Thursday, November 29, 2018
Oct 18, 2018 Ko Samui, Thailand
Ko Samui is Thailands second largest island and it lies in the Gulf of Thailand off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus. It’s known for its palm fringed beaches, coconut groves and dense mountainous rainforest plus luxury resorts and posh spas. The landmark 12 metre tall golden big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Temple is located on a tiny island connected to Ko Samui by a causeway. Samui Island is a cosmopolitan melting pot, attracting budget travellers staying for a month or two in simple beachside fan bungalows to the rich dropping in for the weekend at a luxury resort or villa on the beach.
My excursion today is called Ko Samui Highlights. I can’t find the write up with the details but i know it said i ’d see monkeys and how they’re trained to climb the trees to pick the coconuts and that i’d see elephants as well. I sure hope this excursion goes off as planned rain or sun!
So i was up early, got ready, skipped breakfast and went down to the theatre to get my tender time. Ko Samui was the second port we had to tender in to. My group was supposed to go at 9:10a.m. but the ship arrived at the port an hour late so that meant that everyone’s excursion was set back by at least an hour. I had a good seat on the aisle but when the girl in charge mentioned there was no toilet on the tender i decided to take care of that business first. Had I known that my group wouldn’t be called for 90 mins. I could have gone for breakfast. Or better yet i should have made a room service order but that has to be done the night before and i hadn’t even thought of it. When i went back to the theatre all the aisle seats were taken so i thought i’d get out of there and wait in the casino which is right next door and not in operation when in port but they had comfy seats and i’d be able to see when people started streaming out but after awhile i decided nah, i’d rather be in there to hear what was going on. When it was obvious that we wouldn’t be called for awhile i went back to my cabin and got my windbreaker because it has a hood. The weather from the window looked cool, rainy, dismal and it was fairly dark with a heavy cloud cover. However, with only a non opening porthole window i judged the temperature by looks and that turned out to be wrong. My group was called and it was the largest group of the passengers even though it included several different excursions. I finally got on a pretty large tender with seats outside, inside, under cover and with 2 levels. There were a few different excursion numbers but the numbers weren’t for the tender but for the numbered buses.
It was a pleasant 25 min. ride to Ko Samui. By then i had found out that though it looked miserable out it was really very warm and humid out so i peeled off my sweater and jacket and then was stuck holding them once i got on my bus because it didn’t have anywhere to put them. Ko Samui was the second port we’ve had to tender in to. I don’t mind tendering; it usually means much less walking and then sitting on the tender gives you very nice scenery and a nice first look and overview of your landing place. Our guide on the bus was really good and so was the bus driver though he was very young and he drove with his bare feet chatting on his phone a lot. I can't even remember the last time i talked on the phone while driving as it's not allowed in B.C. anymore. As well, my seat mate was a young Thai woman who didn’t speak English and i think she was either the drivers girlfriend or maybe she was in training to become a tour guide.
It was a very nice drive around the entire island of Ko Samui but i missed a lot of scenery pics. I had the front seat but it was on the aisle and the young lady beside me pulled the curtains closed a few times but even if she hadn’t it was hard to take pics out the side window from the aisle seat. Usually it’s the ideal seat on a bus but this particular one had a dark tinted windshield half way up which ruined a lot of my pics. It was a Mercedes Benz big blue bus. I probably should have asked my seat mate to trade seats because i think she’d seen the views a million times because she hardly looked out that way at all. Oh well, i was always the first one off the bus so that was cool.
Our first stop was to see two elephants and we got a very close up experience with them. One of the elephants was 3 years old and quite big and the other was just a year old and cute as all get out. Both were females and considered to be babies, and it was obvious that the little one wanted to be just like the bigger one. She tried her best to do whatever the big one did and more often than not she simply couldn’t do the bows or stand on two legs but it was adorable watching her awkwardly try to copy. The larger one played soccer with a volunteer from the audience and the volunteer lost the competition! Elephants are so smart!
We then drove on for 30 mins or so through cities and countryside covered with palm trees and farms to a restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Thailand where we all were given a drink of our choice. I chose a Diet Coke and it was my first in a long time. I used to be kind of addicted to it but not anymore. It was also a bthrm stop and it was down a lot of stairs into a dark basement and the toilet was a very weird looking thing but it worked. Back on the bus we were given a bottle of water which became a little cumbersome for me as my purse was too small to put it in.
