Friday, October 28, 2011

Part 1: Koh Samui

  During my solo trip at Koh Samui I kept a daily journal with me at all times in case I wanted to reflect, whether I was relaxing on the beach or enjoying a meal at a local restaurant. This blog will include some of that handwritten material as a recount of my daily activities on the island. The road trip involved a ten hour overnight bus from Bangkok headed south to a pier located close to Koh Tao. As if the bus ride wasn't long enough, I had to endure a four hour ferry ride passed Koh Tao and Koh Phangan before I finally arrived at Koh Samui. Both rides were uncomfortable, not to mention my teeth were still slightly throbbing. 
  "The bus left Khao San around 9pm Saturday night. I boarded with some Pad See Ew and a throbbing jaw. Luckily there were two movies to keep me entertained and distracted from the constant pain.  About halfway through the bus ride around 2am I started chatting with a young guy from England sitting in front of me. He was on his way to Koh Tao to study for his Master Diver's Certification. Many people from all over the world flock to this island to dive. After all, it's affordable, quick and the marine atmosphere is nothing short of ideal. Tony told me that he is currently a Tai Chi teacher in the Chang Mai area in northern Thailand. He studied in China for a few years focusing on his acting career. Apparently he was nominated for an acting award for his role in a musical. Moreover, he's landed a small role in an upcoming movie, 'The Cave', which is scheduled to premier at the Cannes Film Festival. Naturally, he plays the role of the Tai Chi instructor who trains the main character. I'll have to do some research to follow Tony and his acting career. 
We finally arrived at the pier around 5am before sunrise to catch the ferry at 7am. I was so tired I felt hungover. The boat departed from a pier north of the island chain. My destination was last on the four hour ride. I spent most of the boat ride trying to get more sleep. As soon as I walked down the plank and onto the island I grabbed a map to get my bearings. I landed on the northern coast, rather than the west coast as I had originally planned. However, this didn't upset my plans because each part of the island is easily accessible by motorbike. At this point I was just exhausted and desperate to find a decent hotel. I asked a songtau (pickup truck taxi) driver to take me to a cheap hotel close to the Big Buddha statue in the northeast. That's how I ended up at the Mermaid Hotel, sitting on the beach, only a few steps away from the water with the golden Big Buddha in sight."
  My hotel was actually in a great location; far enough away from tourist-infested areas that I could relax in solitude on the beach, and close to a few temples for sight-seeing. Also, I felt comfortable knowing that my headquarters at the Mermaid were not completely deserted, but occupied by a few travelers worth talking to. One day at the hotel I met an elderly British gentleman in his late 70's who was traveling with his long-time buddy from home. I really like meeting new people when I'm traveling and this was the first time I shared a conversation with an elderly person since I've been abroad. We talked about everything from teaching abroad, to military service, rugby, traveling and the best footballer out there, Messi. Although we talked mostly about current issues and ideas, I enjoyed hearing about his younger years and how times have changed. There is so much to learn from our elders that most of us younger people haven't even tapped into yet. Maybe we rely on technology for that source of information now. 
  "When I first arrived at the hotel I checked in, threw my bags in my room and walked across the street to get lunch at the hotel's restaurant. As I was eating I overheard to German girls chatting at the next table. Naturally, we got to talking about their trip to the island and what they wanted to see. It turned out that we were both heading for the Big Buddha, so I rented a motorbike from the hotel and toured a few sights around the island with them. We checked out a few temples, sipped smoothies at a beach resort and got dinner and drinks later that night.    
  Fast forward to that evening, we stopped at a beach-side bar to lounge on the sand. The highlight of the night occurred when a ten-year-old Thai girl challenged me to a game of connect four. I thought to myself, 'This girl must play this game all day, every day. But I grew up playing this game, too. I can beat a little girl.' What a monster. I should've bet less than 100 baht. I let her go first only because she insisted 'ladies first'. It seemed to go well for the first few turns. She could've cared less, while I was devoting full concentration to my strategy. As time went on my moves became futile. She had multiple avenues to win no matter what I did. When she wasn't looking I even cheated by dropping two plastic coins at once and I still lost! That's the last time I let myself get suckered in to one of those games. I'm convinced that the person that goes first has the advantage. Unable to redeem myself, I accepted my defeat and called it a night. 

Song of the Day:
More like song of the week. This artist creates some of the best atmospheric indie music that I found to be absolutely perfect for laying on the sand and admiring the tropical waters. The only bad thing about this song is that it ends too soon. I think you'll find that you need to hit repeat many times, but it's never enough. I'll insert the download link to save you the effort of going back to Youtube over and over. Click the song title to download. 

Washed Out - 'New Theory

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