Tuesday, 17 July 2012

It's kind of a reverse road to Damascus

Friday 13th July, World Resort, Bophut, Koh Samui, Thailand

It's Friday 13th but, so what? Another day, another breakfast at World Resort. Today we had resolved to explore some of the other resorts clockwise round the island going east and then south. This would take in Chaweng and Lamai beaches (the hedonistic teenagers' and the seedy middle-aged men resorts respectively which I'd mentioned in a previous blog entry). We caught a songtheaw to Chaweng and found our way to the beach. It was somewhat over-developed with modern looking hotels and nightclubs fronting onto the beach, not to mention a few places that were in the process of being built which were a bit of an eyesore. It was also very busy with lots of people and lots of activities for them like jetskis. There were lots of places where you couldn't move for sun loungers. The latter is probably my idea of hell in reference to beaches. Why go half way round the world to lie on a sun lounger essentially identical to those you'd find in Greece or Spain? You'll get just as red from not using the appropriate level of sunblock (actually, you'll get redder at this latitude). It does make for good people watching, though. The beach itself was actually better than Bophut in terms of sand being less coarse and the water being slightly less murky.

Battery tourists on Chaweng Beach
Please join the campaign to allow these people the freedom to move around and not be chained to their sunloungers all day, only allowed to move to use the toilet or buy over-priced drinks and European food

 Electricity supply: Thai style
None of the underground cabling nonsense in this part of the world.

We wandered along a little and, after a drink stop, we headed up to try and catch another sontheaw to head over to Lamai. We waited until one came along that seemed to be heading in the right direction. It wasn't, but was, in fact, heading back the way we came. We waited longer and longer with maybe 5 or so going in the opposite direction. Two came along the road our way and it transpired that the second was actually heading the way we wanted to go so we hopped in. He stopped for one local guy and another couple of Europeans, a couple of middle-aged men. The driver seemed to go a long way round but eventually made it to downtown Lamai. The two white guys paid up and walked off, we asked how much and the driver said B200 between us. Now we knew this was too much. It had cost B60 each to go from Nathon to Bophut and this trip was further, but he insisted on the B200 saying the two guys had paid that much and I said that he had charged them too much. Meanwhile traffic was building up behind the vehicle on the single laned road (OK, a couple of jeeps and the odd moped, but they were getting irate). Our driver even threatened to get the police (yeah, good luck with that, I can bribe them more than you can). Anyway, I said OK, B150 for both which he accepted and which was still over priced (by B30 which is 60p, so hardly worth fighting over). Obviously I should have just given him the B120 and walked away, though I still saw it as something of a minor victory not paying what he first wanted especially since we Brits are generally pretty crap at haggling anyway.

Who you calling jerk?
A whole chicken between us

We searched out the beach walking down a road that had a few open air bars, clearly aimed at the girly bar fraternity, complete with dancing poles. This being mid afternoon, however, they were deserted and closed as we cut through to the beach and, first thing generally being first, decided to have lunch. We ate at some place that did jerk chicken. OK, I know we're half a globe away from the place jerk chicken originated, but it was rather good (if not as spicy as I would have liked) and there is something about the recipe with reggae playing in the background, which there was here, that just seemed right in the baking heat on a tropical beach.

Reggae seems to be quite a univesal thing around the world, whenever you go to the beach in hot countries, not just the Caribbean. Wherever you go in Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, you will find a reggae bar and. You could barely through a chopstick down any road at one of these beach resorts and not have it hit something that was painted red, gold, green and black. As I mention above it never really feels out of place either, and I feel that beer tastes better if there's a bit of Bob Marley on the stereo in the background as you watch palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze. Perhaps it's the tree swaying that makes reggae so in sync with the rhythm of tropical beaches. Whatever, unlike Irish bars which you can find at any resort that's slightly over-developed (or any city virtually anywhere in the world for that matter), reggae seems to be the heartbeat of this climate and the general beach vibe. It could also be partly due to the fact that Bob Marley is more accessible to the ignorant farang than the average indigenous music

Lamai beach was probably the best of the beaches we had encountered on Samui. It wasn't as over developed as Chaweng or Bophut and we actually were able to find a bit of tree shade to place a towel down for a chill out until we decided to head back to the World. We caught a songtheaw quite quickly this time and he wanted B100 to go all the way back to Bophut which seemed about the going rate, unlike the cheating rascal who brought us here. The trip back was largely uneventful, apart from the van we were trailing that was advertising a muay Thai night on Saturday. It had loud speakers with a pre-recorded Australian guy announcing that it was “an international bout to be watched by millions of people and that it would be the highlight of the holiday”. Yeah, and I could buy a thorny stick and shove it up my bottom as a new way to repel mosquitoes as well. Actually, in the times we've been to Thailand we've not actually been to a muay Thai bout and I'm sure it's actually quite good. I'd even like to do a bit of training at a muay Thai gym sometime (non-contact, obviously. I'm way too much of a coward to risk getting hit) Then they played the Rocky theme. Then recording stopped for about 30 seconds then it started again. I'm just glad we overtook the van after a little while.

Views of us on Lamai Beach

Friday night in Bophut and the Fisherman's Village becomes pedestrianised as they call it the Fisherman's Walk where the path is lined with stalls selling food, drink and general tourist tat, so this was how we wanted to spend the evening, our last on Samui. Most importantly, however, we needed to get some cash out so we had some spending money and, more importantly, I could pay for my new glasses which I was hoping were ready for me at the opticians in town. We headed on a songtheaw again, this time driven by a rather attractive woman (she'd be driving me to town by way of distraction, what what?) Earlier on this trip I'd discovered that there was a charge of B150 for withdrawals which I assumed was only applicable to machines attached to shops, so we went to a back ATM only to find that it applies to all transactions in Thailand. This was probably also the reason you had to select another option on the machines at Khao Sok since they tell you that you're to be charged and ask if you want to proceed.

We get to the opticians where I got the glasses and they are perfect. I'm a bit miffed that they don't appear to have the coatings on that they were supposed to have (which wasn't really obvious at first in the dim light), but at least I now had decent visual accuity without seeing the world as a dark and polarised place, which I guess must be how Nick Griffin sees the world all the time. We then headed into the market throng and bought some cocktails at B60 a piece. I had a long island ice tea which had a stupid amount of spirit in it for just over a quid. We wandered around the place looking at the stalls, stopping for the odd extra cocktail or some food to mop up the alcohol. On sale was a massive variety of foodstuffs and I alighted on one stall where I was told by the lady selling them that it was B100 for any one of three possible selections: chicken wings, prawns and something else I couldn't quite identify. She told me they were crickets (pretty large ones at that). I'd have loved to try them, but I didn't want a full portion as my main meal. Besides, I'm not sure how the would have gone with my mojito.

 Happiness is a new pair of specs

 Fisherman's Walk Street Market, Friday night, Downtown Bophut

 Horseshoe crabs for dinner?
Apparently only the eggs are edible. They are arachnids and have blue copper-based blood

After a little more wandering, we found a bar (a reggae bar, no less) for a beer on the beach before we headed back to the hotel for our last sleep on Samui

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