As we continued around the island the guide spoke on life there and some passengers asked questions and he answered them all in length. Meanwhile watching the scenery and traffic and people riding scooters and bikes and some pulling carts of various design. It was a very busy road and we passed the entrances to lots of high end resorts. I think it would be a lovely place to have a land vacation as there’s a lot of markets and stores all along the main road. We saw one accident only and it involved two young women, obviously tourists who were both on the ground with their scooters upturned.
We arrived at the monkey camp awhile later and i saw two monkeys but only one was going to be our entertainment. The owner of the monkey is the only one who can interact with it and we weren’t allowed to touch. After explaining how and why they trained the monkeys to climb the trees to pick the coconuts he then indicated to his monkey to climb a certain tree. At first the monkey wanted to fool around a bit, he wasn’t in a hurry and his master let him do his own thing. Then it decided to climb the tree and he was so fast and so cute climbing around it and showing off as he climbed to a huge cluster of coconuts. All the while the man was holding the rope that was around the monkeys neck and with the rope the owner can signal to it to which coconut to pick. Apparently monkeys are colour blind and they will pick any or all in the clump but some aren’t ripe yet and would be wasted so the owner signals the monkey somehow through the rope on which one to pick. He took his time and then finally started jumping on one and shaking it and finally it broke free and the ripe coconut fell to the ground with a loud thump. This was repeated a few times and then the owner signalled his monkey to come down which he did very fast. We all cheered that cute little monkey for a job well done.
I then watched a man scooping out the meat of a coconut and how he shredded it and squeezed out the milk. I didn’t have a very good view of this so my pics might not be great. There was a water buffalo in the distance and then i watched a woman weaving things out of the palm leaves and then it was time to get back on the bus.
We stopped at a place of much beauty, the Wat phra Yai Temple a place with many, many temples and objects of worship as well as lots of vendors of various things. One thing that interested me as i hadn’t had breakfast and it was afternoon already was a man who was using a very sharp machete to cut the kernels off of the ear of corn. He was so good at it, and fast as he threw the machete in the air and caught it just right and then threw the corn cob in the air and he had a very entertaining thing going on as he cut the kernels off the cob. He then added butter and salt and something else, not sure what but maybe a bit of sugar in a big stainless steel bowl and he sort of stirred and mashed it, poured it into a plastic cup and it was for sale $1. each. There was a small lineup of people waiting to buy a cup of corn and i got in the lineup to watch him make me up a cupful. I found a spot to sit and scarf it down as it was almost time to go to the bus. It was very tasty, fresh and and sweet and buttery and hit the spot very well.
All throughout my travel on this island i noticed stray dogs and cats everywhere. Two dogs were sound asleep at the entrance to a ladies room and everyone stepped carefully around them not wanting to disturb them. It reminded me of Istanbul and the stray dogs there. Cats also weren’t bothered by people walking close to them so obvious they were born into this life. They all appeared to be well fed and content.
I tried to do a little shopping but it was difficult, sometimes because i was afraid of getting lost. Some of the shops were open on both ends leading into a different alleyway and some were open on all sides. I knew if i got turned around i’d never find my way back out to the bus. As well, i couldn’t compute the Thai prices fast enough to even try anymore. Anyway i didn’t see anything that i really wanted to buy.
Back on the bus the remainder of the trip around Ko Samui was very nice and soon we were back at the pier and able to get on any tender boat back to the ship. I got a crappy seat so wasn’t able to take pics of Jewel in the distance nor when we got closer because the boat was rocking too much for me to feel comfortable to be even standing so i didn't.
Onboard it was dinner time and i went w/o my camera so don’t have a pic of whatever i ate. Soon it was time to go to the final stage show in the Stardust Theatre and i got a good seat on the aisle beside the two ladies Betty and Louise who i had befriended way back in Japan on an excursion there. The show was fantastic with awesome stage decor and lighting and then the crew all came onstage and it was our final chance to say goodbye to them all.
I returned to my room to wait until the casino opened. We were not far enough from land yet to be able to power up the slots so i just chatted with my roomie for awhile and then went back and the casino was in full operation. I tried a couple of different machines w/o any luck then went to one that a fellow Canuck had recommended and i picked up $80. from it. I played a while on another machine that turned out to be no fun so i then ended up at that stupid Haunted House machine again. It let me down once again but in the end i had played for free and that was good enough for me. I was too tired to play anymore so i said goodnight and went to bed.
My notes were all screwed up again and with this post being so long and having so many pics and not enough time to redo it in 2 parts i decided to post it rather than take a chance of losing it. So todays pics will be the elephants, tomorrow i'll post the monkey pics and then the Thailand religious temple on the next day. It's just been overwhelming trying to keep things straight.