Travel Blog: Week 24

Southern Thailand – Koh Samui Week 24: 22.04.2013 – 28.04.2013 Monday:- I woke up and decided immediately I was going to do the yoga. It meant leaving the room around 9am – that in itself was an achievement as I’m hardly out of bed by then these days let alone organised enough to be dressed and out. Anyway, I made it and met Sarah and Naomi at the Bikram class. The instructor, Helena, was Russian and very reassuring. Although she did say

Southern Thailand – Koh Samui

Week 24: 22.04.2013 – 28.04.2013

Monday:-

I woke up and decided immediately I was going to do the yoga. It meant leaving the room around 9am – that in itself was an achievement as I’m hardly out of bed by then these days let alone organised enough to be dressed and out. Anyway, I made it and met Sarah and Naomi at the Bikram class. The instructor, Helena, was Russian and very reassuring. Although she did say just try and stay in the room for the full 90 minutes and don’t worry too much about the postures. What am I letting myself in for if just being in the room is a challenge?!!!!

I changed, read the sign on the door ” no talking”, and stepped in. Jeez – even having acclimatised in this part of the world the room was hot. Really hot, and damp, and airless. I’d only laid down on my towel and was already sweaty. The class started with a breathing exercise – breathing in as much as you could and then expelling ALL air in a controlled way. Even this made me light headed and we hadn’t started yet. There were 26 postures (I think) and all were repeated (so twice each). Half were standing and so tested, really tested, balance and the other half were floor,which I thought would be easier. Wrong! Water could only be taken when allowed and only a small mouthful. About 45 minutes in I had to sit down and just breathe. I was dizzy and a little disorientated. I did stay in the room though and also finished most of the moves. The end was such a relief and I was congratulated for my efforts. Many people admitted that they couldn’t stay in a whole class for months. Once I’d cooled down, although I don’t think I ever stopped sweating, and had a drink I felt pretty good.

Sarah and Naomi sought out a restaurant while I went back to my hotel for breakfast chez Lulu. Washed and changed I met back with them and we hit the beach – well my cheeky resort spot. We got braver and used the resort shower and pool (I love the sign) – get us!

The afternoon was a combination of shopping and eating. Naomi was in full shopping mode as this would be her only free day of the trip. In one shop she got a discount voucher which she would never use so it was passed to me. Maybe I could use it.

Finally, we all went for a massage. So surreal. We were almost stripped naked then all laid down next to each other in the same room – elbows close to touching. I just closed my eyes and drifted to a far away land – its a trick we girls have learned over the years of triennial “check ups”. Then the massages started – Naomi and I had gone for the same massage but I could tell straight away there were different techniques used. At the end we shared details over a cup of tea. Naomi definitely had a more “all over” massage than me!! At least I felt rested and a little less achy after the yoga discipline.

Naomi was doing a raw food demo at the retreat and I was invited to attend. I could also do one of her classes too. They would check it was possible and let me know. We said our goodbyes around 8pm.

I had a chilled evening in my room. Read loads and had a light dinner. Lights out around 11 which is good for me.

Tuesday:-

My relatively early night meant I woke relatively early – I still doze for a while though. Hey, it’s my day to do as I please and a lie in is still up there on my blissful moments list. Self serve breakfast from my little fridge. This too is blissful as I get to have the breakfast combo I want and have it in bed. Yog, a crunched up cereal bar, goji berries (yes Nigel, I still have some left from my stay with you – I knew you would never eat those), chia seeds (ditto Nigel), fresh wonderful mango and raisins. All washed down with freshly brewed ginger tea (Tammy, my REI heating element really coming into its own here). I’m in heaven.

Today I was joining Sarah and Naomi at their place further north – “Absolute Sanctuary”. I’m going to join Sarah’s raw food demo and take my second Bikram yoga lesson. This time with Naomi as the instructor. All I need to do is get there before midday.

So, well rested, fed, meditated, washed and dressed I leave for my next little adventure. The trip is going to cost me 800 THB which will push my daily budget so the transport deal I can strike up will make quite a difference. A taxi is 300 which both ways will most definitely blow my budget. I headed down the road in the correct direction looking for a good deal. After a few options have come and gone I agree a deal for 150 for a motorbike taxi. He will take me door to door and I’ll get there on time. I jump on…..and we’re off. I love being out on the open road and seeing a little more of the island. We’re travelling along the road parallel to the coast so the views are stunning and I feel really safe. It’s only a 15 minute journey and as promised I’m taken right to the door which is just as well as its a fair way down a side track.

