We’re in Koh Samui now. We decided to try a cheaper ferry from Koh Phangan, which was supposed to leave from a different pier, about 200 metres away from the main one. The scheduled departure was 12:30 and we were there at 10:30. Without a single staff or tourist in sight, we thought whether the out-of-date-looking pier was in use at all. But then we were greeted by an elder Thai man who offered us to buy some bottled water and wait. We declined the first offer and sat down.
Half an hour later the ticket window opened, we bought our tickets and another couple of tourists did the same. Another half an hour later dozens of other tourists were being dropped off by trucks from local hotels. By that time several street vendors had come with their stalls selling everything from fruit shakes and beer to Phad Thai. It seems that a lot of business in the islands is scheduled around the times when ferries come and go: it may be difficult to find hot food vendors when travellers are settling in their hotels.
The ferry took about an hour to get to Nathon pier in Koh Samui , we got off and were straight away surrounded by a crowd of taxi drivers, hotel offers and food vendors. We ignored them and headed to the desk labelled ‘Information desk’ to get a map. I am pretty sure that wasn’t the information desk, as the lady was pointing to random points on the map trying to push us to get a taxi, but at least we got to keep the map. A lot of bloggers say that you can get scammed in Thailand, but it is just common sense: tourists, who don’t speak the language, don’t know where they are or where they’re going, pay more. I saw one excited young brit on a motorbike with a Thai man pointing to some table, and the young guy said to him “wow, that’s a lot!” and drove off. I assume that was a rental motorbike price list for scratches, damages, etc, but that’s where they make their money.
The pier was now empty: no ferries, no tourists, and just a few empty songthaews – local taxi cars. I love how they negotiate:
Us: Can you take us to Hua Thanon for 100 baht each?
Driver: Ok. You wait 10 minutes. You want to go now for 150?
Us: No, we’ll wait.
Driver: You pay 150 you go now. You pay 100 you wait 20 minutes.
Us: No we’ll wait.
Driver: Ok, I take you now for 100.
Hua Thanon is a quiet area with very few tourists and a lot of green surroundings. Initially when we booked online, the hotel looked so-so, but when we checked-in we were stunned by the view: palm trees, mountains, a few bungalows – all could be seen from our cosy balcony. While I’m writing this, a huge flying insect is knocking onto the window, and we saw a cute praying mantis earlier on too. In the photo you can see another cute creature which came to visit us on both days.
One tip with regards to insects/other visitors: don’t drop food in your room, not even a drop of juice – they WILL come for dinner. They have tiny ants here in Thailand and as soon as they get into the balcony, they get into the room, and when they get into the room, they’re on the bed, your clothes, your shoes… and if you’re staying in a poorly insulated property, you can invite cockroaches too. And they’re as big as oreo biscuits.
Staying here was a lot of fun, partially because we finally had a chance to get some sleep and went for a stroll around the area – the Muslim fishing village. I guess the name comes from a lot of fishermen Muslims living there, makes sense, doesn’t it? It was nice to see how people live: tons of fish drying out, the local market with (again) tons of fish, little kids running after the ice-cream van. We also saw someone on a bicycle, which made us think that however sceptical we are about motorbikes, we’ll probably have to get one eventually. Using taxis is too expensive, cycling is too sweaty, and walking is fine as long as it’s a short distance. Talking about practicality, you need sunglasses even when it’s cloudy. We left ours at the hotel, so the walk along the beach was rather blinding. I also noticed that the beach at Hua Thanon was used by some fishermen and wasn’t very clean – definitely not for swimming.
We were on the way to Lamai beach and saw the Hin Ta Hin Yai rocks, but to be fair, we only saw the grandfather rock, and couldn’t distinguish which one was the grandmother. At that point I realised that even the straps of my backpack are sweaty, and we jumped in the water. It was so refreshing – just what we needed to cool ourselves from the intense sun. Our sunbathing session lasted for about 4 minutes – just enough to initiate the clothes drying process and not get sunburnt. It’s funny how the sky in the morning is quite cloudy and dim, but in the afternoon it is burning hot. On the way back to the hotel we thought we’ll collapse on the road because of all that heat. And they call it rainy season!
When we reached the village we ordered a custom-made meal, and offered our own price! That was something we hadn’t done before. We asked the lady (who made our meal yesterday) to make a vegetable curry, as most items on the menu were meat or fish. Most of the time we just pick the one, and usually the only one, vegetarian dish – rice or noodles. This is what you get in a street-restaurant in a village for 50 baht. While she was making the curry, we finally got to see what the rainy season was like. For the first time in a week it actually poured down. I still ran to buy some coconuts from across the road. If one coconut is 25 baht, why not ask for two for 40 baht? So there I was with two coconuts for 40 baht splashing the warm puddles with my flip-flops and met Auste with the food.
Due to heavy rain there had been a power cut: the electricity was gone and no water could be pumped to our room. When we rang our receptionist his answer was ‘I’m not sure, maybe tomorrow’. Luckily, 2 hours later things are back to normal: the water, the internet, and the insects are still trying to get in. While I was writing this post it made me think that it is easy to buy the first item you see, or get into the first taxi available or drink beer at a bar with English staff. But if you want to have a cheap holiday, you have to do some research online, spend time walking around to see where and when the locals eat, where and what they buy. We’ve been eating from stalls in tiny alleys with Thai-only menus and buying fruit from clothes shops (yes, that is true!*) and I can say it’s possible to find even more ways of saving money while having an awesome time.
*With the fruit from random shops it’s quite cool – it can be any shop, anything from clothes, car tyres or ice-cream, but they may put some fruit for sale very cheaply, since it is something they’re not usually selling. It may be that they have a rambutan or a banana tree growing in their backyard or something, so they let them go for cheap. Compared to markets, where they make their money from selling fruit, it can be twice or three times cheaper.
It is 23:34 – bed time for me, but I can hear a rooster at this time – how random is that!
More photos on our Flickr page here.