03.02.2013 - 11.02.2013 30 °C
After a bit of a journey involving 4 taxis, 2 flights, 1 bus trip and a 4 hour nap over at a budget Bangkok airport hotel (all within 24 hrs) we finally hit the sandy shores of Koh Samui.
Arriving here from Vietnam we quickly noticed the change in pace and the glossy holiday resort vibe that has taken over the island.
After a 2 hour ferry ride and a lot of haggling at the port we finally made our way to our hotel on the more remote and under-developed west coast. We settled ourselves into the tropical beach and started chilling out in no time at all. We hired a scooter for a couple of days, which made for the perfect and most cost effective way of getting around and exploring the island, taking in the beaches, waterfalls, fisherman's village etc.
We had read and heard that Ko Samui has a really poor reputation for traffic accidents and that we should take extra care. Not that we wouldn't, but I am glad we approached everything with extra extreme caution as it wasn't 2 hrs on the road until we saw our first accident, involving a biker going over the front of the handlebars of his suped up bike and landing on a curb. We were there probably just a couple of minutes after it happened, and it did not look good at all. I am more than astonished to see how many testosterone charged holiday makers who think its fine to drive around looking like a "cat-ma-lat" without a freaking helmet, just so that they can look like a zoolander on tropical heat. I don't wish harm on anyone, but this situation, amongst loads of others would be completely different if people worried about their safety and others rather than trying to look cool! We were way in the minority as far as wearing helmets, bloody incredible!
Whilst we were visiting the fishermans wharf, Cath recognised some familiar faces, Henk and Jane from Spain (close friends of the Stewarts in PE), who we had met years back when we were staying with them in Plett. What a small world, and amazing that our paths crossed at exactly the right time! We had a drink and caught up for a few hours, absolutely brilliant! What are the chances!
After 3 days on Kho Samui we were keen for some chill time on the quieter, nature lovers island of Koh Tao. The blood pressure always elevates when you arrive at a new place and are met by a haggle of taxi men and tour operators trying to fleece you of your amo before you have had a chance to settle yourself, and this was by no means any exception.
We finally checked into our accommo, on a massive cliff, north of Sairee Beach, the main beach on the island. A wonderful spot with fantastic views and a brilliant infinity pool and deck. The setting was awesome and the sun sets were epic. This all came with a bit of a trek from town and a challenging hill just before our hotel, but was worth it and away from the main hussle and bustle. We settled in here for a couple of nights and ventured into town for some grub, massages and a yoga session. Koh Tao by contrast to Koh Samui is far more chilled and less mainstream and "resorty" (Ko Samui has a large element of irresponsible tourist development). Ko Tao on the other hand is geared more towards the independent adventure traveller focused on scuba diving and snorkelling rather than the all inclusive beach lounger deals or sky sports enthusiast. This was more our scene.
We hired a kayak and ventured around the coves heading north to the small islands off the north west coast of Koh Tao. The evenings involved wandering around the main beach area, soaking up the vibe, having a few quiet drinks and watching some of the fire dancers doing there thing, before signing off for the night back at our quiet remote accommodation.
We decided to book a couple of dives and found a reputable operation, away from the main Sairee beach area. The owner was from Cyprus and had a very laid back approach to things. They also owned the coffee shop opposite the dive operation and a few very remote bungalows on the completely under-developed part of the island. We decided to take this up and relocated out there for 3 nights, and during this time managed to do a couple of dives. We had a great time and saw some fantastic fish, but unfortunately the elusive Whale Shark is still out there somewhere.
The new remote accomo spot was just what we were looking for. The bungalows were done out Balinese style, with thatch and very tasteful furnished, an epic open shower and a great view from the deck in front over the sea, inclusive of hammock (perfect for blomming). Just what the dr ordered. It was a bit of a scramble down to the rocky / boulder beach, but the snorkelling and warm water made the trip more than worthwhile. It was also a bit tough getting into the dive operation and we needed to get transfers via 4x4, but on the one occasion we decided to run in.
We managed to go for a few hard runs while on the island, exhausting in the humidity, even when running quite late in the day. We were sad to leave, but the 9 days on the gulf side meant we had to move on or we would not cover the Andaman coast before our visa expires. We booked a transfer from Koh Tao to Krabi which took a whole day and involved catching 2 different ferries, over some very rough seas and a bus transfer across the mainland Thai peninsula to Krabi.