Absolute Sanctuary lives up to its name. It really is splendid. I sign in and am beckoned to the ‘Love Kitchen’ to wait for Naomi. In the meantime I quickly make use of the free wifi and help myself to the ginger tea. When in Rome!!! Naomi soon arrives and suggests I look at the pool where Sarah is. It’s beautiful too. By now its midday and we take our seats around a big table. As well as Sarah and Naomi there were 11 others on the yoga retreat, all but one were women. Naomi made raw chocolate – for those not in the know, like me until now, raw means nothing cooked above 40 degrees. The chocolate was made from coconut oil, cacao butter, and some other superfoods I don’t recall. It was poured into moulds and refrigerated for later.

  

  

Next nori rolls. Now this was more up my street. Wholesome stuff like avocado, tahini, cucumber, carrot, miso etc etc rolled in a seaweed sheet and dipped in wasabi. After we’d watched how it was done we all had a go and to eat the rewards of our labour. Delicious – note to self to make these when I get home. Recipe to me emailed to me later…..hopefully.

  

  

Next, lunch. I checked with the hotel if the day rate I was paying in lauded some lunch and they kindly agreed. All whole stuff as you would imagine. The next couple of hours we next to the infinity pool, this is luxury for me.

  

I got chatting to one of the ladies and spookily her son had recently taken part in a Blue Ventures expedition in Madagascar. That was me in 2005 and few people have heard of BV. What are the chances!!!

The yoga was at 4:20 and it soon came round. The room wasn’t as hot so I attempted all the poses.

I think some things clicked, in my head I mean rather than my joints, as I actually managed to do some that yesterday seemed impossible. I did feel really light headed a few times, my head pounded, breathing wasn’t easy during some stretches and I sweated buckets but I lasted the full 90 minutes. For me it was a triumph. I think I could get into this.

Outside the studio but still within the building, the air con was so welcome. And more water. It was at this point that the hotel advised me that the price would be 1000BHT rather than the expected 800BHT. It was rather awkward timing and I really didn’t have any choice but to agreed. My budget was blown! As they’d changed the goal post I asked if that then included dinner. They would check and get back to me.

Sarah kindly let me use her room to shower and change and this is where the hotel management came back to me – apparently lunch and use of the pool was not included in the initial deal!!!!!! I could stay for dinner for a further 600THB. Time to leave! I politely paid and left. For a yoga retreat it had a strange underlying vibe. Anyway, I enjoyed the day and got the chance to see a little more of the island. I walked back down the side track to the main road and started walking hoping that a way of getting back to Chaweng beach would present itself. After about 10 minutes, just when dusk was imminent, a taxi bus beeped. I climbed in and got back to my hotel for the grand sum of 50BHT. With thoughts of the day running through my head I decided to totally blow my budget (well within reason) and based on the fact you still get a lot for your money here. I bought some really cheap, £2, yoga shorts (I really think I get get into this Bikram lark), a cheap Ganesh t-shirt, and some more sandals. They were knock down price and I used Naomi’s discount voucher. I even ate dinner out although only marginally less basic than street food. A fabulous soup kitchen type restaurant. I could eat like a king on the salary of a pauper.

  

I got back quite late, check out the cute kittens I saw on the way home, to the hotel but stayed in the bar for a drink. Up to my room to finish my book. Lights out around 3.

Wednesday:-

Another wonderful late start and fabulous day. The heat kicks in early here and you are lulled by the air con in the rooms. A day for the beach. I did my usual sneaky to the resort sun beds and settled in for a few hours. Some swimming and reading was about as taxing as it got.

  

  

Around 3, feeling a tad sun kissed, I went back to the main road and got noodle soup for lunch. I ate it in my room but quickly came down to the bar area and had ice cream. The rest of the afternoon was spent there updating this thing.

Once the day had cooled, but not much the evenings here are so warm, I wandered around the night stalls. I bought three gemstone bracelets. I’m not sure I believe in their power and healing but it’s worth a try and they’re beautiful; Crystal, Turquoise, and Amethyst. They all had their own meanings and benefits.

Fingers crossed they help me along my way. I also met a guy whose family made fabulous wall hangings. I would love one but they’re hand made and understandably not the cheapest. I didn’t buy one but was asked to join him for a beer in the shop. It was cool in there and we had a very philosophical conversation despite the language difference – he was from Kashmir originally. Really great outlook on life. Six important things according to him; Sleep, Food, Clothes, Travel, Hard work and Love! Pretty much sums it up. We spent a few hours chatting. Love these random experiences!!!!

Back to the room for the most important thing – Sleep!

Thursday:-

I slept so well and just couldn’t wake up. Wow, those bracelets really do work!

Breakfast, meditation, laundry, wash, dress and out.

