VISIT WITH NORM AND MARIANNE
We were very excited about meeting Norm and Marianne in Koh Samui, a popular tourist island is on the eastern side of Thailand. They were spending a month at the tropical paradise and we joined them for 10 days.
Our journey by mini bus, regular bus, ferry, then taxi, proved to be an adventure and long, the trip took over 12 hours in total!
We had arranged the trip through a tour operator near Yacht Haven and he drove us to the highway at 8 am. Perched on the back of his truck on the side of the highway we waited for the mini bus to pick us up. Our Thai driver was fun and informative o visit with in the hour we waited in the hot sun before it was ascertained that the bus was late. Eventually it arrived but when it pulled over and the driver opened the doors, a dozen squished people stared blankly at us from a bus that held 10!
So we waited for the next bus, for another hour.
Finally we were loaded into a minibus, destination Suratthini, where we would transfer onto a regular bus for the final journey to the ferry dock. We made several stops along the way but finally we were dropped off at a house that also served as a restaurant, although it took much persuasion to get served. We were immediately escorted to a desk and told that we would be arriving in Koh Samui at a private ferry dock with no means of transport to our hotel so we would have to prepay for a shuttle service. The price seemed very steep but we paid because we didn't want to be stranded in Koh Samui.
After another hour's wait, our "big" bus arrived. But it was full, so sped off without us. So we waited another hour. Another bus, which was really just a regular local bus, pulled up and our luggage was loaded in the large compartment under the bus.
The bus rambled down the highway but was travelling so slow that we thought there must be a mechanical problem. We had gotten used to traveling at break neck speed which is the norm for driving in Thailand. What was supposed to be an hour's journey to the ferry dock took almost 2 1/2 hours!
Walking the Plank
We eventually arrived at a dilapidated terminal and were summoned to climb aboard the passenger ferry from the beach via a very rickety, very rusty walkway that swayed and pitched from side to side in the tremendous surge.
Once aboard, we questioned the seaworthiness of the ferry. A rusted out bucket of bolts with plastic chairs bolted to an uneven floor so poxed with rust bubbles that you could hardly walk on it.
Once underway, the ferry shook so bad that the glass shelving in the counter holding the snacks rattled off and crashed to smithereens.
The sea was amazingly rough for our crossing and we could see several people becoming a little green with the ride. It was an adventure to be sure and once we arrived safely, one to laugh about.
No Show Shuttle
We arrived at the terminal in Kos Samui and immediately sent in search of our shuttle that we had prearranged. There were plenty of taxis, minibuses, etc. but no one knew anything about the driver we were seeking. As the passengers thinned out and we were left with only a handful of other tourists, we realized that there was NO transport for us. I had my receipt in hand, but it had no phone number or contact, or even the name of a company written on it!
We continued to wait with our luggage in tow, in the rain! With all the taxis now gone we looked for an alternate mode of transport and ended up hooking up with a German fellow that had arranged pick up from his hotel. He kindly agreed to share costs with us to our hotel in Chewang.
The driver had a difficult time finding Palm Island Resort, despite numerous phone calls and directions. After taking the scenic route down and around the city center streets, it was very dark, way past suppertime, by the time we pulled into the parking lot at the Hotel. We were immediately greeting by Norm and Marianne who had patiently been waiting our arrival for hours!
Our room and had the most incredible welcoming! Marianne had laid out flowers in the shape of a heart decorating the bed and a big sign welcomed us. It was a very moving gesture and one I will always remember!
Our rooms were a real treat. The air conditioning was an indulgence we had not been experiencing and that, in addition to unlimited shower water, made the units a real bargain at 1100 baht ($37). The rooms were clean and with the resorts amenities of a pool and restaurant, we could have just stayed there forever.
The days that followed were sheer heaven, spent with a wonderful brother and sister in law, in a beautiful relaxed setting. Norm and Marianne started each morning with a vigorous run down the beach. I tried to accompany them the first day but my enthusiasm soon waned but I remain totally impressed at their consistent dedication to exercising.
Our fav. breakfast hangout was a short distance down the beach. Every morning we had a huge buffet breakfast, Western and Thai style food, all you could eat, for 1500 baht ($5). Great value and great food!
Then we would spend the day totally relaxing, reading, sleeping, sun tanning, swimming and of course catching up on all our news! It was a great holiday for us just to be off the boat for a while and on terra firma!
Chewang is a popular beach in Kos Samui and is close to a major shopping area. We enjoyed taking time to bargain for some good deals in clothing. We talked Norm into getting in vogue with new Billabong board shorts!
Happy Hour was always a highlight of the day. All along the shoreline there were a variety of restaurants and bars to choose from. And always a delicious Thai style meal.
Once in a while we expanded our horizons and traveled to another venue for Happy Hour and Dinner. Here we are at a charming restaurant on the northern part of the island.
The Beach in front of the resort was magnificent, miles long and powdery white, protected by a surrounding reef. It beckoned us to take many walks in the silky firm sand. When the tide was down you could walk clear around the point and even wade out to the nearby island if you wanted to!
