life’s a beach

Let’s be honest, there are few things in the world as brilliant as spending a few days at a beachfront hotel. If that said hotel faces warm, crystal clear blue waters and golden sands then great. If it has an excellent poolside bar and restaurant some fifteen paces from the ocean then even better. If that same hotel happily rents motorbikes out to irresponsible tourists keen on tackling hills similar in gradient to Mount Everest just to try and find a golf course then kudos is awarded to that hotel (more on that adventure later)

We arrived in the bliss that is Koh Samui with the intention of spending five nights here before heading back up to Bangkok for a night via the same plane/bus/ferry/taxi combo we took to get to Samui. That happily materialised into an extra sixth night and I write this sat in the open air of the domestic departures terminal ready to board a flight direct to Pattaya.

The journey here from Surat Thani airport was great – after a slightly uninspiring hour and half bus ride from the airport to Donsak Ferry terminal (advertised as 45 minutes – welcome back to SE Asia) we stepped aboard our ferry to Samui. I’ve taken a few ferry rides in this part of the world but none as cool as this one. As it was a ferry built for cars as well as passengers it meant the ship was built with a cracking upper deck, allowing myself and Naomi to catch a few rays whilst saying goodbye to the Thai mainland.

Getting lucky on arrival in Samui by sharing a taxi with a lovely Italian couple called Francesca and Daniel (For the record Italians are fast becoming my favourite group of people to meet on travels, very polite, funny and laid back) we arrived at Samui Beach Resort, knackered but happy.

We were so tired because of the exploits in getting there. An overnight flight via Abu Dhabi was followed by the drama of having my card blocked as the airport ATM in Bangkok. Luckily we had some left over Dirhams, Euros and Sterling in our wallets that meant we could afford the taxi ride south to the Khao San Road area of Bangkok. After a quick call and an explanation my card was released and we could afford our hotel, the difficult to find Amarin Inn.

It was so difficult to find that our knobhead of a taxi driver left us on the main road, pointed down a side street and told us it was ‘just down there’ Before I could think and ask him to show us to the front door we had our backpacks strapped onto us and he has sped off. It was strange walking down what turned out to be completely the wrong road as I was soon recognising several bars I had frequented back in 2010. Naturally this was annoying for Naomi who didn’t have the past memories of boozy nights out to distract her from the disconcerting fact we were lost!

We eventually found Amarin Inn after what must have been a half an hour trek round the back streets of Bangkok. Luckily, the chap running the place called Allie was a star, quickly bantering with us both to lighten the mood after the previous couple of hours exploits. He took a shine to Naomi in particular when discovering her mum is Thai, calling her ‘Suay’ – or ‘beautiful’ whenever we walked by throughout our short stay.

Bangkok was everything I remembered. Noisy, sweaty, hectic and somewhat hedonistic when the sun when down. It was slightly odd walking down those old stamping grounds where the trip started out, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Watching Naomi speak to the locals in the local lingo was a great experience. From street coffee cart vendors through to the taxi driver back to the airport, she helped paint an entirely different picture to the ‘dollars in eyeball whenever you see a westerner’ impression I unfairly built in my mind from the previous trip here.

Back to Samui and what we have been getting up to here. Staying at the quiet end of Lamai beach, the second of two main beach areas of this tiny, tropical paradise, we soon discovered we would need some wheels in order to explore the island and the hotels surrounding area. This became apparent after a somewhat fruitless stroll on our first night when looking for a place to have dinner. The place we stumbled upon was a standard street corner affair, serving the usual selection of Thai delicacies, but we knew would need to be more adventurous if we wanted some variety and a change of scenery.

For 200THB (£4) a day we hired a similar two wheeled friend to the ones I enjoyed so much when in Vietnam and Malaysia. This allowed us to find some decent places to eat, plus more importantly a way to explore Samui without having to take out a mortgage to fund the expensive taxi’s here.
After a quick five minute buzz up and down the hill on the main road outside the hotel I returned to pick up Naomi. This was the first time I’ve ever rode with a passenger on the back – after a bit of a wobble we were away, quickly burning rubber to discover places such as the islands ‘Big Buddha’ statue as well as enjoying the scenery we found ourselves in.

Riding a bike in this part of the world is great fun, if not a little hairy at times. The main trick I have learnt is to do what the locals do which is pull over to the side of the road whenever one of the many stupidly oversized SUV’s come speeding past plus if you are in any doubt, keep going straight on! One of things I did wrong in Nha Trang, Vietnam was panic when I saw a local doing a U-turn in the middle of a busy junction and I was sure he hadn’t seen me when it turned out he had. Slamming my brakes on right in the middle of a large puddle when on a downhill really isn’t advisable and it’s a miracle to this day how I didn’t come off. I clearly remember that moment of panic when my back wheel slipped beneath me and I was sure I was coming off. Luckily I somehow stayed on, accelerated through and kept both my dignity and limbs intact.

Believe it or not it’s those kinds of experiences that gave me the confidence to continue riding motorbikes over here. We had no dramas in the many miles covered in Samui other than taking on the ridiculously steep hill that led to Royal Samui Golf Club, a place I’d earmarked as my holiday treat to myself.

It was a scorching afternoon. After getting up the first part of the 800m ride uphill we decided to park up in somebody’s driveway and tackle the rest of the hill by foot. Now walking up a gradient as steep as this whilst wearing walking boots or trainers and in non-tropical temperatures would be fine. But doing it in 35c and flip flops, slippery through the perspiration pouring out of you isn’t. Much to Naomi’s despair I went back to get the bike. After an embarrassing attempt at turning the bike around, I tried starting it on the small driveway to get up some speed before tackling the hill. I turned out sharply left but realised just in time I wasn’t going to turn in time before driving into the bushes. Covered in sweat and trying to lift the bike off the floor, I cursed loudly. A local chap appeared out of nowhere, seeing I was struggling to get the bike started on the hill. Eventually I got it going thanks to his help and I was soon back trying to convince Naomi to hop back on.

The next 100m or so was steep, but OK– we were going in the right direction. Coming round a corner I gave the bike full throttle but half way up it became apparent we weren’t going to make it up the hill. Running out of puff, we ground to a halt on the steepest of steep hills. Naomi jumped off and after five minutes of trying to start the bike again I managed to get it up to another flat verge. After a moment to catch our breath we both bit the bullet and turned back. Not a very relaxing half an hour in our relationship!

Samui Beach Resort was waiting for us and after a quick dip in the sea and a game of volleyball we both could laugh at the hilarity of the situation we had found ourselves.

For the next couple of days we barely left the beach or the poolside – only going out for the odd motorbike ride along the main roads – well away from any shoddily erected roads towards golf courses!

Koh Samui is a beautiful island. If you ever get the chance to come here, then I suggest you do. I’ve been luckily enough to visit some stunning tropical beach resorts such as the Gily Islands in Bali, or any of the 365 beaches that can be found on every corner of Antigua.

Samui is right up there.


4 Responses to “life’s a beach”

  1. August 14, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Excellent recount Mr. Kemp, sounds amazing, sweaty and chilled all at the same time!

  2. 3 michelle
    August 14, 2012 at 8:50 am

    nice stuff although you will have to be a quicker journalist when naomi is also writing a blog!!! enjoy!

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