Maenam is Samui...Koh Samui...License to Peacock

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Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Ko Samui
August 2nd 2011
Published: August 16th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

We were quite nervous about this trip to Thailand, we hadn’t been to Koh Samui for 10 years and we had been wondering if we had made the right decision to revisit since we booked our flights!

Again, our flight arrived close to midnight so being the tight arses that we are, we waited in Bangkok airport until it was time for the first flight to Surat Thani. This time we were fully prepared for the transport mafia on arrival at Surat Thani as we had pre-researched our options. After our night in the airport with little sleep, we decided to go for the faster ferry option to Koh Samui. It was expensive at 650 baht each (£13) but it was half the journey time and we just wanted to get there at this point. We were put on a bus with a crazy driver (who are we kidding, they are always crazy drivers in Asia) who drove like a maniac to get us to Donsak pier to catch the 10am Lomprayah catamaran.

For once the journey went smoothly, apart from the two Beavis and Butthead-alikes who sat in front of us on the bus getting hammered on cans of Singha beer. First of all, it was 8am – they must have had really strong stomachs and second of all, you couldn’t pay us enough money to drink Singha at any time of the day (it’s one of the worst beers we have ever tasted!). We arrived into Nathon pier to the usual transport options – private taxi for 600 baht (WHAT? are these people crazy?) or a songthaew for 80 baht (£1.60) each. Well, no contest for us – we hopped in a songthaew as there was no way we were going to pay 600 baht for a 10 km journey!

Our other visits to Koh Samui had been when we still lived in the UK and went on holiday to Thailand. Back then we used to stay on Chaweng beach (the main tourist beach on the island), our last holiday visit to Samui was a disaster – constant rain, rude Thai’s, overpriced everything and the tourist demographic was slowly changing. This time, we had researched very carefully and chose Maenam beach as it seemed to be very laid back and a little of the ‘old Thailand’ we were so fond of. The nice songthaew driver dropped
More food at Bophut night marketMore food at Bophut night marketMore food at Bophut night market

not quite sure what it was...deep fried something?
us on the main road at the eastern end of the beach and we started to look for a place to call home for 11 nights.

We wandered down onto the beach taking a look at a few places but we found that it’s much better value away from the beach (as always), so we headed to Save House resort. Although Save House had no direct access to the beach, it was a lovely resort with well-kept gardens, a nice swimming pool and friendly staff. We managed to bargain the manager, Adam (we somehow don’t think this is his real name!) down and got a huge air con room with hot water, big fridge and TV for 850 baht a night (£17) – we even had a bath, which was a little strange but it would come in handy, as you will read later on! We also hired a motorbike, again Save House was reasonable and charged 150 baht per day for the bike hire (£3) – what a bargain!

On our very first evening, we headed out for some food and had the most shocking experience in a restaurant we have ever had in Thailand. The name of the restaurant was Jar BBQ (this is so you can avoid it!) – it’s right on the border between Maenam and Bophut on the ringroad. We sat and ordered our food, we were ravenous at that point as we had only had snacks all day. Then we sat…and sat…and sat….convincing each other the next dish out of the kitchen would be ours. We then just completely snapped – we realised we had been waiting for 2 hours!!! 3 other couples walked out at the same time as us and the people running the restaurant just shrugged their shoulders and seemed bemused as to why we were all complaining! It all worked out in the end though, we hopped on the bike and found a fantastic restaurant which served the most amazing food with huge portions. Not a moment too soon as Donna gets very cranky when she’s not fed!

Having a motorbike really gave us a lot of freedom to explore and it was way cheaper than using the public transport! We managed to wander to several beaches and the Big Buddha, which as you can imagine is a big Buddha! Also big, were the prices charged in the little stalls at the foot of Buddha for cold drinks and ice lollies, wow, capitalism is alive and well with Buddha looking on! Our first drive to Chaweng beach shocked us – we were relieved we had chosen Maenam. We went to Chaweng at night and there were definitely more shops than there used to be. All the cheap, small Thai restaurants were also gone, and there had been a proliferation of Western food restaurants – there had always been some, but now it seems that almost every restaurant was serving Western food and the few Thai restaurants that were still open were deserted. Now we aren’t trying to sounds snobby here, but we really don’t understand people who fly for 14 hours to a far away country and eat exactly the same food as they do at home, especially when that country has THE best food in the world like Thailand does! Expats like us (or backpackers who have been away for a long time) eating western food, we completely understand as you just can’t get decent sausages out here in SE Asia 😉! It has us completely bamboozled – these restaurants were pricey too, our evening meal on average cost us 300 baht for the two of us (that’s £6ish, which was for a huge dish each, rice each and a drink each), in these western restaurants, one of the starters alone would be that price! Don’t even get us started on the price of alcohol – a ‘happy hour’ of 100 baht cocktails (over £2), spirit plus mixer (both in tiny glasses) or a beer! Who knows what the price went up to after happy hour?! A few enterprising Thais had set up some little plastic chair bars next to the main Chaweng road, the cheapest was 89 baht a cocktail (£1.80) and these slightly cheaper drinks places were always the busiest with people drinking. This led us to think that some people were actually concerned about value for money and every baht saved helps? They certainly weren’t at these ‘bars’ for the atmosphere and exhaust fumes that came free with the drinks!

