A short summary
Planning the trip
The trip begins
/ arriving at Samui
Around the island in a jeep –
We started out by driving south to Lamai beach and our first stop was at the beach where you can see the Grandpa and Grandma rocks (also known as Hin Ta and Hin Ya). These are rock formations that...well, if you use just a bit of imagination they look like the male and female genitals. That allows for quite a lot of fun of course when you have a digital camera and a childish mind :-) But I don't think I want to post all the pictures we took at this place :-)
After a few minutes on the beach we continued further south to check out the mummified monk that is on display at Wat Khunaram. The monk was Loung Pordaeng and when he died more than 20 years ago his body did not decompose. So he is still sitting in a meditating position to this day. It felt a bit morbid to look at this mummified monk but it seems like it is not just a tourist attraction but also a shrine for locals. I have talked about contrasts in Thailand before and in this place it was manifested in a pair of sunglasses put on the monks face.
We continued our tour and the next stop on the list was at a crocodile and elephant park. First we saw a short “performance” by elephants and the audience could even sit on the elephants if they wanted to. The elephants were well trained to ask for money after the ride :-) We also got a demonstration on how they have used monkeys in the past in order to get the coconuts down from the palms. The guys who were showing this to the group kept on saying "come closer" so all the people moved in. But when the monkey dropped the coconut it almost hit one of the kids in our group so be aware! There was also a proper elephant ride on the program but Nikki and I passed on this as we have tried it before back in 2002 when we went to the Krabi area. There were a few monkeys in chains at this place and I’m not sure how well these are treated. I always get a bit depressed of seeing stuff like this.
We moved on and soon we understood why a 4X4 was needed for this tour. We continued further in on the island on steep and bumpy roads. Our next stop of the program was to visit a waterfall. We had to walk about 10 minutes to get there and in a Norwegian context it was not much of a waterfall. But it was a stream with a few small natural pools where it was possible to take a dip. I was tempted to jump into the water too as it was warm but it was quite crowded so we basically just chilled in the shades. After 30 minutes we continued our drive and we went further into the island and further up. We had lunch at a place with a great view and the food was included in the tour but we had to pay for the drinks. The food was OK and included tom kha gai, chicken in green curry etc. But it didn’t seem like they had used the best part of the chicken for making the food as there were lots of bones but hey, that is how you keep the cost down :-)
We continued once again and we made a stop at a park called Magical Garden. The place had lots of Buddha like figures hand carved in rock and it was quite cool and quiet as it was at one of the highest points on the island and in the shadows of the surrounding trees. We also made a stop at another great view point before we drove north on the island to the Bophut beach area to see the Big Buddha. This big sitting Buddha is a landmark and you can easily see it from the plane and if you arrive by boat to the north side of the island. We arrived back at the hotel around 4-5 PM and after a long day it was great to just jump into the pool and grab an ice cold Chang beer. It was a long day with lots of driving and lots of stops on the way but at least we did get to see a bit of the island.
Snorkelling around Koh Tao
I was a bit surprised when we were informed that we would not get fins when snorkelling and that we had to put down a 1000 Baht deposit if you wanted to loan mask, snorkel and towel. As a person with a bit of previous experience I had brought my own mask and snorkel but I was counting on getting fins from the tour company but this was not a case. If you don’t have fins it gets a bit tricky when you want to dive down. The snorkelling was OK but nothing spectacular in any way. From what I had understood from the brochure we should have gotten 2 hours of snorkelling at this place but because we were behind schedule this was cut down to 1 hour. We had lunch on board the boat and we got served fried chicken, fried vegetables, rice, soup etc and the food was OK.
