesting. We bought the usual tshirts, shorts, jandals, bags, shoes, bags, jewellery, and did I mention the bags? Prices were definately higher than Bangkok and most shop keepers started their prices ridiculously high which was very frustrating after a while. One indian lady even lost the plot with me when I refused to pay 850 baht for a simple pair of sandals which I can buy here at home for less. She threw a pot of water over my legs as I left the stall and muttered loudly after us.

Anyway, our 10 days were excellent (apart from Steve's ear problem after snorkelling) and we all really enjoyed Koh Samui. Next time we would definately venture to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan as I understand they are less developed and even more beautiful. The Thai people, the food, the beautiful beaches make for a perfect holiday.

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