Thursday, April 09, 2009

KOH SAMUI - THAI ISLAND

It was a first trip for me, to Koh samui, an island situated in the Gulf of Thailand. I am sure many have heard of Phuket (Thai Andaman Sea), Krabi, Phi Phi and so on. Seasoned travelers would have heard of Koh Samui as well but many I know have heard about it but never been there. Here's a taste of Koh Samui.

First of all, you'd arrive on Bangkok Airways (or in my case, private jet) to this island. The airport has been developed, owned and operated by Bangkok airways. One can fly into Koh Samui from Bangkok or Singapore too (or in the case of private jets, one can fly in from anywhere). What is unique about this airport is the outdoor-open air hut style, typical Thai ambiance buildings that make up the main terminal building, immigration, baggage claim and pretty much everything else. The only air conditioned "hut" is the Duty Free. Weather in Koh Samui or just Samui for short, is tropical year round, just as one would expect Thailand to be. Last month it was a bit cooler in the evenings, pleasant breeze blowing in from the sea always. This video below shows an overview of the departure terminal after one clears Thai immigration.
video

I stayed in a hotel on the most famous beach on the island called Chaweng Beach. This strip has many hotel/resort options, many dining and party options and except for the sleaze massage parlors that can be easily identified, there are some good traiditonal Thai massage options as well. Night life is interesting, to people watch and hang out at the many theme bars and cafe's. This island is not as crowded as Phuket or that commercialized as Pattaya, at least for now, but is already one of the favorite destinations for travelers in Thailand. Chaweng beach is the most crowded, I saw a bit of Lamai beach, south of Chaweng and less crowded and much cleaner. Seafood options are many, on the beach, if only one walks up and down to look at the menu as well as the catch of the day in ice, inside small wooden boats. Food options on the main street are many and varied. I'd suggest local fare as always. Here's a video of Chaweng beach adjacent to my hotel, in the evening, in very low tide.

video

There are a few things that one can do in Samui. I'd suggest a one day tour of the Island in a tour bus. I took a tour like that and went to some of the interesting places on the Island. I found the first stop a bit wierd. There's a bunch of rocks by the sea and that's really nice. What's weird is that one rock formation resembles the make genitalia and a crevice in another looks like the female genitalia. This place is called Grandpa and Grandma rocks, for this reason. As usual, there are funny stories about how this place was named. One of them being two star crossed lovers who jumped off the cliff there and the only thing remaining were these organs. Here's a video of the area.
video

Next stop was something uniquely Thai, a temple monastery (Wat Khunaram) where a revered monk's mummified body is kept in a glass case in a meditative position. He gave up his body during meditation I was told, having predicted his own time of death. Then there's a visit to a coconut plantation where monkeys are trained to climb the trees and pick the right coconuts. Next stop was an Elephant ride park that is also the starting point for hiking up a hilly trail.The hike is a fairly steep climb and not very pleasant in hot climate, ending at a water falls and water pools that one can dip in to cool off. Here are pictures of the entrance area to the hiking trail and a small part of the water falls in the distance up in the hills.



A visit to the main town on Samui for lunch and then off to the big Buddha near the Airport. Here's a video of the Big Buddha.
video

The surrounding area of the Big Buddha has several other temples and I was surprised that the deities were of Hindu gods such as Ganesh, Shiva, Brahma and so on. Brahma is fine, one can see Brahma statues everywhere in Thailand, even Bangkok. Here are some pictures of the temples and shrines of the area.





There is another "must see" in the big Buddha area. There's a guy with a show room full of Alien and Predator sculptures (real looking dinosaurs as well). What's unique about it is that all the sculptures are hand made, using various parts from many junked motorcycles. Some of the Predator and Alien sculptures are really big, over 6 feet tall. Imagine if this was kept near your front door! They are so life like that I thought one of them was going to attack any minute. For all you metal heads out there, this is nirvana, and I spent a considerable amount of time gawking at the fantastic metal work. Click on the pictures to see brake pads, spark plugs, shock absorbers and so on, that make these sculptures! They are for sale. The challenge would be shipping, handling and re-assembly. The guy who makes them can do all this too.


There's lots more to do in Koh samui and in the neighboring islands. There's even a National marine park that comprises of 40 something islands where one can observe nature and get involved in snorkeling, kayaking, swimming in the sea and so on. Tours leave hotels very early in the morning for this trip. Cost of staying in Koh Samui can go from budget to high end. Eating out is not expensive and generally things are cheap. I'd suggest Samui as a destination to just go and hang out, do a bit of sightseeing but mostly for just hanging out at the beach and getting a relaxing Thai traditional massage for literally a song.