As we cross the border back into Thailand we are itching with anticipation, everyone is eager to get to the beach and take some time off from our hectic schedule – next stop; Beach Week. A week to ourselves, paid for from our own budgets where we are free to go where we please, providing where we please is somewhere on the Thai islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phanang or Koh Tao. But first we need to make a stop in Bangkok. Some of us need to pick up luggage that was left in storage in the hotel over a month previously. For some of us it is the perfect opportunity to stock up on cheap clothes from the Kao San Road. For others it is a chance to partake in sight seeing activities that were missed the first time around, such as the floating markets.
A brave few wake at the break of dawn on the Sunday morning, check out of our rooms, put our luggage back into storage, grab a bite to eat and wait patiently outside the hotel for the mini bus that is to take us to the floating markets.
An hour later and we are in the general vicinity of the markets. We are bundled into boats alongside hundreds of other tourists and are soon whipping our way around the water-ways, whizzing past houses and shops and the odd monitor lizard. Minutes later we arrive at the market, we are unceremoniously turfed out of the boats and told to meet back at the same point in two hours. It was too much to hope that the water taxis would be taking us around the market, there is too much money to be made in fleecing tourists. So we pay another paddled powered boat to show us the market proper.
Entering the floating market
I fear my expectations of this market were set too high. I was sold on the idea of row upon row of boats loaded high with fruit and veg whilst the locals paddle past bartering over the price of a pound of tomatoes. This may have been how the market was in days gone by but today it is a tourist trap selling the same souvenirs, trinkets and t-shirts available anywhere in South-East Asia.
The small selection of fruit and veg that was on sale
What we did get however is a delicious array of street food, cooked and sold from the back of these boats. The sellers pull passing boats into their stalls with the help of a long stick and hand over small but delectable packages of, the by now, ubiquitous chicken satay, sweet and sour prawns, rice balls, coconut juice, the list goes on. This is certainly some of the best and most novel street food I have eaten on my travels, all from the back of a small paddle boat no less.
Eating street food at the market
The same evening we bid farewell to Kelly and Hayden who have chosen to leave the trip early and spend their final three weeks on the Indonesian island of Sumatra before heading home to New Zealand after almost three years away. They will be missed.
Once we have said our goodbyes we load ourselves up with luggage and begin the arduous journey across Bangkok, in the pouring monsoon rain, to the overnight bus that will be taking us to the ferry port and onto our respective islands.
We arrive cold, wet and miserable and to add insult to injury we find that the level of comfort we have become accustomed to travelling in no longer applies. As a group of 21 across South-East Asia we have chartered private transport, often allowing for two seats each or fully reclining sleeper buses, should the need to nap overwhelm us. This VIP Tourist bus however comes equipped with fully upright seats that, should the passenger wish to recline, result in a swift smack in the face for the person behind. Thankfully I manage to bag myself two adjacent seats and due to my reduced stature I am able to curl up and get some rest.
We are told by our trusty crew that we will be arriving at the ferry terminal at 6am where we will have time to grab breakfast before boarding the ferry to the islands at 9am. With so little having gone wrong in the past we have no reason to believe that this is not what will happen…
I am woken from a fretful but surprisingly deep sleep by the driver shouting that this is the last stop. It is still dark outside but I am too asleep to question it. I grab my bag and sleepwalk my way off the bus and onto the side of the road. We have landed in, what appears to be Thailand’s version of a remote service station. “Where are we?” I ask, rubbing my eyes, I am met with blank expressions all round. When I hear a groggy, sleep deprived voice exclaim that it is 4am my disorientation deepens. “Why have we been kicked off the bus?”, of course none of my fellow travelers are able to answer this question. Gradually we all settle down on the floor or available seating, surrounded by our bags and attempt to grab another few hours sleep not knowing exactly when we’ll be picked up, it would appear our crew don’t know either.
Eventually at 8am another bus arrives and transports us to the ferry. More waiting around ensues and finally at 9.30am we are on the ferry and on our way to beach week paradise. In search of some well needed rest and relaxation Louise, Pernille and I have chosen the quiet resort of Lamai beach on Koh Samui. We bump into Ben and Tom on the ferry, an Aussie / Kiwi pair we met in Hoi An, Vietnam. They happen to be staying on Lamai beach too (although this doesn’t exactly come as a huge surprise because we told them when and where we would be – it must be that British charm)!
Our hotel, aptly named Lazy Days, does not disappoint. We splurged a little but if you can’t treat yourself to a luxury garden view villa with a private beach and it’s own pool, when you’re travelling around the world, when can you eh?
Louise and I let ourselves into our apartment, drop our bags, change into a bikini, sink onto a sun lounger and resolutely decide not to move for the next six days.
Our own private stretch of Lamai beach
Over the course of the next week our mornings are spent on the beach, our afternoons by the pool and our evenings in town sampling the vast array of food that Koh Samui has to offer. Oysters, squid, octopus, prawns, shrimp and lobster are all on the menu as well as steak, burgers, pizza and a plethora of Thai curry. We also exhaust ourselves managing to find a new cocktail – bananacolada – heaven in a glass.
Cocktails on the beach at Lazy Days
Oysters and wine… heaven!
We do also manage to motivate ourselves to visit Chaweng, the slightly livelier beach just up the coast from Lamai. We end our week with a day snorkelling off the coast of the beautiful island of Koh Tao.
Snorkelling on Koh Tao
The girls on Koh Nang Yuan, north of Koh Tao
Ben, P and Lou on Chaweng beach
Seven days after we arrive I am dragged from Koh Samui kicking and screaming. It is with a heavy heart that I greet my fellow travelers on the ferry that morning. In that moment I am ready to leave. I am ready to organise my own itinerary, create my own route and my own schedule, even make my own mistakes. Thankfully with just over one week left all of those opportunities are now available to me along with all the stresses and woes that might entail.