Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oct. 15th- Oct. 21st. Ko Samui Island (Thailand)

Oct. 15th: Beth, Liz and I got off the train at a stop where a bus would pick us up to get to a boat that would take us to Ko Samui. Beth is from England but she was traveling with 3 Canadian guys named James, Ryan and Dustin (who they called Radio). It was 5am and we were all exhausted. Dustin decided to grab a chang beer and start early.

The bus finally came to pick us up and the boys ended up in a van while Beth, Liz and I ended up in a double decker bus. We decided to get to the top and sleep at the front of the bus. It dropped us off at the pier where we all lined up to take to boat to each island. Beth was heading to Ko Tao where they are known to have the best and cheapest diving schools and we were heading to Ko Samui.

Beth's Island was first and we told Beth to get into contact with us when she got to Ko Samui. It took us 2 hours to get to our island and when we got off the pier we were not exactly coherent. Now here is what you need to know about the islands of Thailand.... everything is extremely pricey compared to Bangkok and northern Thailand. The taxi cabs on the islands do not go by the meter they have flat rates per person and they wanted 200 baht per person. NO WAY!!! Liz and I walked a little ways away from the pier to find a tuk tuk and he wanted 80 baht. He asked me where we were going and to be honest we had no plans and no hotel booked. I literally pointed to a map and said take me here and had no idea where we were going.

We ended up in a tuk tuk with really obnoxious Israelis and when the tuk tuk stopped to drop us off he stopped in front of a 7 eleven so we were really confused. There was a ton of construction going on but we noticed a big sign that said fishermans village. We were told to go in there.... so we did. We walked a little ways and we reached the beach only to find that we were near luxurious hotels and this is not what we signed up for. We walked a little bit more and passed a massage parlor and this woman asked us where we were going. We told her we needed a cheap place to stay. She wanted to help us so she phoned her friend and then she took me on her motorbike to check out the place.

It was a guesthouse up the street from the massage parlor and the woman wanted 500 baht per night. Sold! We had a place to sleep and we realized that the tuk tuk had dropped us off in Bo Phut in the northern part of Ko Samui near the big Buddha.

After we settled in we bought a pizza and brought it to the beach. There were 3 guys walking down the beach who said hello to us. 2 of the men were old, heavy and in their 50's and the other was Matt who was 26. These guys, who were all from Australia, became our fathers/uncle/ older brother figures. We ended up having dinner at a Mexican restaurant that night and enjoyed watching people light lanterns and send them into the sky from a reggae bar.

Oct. 16th: Today Liz and I needed a relaxing day so we chose to lay out on the beach and later on get Thai massages. I looked up and noticed 3 girls walking with their large back packs headed towards a bungalow. I told Liz that I now felt better wandering around the nice resorts with my backpack because these girls were walking through the sand with them.

Once the girls settled I figured hey why not go talk to them and see what their story is. There were 3 girls named Emma, Kerry and Rachel. Emma and Kerry are traveling together and they met Rachel during their travels who decided to tag along with them. We told them we were going to head back for our Thai massages but that we would meet them for dinner later.

Liz and I walked back to the massage parlor that helped us find a cheap place to stay. We realized that after a couple of hours in the sun we were pretty sun burned. We chose the aloe vera massage. Not even the Guatemalan skin could handle the sun here. While Liz and I were getting ready for our massages I didn't know if I was able to keep my bikini on. Liz was right next to me to I pulled the curtain open and asked her if she was keeping her bikini on and we were told to get into our birthday suits. Ok so there we are getting our aloe vera massages and the woman tells me to lay on my back so she can work my front. All of a sudden she is massaging my top.... which they would never be allowed to do in the states and I didn't really know what to think or what to do. I went with the flow and afterwards Liz and I got up looked at each other felt a little violated but we were able to laugh about it. These women would never be able to do that in the states or England.

Later that night we went back to the bungalows to where the other girls were staying at and joined them for dinner. I of course had pad thai and treated myself to a coconut shake. Kerry and Rachel were getting sleepy so they decided to call it a night. Emma, Liz and I walked back to where we were staying to treat ourselves to a banana pancake with nutella.

