Samui is a small island in the Gulf of Thailand. I’ve seen it called Samui, Ko Samui, and Koh Samui. “Koh” Or “Ko” means island. It’s quiet (as quiet as Thailand gets), and breath-taking gorgeous, a good place to get away from the city. It was our Christmas present to ourselves, a little bungalow right on the beach at a nice place set off from the main road.
On Koh Samui there is still the usual line of bars, massage parlors, restaurants, and convenience stores along the roads but the vibe is way more laid back, less loud. There were still posters everywhere for Muay Thai fights, and markets and roadside vendors selling street meat, just less people, and less noise. It has more of a local feel, more beach-towny, which is my favorite thing on earth: a good, laid back, beach town.
There wasn’t much we wanted to do, except chill out by the beach (which was right outside our room) and eat (the food on the island was all really good), and maybe casually explore a little bit. There’s a fisherman’s village not far from where we stayed, with a huge fish market. I’d never seen anything like it. Aisles and aisles of vendors selling all sorts of stuff. Not only was there fish, there were fruits and veggies I’d never seen, cuts of pork and beef, live eels and turtles (poor turtles!), and all parts of chickens being sold separately.
We explored on mountain bikes, and then on a motorbike. We ended up on some backroad neighborhood that was far more residential than the area with our hotel. We cruised around the dirt roads in the jungle, checking out people’s houses and yards. Huge bulls grazed in people’s yards, with chickens and dogs running around, and kids playing. It all seemed very laid back and slow paced compared to the hustle of Bangkok.
We only stayed on Samui over Christmas, but I wouldn’t have minded staying longer. When I was younger, all I wanted was to be in big cities, around big crowds, in the mix of parties and people and happenings. I lived for it. Quiet time was wasted time. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve started enjoying and valuing solitude and peace more. I still like a good crowd now and again, but in limited amounts.
We headed to Phuket after Christmas. Phuket is a mix between Samui and Bangkok: a bustling island town, not quite a laid back beach town but not a big city either. It’s something right in the middle where you can relax on the beach or party it up in town with your friends, or take tourist excursions to mountains, islands, or jungles.
We rented a motorbike the first day we were there and kept it the whole time. Motorbikes are cheap ($7 a day), and easier to get around in than a car, for the most part. Unless, of course, you can’t drive a motorbike worth a shit, which I can’t. I watched everyone in Thailand race around on those bikes. Old women, couples without helmets, children, sometimes entire families of four would be piled on them. I figured if they can all do it, I should be able to.
The start button looks just like the horn button, so I sat in the driveway and blew the horn a bunch before I even got the bike started.
Then I had to duck waddle it a ways (quite a ways) before I was able to keep my balance on it and get moving.
Look at me go
I was fine going straight down the road at a consistent speed but when it came to turning it around….. I ran into a couple things. Oops. luckily, miraculously, I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else, and was able to get back to the hotel, where I parked it, but not before accidentally gunning the throttle a few times, putting me many feet in front of where I originally wanted to park.
This is pretty accurate
I gave it hell but decided Joe better be the one to do the driving.
Joe zipped us around wherever we wanted to go, even though I was nervous about it. He took us across town, through roundabouts where people apparently just drive wherever they feel like, like a seasoned motorbike vet. He only dumped us once, going about 5 miles an hour, and although we both ended up a little scraped up, neither of us were seriously hurt. Joe broke my fall (what a gentleman!), so he ended up with the worst of it, but we were going slow enough that it was no big deal.
We stayed in Phuket the next five days, and only experienced a fraction of what it had to offer. Stay tuned!