As we have already mentioned, we are tight arses at heart so we have no problem doing without alcohol, especially when we worked out that two cocktails of said alcohol was equal to one massage. Well, that completely sold the idea of
The poolThe poolThe pool

was a little bit cold but the sun soon warmed it
not drinking and we instead treated ourselves to some fantastic foot and Thai massages – we had one foot massage each and two full body Thai massages. Oh wow, the massage place has a couple of branches on Chaweng (it’s called Orchids) and the girls who worked there were masters of their profession, the massages were especially good as we had been taking advantage of the gym at our resort...

A couple of days into our stay, Donna managed to come down with some sort of illness, luckily she was still ok to sunbathe and wallow in the swimming pool or the lovely warm, calm sea – it’s a tough life! The worst part of it was the aches and pains in her bones, so Neil had the bright idea of her soaking in a nice hot bath. Remember we had a bath in the room? Well, Donna felt a right numpty taking a bath in 35 degree, nice sunny weather but had to admit it made her feel better! We know for certain at this point, Donna’s Dad will be thinking there’s nothing wrong having a bath in that temperature, right, Paul?!

We only went to Chaweng
Neil overlooking Plai Laem beachNeil overlooking Plai Laem beachNeil overlooking Plai Laem beach

we drove for ages through back roads and then had to walk through a posh resort to find this beach
beach once during the day, we were dismayed at what the resorts had done to a once beautiful beach. Maenam beach is much how we remember Chaweng being, thick with palm trees and not too much development. Oh well, the march of progress and development happens; BUT a dishonourable mention and lots of slapped wrists for the resorts on Chaweng for cutting down so many palm trees, putting rows and rows of beach beds and umbrellas on the beach and cutting off access through their resorts to the public beach, very naughty under Thai law! The width of the beach had decreased enormously owing to resort encroachment. We have seen this happen in many places in Asia but not to this extent in such a short space of time. The worst offender we have to say on Chaweng is Al’s Resort (middle part near Tops supermarket). There are so few palm trees and so much concrete, they must have bribed a lot of local government officials to have been allowed to build that monstrosity!

One thing for sure is that Samui is FANTASTIC for people watching – and oh, how we love to people watch! This brings us nicely to our blog title – the phenomenon commonly known as peacocking was in full swing during our visit. On the beach, we had hours of free amusement watching couples strutting their stuff and preening. Need to put your hair back in a pony-tail? Why not stand up, cock one leg out and proceed to run your fingers through your hair for 5 minutes until enough people have seen you! Need to apply sun lotion? Why not stand up, cock one leg out and proceed to lovingly stroke your own legs and tummy as if you are in a TV commercial! Want to do some press-ups? Why not stand up, stretch and proceed to do them on the beach! Want to snog your partner? Why not stand up, each cock one leg out and proceed to snog the face off each other and while you’re at it grope each other’s arses! Yes, we seriously couldn’t believe our eyes at some of the things people were doing on the beach…we wanted to shout ‘get a room!’ at some of them it was just so pornographic. We had never really seen peacocking before but now we fully understand the meaning of it! Later
Choeng Mon beachChoeng Mon beachChoeng Mon beach

my, how it has changed in 10 years
that night we saw a vendor selling peacock tail feathers, we were so tempted to buy some and present them to these people!

