As I was thinking about where to write about next, I couldn’t go past one of my favourite countries to date, a country that I have visited many times for one reason or another. Living half my life in Australia meant countries like Thailand were on our door step, readily accessible for the next intrepid adventurer.
This country receives reviews and coverage from the travelling community ad nauseam, but what’s one more post about this country going to hurt? I’ll start with the first island I visited.
This is Thailand’s second largest island, lying in the Gulf of Thailand, accessible from nearby Phuket via plane, or a white knuckle van and boat ride. The island is well known for it’s palm fringed beaches, luxury villas and resorts, and a down and dirty party scene that will have you head to toe in cuts and bruises, buckets and the odd monkey for a photo op at the bar.
My first trip out to Thailand was a destination wedding for my older brother back in 2012. He kindly chose a relatively cheap option as far as local prices and flights were concerned. This was a 10 day trip, getting the wedding formalities done and dusted on the beach in the first 3 days of arriving. They had a ceremony on the beach in front of Centara Grand Beach Resort, on Chaweng Beach. It was a fun and sweaty affair, with the odd Russian tourist standing in the back drop of wedding photos casually scratching himself in his speedos.
Thanks mate, don’t mind us.
So aside from having a destination wedding, what else do you do on Koh Samui?
Well. Quite a lot actually.
As with a lot of beach destinations in Thailand, you will have your standard offerings of water sports, including and not limited to; parasailing, jet skiing, diving, snorkelling and stand-up paddle boarding to name a few. I took the time to get on a jet ski and whip my then girlfriend off the back every chance I got. I thought it was a little funny at the time, her, not so much. Not wearing sunglasses during the ride was a little less funny, as we came back ashore looking like we’d had a session of squirting lemons into our eyeballs. Ouch.
Next on the list was renting scooters. I highly recommend this where ever you travel in Thailand (or South-east Asia for that matter), as it is the easiest and most cost effective way of getting out there and exploring the local surroundings.
I was fortunate that my new brother-in-law was a jet pilot and adventurous hell man to boot. We followed him on an adventure through the hills south of Chaweng Beach in search of some zip lining and waterfalls. Gravels roads, pot holes and precarious drops from pavement to dirt were par for the course as we were unable to find zip lining, but discovered the aforementioned waterfalls thanks to some local directions on the way.
I suggest one person per scooter if you’re heading into the hills, as our trusty steeds weren’t always up to the task of getting both people uphill with the throttle fully open. Not to mention risking the 2 ft drops that precipitated a transition from road to dirt.
There were some nice view from the top. I have no idea where we were as this was a completely ad hoc adventure using no maps or phones, relying solely on asking the locals that we passed.
A more gentle and less precarious ride took us to the Big Buddha in the North-East, directly North of the airport. As we had only taken a photo of a cartoon map of the island, this lent to an increase in travel time, but it is easily accessible from Chaweng Beach.
The temperatures in Thailand during high season can be oppressive, as it’s mixed with crippling humidity, so it’s always wise to make pit stops for water as you travel around. I think I looked like I’d jumped in a swimming pool for the majority of the daylight hours.
Another fun experience is to visit the local shooting range. South East Asia is notorious for this sort of offering outside of the US, where you can get your hands on all sorts of firearms, and quickly realise no one should keep these things under their pillows.
I was surgical with the shotgun, and the .45 was a crowd favourite. The host also took some incredibly dangerous photos right in the barrels of loaded weapons, par for the course in Thailand.
No one was hurt except for a handful of sheets of paper.
After feeling rather dangerous for an hour or so, we couldn’t help ourselves, so we hit the local street markets in Chaweng and bought some BB guns to keep the thrill alive. We were well aware we could not clear these through Customs when we were to leave, but it was a fun way to tear up some over ripe bananas for target practice.
Don’t forget to make sure you stock up on bundles of fireworks and paper lanterns. Even hotel security are happy to help you out on the beach if you can’t figure out how to set them up. During night time hours, you will hear the odd bang and sizzle of people letting off fireworks all over the island, the night sky dotted with lights and drifting paper lanterns.
So you’re not into guns, temples and jet skiing? No problem. That means it’s time to jump on a boat and go island hopping! There are a couple of island nearby to Koh Samui that provide excellent snorkelling, white sandy beaches and a vibrant party scene. We’ll cover the first two to start.
Being in South-east Asia means you can book transfers and tours with almost anyone. Everyone seems to be a fixer that can get you tickets for whatever you need. We decided on the lads outside of Chaweng Resort where were staying to fix us up. We had to fight off the local suit tailors for the third time that day, arguing that it was inappropriate suit weather, but eventually, tickets in hand we were on our boat and off to snorkel at Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao.
Unfortunately for my sister, she didn’t have a wrist strap on her waterproof camera, and promptly lost all her vacation footage on our first foray into the water as her camera plunged beyond amateur snorkelling depths. Sorry sis. The waters were incredibly clear and marine life was buzzing. We also took the opportunity to enter the water in a more unconventional way.
After this we got to check out Koh Tao, a very popular island in the region. You can see why below.
And now we can return to the aforementioned vibrant party scene. There won’t be many of you out there that hasn’t heard mention of the infamous Full Moon Party. We had fortuitously come during one of these events, held on the island of Koh Pha Ngan. Check out this video that I found that gives you a pretty accurate depiction of what you can expect.
This was a last minute decision to book a trip over. We hit up the lads that we got the snorkelling tickets from, and were soon on a fast boat, screaming towards Koh Pha Ngan, a full night of fire ropes, buckets, getting lost, tropical rain and the best dance party on a beach (or anywhere for that fact), that I have ever experienced. Our original intention was to return around midnight, which was not to be. This party was ridiculous. The buckets are cheap, and once you’ve had a couple and hear the music, hold on and enjoy the ride.
Be prepared to lose everyone, find them again, lose them once more, and be taken under the wing of fellow party-goers. The beach is packed, and after you’ve had a few, it’s anyone’s guess where you’ll end up. We tried our hand at the fire rope, making sure I tripped over it at least once, to burn a large hole in my boardshorts, and give my skin an extra crispy finish.
Our original midnight departure ended up with us getting on the boat back to Koh Samui at around 7 in the morning, with my new brother-in-law hell man still missing in the party.
That’s pretty much a wrap for this 10 day adventure. Thailand offers you everything from chill vacation to unparalleled wildness. Have you been here before? What were your favourite things to do and see? Leave your comments below, would love to hear from you.
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Happy hump day everybody!