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Published: April 11th 2014
The All Powerful One
Wise and worshipped - put simply,he who must be obeyed................with Big Buddha just behind him!!
In my dreams, I know!
Abandoned on a crowded pavement, the scorching early afternoon sun blazing down on us, we’d just about avoided the notorious “travel agent” scam by the skin of our teeth.
Research about the long journey from Khao Lak to Koh Samui had warned us about it but everything just happened so incredibly quickly. Luck was with us though the moment of realisation occurred just before we parted with any hard earned cash – a close shave!
Our day had started at 6.30am as we needed to traverse from the extreme west of Thailand right across the country to an island off the East coast. Things had gone reasonably well; our taxi to the main road was waiting for us outside the hotel, the infamous 465 public bus did actually stop when we flagged it down and even had room for on it all our bags. Yes, it was 25 minutes late and stopped in a grim, dusty bus station for over an hour not 10km into our journey (no idea why) – but at least we were on the actual bus. Four and a half tortuous hours lay ahead of us on this ancient bone rattler, grinding up jungle covered
Ignorance Is Bliss
6.30 am, waiting for the infamous 465 public bus and pre two attempted scammings.
All part of the fun of travelling!
mountains and then plunging down the other side at terrifying speeds.
There were early warning signs of the potential swindle when the greasy slob of a conductor tried to short change us as he took our fare. The last blog detailed how friendly the Thai people are generally but this fellow falls into the “despicable” minority (he better not ever show his face in Bolton; highly unlikely I know but don’t say I didn’t warn him ;-).
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we were meant to be dropped at Surat Thani bus station for onward transfer to the pier and then the ferry across to Koh Samui. However, and without any prior warning, the bus suddenly shuddered to a halt in the middle of the road. Our cases were unceremoniously dumped on the pavement with the greasy conductor shouting for us to get off quickly as this was our stop.
Little did we know we were just a couple of hundred metres from our true destination, Surat Thani station itself………………
Not having a clue what was going on (and concerned all our worldly belongings were now causing chaos on the crowded street) we alighted
Once we'd located the real travel agency, the journey over to Samui proved a real pleasure.
and were promptly pushed across a busy road and into a stinking, rundown Travel Agency. Co-ordinating this skulduggery was an unshaven ne’er-do-well who looked very much like the elder brother of our conductor friend…….but maybe that’s just paranoia though.
Anyway, urgent instructions were barked out - we must buy our ferry tickets from them, that the last boat was going in five minutes and the price was 1700 baht. Our research paid off now as we remembered a Trip Advisor forum post detailing this exact scam. In distinctly unfriendly Anglo Saxon, we declined this offer, stormed out and loaded ourselves and our suitcases into a passing tuk tuk. “To the station, my man” (or something similar) and, from then on, everything went like clockwork. Official agent located, we got an air conditioned bus to the pier then a huge open decked ferry that allowed us to take in the sea views whilst chugging cold Changs in the sun.
At last, we landed on Samui. All for 240 baht each……………….quite a significant saving! Like I said, if you see a dodgy looking Thai bus conductor type knocking around Greater Manchester, give me a shout ;-)
We’d been to
"Should It Stay or Should It Go?"
We were debating whether or not I should throw this sun cream stained Clash t shirt away or not when Angela came up with that line.
Very funny, I thought.
Not like her at all ;-)
For the record, it went.
Samui once before for our honeymoon. That, however, was over twenty years ago and to say it’s changed in the intervening period would be an understatement. It’s totally unrecognisable from the sleepy beach town we visited back then and tourism has exploded around the island. In fact it’s Thailand’s second most visited area after Bangkok and parts of it have been spoiled by over commercialisation. We managed to avoid much of this though by locating ourselves on a quiet part of South Chaweng beach which had wonderfully warm waves lapping the fine white powder sand.
