Or what to do on Koh Samui.
Actually, I would gladly have spent two weeks in Europe, but Irina said that after the long winter, every girl needs some bright sun, the sea, and at least a hundred massages in the bargain. So, we flew to Koh Samui, Thailand.
We have not been there in seven years, and now we come out of the plane that landed in a familiar airport in the middle of the Gulf of Siam in the Pacific Ocean. Well, well. Over these years, walls have not been built here—there are trunks of coconut trees instead—and the airport roof is still made from banana leaves. Koh Samui Airport is very unusual.
The runway has not been extended either, and the airport of Koh Samui does not take big airplanes. To get to the Thai paradise from Europe, you need nearly 20 hours with a transfer in Bangkok. It is far and hard. However, can a paradise be easily accessible?
Many times, you have read in this travel blog that a paradise on Earth is the Maldives. It is still true, but there are places equally beautiful, but more affordable. If one day you discover the Kingdom of Thailand, it will be a big and fascinating adventure.
Someday, you will see Bangkok, simultaneously old and ultramodern; Ayutthaya’s ruins so similar to Cambodian Angkor Watt (I wrote 8 posts about temples of Cambodia); the white temple Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai; and the fabulous Red Lotus Sea at Talay Bua Daeng. Siam seems small only on the map, but you need to start somewhere. Koh Samui, in my opinion, is an excellent option.
This time, we stayed not on noisy Chaweng Beach or its controversial competitor Lamai, but on a small beach between them. Chaweng Noi Beach is uncrowded even in the season, and all because of a wide strip of sand three kilometers in length, where half a dozen hotels are located, one better than the next: Vana Belle, New Star Beach Resort, The Imperial Samui, Impiana Resort, etc.
Chaweng Noi Beach has a very convenient entrance to the sea: not shallow, not deep. This beach is a good compromise between serenity and a comfortable entertainment infrastructure just within a quarter of an hour walk. Our Fair House Beach Resort cannot be compared to the above-mentioned hotels. There were no lobsters or champagne for breakfast, but the landscaping was like a natural jungle. There were well-matured coconuts, birds, and butterflies the size of sparrows slowly flying from flower to flower. Our neighbors on the balcony were local squirrels constantly jumping from branch to branch; and all with the scent of magnolia, jasmine, and orchids. Is it not a paradise?
Irina had read somewhere, “You have a dream? Go to it! Cannot go to it? Crawl to it! Cannot crawl? Lie down in the direction of dream!” A vacation on Koh Samui—just like one on the Maldives—is a dream, but the Maldives Islands are intended for lovers and philosophers. Staying there is quiet, contemplative, and consists of admiring the colorful underwater world and the incredibly beautiful sunsets.
Thailand will give you a riotous variety of colors: pink flowered sacred lotus, a Buddhist monk in a bright saffron robe, the temple looking like a UFO which landed here in antiquity and remained forever. But a stay here is very active and intended for those who cannot sit calmly for even two hours. During the day you will have time to visit the beach and massage therapists, to ride on a motorbike or elephants, to visit a yoga lesson, Fish Spa, or the coldest place on the island, the ice bar.
In any case, you will spend your vacation among the smiling Buddhas and colors no less bright than the underwater world of the Maldives. Add to this an abundance of exotic fruits, seafood, and massage parlors. Irina implemented all her plans without exception. “What if we don’t return here another seven years?”
Forty-five minutes’ massage with hot stone, then a five-minute break, and you are left alone. During these few minutes, you feel complete bliss. Returning, the masseuse works with your head. Merciful Buddha gave these girls magical hands, and their art is one of the facets of Siam’s paradise.
This time on Koh Samui, we wanted to visit the Butterfly Garden and the Bay of pink dolphins.
The butterfly trip turned out to be a failure. Butterfly Garden was built a few years ago on the east coast of the island near the Samui Aquarium. A tropical garden, melodic streamlets, and wonderful butterflies delighted the visitors. But the owners did not know that a butterfly’s life is fleeting, and the population needs regular replenishment.
With the dolphins it was no better. The pink dolphin is a rare mammal. Small wonder that every day, 90% of the tourists returned from their trips without seeing dolphins. Sometimes, the organizers returned 50% of the cost for the failed trip, but eventually the unprofitable project was closed.
So we decided to visit a really existing, but hard-to-reach place: Magic Garden. The road into the depths of the island is difficult, and to get to the destination is possible only by a jeep or a scooter (the last is twice as hard). If you are ready to be shaken up for a couple of hours on the road, you will find yourself in a secluded and mysterious cleft in the mountains.
The history of Magic Garden is not rooted in the distant past, but it seems that this garden (which looks more like a forest) has survived many centuries. Dozens of Buddha statues and many other sacred deities, located in the garden, were created by simple Thai peasant.
Nim Thongsuk was one of the first who dared to grow a durian on Koh Samui, and he succeeded after many years of hard work. This simple man was not looking for happiness in distant lands. For him, paradise on Earth was a piece of rainforest near his home. There, in a narrow rift between two cool rocks, he meditated forgetting any pressing problems.
At the age of 77, Khun Nim decided to share his paradise with other people and create a sculpture garden. Together with his assistants, he worked on it until the last days of his life. He died at the age of 91, and left his Magic Garden for us. I will say: it is a place of serene calm where you want to be alone.
In order not to get bored and not burn on the beach, we took a cruise to the Angthong Marine Park. Well, what to say? Beautiful. Forty-two islands covered with tropical forest are scattered in the ocean. It is not Holong Bay, but also not bad. You will visit three islands.
It is possible to expand the list of attractions with “good snorkeling” on famous Коh Тао or Koh Pangan, but it makes no sense. Thailand is not the Maldives (look at the underwater photos from the Maldives).
The road to Angthong Marine Park takes about two hours by a comfortable speed boat. You will not see anything stunning; it’s just a nice boat trip. The most interesting for us was the return with the boat pitching in a tropical downpour, rare for the end of March. It was only 20 minutes, but so powerful! All “sailors” were very happy with this adventure.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Koh Samui is from the middle of March till the end of May. You will not find incredible attractions here, but warm and clean emerald water will be at your disposal all the time.
By the way, the local beaches have one feature which distinguishes them from the Maldives. Traders walk past you, say hello and offer their goods: clothes, souvenirs, and fruits. At first, you buy a mango or pineapple, then your wife chooses a beach dress for 300-400 baht (about $12). Merchants are happy. They thank you with the words “lucky, lucky,” and you automatically repeat “lucky” in response. Everybody is happy. Everything is all right.
An evening turns into a fascinating quest—you’re looking for the best place to dine. Koh Samui is also a gourmet’s paradise. Restaurant prices here do not “bite,” and you can choose from a dozen different cuisines of the world. I am not exaggerating: Australian, Brazilian, Italian, French, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian restaurants are located very close to one another.
Moreover, in the beginning of the high season, the island arranges the Samui Fine Dining Festival. Throughout March, renowned chefs conduct master classes in the best restaurants and hotels of the island. However, in this part of the world, we prefer the traditional Thai food.
In addition, this Thai island, like the Maldives, offers the Wedding Honeymoon Celebration & Party. Before our eyes, a handsome Australian and a graceful as a statuette Thai girl became a beautiful family. However, the ceremony significantly differs from the Maldives one. Be prepared that on Koh Samui, everyone on the beach will join your celebration. On the Maldives, you will certainly be provided with tête-à-tête.
Yes, I love Europe, but I will remember the friendly Thais, invariably welcoming their guests with hands folded in respectful Buddhist greeting, and saying as if singing, “Savadikaa.”