Beth had emailed me the day before letting me know where she would be staying but we did not pick a meeting place. While we were getting our pancakes Beth and her friend Lauren walked out of a massage parlor and joined us for pancakes. Liz and Emma called it a night after our treat and I decided to stay out longer with Beth and Lauren. We ended up in a really nice restaurant....for the record all the restaurants in fishermans village are really pricey...I stuck to tea since I could not afford anything on the menu. When you are a backpacker you really need to budget yourself. Since Japan was so expensive it ate up most of my budget so I am trying to be good!

Oct. 17th: Today we met up with the 2 old guys (Scotty and Chris), and Matt the 26 year old. They had rented motorbikes and drove them all over the island and said that they would teach us how to drive them and take us around the island.

Dear mom please don't freak out but yes Liz and I rented motorbikes and drove them around Ko Samui. Our first stop on the bike was lunch at a little shop close to the entrance of the big Buddha. I had my usual pad thai and we sat for a bit to wait for Matt's friend Daniel to meet up with us. Once Daniel arrived we drove into the area where the big Buddha was.

Now I have to be honest I have seen a number of Buddhas during my travels and I am officially tired of seeing Buddhas, temples and pagodas. The Buddha was not as impressive as the others I have seen but hey there is not much to see on this island.

Liz and I were really happy that we were driving the motorbikes with the guys. They made sure we were ok and we always had someone in front and behind to watch us. Our first stop was Chaweng where we went to a place called Lucky mother. It was a guesthouse with a number of bungalows but they had a restaurant at the end right near the beach. We stopped for some time and then hopped back onto the bikes and headed to Lamai. When we got to Lamai the guys took us to a bar called Swing bar that had large wooden swings to sit at the bar. We took another break, relaxed and just enjoyed the beach view.

It started to rain so we had to head back to Bo Phut, Fishermans village, and I have to admit I was nervous to ride in the rain not to mention they drive on the other side of the road here which took some getting used to. When we got back to our guesthouse we said goodbye and thank you to the guys. We realized that we wanted to keep riding so we took the bikes out to meet up with the other girls. We ran into Beth and Lauren and they hopped on to the back of our bikes to drive them to their hotel. Having someone on the back of your bike is not easy. When I tried to cross the street our bike was not leveled correctly since Beth's beach bag was heavy and leaning on one side that we slid a little bit and almost fell off the bike. We were fine but I dropped Beth off to walk to her hotel instead of continuing on the bike.

That night we ended up meeting up with Emma, Rachel and Kerry for drinks and dinner and Liz and I booked a snorkeling tour with Beth and Lauren.

Oct. 18th: A van came to pick us up to take us to the boat that would take us to the outer islands that had the best snorkeling. These islands were just small islands dispersed around the main islands.

Lauren and Beth were waiting for us in the van and they brought us croissants from their free breakfast they get at their hotel. Thanks Beth and Lauren!!! We then headed to the boat and off we went to the first island to snorkel. When the boat stopped they provided everyone with snorkeling gear and all 4 of us hopped into the water. The guys driving the boat started throwing bread into the water and we were then surrounded by tropical fish. I was happy that my camera was waterproof we took some good photos under water. We then hopped back into the boat to the next island where we did a little trek up some stairs to see a gorgeous blue lagoon.

The next island was where we were going to have some lunch. They served us a buffet of stir fry chicken and rice and watermelon. Beth and Liz decided to stay and rest at the table while Lauren and I decided to walk around the island. On the island we saw a monkey chained to a tree and it looked like it was really unhappy and poorly treated. We walked in another direction and saw this little girl who was soo precious. We said sawadeeka to her which is hello in Thai and she said hello back. We then saw her living conditions and where everyone slept and it was like they slept in a little shack with everything they own in one room. Lauren and I just looked at each other and I think we both realized how fortunate we are.