Night-time was just as good for people watching; in our favourite restaurant we actually had a really good laugh. A couple came into the restaurant and made their way to an empty table. The next thing we hear a loud bang, a high pitched girlie scream and the guy of the couple running away crying. The girlfriend started apologising, picked up the chair her boyfriend had knocked over and went running after him. The restaurant owners and ourselves were completely puzzled, then a couple of seconds later, a bug flew up from the table the couple went to sit at. Now ok, we may be used to bugs – but it wasn’t THAT scary, it was about 6cm, green and had a hard back. It made one hell of a buzzing noise as it fluttered around, but to react like that? Well it gave us and the restaurant owners a laugh.

Worth a very brief mention are the other few bits we picked up people watching – big 80’s hair seems to be making a come-back with Russian tourists (or maybe it never went out of fashion there?) along with very high-waisted short-shorts (for both men and women); all tourists seemed to be obligated to do a funny wai to the Thais. For those who don’t know, a wai is putting your palms together and bowing your head, it’s a mark of respect and greeting. However, we were always advised not to attempt it as there are too many faux-pas to do with how low you bow, how high your hands are etc. This funny wai involved lifting one leg back (usually the left), wobbling, bowing with palms together and almost falling over! Usually islands and beaches have divers cliques, but Samui seemed to have a TEFL (English teaching) clique who really looked down scornfully on non-teachers. Most tourists on Samui – well the ones we could understand – have really poor Maths skills. The number of times we heard, ‘so, 1000 baht is £10, right?’ made us want to stop and give an impromptu Maths lesson. Now, when it’s roughly 48.5 baht to £1, no, 1000 baht is certainly NOT £10! One good thing, it makes Donna feel like a Maths whizz!

On our last night on Samui we managed to get a flat tyre on the motorbike…it was a little bit hairy as we drove round a corner and Neil felt the bike losing traction and sliding. Some very quick reactions from him later and we were waiting at the side of the road outside Tesco’s for the mobile puncture unit to come and repair the tyre. Yes, seriously – there is both a Tesco’s and a mobile puncture unit! Two guys come along on a motorbike from the 24 hour garage shop-thing (let’s not mention the robbing bastard motorbike taxi driver here who tried to take advantage!), jacked the bike up, banged a few things, twisted a few knobs (yes, as you can tell from the technical bike-speak, Donna is writing) and hey presto, the whole back wheel was off the bike. The two guys then drove away with our back wheel (with us thinking we hope they come back) and about 15 minutes later they were back with the fixed tyre…more banging of bits and twisting of knobs and the wheel was back on…really amazing, you wouldn’t get service like that for 200 baht (£4ish) from Kwik Fit!

It was with real regret that we left Maenam, we had perfect weather, almost deserted beach, delicious food, and good people watching. But on the positive side we were heading for Bangkok to shop until we dropped. We had a lovely hotel in Bangkok (with a great breakfast!) but on our first night made the mistake of going to a restaurant at the Soi 7 (Sukhumvit) Food Court that we used to go to, which used to serve excellent, good value food. This had definitely changed, the food was terrible and overpriced. We were lucky we didn’t throw up it was that bad; really bad and bland tourist fare food. We did find a good purple/pink coloured restaurant at Soi 12 Sukhumvit and was called Pantanee. Really friendly staff, fantastic food and fruit shakes and very good value! Less good value was Patpong night market, we really couldn’t resist going to have a wander; we overheard quite a few vendors trying to charge silly prices like 5000 baht for a fake designer bag (£103!), strangely enough not many people were buying!

After two days of shopping, getting hair highlighted and cut (Donna, that is!) and spending lots of money on new clothes to replace our old worn out ones, our time in Thailand had all too soon come to an end.

We were sad to leave, but onwards to more adventures of our perpetual wandering!

Additional photos below
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Neil the boy racer!Neil the boy racer!
Neil the boy racer!

we hardly ever fell off, honestly!
The gym at our resortThe gym at our resort
The gym at our resort

...yes we did use it!

25th October 2011

Hi Donna & Neil! I've just finished reading your blog and I wanted to write and say that I've had a really enjoyable read! Firstly it was disbelief that you'd been travelling for so long, which quickly turned to awe when I realised that it was in fact true. You've inspired us to tinker a little more with our RTW plans, maybe spend less time in Thailand and go over to the Philipines instead, and just be generally flexible with where we want to go. As your blogs are getting less frequent now than they were in the beginning (as you aren't blogging from places you've already been) I know I'd find it really interesting if you could put a quick summary of all those places you've been to in-between at the top of your next blog, just at the moment I feel like there are big holes in your story! Thanks for keeping me entertained :o)

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