The vendors were always a source of amusement and our favorite purchases were lunchtime spring rolls or corn on the cob. Marianne made friends with a cute woman trying to support her young child by selling trinkets and jewelry. She was having problems getting a vendors license and was always on the lookout for the Police who had caught her several times already.
Touring the Island
February 5 We rented motor scooters and circumnavigated Koh Samui. Driving around the island was not quite as life threatening as in Phuket but following Norm was always a challenge as he would take interesting shortcuts, dashing the wrong way down one way streets or overshooting his turn. We stopped at several lovely viewpoint to admire the scenery.
BIKING IN THAILAND
In Thailand there are 2 modes of transportation, public (in many forms) and motorcycles. The average bike probably has 2 riders on board but it is not uncommon to see families of 4 riding a single two-wheeler.
Traffic.... Chaotic? Perplexing? Organized? Being a foreigner the organization wasn't readily apparent! The motorcycle drivers don't follow traffic signs, stop signs, and traffic lights are only a suggestion. They have complete right of way and are exempt from fault in any accident, no matter what the situation! They commonly enter major roadways from side streets, driveways, etc. without stopping to look!!! On divided highways, Thais like to use the shoulder area to drive in the opposite direction.
In any event our experience driving in Thailand was always challenging and hair raising!
We spent time at a beach peppered with colorful sails where Windsurfers were enjoying ideal conditions.
At the Wildlife Park many animals were on display, including sea lions, local birds, monkeys, lions and most impressive, tigers.
A side trip took us to a Park with a Waterfall and some interesting rock outcrops. Not far was the Buddhist Monastery where a huge shrine overlooked the living quarters, amidst a park like setting in the trees.
We took a lunch stop at a restaurant right on the beach renown in Koh Samui for its uniqueness with an elephant theme. The place was decorated with dozens of elephants and carvings.
We ventured into the interior of the island but the roads quickly deteriorated to the point that Marianne and I preferred to walk up the dusty steep inclines. Eventually our sense of adventure waned and we turned the bikes around and headed back to the sealed road.
Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks
An attraction that appears on postcards throughout Kos Samui, nature built replicas of sex organs in gigantic proportions!
The rock surrounding the sight was very interesting, carved and cracked boulders sculpted by centuries of pounding ocean waves.
I couldn't resist taking a picture of this sign, a familiar common everyday paradigm of Thai spelling. (But the view WAS very nice!)
Fill er Up!
Getting gas is always an adventure in Thailand where you simply pull up to a roadside stand and buy gas by the bottle!
For a change of scenery we packed our bags and took a ferry to Koh Phangan, the smaller neighboring island about an hour away. The island was charming and much quieter than Kos Samui. We immediately rented bikes and drove around sightseeing and also looking for a place to stay. The roads were more pothole than pavement in places and we encountered some fairly steep inclines where, once again, Marianne and I had to lighten the load and walk.
We investigated several potential places to stay before settling on some cute bungalows overlooking the ocean. Rustic only in appearance, they were clean, comfortable and cheap. And the amenities included a pool and restaurant!
We took advantage of the resort next door and used their sandy spot with gazebo next to the beach for happy hour.
Norm and Gord went to a Raggae party on the beach one night and had such a marvelous time they didn't get back til 5 am!
The beaches we stopped at around Koh Phangan were superb and the whole island had an appealing authentic ethnic flavor, still somewhat unaffected by tourism. I am sure it will only be a matter of a short time when the masses discover this paradise and the concrete structures will replace the green jungles and secluded strips of sand. Prices were cheaper in Koh Phangan and we enjoyed inexpensive meals and beverages.
We kept postponing our trip back to Phuket because we were enjoying Kos Samui and the good company so much. We extended our stay to help celebrate the huge 10th Anniversary of The Reggae Bar which was near Chewang. It turned out to be a party of the century with love bands, fireworks, food, and best of all....FREE booze! Jammed packed with a younger set than us, everyone was dancing and the most fun was watching the locals!
Rub ber Dub Dub!
Finally it was time to depart and our ferry/bus trip home was easy and uneventful. Riding only the big bus this trip we were able to doze a little as the mundane scene of row upon row of rubber trees passes by.
Huge rubber plantations border the roads all over Thailand planted in neat rows and recognized by their deciduous nature of being the only trees around that seasonally shed their leaves.
Spindly and unobtrusive these trees usual sport a small black cup at the base of their trunk from which the latex flows. Seven years after planting they start producing latex which flows for another 25 years or so before gradually drying up. Tapping is carried out before dawn as the latex stops flowing once the heat of the day sets in.
In our travels we had a close up look at the latex being collected. It looked like an extremely slow and labor intensive process.
When the bus to Phuket stopped again at a restaurant for a break we saw a rubber producing shop right next door. It was interesting to see what happens to the buckets of latex once they are collected and transferred to the factory. The liquid is filtered, mixed with formic acid and poured into sheets, these being left to set overnight. The final stages involve hanging the mats for over a week to dry. It was interesting to see and feel the final product, ready for export.
We arrived back at Yacht Haven, where the boat had been moored safe and sound. While we were gone, a young Thai boy had been busy polishing the hull for 800 baht a day. We now had to get serious about arranging for quotes and contractors to get all the work done on the boat that was necessary.
HATS & OTHER FUN