Today I wanted to get out and about – I had the big Buddha in my sights. I walked along the main road hoping to get the bus but in the end negotiated a good price with a motorbike taxi. I’m getting used to this. It was a fair way out and a beautiful day (it’s just not getting boring) so I soaked in the journey.

    

The big Buddha is very impressive, albeit a little run down. It’s very calm despite the tourist trash around the place.

  

    

  

Shoes off and up the steps, avoiding the red tiles. They got hot.

    

A the top were gifts of flowers and food for the Buddha. You could light incense or candles – I lit a candle. Seemed the right thing to do. I also bought a tile and put my name on it – this helps raise funds for the temple.

  

On three sides was a covered walkway which house bronze bells of various sizes and these were struck my visiting couples. Maybe for luck?!

  

  

  

    

  

    

  

I spent the rest of the after browsing the tourist shops (they have some weird shit here – metal sculptures of Bumblebee, Predator, Aliens right next to wooden carvings of Buddha!!!!!!), stroking cats (so many everywhere and mostly in good condition), eating noodle soup (just like a Lush shop in a shopping mall I can smell those vendors a 100 yards away now), drinking tea in a specialist tea shop (herbal not the builders variety – very civilised) and taking in the view.

  

  

  

  

  

Jeez it’s hot! Around 5 I called it a day and started to walk back, again hoping for a lift. Another motorbike taxi, at a knock down price, which took a shortcut home.

  

It’s at these times when you, just for a moment, think where is his guy taking me. All was well though. I even got asked to the Full Moon Party at Koh Tao my the driver. I don’t think so! I was dropped off in Chaweng road away from my hotel – just in case! I stopped off at the Seven Eleven and got a snack. The noodle soup isn’t the most filling. For 50p you can buy a chilled cheese and ham toastie which they then pop in the toaster for you. Not very nutritious but bloody gorgeous and cheap.

  

Back to the hotel, via a quick foot massage!

  

  

Friday:-

Today…….I decided, was my last day in Koh Samui. It’s been great, chilled and relaxing, although a little lonely, and I could easily get lazy and stay, but I’m moving on.

I do a last recap of my belongings, adding a few more bits to my send home pile, and pack up the cardboard box I bought from the post office a week ago. It’s full although I don’t think it’s the 10kg I was hoping for. After a quick breakfast I head out to the post office. It’s hot, the box (and the plastic tubing containing my oil painting from Phuket) is heavy and the destination is a fair walk away. Despite the repeated offers of a taxi which kind of goes with the territory her – you either get a beep from a passing vehicle or a shout from across the street “lady, taxi?” – I declined all. Oh boy, do I need the exercise. Missing it big time. More really cute kittens along the way!!

  

Hot and sweaty I found the post office and after a little to-ing and fro-ing the boxes are taped up, weighed, priced and all declarations completed. A few bucks, quite a few, lighter I head back.

I stop at Wave for a welcome tomato juice. Bonus – not only do they have Worcester sauce but Tabasco too. My cup runners over. Heaven! I also hand them books novels I’ve finished and no longer want to carry and wham, bonus #2, I can chose a free one from their lending library. I’ve had my eye on it a while and know just where to find it – Hunger Games part three. Mockingjay. Next stop the beach, or rather my adopted resort hotel. Today I’m braver still and sit by the pool. I am the target of 4 Italian men (actually 3 italians and an Israeli) who kind of corner me in the pool. Harmless enough and despite saying know they buy me a drink. Within the first 5 minutes one of them has asked me my age and told me a should get a boob job – oh those romantic Italians!!! I later find out he’s a cosmetic surgeon so I half let him off. I escape them by agreeing to meet them at 10 tonight at the Bondi Bar. In the meantime I meet a large British family and spend the rest of the action talking to them.

After I’ve washed and changed I go in search of food and to book my ferry ticket to Koh Tao for tomorrow. Instead I bump into Sarah. She has now finished her yoga retreat and has moved into the same hotel as me. She has 5 days to chill. We agree to meet up later. I find food and book my ticket with a very friendly travel agent who does me an amazing deal on the fast boat as the ferry pick up service is full, and I’m too far out not to have hotel pick up. He’s so helpful and gives me loads of tips for finding accommodation and things to do.

I meet Sarah and although it well past 10 we decide to. Go to Bondi to see if the Italians are there. They’ve moved on but the vibe is great and the music fantastic. I love the way the Thai’s sing in english but don’t quite get the words formed completely. Not bad singing in a second language – they were talented too.

