We checked out of our bungalow and took a morning ferry to Koh Samui. Koh Samui is the largest of the three islands Samui, Phangan, and Tao. It wasn’t even visited by tourists until the 1970’s and was very secluded until the 1990’s when the first roads were built. Over the past ten years, tourism skyrocketed and took over the island. One reason for this was because most tourists visited beaches on western side of Thailand where the tsunami hit in 2003. Because of the destruction, tourists flocked to islands on the eastern side of thailand that were unaffected, mainly Samui. Bangkok Airways built an airport to better serve the new tourist boom on the island and since the island became more and more popular to visit, it is now an international airport serving multiple airlines with direct flights from most major cities in Southeast Asia. After an hour ferry ride, we took a taxi to the main beach where our guesthouse was. We stayed at an Italian Guesthouse run by an Italian guy who had a restaurant right next to where we were staying. Once we dropped our bags off, we went to the beach and walked for a little, then ate lunch at an outdoor Thai Restaurant. This is a weird looking area because there are huge 5-star resorts lining the beach and then a busy street with shops, restaurants, and cheap hotels on the street right behind them, which is where we were staying. After we are, I rented a moped for $6 and we rode around the whole island for the day. We visited the Big Buddha statue on the north of the island. We them bought our ferry ticket for two days from now to Koh Tao. Then, we rode for a couple of hours west and down the western side of the island. We stopped at a waterfall and saw a legit Buddhist monetary hidden behind it. We walked bak there and there were a couple of monks walking around in silence or praying. It was neat. We then rode our bikes to a resort beach area and had had dinner on the beach. All nice restaurants are a part of a resort here. It’s a strange mix of luxury resorts and backpackers. There is no middle even though some resorts are pretty reasonable in price. We drove into the night and dropped our bike back off at the place where we rented them from. It was a great day of sights, beaches and mountains. At night, we walked the main road for about a mile and got to the main bar and restaurant area for tourists. We went to an Irish pub then to a place with live American music sing by Thai people. It was a chill night. We went home around midnight so we could wake up early for our excursion tomorrow.
Today was our first of two excursions that we decided to do. It was an off-road safari. It was mostly a tourist trap but half of it was pretty fun. First, we did the tourist stuff like see a rock that is only famous because it sort of resembles a penis. It is called the grandfather rock. I asked why it was called the grandfather rock and our guide just said, “because it looks like a grandfather when he wakes up, if you know what I mean.” I said, “so it’s just supposed to be a penis?” Then he felt uncomfortable and laughed it off. I was thinking wtf you took us here, not me. We then started the activities for the day at this animal park where we rode an elephant, saw an elephant show, and saw a crocodile show. During the elephant show, I even got to go down to the stage to play tug of war with 15 men against an elephant. It was close but the young elephant won. After seeing the elephants do some tricks like hula hoop swinging and balancing on a stool, we watched two Thai guys mess around with alligators. They kept putting their hands and heads in the crocodile’s mouths. One guy even put his entire arm down the crocodiles throat. I don’t know why the crocodile didn’t bite it off. After the shows, we are a buffet lunch that I devoured because I’m not used to getting smaller portions that they usually give for meals here. Our guide then drove us in our off road car up a mountain to two waterfalls. We chilled there for a half hour and went swimming and hiked up to a bigger waterfall. After, we drove back down the mountain to see a dead monk that had been preserved somehow. His skin was all wrinkled but was in tact and he was behind a glass case. It was weird. After this, we did my favorite part of the trip. We rode up the mountain and saw a neat magic garden of Buddhist status that one man built all by himself over the course of his life. There were about 40 status of Buddhist figures and some houses. The man built them for himself without intending to show tourists or anything so it was the real deal. They found it some time back, way after his death and now made it a tourist attraction. Matt and I then sat on seats on top of the off road car as our driver sped through the jungle and up the mountain. We had to avoid branches and leaves. It was fun. We stopped briefly at a scenic over look and one guy found a huge spider. Everyone started playing with it and taking pictures with it until one guy got bit and probably went to the hospital right after our trip. We say in those cool seats again on our way down the mountain and enjoyed that roller coaster ride. There was one 50-something year old lady by herself who was in our car that was wearing heals, makeup and nice earrings. She was miserable the whole trip and didn’t say a word to anyone or even gesture yes or no if someone offered her water or something. It was funny for the rest of our car to watch her be thrown around our car as we went up and down the bumpy mountain. After the tour, Matt and I are pizza and pasta at our guesthouse because the owner was really highly rated. It was legit Italian food and we loved it. Afterwards, I tried to find a haircut place and couldn’t for like two hours. We gave up after walking miles and decided to get some beers and chill on the beach for a while.
We woke up early to catch our van to our excursion for the day. We had a solid group this time of mostly outgoing people. We rode to a dock for toast and tea, then all got on a speed boat to take us to Ang Thong National Park. The park is made up of 42 islands and looks the way Samui did 40 years ago before being affected by tourism. On the hour-long ride out, Matt and I sat outside with these two Australian guys, an Italian guy, a polish girl, and a German family. On the back of our boat was four Americans, some Swedish people, Swiss people, English people and some others who I wasn’t sure what they were. It was neat to have such an international crew for this trip. Our first stop was snorkeling next to an island on the north of the island chain. We snorkeled for like an hour and saw a ton of fish. It was pretty clear and not cold water. We were in a small bay of the rock island where there for very small caves we could have gone into. After snorkeling, we rode the boat through many of the islands for amazing views. We parked at a small beach where a fee other tour boats stopped. There was a really steep staircase up to a viewing point. We went up and had such a great view of many islands in the distance. On our back side was a huge salt water lake in the island. After making the trek back down, we chilled on the beach for a little and them rode to a fishermen village on an island for lunch. It was a buffet again, which was great news, so it was all you can eat. I wish I liked seafood though, because you can get it here for the same price as chicken. We ate with the German family, which consisted of a mom, her daughter and her son. They didn’t speak much English but really tried. After we ate, we walked around the village to see where these people lived. It was very small. I don’t know how people can live like this and not get bored. We then ride our boat to the final stop of the trip. We went kayaking and hung out at a nice beach with warm clear water. Matt and I kayaked out to this famous rock from pictures and a James Bond movie that looked like it was barely being held up from the bottom. We then walked the beach for a little with the rest of the people of the boat and chilled in the water until it was time to go. We rode back and had a small tour of the nicest hotels and resorts on the island. The most expensive is the Four Seasons Villas. It looked so nice from the water. After the tour, we went home to shower and go out for the night. We wanted to meet up with the Australians at night but it’s so hard to plan things if you aren’t at the same hostel or hotel. Matt and I walked the beach and tried to one somewhere to eat. Since it is exclusively resorts, we walked for a long time before giving up on eating on the beach. There were resort restaurants but they were expensive and had classical music playing. We wanted normal cheap food, not smoked salmon. We walked through a resort to get to the main road and ate at a sports bar, where I got my usual mojito and Matt got a kamikaze. We walked the beach to a popular bar called Ark Bar. It was huge and right on the beach. There was a DJ and a ton of tables. They sold buckets and most drinks for a lot more than on Koh Phangan. It was the spot to go for young tourists at night with lights and loud music. We walked home on the beach and passed some drunk kids who can buy legit 3-feet tall fireworks from Thai guys walking around. They are so loud and so legit. It is so dangerous because there is no warning when someone is lighting one off and it scares the shit out of you. But that is followed by a cool explosion right above you so it is worth it. After seeing a girl pee in the water right next to us, we called it a night. We had to wake up at 6:15 to catch an early morning ferry. We really enjoyed our time on this island.