The next chapter in our travels through Thailand began with us departing from Bangkok on an all inclusive train-bus-boat trip to Koh Samui (B1048pp at train station). We soon realised that this was the easiest and most cost effective way to get out to the island, as we explain further on.
Filled with excitement and anticipation, we had time for a quick cappuccino frappe (Black Canyon Coffee) before boarding the train … yum! Second class was just our style: comfy, air-conditioned and affordable. The carriage was lined with bunk beds above and seats below, which were later converted into beds at around 9pm.
Earlier, we had noticed a couple tying their packs to the bag stands to secure them – a sensible idea, we thought, and decided to do the same with our packs. Overhearing their South African accents we quickly struck up a conversation. Sadly, this pleasant interlude was interrupted when, with utter dismay, they saw that one of their bags appeared to have gone missing. After an hour of searching the train, explaining to police and report writing, we tried our best to console them as they realised that the bag containing passports, cellphones, money and wallet had in fact been stolen. A Thai man had helped them carry their luggage onto the train, and placed the bag under their seats, or so they thought. Instead, he had actually pushed the bag far enough so that it lay under the seat behind; while the couple were distracted with tying their bags down, he must have retrieved it from the other side! Here comes the obvious tip …
Tip: DO NOT LET ANYONE HANDLE YOUR BAGS! Separate your passports, money and cellphones into two or even three bags/packs to avoid disaster if one gets stolen. Carry copies of credit cards, passports and other ID documents separate from their originals.
With our packs secured, we drew the privacy curtains and cuddled our day-packs to sleep, feeling very sorry for our fellow travellers, as the train sped through the night.
Who needs an alarm when you’re woken up by train staff yelling their OVER-PRICED breakfast menu at you?
Tip: For those of you who didn’t read our earlier post, buy food to take on the train unless you’re willing to fork out B300 a meal.
It wasn’t long before the train came to a stop at an empty car park … sorry, meant to say Surat Thani train station. Two legs left to go!
Our experience of the famous overnight train was a good one, despite the leaking aircon and the moment we realized everyone’s bowl movements were being deposited along the train tracks. Truly disgusting, and we felt very sorry for the Thai people living alongside the track.
Watching each and every passenger hop on board a pre-booked bus, with not a taxi in sight, it became evident that it would have been an absolute mission trying to make our way independently to Donsak Pier had we not booked the package deal. To our surprise, the bus trip from station to pier was a solid 90 minutes, made more enjoyable by aircon and comfy seats. Surat Thani didn’t appear to be somewhere you would want to stay even for a night – but with some research we may be proven wrong.
A quick hop from bus to super-fancy boat and we were one step closer to the islands. Just before getting off the bus I decided it was time to visit the lavatory. About to jump off the bus the doors shut promptly in front of me and I was left trapped inside about to make a trip back to the train station. Lauren, standing outside yelling/laughing, saved the day and we were back on track.
The 90-minute cruise was spent on the front deck admiring stunning views of the Andaman Sea islands, trying to capture their beauty in a photo and taking ‘just a couple’ of travel selfies. Before we knew it we had arrived at Nathon Pier only to be greeted by more taxi vultures eager to swoop in and prey on gullible and unsuspecting tourists.
Luckily we managed to find what the islanders call a ‘tuk tuk’ (a kind of pick-up truck with seats in the back, not the same as those found in Bangkok) to take us the 25 minutes around the island to our first destination, the Buddha Lounge Hostel in Bang Rak (B80pp). This was an absolute bargain we found out later.
Dropped on the side of the road we were left to find our way with a mere point of the taxi driver’s finger in the general direction we were meant to go. After a long, hot walk down some back roads we eventually found Buddha Lounge. Regardless of its great reviews, we had come to the islands to relax on the beach and this was just too far away from the sea for our liking. So, we shamelessly cancelled our booking in order to stay at Samui Beach Resort located on Lamai Beachfront.
B400 later we arrived at the Resort frustrated at the cost of taxi transport on Samui. We were told by a local that this was cheap for the 25km we had travelled (normally B700). They are very aware that tourists are stuck on the island and don’t really have much choice but to pay their extortionate prices.
Tip: Samui transport is the most expensive we’ve seen. Hire a scooter/motorbike as soon as possible (B150 for 24hrs).
On the upside, the effort and the extra cost was well worth it in the end! For B400pp we got a basic double room with aircon, kettle and fridge. We also daily received two bottles of water, biscuits, coffee, tea and room cleaning. To top it all off, the resort had a bar/restaurant and pool right on the beach. It was luxury we never thought we would afford!
The rest of the day was spent lounging on the white sand beach; the sea here is also perfect for swimming. The pool, however, was ridiculously warm and not refreshing at all. We had a bite to eat at the resturant which was a bit pricey, but we just coughed and paid up.