We then headed back to the boat where our next stop would be kayaking around 2 small islands. Beth and Lauren were in one kayak and Liz and I were the other. We kayaked around 2 islands and parked them on the sand to go into a small cave where you had to crawl on your hands and knees to get out of the cave back into the water. We all wondered if crawling through this cave was worth all the sand in our bathing suits. After kayaking it was time to head back to Ko Samui and the 4 of us would get ready to go out in Lamai.

We took a tuk tuk into Lamai and stopped at the center to get dinner. There were a number of street vendors and we stopped at the end of one where they had a buffet of food. I had chicken skewers, corn on the cob and salad for $3. The food was amazing! We then took the girls to swing bar had one drink, walked back to the main road and had some ice cream and then we ended up at an Irish pub. Now at the Irish pub there was a Thai rock band playing music. There were 2 girls and 2 guys and they sang perfect English, wore some crazy outfits, and I have never seen headbanging like this before. It was hilarious and soo much fun. They were extremely talented. Around midnight it was time to call it a night, grab a tuk tuk and head back to Bo Phut.

Oct. 19th: This morning Liz and I decided to check out of our guesthouse and head to Lauren and Beth's hotel to use their amazing pool. They were staying in a gorgeous resort that had 3 pools where sculptures of elephants and frogs were squirting out water into the pool. We sun bathed and swam until 4:30. Liz and I decided to head to Chawend and stay there for 2 nights to prep us for the full moon party.

Side note: Chaweng was the busier part of Ko Samui where most of the backpackers stay at. Bo Phut was mostly for couples and honeymooners.

When we got to Chaweng we planned on staying at Lucky Mother since they had cheap bungalows. The place was run by a lady boy who remembered us from the day before. He/she/ it was named Pens and Pens decided to nickname me New York city. We met the guys who were staying in the bungalow next to us their names were Remko who was dutch and Matt from San Diego who we named San Diego. Here you get nicknames based on where you are from.

At night we met up with Emma, Rachel and Kerry since they moved to Chaweng as well. We also ended up running into Ramona who we met on our way to Laos. The girls were hungry so we walked around and found some cheap pad thai places and then went to a bar and played an intense game of connect four.

One of the things I love about traveling with Liz is that when she is ready to go home and go to sleep so am I. It was time to call it a night.

Oct. 20th: Today we woke up early to grab a tuk tuk to go to Tescos. We are trying to stick to a budget so we thought we would do some grocery shopping and buy breakfast food. We got into a tuk tuk and met a lovely old couple from Australia who directed us where to go once we got to Tescos. We bought fruit, muesli and yogurt. When we walked outside we were attacked by taxi cab drivers and I said I only want to pay 30 baht and they said ok. Little did I know that my 30 baht just bought Liz and I a ride on a motorbike. The driver, Liz, and with me on the end drove back to Lucky mother. I decided to wave to everyone while we drove by. Liz and I were able to enjoy a nice healthy breakfast outside our bungalow and we chatted with Remko and San Diego.

Liz and I went to the beach for a little bit but we needed to take it easy because we were both still red. We ended up walking to the ark bar with Remko and San Diego to have lunch but I decided not to eat anything since I heard about a free bbq they were serving at the ark bar. If you buy one drink you get all you can eat for free. Pretty sweet deal!! We ended up meeting up with all the girls, enjoyed our free bbq, dealt with some annoying Australian guys who insisted on buying us non stop jello shots and danced the night away.

Before the night ended Beth, Rachel and I snuck off back onto the main street where we found a sandwich cart. Beth was really smashed and she was talking nonsense. She must have changed her order 6 times and was constantly saying chicken. The guy making the sandwich was just laughing at how ridiculous we were. I had the most amazing chicken sandwich for $2. We then headed back to the beach and met some more people and danced till 3am.

Oct. 21st: Liz and I decided to treat ourselves to a Starbucks this morning. Beth ended up meeting us in town since Lauren was heading back to England. At 3pm we took a boat to Ko Phangnan which is the island where the ful moon party occurs. I was looking forward to dancing till the sun comes up and covering myself with neon paint!

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