From Koh Tao we went to the small islands of Koh Nangyuan and here we were set ashore and we had a couple of hours free time there. There is a 100 Baht entry fee on the island and this was included in the snorkelling trip package. But if you want to rent a chair and parasol you have to pay for that of course. On this island it was not allowed to bring fins for snorkelling but it was possible to snorkel right of the beach even if this wasn’t extremely good. But this island is picturesque with its bright white coral beaches and jungle tops. I think you can even spend the night here if you want to as there were some small houses built on the one side of the beach. We were called back to the boat at about 2 PM but as the boat also acted as a regular ferry and had to make another stop at Koh Phangan we were not home until 5.30 PM. So to summarize it I guess I would say that the tour cost a bit, the info in the brochure was misleading, not a lot of time for snorkelling and the snorkelling itself was not that impressive.
Same same but different
The shopping is mostly small shops selling various things. If you are looking for cheap art they can reproduce most paintings in no time. We ended up buying a couple of abstract oil paintings and they were just rolled up in a container for us. When we got back home we got them framed and they are now hanging in our living room :-) Getting around on Chaweng beach is pretty easy. You can basically walk to most places but if you are going from one end to the other you can also hike with one of the pickup taxis that drive back and forth. The prices varies according to how far you are going and I think we had to pay about 100 Baht per person to get from our hotel on the very north end of the beach to “downtown”
Relaxing by the pool and on the
Eating out on Samui
We also tried eating at our hotel Kandaburi one night as they had a barbeque buffet night with Thai dancing. So we paid 750 Baht per person (23 USD) and we had the choice of lots of various seafood such as barracuda, kingfisher, prawns, squid and an excellent salad. Another night we went to Budsaba Restaurant located at Muang Kulaypan Hotel. There were no one else there and the restaurant tables were just small open air wooden huts. This was a bit too rustic for us as it was a bit tricky to sit and with a few big beetles crawling around :-) Due to this we moved on to Kantara at the Blue Lagoon hotel. Here we had a meal consisting of masaman curry, chicken in hot basil (that was a bit on the boring side), tom kha gai etc. All in all a good meal and we paid 3000 Baht (90 USD) for 4 adults and 2 kids. After dinner we just walked back to our hotel on the beach in the dark. It is great being able to walk home barefoot on the sand.
The following night we ate at a place called Tango not too far from Kantara. Here we had fried red snapper, prawns, yellow curry, tom yam goong, sweet basil and we paid 3200 Baht (about 97 USD) for 4 adults and 2 kids. After the dinner Nikki and I just strolled on the beach and we went to a beach bar where the drinks were 100 Baht per glass. So the prices of alcoholic drinks are quite reasonable compared to back home in Norway (that is actually quite an understatement :-).
Nikki and I went out one night to have a meal on our own and we chose to go to a place called Leelavadee located at Baan Chaweng Beach Resort. The entrance to the restaurant was a bit hidden away when coming from the beach road (think going down dark alleys) but the restaurant itself was located right on the beach. But the food itself was good and we had tom yam goong (a favourite soup that should be a part of every Thai meal you have), spring rolls, chicken in curry etc. We paid about 1000 Baht (30 USD) for the meal and it also included Thai dancing. It was a bit hard to have a regular conversation with the music playing but hey, the dancing didn’t last that long.
On our last night on Samui we had another great Italian meal. This time at Olivio at Baan Haad Ngam Boutique Resort. It was just a stone throw further north on the beach from our hotel so once again we just walked over there on the beach. It was a pretty nice restaurant and we had good salads, osso bucco (veal shanks), tiramisu etc. The meal was 6000 Baht (180 USD) for 4 adults and 2 kids. Sitting outside enjoying the meal with the sound of the ocean was just wonderful.
Time to go home
We were the last ones to enter the Bangkok Airways plane and once we were inside the door closed behind us and the plane started moving before we had even found our seats. Nikki and I were giggling and were cracking jokes that obviously the flight was behind schedule. On our flight we flew right over Koh Tao and we could look down on where we had snorkelled a few days before while we were enjoying some ice cream. We landed in Bangkok in the evening and once again it showed that we were behind schedule as I have never experienced a plane travelling at that speed on the ground - I think the pilot was going for a world record :-)
Some “useful” tips
Feel free to move to the next section of this trip report to see more pictures taken at Samui.