Since I sort of wasted yesterday as I had to wait for my license, I really only have one full day on Koh Samui. Some people recommended I hire a scooter and see the sights myself, but my feelings about learning to drive a bike abroad still stand, so instead went on a tour of the big sights. First up was the Viewpoint, where you can see the shores of Koh Samui at their best.
Nice place to stop off at, though it is just a photo stop. While here though, my tour guide took me aside and tried to have a conversation with me. This was difficult because his English outside of tour information was limited, and Thai is the one language on this trip I just can’t get my head round. Eventually I managed to figure out he was explaining that only a few of us had booked the cheaper 4 hour trip instead of the 6 hour, and they company was willing to extend the trip free of charge.
This sounded like a great deal…except the only extra place you go on the 6 hour trip was Nathan Village, which is nothing but a shopping opportunity. Something I definitely did not need or want – there was an entire shopping district a stone’s throw away from my hotel. I told him I was happy with the 4 hours, which he didn’t seem happy about – especially since I was the only 4 hour of the group who didn’t – discovered later that they visit Nathan Village midway through the 6 hour trip and they had to get out a seperate minivan just for me since I didn’t want to go. Sorry, but offer a 4 hour tour then be prepared for someone to want that 4 hour tour.
Grandfather Rock is a lot easier to photograph as its propped out into the ocean. Grandmother Rock on the other hand, faces the ocean and is quite low – despite my best attempts I couldn’t get a photo (and did not want a repeat of the waterfall incident ala seawater). Think the tide needs to be down or you need to go via boat to get a proper look.
The third stop was another quick one, on the agenda as the Monkey Show. This was one of the few things on the tour I was apprehensive about – relatively certain the animals wouldn’t be well cared for. As it was, we weren’t actually at the ‘show’, but stopped somewhere along the way where a man and several monkeys were working. The monkeys are tied at the waist, and climb a tree to remove coconuts. Many years ago, this was Koh Samui’s main import, and even now you can see trucks full of coconuts with monkeys hanging from the trucks. It was great to see how the monkeys are still used in daily life – and equally great that it wasn’t actually a ‘show’ or any blatant cruelty.
At this point, we got to stop at the first temple of the day – Kunaram Temple, although the temple itself is not the draw. This is home of Loung Por Daeng, the Mummified Monk – one of the most well known Buddhists of Thailand. He died in 1973 during meditation, and requested that should his body not decay, it be put on display to inspire the next generation. As his body remained in surprisingly good shape, this request was followed to the letter, and he has been viewed by thousands ever since.
While here, we started to notice the weather turning ominous. The pretty blue sky was getting dark, and the temperature shooting down. While getting into the van we could only cross our fingers and hope that the bad weather was heading the other way.
No such luck. On our way to the Na Muang Waterfalls, the heavens opened and drenched the island. By the time we arrived at the stop, it had abated somewhat, but everyone made a beeline for shelter anyway. Here was where I’d be saying goodbye to the group and heading off to see the last 2 places alone, and as such had a little less time than they did. The falls had the option of Elephant Riding (no thank you) or just walking. Weather made that a little tricky, but did eventually stumble my way to the sight.
There is a significant pool of water under the fall that you can swim in should you have time and good weather, but the waterfalls themselves really weren’t that impressive. Compared to some of the other waterfalls in Thailand I’ve seen they were pretty tame – only thing really going for them was the height. I don’t know if the water was just light this time of year or I’ve just become stagnated by this sort of thing. Broke away for the waterfall and had lunch just before the van took me away rather than stick around. Maybe if the weather had been good or I had time to swim it would have been different, but otherwise it was just a ‘meh’ thing to see.
The last 2 stops on my trip are quite far away in the van, and takes a good 30-40 minutes to get me to the first – Big Buddha Temple (aka, Wat Phra Yai). Easily one of the most iconic sites of Koh Samui, and easily spotted by boat, the statue here is 12 metres high.
It was just a quite 15 minute stop here, and sadly my strongest memory is trying to use the fortune telling machines, only to discover they weren’t working and ate my money. Not quite the memory you want for a Buddhist Temple.
The final stop, again quite a distance away, was Wat Plai Laem, a Buddhist Temple compound with 2 large statues, that of the Laughing Buddha and the 18-arm Guanyin statue, a Goddess of unconditional love and protection. Smaller statues are littered throughout along with other temples and buildings, and the lake is filled (and I mean teeming) with fish you can feed. Drop a handfull of feed in any part of the water and watch the water vanish behind a thousand catfish mouths. It was a pretty great final stop.
Getting back to the guesthouse took nearly an hour, cementing in my head just how big Koh Samui actually is. Kind of wish I’d had a license so I could have biked around. Course with the rainstorm and my general lack of direction, doubt I would have seen half of it on my own.
In the evening, I was very tempted to go see a Muay Thai fight, but figured I’d hold off on actually going until closer to the time, and instead headed into town to see what I could do until it got closer. Buddies from the Vodkatrain had recommended a restaurant in town, so decided to check it out before I made any other plans. The place was called Gringos Cantina, and apparently did great mexican food. Been a long long time since I had good western food, and admittedly decided to splurge by having a full 3 courses, not something I’ve done in a while. Prawn cocktail, fajitas and then apple pie – all of which were fantastic (although the prawns were a bit spicy). The downside, was that I chose to drink 2 bottles of fizzy juice along with it, and when I stood up to leave? Oh boy…
Running around countries and eating street food has clearly wrecked my ability to tell when I’m full, and I’m not used to drinking the better part of a litre of fizzy juice on top of it. As such any thoughts of doing anything else tonight are shoved to the back of my mind as I stumble back to the guesthouse to throw up. Its not food poisoning, just my body reacting badly to eating too much of the wrong stuff. However its wrecked me for tonight, and instead curl up for an early night – maybe I can catch Muay Thai in Phuket?