I think the British education system has a lot to learn; it was National Teachers' Day here on Friday so all us bringers of knowledge got the day off. Obviously I took full advantage of the long weekend and headed off for the nearby(ish) island of Koh Samet. I very nearly didn't make it owing to being struck down with food poisoning on Thursday and spending all day in bed (I eat at dirty street vendors for three months with no problem and then the one night I go to a proper restaurant... prawns were the culprit!) Was still feeling a bit ropey on Friday when I woke up at 6am but figured I could manage lying on a beach ok, plus didn't want to miss out on three days of tanning!
Got the 'wan' to 'wictory' and met up with two girlies there who I was going for beachtime with. Kat's a teacher in my town and works at the secondary school opposite mine, and her friend Charla I'd met at a Christmas party. The van to Rayong where the ferry leaves for the island takes just over 2 hours and costs 200b... the bus takes 3.5 hours and costs 157b. No competition.
We were on the island by lunchtime and found some rather plush beach-side accommodation, bit on the pricy side but it was only two nights and nice to have treats. Plus I justified to myself that I'd been ill and needed to recuperate somewhere with a bit of luxury, and hot water.
Went to a little restaurant on the beach and had a lovely refreshing coconut shake and some toast (boring but practical). The beach we stayed on was called White Sands and I can see why: the sand's as bright as snow, you need sunglasses just to look at it. Unfortunately, mine had broken in my bag. It's also incredibly soft so you sink into it like snow as well, it's like a free pedicure and did a great job at cleaning my feet which are constantly dirty.
Spent the afternoon swimming, relaxing, and people watching then rounded off our day with massages. They did us a special offer of 30mins for 100b as they found out we were teachers and spoke some Thai to them... which obviously resulted in them speaking far more than I could understand. I smiled, nodded, and shut my eyes to enjoy being pummelled.
That night we went for dinner at the legendary Ploy beach bar. I'd heard lots about their famous fire show from the girls and it didn't disappoint... after dinner (vegetable noodles, no prawns, played it safe), we sat on our triangle cushions with a bucket of sex on the beach and enjoyed the introductions of the fire boys. They went along the lines of (in a very odd thai-cockney accent)... 'this one's an import from Cambodia, speaks good thai, not good english, but speaks on phone like 24/7, talk so much makes the monkey go to sleep in the tree; this one's 15 and is doing this to earn money for school, he doesn't want to use money from the parents, many take from parents and go get pissed in pub, pissed as in drunk not as in slash, or spend it on magic mushrooms and stuff what makes the brain go bit mental; this one's come down from Pattaya, but he just does not like it there, many pingpong show there; this one's nothing special; this one likes the ladies, he's single, and available, he can be your toyboy tonight, would like English girlfriend with long blonde hair; this one's not sure if he want to be female or male, little bit scary; this one wants to be the hiphop, little bit funny.' Wish I could recreate just how hilarious it was.
The fireshow started and really was quite incredible, we had two favourites who we dubbed as Baby 1 and Baby 2 on account of the fact they were 13 and 15 years old... and playing with fire!! They were absolutely gorgeous and had these shaggy hair dos, and they happened to be the best fire dancers. We just wanted to take them home and mummy them, we're going to bake them cookies for next time we visit. One of the head waiter dude's at Ploy had taken a bit of a shine to Charla on her last visit and came out with some classically cheesey lines, in a similarly dodgy Thai-cockney accent, such as 'i love you long time', 'we can be sweet together', and 'friends with benefits'... needless to say she declined his oh-so romantic advances, although we did get free drinks and shisha from him, bonus.
After the fire show we went to a couple of clubs down the beach, one called Silver Sands where we met the most fabulous ladyboy, and another called Naga's where we met a cute little 80 odd year old guy on the dancefloor. Ended the night back at Ploy, having detoured via yet another beach bar on the way back where the owner Audi gave us a free bucket of some vile red-bull-esque concoction for our attempts at singing the well-known Thai song by Job 2 Do which goes along the lines of 'do do do do ta tum'... lyrical genious. Finally back at Ploy met some Swedish guys (later referred to as the Swedji's because they kept telling us about their half-Swedish half-Fijian friend), who had pretty sketchy English which kept us entertained... particularly when one of them stood up and declared he had to go 'pee pee in the ocean.' Headed back about 4am, like in my good old student days but got side-tracked on the walk by some more Swedish guys (they're everywhere, like the Dutchies) who we'd met earlier on in the day and decided to go get noodles from 7-11. So there we were on the beach, until 5.30am eating instant tom yum flavoured noodles... should've stayed up to watch sunrise in hindsight.
