A few months ago I never pictured myself standing in knee deep muddy brown water, straining under the weight of a heavy pack, and sweatting rivers of salt water into my eyes under the flaring Thai sun, but here I stand!
I just arrived on Ko Samui, a large island off the East coast of Thailand, somewhat looked down upon by backpackers because of the tourist content, much like Phuket, but I plan to make my own judgment. Unfortunately, its hot as hell here in the islands and much more busy/expensive. As always, it was an adventure getting here. 2km walk to bus station -> 2 hr bus to Nakohm Pathom near Bangkok -> motorcycle taxi with my pack on to train station -> 11 hr sleeper train to Phun Phin -> bus to Surat Thani -> minivan to Hat Rin -> 2 hr ferry boat to Ko samui -> outside of truck taxi to Hat Mae Nam -> 4 Km walk in the rain to Big Buddha beach, and here I am….exhausted and a few baht lighter than I was. My tuk-tuk from the pier to the north side of the island was worse than a can of sardines, I had to throw my pack on the top of it and i stood on the back bumper, outside of the truck, holding on to the handles for dear life. An older Italian couple that were sitting on the inside nearest me were so friendly and kept giving me looks of pity for having to hold on like I was. I didn’t tell them that I was enjoying the dangerous ride, they might have thought I was a madman!
The 11 hour sleeper train ride was very enjoyable. My “bunk” was on top and actually folded down the same way an airplane overhead luggage bin does…it was barely large enough to accommodate a Thai, little alone my 6′1″ body with backpack (once again I insisted on keeping it close). I had to spend the entire 11 hours in a fetal position, but time flew by because there was a giant window that was open, letting in the sights and smells from the countryside. Also, the swaying motion of the train and the loud clickety clack of the wheels put me to sleep like a baby.
The ferry ride over was memorable. There was an army of schoolgirls in uniform again, all 13 years old according to their teacher. They flirted, waved, took pics of me, and eventually one little girl got brave enough to sit with me and practice English. Eventually all the girls came over so I had a class of 20 or more standing in a semi-circle around me asking me questions in English. She helped me pronounce some Thai phrases so we learned from each other…it was a very cool experience. She even asked if I had a wife at home…hehe. The teacher was nice, and thanked me many times for helping his students spend their 2 hr ride wisely. It rained on the way across the Gulf and I had to fight for a dry spot on the boat that wasnt leaking or being dripped on.
The streets are flooded here on the island. I was in knee deep muddy water walking and every tuk tuk driver made it a point to splash me after I waved a no to them when they offered an expensive ride. At least Im alive. The problem was that the water was so brown, I couldnt see my feet and almost twisted an ankle multiple times. I decided it wasnt worth risking the rest of my trip, so I flagged down a taxi car. The driver looked so happy, like he had hit the lottery, and despite my protests, overcharged me for the fare big time, mostly because he knew I had no choice! When I opened the back door, the water rushed in and filled the floorboards, thats how high it was. There were loads of motorcycle drivers standing with drowned bikes waiting on the water to subside. After several attempts at places to stay, I ended up at the Samui Mermaid, a very large resort type bungalow that was a whopping 600 Baht a night. I did not need the luxuries (it had AC and hot shower) but every other place on the beach was full!
I had my first authentic red Thai curry here. The old Thai woman asked how I wanted it and I answered “peht” or spicy. It was incredible, hot and sweet. I am going to hang here a couple days, then grab a boat over to Ko Phangan for the full moon party, or whatever phase they are celebrating now. There is a half moon, new moon, pre-full moon, etc…party so pretty much its a perpetual beach rave.