It was time to leave Koh Tao for Koh Samui. I wanted to go to the national park there tomorrow, the only dry day on the forecast. I hid in the frog restaurant from the rain in the morning (the frogs were making a poor effort in the day), using the wi-fi to plan. In the afternoon I got a pickup taxi to the main town and sheltered in a café nomming on breadsticks and lattes until the Lomprayahcatamaran at 3pm. I piled on with a full load of passengers and sat up on the open top deck, as the rain god had taken a break.
Koh Tao was covered in cloud as we left and the wind batteredus out at sea. The sea was choppy. My poncho was flapping around like a whip making a horrendous racket. The views were impressive and moody with dark clouds in every direction. To the west you could make out a cluster of small islands in the distance, the Ang Thong marine park I wanted to visit. The big forested lump of KohPangyanwas ahead (the Full Moon party island). We passed other ferries and fishing boats. I put on my iPod, leaned back and enjoyed the atmosphere, I like boat travel!
We stopped at Koh Pangyan to transfer passengers and two drunk brothers came up on deck with bongo drums and beer. They were terrible at drumming but pretty funny. They had a rubber chicken which squarked which sounded ridiculous with the drums, but made us all laugh. They were pelting out on the bongos and sometimes one of them would stand up with his arms out like he was flying or a really ugly Kate Winslet. They stuck the chicken on one of the antennae and the ship honked at them in protest – there was a CCTV camera! They shook the chicken around in front of the camera for revenge, haha!
The funniest moment was when a big gust of wind in an instant blew one of the guy’s hats clean off – it whipped into the distance behind the boat never to be seen again! It was even better because it had happened earlier but hit the floor, and the guy never learned his lesson. He whispered to the chicken and mimed throwing it into the sea to fetch it!
KohSamui, the largest of the three islands, dominated the view as we approached. It’s over 100km around the edge. We got off and I walked past rows and rows of transfer mini-buses, but it’s cheaper to get away from the pier and find your own transport. I didn’t really know where to go but followed the mini-buses driving out and after a long walk with all my kit, and some amazing internal compass skills (i.e. head inland) I hit the main road going around the island. I waited for a songthaew to come along. Songthaews are pick-up trucks with a roofed back, a bench running on each side. People hop on and off and you arrange with the driver what to pay when you get on. You ring a buzzer or bash the side when you want to get off. With the public ones you can sometimes just jump on without speaking to the driver and pay a flat fare.
Eventually one turned up and I got the driver to take me to a guest house I’d read about a few miles away. We drove along a very busy road past a never-ending stream of buildings and concrete, mostly geared for tourism. Resorts, restaurants, spas, travel agents, hire shops. Samui was super-developed compared to Koh Tao and this view of it was ugly. There were lots of coconut plantations too and jungle hills rose inland, but no coastline was visible from the road. We arrived but where he’d dropped me wasn’t the place I had asked for. So I walked up and down the road for ages looking for the place, I knew I was in the right area. When you walk by the roads in Samui you are always waving away or ignoring lots of normal taxis, songthaews and motorbike taxis on the way, who honk at you or shout “Where you going?”. But you can’t afford to get taxis everywhere when on a budget!
As I passed a bar a Thai woman asked where I was going and, as she wasn’t driving anything, I replied. She spoke to an aging Aussie who turned out to be the owner. Hevery kindly got his Thai lady friend to phone the guest house I was looking for, to find out where it was. Annoyingly it transpired the songthaew had dropped me at the right place – but the resort had changed name and gone upmarket!Gah! I bought a drink from the bar and thanked my helpers- then wandered the road for ages looking at different resorts, trying to find something I could afford. It was almost dark when I gave up,I couldn’t lug my stuff around any more so I settled for a cheaper place by the beach and haggled to get a multiple night discount. This room was a luxury compared to my recent accommodation. Hot shower, air-con, wardrobe, free shampoo, free wi-fi, a fridge, free water, and with the ultimate selling point – the Towels of Love!
As it got dark I went to the beach which stretched for miles, with coarse sand (and not much of it as the tide was in). There were resorts all the beach edge, though most only had about 20 meters of sand with the lodgings in rows perpendicular to the sea. You could see planes coming in to land at Samui airport. I walked the main road looking for food, passing hostess bars with girls shouting out at me, shops, resorts and restaurants. Found popular cheap place and had a dry curry which played havoc with my stomach that night! I also discovered my credit card had stopped me from withdrawing cash. Doh. But for some reason it worked at a travel agents when I boughta tour of the marine park for tomorrow. I had to call the bank and it turns out their credit card specifically designed for world travel still needs to be activated for world travel. Never assume!