Well, here we are, on our way to Bangkok after hanging out on Koh Samui for 3 weeks, mentally preparing ourselves for our return to the Great White North.
When we were here three years ago we were blown away by how inexpensive everything was; lodging, food and beverages. Of course, that was in comparison to just having spent a week in Hong Kong followed by a week in Bangkok.
Samui is a tourist island. Period. The beaches are lined with resorts, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and hawkers pushing their wares. The island is only about 50 kms around with beaches on all sides. We were staying on Chaweng beach on the east side of the island. About 6 kms to the north is Bo Phut beach and 9 kms to the south is Lamai, where we stayed in 2011.
The water here is warm enough that even I, with my aversion to any water cooler than body temperature, have no problem dipping the family jewels into it. And it is sunny. Very, very sunny. In fact, you can get a sunburn just sitting on the beach in the shade.
We decided to come here to escape the smoke in Chiang Mai and to completely kick back and have one last hurrah before heading back to Canada.
As great as things are here, we sure do miss Chiang Mai. Let me explain.
Firstly, in CM we were part of a wonderful health conscious community where we made many friends who, no doubt, will remain dear to us in the years to come. We're already looking forward to going back there just to meet up with them again.
Next, of course is the food. In CM we had access to several markets that offered us a huge variety of fruits and organic vegetables at bargain basement prices. There were countless vegan/vegetarian restaurants available to us that offered scrumptious meals for less than $10.00 for the two of us. In Koh Samui we found a decent local market where we could buy bananas, mangoes, melons, pineapple and papaya, but no organic veggies, jackfruit or durian. There are no specifically vegan restaurants here, but most places would accommodate our requests to replace meat with veggies or tofu. Prices at both the market and in the restaurants are considerably higher than CM, but our biggest complaint was the lack of available greens to eat.
Even the songtaos on Samui were pricier. In CM you can travel anywhere in the city for 20 baht, about 70 cents CDN. On Samui, prices start at 50 baht and increase with distance travelled. One night we took a songtao to Bo Phut for 50 baht, but when we wanted to go back to Chaweng we couldn't get a songtao for less than 100. One of the drivers told us it was because the prices increased after dark. That just seemed wrong so as a matter of principle, we ended up walking the 6 kms home.
I guess the thing that bothered us most about Samui was the feeling that the locals were always trying to squeeze the most bahts out of us that they could. Everything was a negotiation which becomes a little tiresome after 3 weeks. Conversely, everything in CM was so easy. Sure, you'd get the odd songtao driver that would try to overcharge, but for the most part they were honest.
Negative points aside, the beach at Samui was a real treat. As was the case in 2011, the daily weather forecast always called for temperatures in the low 30's and thunderstorms. The reality is that we saw rain only one day in the 21 we were here, although there was intermittent cloud cover on some days. There was a prevailing wind blowing in from the east that would help keep us cool as we soaked up the rays on the beach. That same wind would, at times, gust up to 45 km/h causing the waves breaking on the beach to rise to a height great enough to body surf.
In the end, these past three weeks have been a very nice transition from our 4 month stay in Chiang Mai to the reality of returning to life in Canada. We took the opportunity to literally do nothing but eat, sleep, read, lie in the sun and swim.
As I told Brenda today, I thought I'd get bored lying on the beach for three weeks, but I sure was mistaken. As our ferry pulls away from the Lipa Noi dock en route to the airport, I kinda wish we had a little more time here.
There's a lot to be said for doin' nuttin'.