Our first accommodation was, how shall I put it? - quirky. It wasn’t the fact that the Baan Talay Bungalows contained no actual bungalows, nor being checked in by giggling lady boys - that’s old hat now. It was the little things such as the sign on the communal computers in the Business Centre banning Chinese people from using them as, apparently, they “change the settings” and “download too much”!!
Another “quirk”; we were enjoying a peaceful evening around our “bungalow” when, at 10.30pm, the most deafening racket erupted right by us. Startled, I ran outside where the noise was even louder still
Fling The Farang
The songthaews are great fun but can prove a white knuckle ride.
Here I am with an Aussie Thai boxer we met en route pretending I'm not scared. Note - Angela is sitting safely inside taking the photo and laughing!
but no sign of what was causing it. Then, from out of the tropical gardens down the side of our room, a Thai gentleman in a boiler suit burst out of the pitch black with a head torch on and wielding a screeching chainsaw in front of him (I’m not making this up – honest!!). He seemed genuinely perplexed at my shock and concern, simply shrugged his shoulders and walked off. Even now I don’t have a clue what was going on and was really disappointed that I never even got chance to explain the hotel’s “Quiet Zone” policy that kicks in at 10pm……..
After five days in bustling Chaweng we headed up from East Samui to the beach village of Bophut on the North coast. The half hour journey was by songthaew, an institution on roads all over Thailand. The literal translation of songthaew is “two rows” and it refers to the wooden benches either side on the back of a pick-up truck. You flag them down as they head along popular routes and, irrespective of how full they are, they always stop to pack in more passengers.
Once the seats inside are full, you’re crammed into
Business On The Beach
The owners pull up along the beach and sell freshly prepared fruit platters along with satay and corn on the cobs all barbecued on board.
the gap in the middle and next the footplate is utilised. Suitcases? No problem – they are chucked up on to the roof! Standing on the bumper, holding onto the cases with one hand and for dear life with the other, I reflected this wouldn’t be allowed to happen in the UK. The Thais though consider farangs on the footplate legitimate entertainment and I’m sure the drivers play a kind of road rodeo by aiming for the bumpiest parts.
“Fling the farang” survived, the songthaew safely dropped us off at our hotel and we had four wonderful days by the beach in Bophut. This is very relaxed resort which, to a large extent, has escaped much of the over commercialisation that has beset the rest of Samui. Everyone seems to be in a great mood all of the time, enjoying the sun and the beautiful, relaxed surroundings. It was, therefore, a surprise when one of my favourite moments here occurred in the form of a classic sunbed row.
Deeply engrossed in my Ruth Rendell, I became aware of a calamity behind me at the pool. A few of us were on the beach close by and, gradually, everyone’s
So Long Samui
The night market proved a great place to spend our last evening here.
Along with the stalls selling the usual spring rolls, pad thai, grilled squirrel and alligator kebabs (?!!) you can get 60 baht (£1.20) cocktails mixed for you at the many mobile bars.
attention was drawn to the escalating ruckus. A frightfully posh English women was nose to nose with a grossly overweight German pensioner in Speedos who was demanding his beds back. Apparently, the one magazine he’d put there three hours earlier reserved him five of them………
The star of the whole show though wasn’t the Ab Fab English women nor the bandana sporting German but the wizened old Italian Mr Burns double who was next to us. He turned out to be a real eccentric and, every so often, would wink at me and shout things like “Why did you steal that poor man’s sunbeds?”, “How dare you move his magazine?”, “You should be ashamed of yourself” and so on. The laughter grew in direct proportion to the apoplectic women’s indignation at this outside interference and it was actually quite disappointing when the whole thing calmed down.
It is with regret we depart the wonderful island of Samui today with, as always, our compass set to North. The next destination is the mainland coastal city of Hua Hin and this will be our longest transfer so far – (hopefully) about twelve hours door to door. Throw in that it’s the eve of Thai New Year (“Songkran”) now where things apparently get a little crazy and it could be an another interesting day!!
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