For new years, I took advantage of my 6-day weekend and took a trip over to Koh Samui. With no one to travel with I figured it would be a great opportunity to relax on the beach and enjoy being back in civilization for a while. It ended up being a mixed experience but my oh my, it was an adventure.
The boat ride over was awful. It took 5 hours in total after stopping at Koh Tao, and Koh Phangan first. I knew I had chosen the wrong island when I saw all the young people and backpackers getting off at Koh Tao. Damn. If only I had planned in advance and booked accommodations before everything filled up… The worse part of the boat ride was the violent rocking side to side which induced musical vomiting throughout the boat. They had staff circling the boat handing out plastic bags, collecting full ones, and passing out tissue for those who needed it. I had a bag on hand but managed to keep my stomach in check, thank god. It was a close call though… I wasn’t so lucky on the way back home.
I spent my first afternoon and evening at a resort on Lamai beach. It was the only accommodations I had booked in advance. I figured it be nice to have a place to arrive and then I could head out early the next day to start the search for a new place. I had booked one night at the Orchid Resort & Aquarium. For the price, I wasn’t impressed. My room was sort of falling apart but on the upside it was spacious and had large windows and a balcony. I enjoyed some pool time and R & R and set off the next morning to Chaweng beach, the busiest part of the Island. My Thai friend’s family own a GORGEOUS resort there and although they were all booked up, they had a back room for cheap that they let me book for a couple of days. It was not pretty at all, it was probably the worst room I have ever stayed in but hey, I arrived at the absolute busiest time of year on an island that is usually fully booked so whatever. I left the cockroach to his business and tried to tell myself that all the mold wouldn’t kill me.. hopefully.
A bell boy had driven me down the path to my room and offered to take me around the island on his motorbike the next day for only 500 baht. He said he’d show me the island and some of the touristy spots. Sweet. A full tour for cheap. Traveling alone really has its perks!We set off early and stopped first at the Big Buddha on the Northern side of the island. It was quite large. The Buddha is surrounded by a corridor of bells that you can hit/ring with a stick. For every bell you ring, you make a wish. I think I wished for the same things over and over again. It was a fun stop and the views were very pretty. I don’t see why anyone would need more than an hour there though. I only stayed 15 min or so.
Next it was off to several waterfalls. At the first stop there were several things to look at and paths to wonder. The two “waterfalls” were actually just a river flowing over some rocks. There was a cute small temple though and it was fun to wander further up the hill and see the monks quarters. I took a path up the hill for a while thinking I was going to a waterfall until I realized I hadn’t seen a single person and the path was getting less and less clear. Eventually I hit a dead-end. Hmmmm. Well nothing like getting almost lost in the jungle. I found my chauffeur waiting for me with an iced Thai tea, how nice! We made some small chat as it had been mostly business the whole way thus far. After some more wandering we grabbed some lunch. This is when things got interesting. His English was limited but we were still able to have a few laughs. He must have been feeling quite comfortable with me because he eventually revealed that he could not return to his home in Bangkok because he killed someone. GREAT. It didn’t worry me though. He didn’t pose a threat physically but it was his demeanor that told me I had nothing to worry about. He was a nice kid, only 20. He cleaned up the litter a few times along the paths we traveled and only called me “teacher” once he found out I was a teacher. Thai students are taught to respect their teachers and it was clear that he has this discipline. Thai people don’t typically show their emotions outwardly. It makes others uncomfortable. And here we were eating and talking and as he disclosed this secret to me I thought he was going to cry. The poor kid looked tormented. I don’t know the circumstance but I want to believe his crime was committed as an act of self-defense. I will never know.
We stopped at 3 or so more waterfalls after that. Yes, they included secluded paths where we were alone.. some may say this was risky or dumb, maybe you’re right. I recognized this but as I said, I didn’t feel threatened and if by some awful chance he were to have attacked me his stature wouldn’t have made it easy for him to overpower me. I also believe that we end up where we’re supposed to in life. Call it God’s will or destiny, whatever you like. I don’t attribute it to a religion though. If something were to happen to me that it must be meant to be. (Let’s have a deep philosophical conversation on this later!).
We had some trouble with his motorcycle a few times but made it home in one piece. For 6 hours or so of touring, 500 baht is a sweet deal. That’s about $16 USD.
The next couple of days were rough. I didn’t know what kind of activities to do alone.. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on activities by myself. If I had a buddy, sure, I would have gone on a sailing tour, or rented a double kayak, stuff like that, but alone.. it just seemed pointless. Koh Samui is more of a touristy island with lots of families and couples so I did not meet any other solo travelers. I spent the entire following day in my room except to wander around for food for an hour or so. To be fair, I was sick. I’d had a cough for weeks and it seemed to all of a sudden get much worse. My throat and chest felt really awful, especially that night. I was worried it had something to do with the mold. I was happy to check out after two nights. I found a cleaner guest house with a cleaner room for less. I got lucky. It was one of those guest houses that is hidden behind and above a restaurant. Thank goodness I noticed their room sign!
On New Years Eve I found an internet cafe so I could complain to my friends and lean on them for support. It helped but also made things worse to see what everyone else was planning to do for new years. So far I had plans to… watch Thai TV in my room alone? Ugh. As I was sitting there typing away and feeling frustrated I heard a few different people come in and talk to the lady about booking tickets for the “count down party” on Koh Phangan. It was being held on the same beach where they have the full moon parties. Hmmmmmm. I inquired about prices and went back to my room to think it over. It was kind of a no brainer… sit in my room all night… or NOT. I’d have to deal with getting only 2-3 hours of sleep due to a 6:30 am pickup and brave a crowd of tens of thousands of drunk people alone but big whoop. When will I ever be on Koh Samui for New Years again? I sped walked back and got my ticket!
I met a couple of guys from Sweden while waiting for our very late bus. They were nice. A 30 min bus ride and a 15 min speed boat ride later we were there! The island was full of young people painted with glow in the dark paint and adorning the modern Thai style of clothing, flip fops, shorts and tanks. It was so nice to be sweating in 80 degree weather at night in December. I will miss that 😦 Eventually the Sweds and I parted ways and I wandered around until reaching the main part of the island/town just next to the beach. I had to walk shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of people before I could nudge my way into a bar with a new friend. I hung for a quick minute then left to brave the crowd to the beach to find a spot to stand for the count down.
I must have looked vulnerable after a guy tried to bum a drink off my bucket and give my buns a caress because a girl standing near by asked if I was alright. I was all good and un-phased. Her and her boyfriend were from Finland and in their 30’s. They were so nice and I regret not remembering their names. Her boyfriend has been backpacking since April and she had met up with him sometime in late summer early fall, WOW. I have yet to backpack much at all so it was great to hear what they had to stay. It was nice to hear from someone else that sometimes you just need to take it easy for a few days and sleep for 10 hours and not leave your room haha. Her boyfriend contracted malaria at one point and they recollected their fear and his misery. Scary!
There was no loud count down like in the movies but all of a sudden there were fireworks and my new friends were kissing me on the cheek. Happy New Year! High-fives all around! The fire works display wasn’t anything special compared to what we see for the big budget displays back home but when you’re right under them, cheering on the beach with tens of thousands of other happy and drunk people, it’s pretty awesome. There were a few massive ones that made the ground quake. After another 40 min or so of chatting with my new friends I said my goodbyes and made my way back to the docks to stand in line for my boat back to Koh Samui. I did get back late, but I didn’t care. I was proud that I pushed myself to go to the party. I hope I continue to challenge myself in 2014!
Happy New Year everybody!
~ For information and my take on Koh Samui please stay tuned for my next post!