Literally five minutes after leaving the beach we were introduced to Thailand’s rainy season. Spectacular lightning strikes, thunder that messed with the rhythm of your heart and a heavy rain. Although when hunger set it nothing was going to deter us from finding food. We bought a take-away from a restaurant run by a Thai family just across the road and spent the evening seated on the floor Thai-style, eating and watching TV series.
The day began early with cornflakes purchased from the SevenEleven the night before. At the Reception, we hired a scooter (B300 for two days). Lauren was enthusiastic, while I felt a little nervous. Why you may ask? Perhaps it is the crazy, yet somehow organized chaos they call driving that made me a little hesitant. Anyway, it was the best decision ever! After a two-minute crash course, during which Lauren almost drove into a wall head-on, it was decided that I would be the sole driver. With that we received a very nervous farewell from the receptionists and we were off! Well, at 30km per hour.
What an amazing experience! We travelled slightly inland and visited Tar Nim Waterfall (a little dry at this time of year) and stopped off at a picturesque viewing point five minutes up the road where an old Thai man sat waiting to collect a parking fee (B40). The HIGHLIGHT of Lauren’s trip to Samui … a talking bird she discovered in a cage along the pathway. As I stood laughing at her fascination with it, the bird began mocking my laughter … rather well, actually. The viewing point itself was spectacular, pretty much overlooking the entire south-western side of the island and the beautiful blue ocean – very difficult to capture in words, but well worth the stop.
Next stop, Magic Garden another 10 to 15 minutes up the road (B80pp). If you’re in the area it’s definitely worth a visit. We thoroughly enjoyed the walk through a little stone village, scattered with traditional statues, alongside the river. We came across some super-friendly locals enjoying the coolness of the shade and relaxing by the river, eager to pose for a few of our photos.
Back onto our beloved scooter (we had grown quite fond of it by now) and we were off again … destination the Butterfly & Insect Garden. This was a miss as it turned out to be rather pricey (B400pp) and Lauren saw a massive spider advertised on the pamphlet so decided it was not for us.
Battling to keep the scooter balanced as Lauren proceeded to take selfies, we managed to safely pull into a Shell garage which reminded us a little of home.
Tip: B150 is an excessive amount of petrol. Only fill up B50, at most, each time. Returning the scooter with a full tank is not required, so our scooter company got lucky.
Lauren, being our trusty navigator and map lady, decided we should head south along the coast for lunch. We found a nice road with a few cafe’s along the shore.
Bellies full we took the opportunity to capture the postcard-worthy scenery before heading to the Mummified Monk. Lauren had a second crack at learning how to drive the scooter. She improved greatly, although it was quite a wide open space, but it was decided that I would keep my job as driver and off we went.
The Mumified Monk was a unique experience. As the story goes, there was a monk renowned for his dedication to contemplation and prayer. Upon his death, his family responded to his wishes by placing him in an upright contemplation position in his “coffin”. His mummified body now sits in that same position in a glass box, although he now sports a trendy pair of black sunglasses. Lauren found the whole thing slightly creepy. We were also really grateful for the English translation, as most significant sights only have Thai plaques. All said, a very interesting stop.
A jumpy photo in front of the temple, free water and it was time to head back to the resort. We spent the remainder of our afternoon/evening relaxing at the restaurant, blogging and enjoying the rain falling around us.
It was an amazing day. Definitely one of the best we have had since arriving in Thailand. If you’re looking to travel independently, outside of tours and not wanting to pay ridiculous amounts for transport, we highly recommend taking a scooter. Budget on two to three days and you can easily see most, if not all, the island by yourself without breaking the bank.
Today didn’t go quite as planned. Our aim was to head to the northern part of the island and see Big Buddha and Chaweng beach, but Mike was hit hard by “jet lag” and only woke to house-keeping at 10am. Luckily, or else we might have wasted away the day. Sloth like, we dragged ourselves over to the beach and pool.
After final editing, we published our first post about Bangkok! Whoop whoop! Finally! It is possible we underestimated how much work this blogging thing was going to be, but we love it and we hope you enjoy reading about our adventures.
A lovely local woman with mad cutting skills sliced up a pineapple (B50) which we ate whilst lolling about in the calm waters.
Further down the beach we found some cool rock formations – another famous attraction known in English as Grandfather & Grandmother Rock. We looked super-touristy trying to navigate the rocks with our expensive camera!
To end our trip in Koh Samui we headed to a stunning veiwpoint just above Chaweng Beach. We highly recommend buying some food and heading there to watch the sun set over the sea. The view was absolutely incredible and proved to be a wonderful way to round off our time here on Koh Samui!
Best Hawaian pizza at Crystal Bay Resort & Restaurant before a final ride on our trusty scooter as we returned to the resort. We had the most tranquil night swim in the sea just before bed. The stars were out and on full display. What a way to end our trip to Koh Samui!!
KOH PHANGAN HERE WE COME!!