Motorbiking Around Koh Samui

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September 11th 2005
Published: June 25th 2017
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Geo: 9.499, 100.005

I mentioned to our Australian neighbor last night that I had walked to the nearest 7-eleven and he laughed and said that the motorbike rental was only 150baht. I thought about it, but figured I would most likely just play on the beach anyways. In bed, I read more of the man my age who lived in Laos for a time. A chapter was devoted to when he got his motorbike and the freedom it gave him to explore the remote places of the countryside. I guess this inspired me, because I rented my Honda Wave 125cc this morning to check out the islands huge area.

There was no problem renting it and no hidden fees. They surprised me by even including a helmet. I've seen very few people with helmets, and almost all the tourists don't wear them. It's not cool you know. I like a challenge, so I went for the cheaper manual shift bike. Expecting it to be crap, I was delighted that it was in excellent condition. I've only ridden a motorcycle and distance once in my life, but it was on a bike very similar to this so I was able to pick it up ok. I'd already spent a lot of time in the vans watching how traffic operated so I pretty much knew what to expect. If you're a motorbike, stay left, unless passing. If you're approaching a slower vehicle, the person behind you will make appropriate allowances when they pass you. It's almost exactly how you would expect driving to work, but it just doesn't work in America. It does help some that the traffic is rather light. Most of the big roads have sort of an area left of the white line that bikes ride in. It can be tricky because people park cars and bikes in this lane on smaller roads. Even so, everyone always realizes your predicament and doesn't cut you off. I really am amazed.

My first stop was Big Buddha, a giant statue on the northeast corner of the island. Like all temple areas, you are required to remove your shoes and shoe respect. They were even renting pants and shirts for tourists wearing inappropriate clothing. There's really no reason to ever wear shorts. Most of the world doesn't wear shorts and as a white guy, you look even dumb in them anyways. This is besides the conflict with any religious building you want to visit (of any faith).

These people were performing some kind of prayer near the Buddha. Prayer usually involves offerings and lighting the incense things.

I dropped by the airport just to see how security was. As you can see, I walked up to the runway, so ... This runway is only 4500 feet long, but I suspect maybe there is another runway hidden from view. About 30 airlines have some commuter flight into the islands at least once a month. The checkin security was about as tight.

Eventually I found my way to the falls of Na Muang, where the king used to come and swim. These are 18m high, but later I found out that down a parallel road was an 80m waterfall. Not sure if my bike could make it up the hill that far, but it might have been cool. There's no infrastructure near the falls, you have to clamber over the rocks to get as close as you want. Many of the natives swim in it but swimming in Asian freshwater just doesn't appeal to me.

Football golf. I think you kick the soccer ball into a tire, or perhaps under a wicket-looking device. In any case, nobody was there, like so many places on this island in September.

I saw this a couple times an hour as I drove around. Men in their 40s pay young Thai girls to be their girlfriend for a day while they motorbike or drive around the island. It's really kind of sad, but maybe they do some guiding too, I'm not sure. All the locals think you're a jackass for hiring 18 year old escorts, and all the westerners think you're a sick pervert, so I'm not sure why people do this. Like I said, they all looked like rich guys in their 40s, probably going through some midlife crisis. I think most of the money they pay is used up at night before they fall asleep.

A typical beach on Koh Samui. This is on the eastern coast where the big tourist areas were. My beach was on the north coast and was much quieter. I could only get to this beach by pretending I wanted to see a guesthouse, then coming out the back path to the beach.

At one point, I tried climbing the mountain, but the road I took soon turned into a trail. The trail was one of those sneaky trails that keeps getting steeper, but you don't notice becaues the terrain is all slopped equally. Eventually I noticed my bike was barely pulling me up the hill in first gear. Sigh, time to give up. You'd need an offroad mountain bike to get anywhere on this trail. I did see a lot of local activity on this road though, including some farmers picking coconuts and filling their truck up. They waved and smiled as I drove past.

The most worrisome thing about driving on the roads here are the other tourists. I'm not afraid of some peasant crashing his car into me. I'm worried about some JO turning into the wrong direction of traffic or perhaps cutting me off as I'm about to pass someone. Luckily I had no problems, and of course my helmet made me feel better. Most of the people here drive fairly slow. A few drive more than 40kph, and on the highways its about 60kph. There's very few speed limit signs, you just drive what works. If you wreck, you're f'd.

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