Decided to have a burst of four hours sleep and then go to the beach for my next four. I was happily curled up in my bikini on my sarong in the foetal position with a dress over my head, which I was nursing after many buckets of various cocktails, which probably hadn't been a wise move given the lack of food I'd had over the two days. Was feeling better by lunchtime and decided to have a tom and onion omelette. What in fact turned up was a bizarre looking omelette stuffed with some sort of chunky heinz soup which tasted a cross between gravy and bbq marinade, not the best culinary creation I must say. Washed it down with another fruity shake. Kat and I went for a walk along the East coast for a bit after lunch and saw a few more of the gorgeous beaches the island has to offer. To make up for my poor excuse of a lunch I got some blueberry cheesecake flavoured ice-cream on the way back, which we 'plopped' ourselves by the shore to eat... conveniently right by the Swedish guys from the night before who had no recollection of even talking to us. That afternoon the Ploy boys showed us how to twirl the fire staffs, I got the hang of it but wouldn't feel confident with actual fire. I value my eyelashes.
Went to another cute little beach restaurant that night called Kitt and Food (sounds like kitten food when you say it speedily so was quite dubious about what the menu would offer). I had baked shrimp and glass noodles as was fully over the food posioning and didn't want to be stopped eating my fave seafood. Then, true to form, we headed back to Ploy for the fire show, which was once again spectacular. Had a chat with Rasta and his firey buddies, cooed over Baby a bit more, and had a boogy on stage. Met up with some British guys we'd met there the night before, one of whom lives in BKK and has a 6-year old son called Apple which is literally a mini-version of him (same haircut, dress sense, mannerisms) and is quite possibly the most adorable little boy in the world. Went back off to Silver Sands 'club' with the Swedji's and then... back to Ploy. After the late night before by 3.30am I was flagging somewhat so me and Charla headed home and Kat stayed out with the Swedji's.
Come 4.30am, after at least a solid 40mins sleep, we heard loads of kerfuffle going on outside my room and talk of a girl having been mugged so we went to see if everything was ok. Audi from the bar was there, randomly, and the girl was pretty roughed up, which is the last thing you'd expect from a nice little island. We came to the conclusion that she probably had been leading a local Thai boy on and then rejected him, leaving him not best pleased. Bit worried Kat wasn't back so decided to go look for her. Found her on the beach... bagless, and not only her minus bag but also Charla's which had been inside it. And so the drama unfolded. She'd left her bag under a table on the deserted beach for a matter of minutes, came back and it was gone. After another hour of fruitless searching we headed to the police station so the girls could fill in all the necessary paperwork, met a guy called Gai (which means chicken, so chicken guy!) who was nice and tried cheering us up but had the most unhelpful police officer in the world. Went for another look on the beach as the sun was rising, which was spectacular although difficult to appreciate given the circumstances under which it was being watched. Finally got back into bed at 7.30 and slept til 9... then we went back out to ask around the hotels nearby where the bag had been taken to see if it had been handed in, to no avail.
I had just about enough money on me to get us all off the island and to BKK but not enough make it much further, or for food. And, as bad luck would have it, my ATM card wouldn't work on the island, so there went my brilliant plan to lend the girls money out the window. However, our faith in humanity was restored when we met a couple of park rangers who took pity on us, phoned around what seemed like half the island and took us to their offices. We sat there for about 30 mins wondering what on earth was going on, we assumed they were trying to sort out ferry tickets to save us some expense, but then the head guy showed back up with 1500 baht!!! There were tears, lots of tears, which possibly scared them a little bit. I think that's quite possibly the most amazing act of kindness I've seen since being in Thailand and we were so touched. It cheered us all up no end and by this point it was lunchtime... and we could afford to eat, yay! I tucked into a shrimp burger and fries, mmmhmmm.
We stayed on the beach until we went to get the ferry back at 3, on which I sat next to an American girl who'd done an exchange at Kent Uni, small world. There were no minivans there when we got off so we had to bus the 3.5 hours back to BKK, then get the skyline, then get another van, and our overwhelming tiredness made it feel like the longest journey ever.
Hoping to go back in a few weeks, maybe for Val's Day, and we're going to take treats for the amazing park rangers who rescued us from hunger and being stranded, and of course for Baby and Co. Also since returning I've noticed on the flyer for Naga's Club (which I'd been handed on the beach, not looked at, and used as a bookmark) that they have pole dancing there, so obviously I have to go back and have a spin.