Adele’s Rolling in the Deep was awesome and so were the Guns n Roses numbers. We had a wonder along the main drag which was by now quiet and walked along to the Reggae Bar. Completely different atmosphere here and a lot more sex for sale – talk about in your face!

Back to the hotel (alone just in case you thought I was tempted) for my last night in my little room which has become home.

Saturday:-

Check out was 12 and the pick up for the boat was 12:30 so I had plenty of time this morning. I managed to pack everything in two bags and do them up with ease. I thinks there’s still more to lose but as use toiletries things are getting lighter by default. I meet Sarah downstairs, say my goodbyes to my hotel family and jump in the bus. I’m off on another adventure.

The journey to the port is about 30 minutes and then there’s the usual bun fight to get checked in, get my Koh Tao (blue) sticker, and a blue ribbon for my bag which I leave in the luggage area once I’m on the boat. It’s all seamless and although my bag is still heavy it’s much more compact and I can carry it on my back. I choose a seat at the top at the back in the open air. It’s got a canopy for shade but the breeze is wonderful.

  

  

  

Only 30 minutes in we stop at Koh Pang Nang – the Full Moon party island. I skipped this one. The Full Moon party, which was Thursday night, was not for me and definitely not for a single lady anyway. The island looks busy and the remnants of the party goers are leaving – for Koh Tao. A clever business woman was selling ice-creams on the dock side and using a bucket strapped to a pole to exchange money and said ice-creams across to the boat – genius!

  

The boat was full to bursting. Thank goodness I had a seat – wonder how easy finding a room will be. The scenery was amazing and I enjoyed the next hour’s journey. We soon arrived and all passengers were herded off – that’s not an exaggeration! Because I was one of the first on my bag was at the bottom of the pile and so I was almost last off. It was the usual gauntlet of taxi drivers, but for 100 thb I got a trip to the central area nearest the best beach. Along with every other Tom, Dick, Harry, Fritz or Vladamir. I shared the back of a truck with two other guys – they hadn’t booked accommodation and in their words “we’re screwed”. Did that mean me too??

  

Now what? I had no idea where to start looking for accommodation so I followed my feet. This is where it got scary. The first few places I tried were fully booked. The next one cost 2300BHT per night – nearly 4 times what I’d been paying. I next stumbled across some bungalows called Blue Wind. They had availability but for 900BHT. The weather looked ominous and I was starting to be a tad concerned so I checked out the room – beautiful, I took it. Relieved I dumped my stuff and had a wander down to the beach.

  

  

On the way to the beach I found a Yoga room. Morning classes – not Bikram, but tempting non the less. I met a girl, Nora, who was also contemplating the yoga and we got talking about yoga. She told me how to find the backpackers where she was staying. Somewhere to check out later. Despite being overcast the beach was gorgeous. I pulled up a big comfy cushion at a restaurant and ordered. I stayed there a few hours and just chilled. Considering I’d done nothing all day I was tired. I think moving to somewhere new and travelling in unfamiliar ways takes it out of me.

  

Check out was at 11 in the morning so I wanted to take some time in the evening to secure a room for tomorrow. Everywhere was booked. The backpacker place previously recommended was full and strangely they “didn’t know of any other backpackers”!!!!!! Thailand is not endearing me to it! I ventured into the main strip, up a hill, and back out the other side. I found myself walking down a unlit road and wondering what an earth could be down here. I was just turning back when I met two girls. I asked if they knew of any accommodation and they suggested I follow them to a backpackers. I would never have found it on my own. They were booked too but once I’d spoken to the Irish guy running the place he said he potentially had room tomorrow. The rooms were basic, really basic (I won’t even tell you about the bathroom), but the place had a good friendly vibe and for 200BHT (4 quid) it was perfect. So different from the room I had for tonight. I put my name down for tomorrow nights BBQ – always optimistic! I had to check back for final confirmation in the morning so fingers crossed. (Mum – there are cats, and kittens, and dogs everywhere here and on the whole they are well cared for. I’d have hundreds if I lived here I think!)

I was escorted back along the jungle track to the main road so I could find my way. Hopefully it will be easier to find tomorrow in the light. I got to the main drag again and stopped at a bar. It was in full swing and I got the impression everyone knew everyone – except me. Oh well, the beer was good and cheap.

Before crashing in my expensive room for the night I stopped at a roadside cafe and had a quick noodle soup. Ummm, not sure what was in it but but I had to leave some of the chunky bits. Not quite to my taste!

  

Sunday:-

Although the room was very comfortable it was very hot. I had a welcome ceiling fan which sadly sounded like a clucking chicken all night. I vaguely remember the phone ringing at some point – in the morning I found out it was Dad at around 4am. Needless to say I didn’t have the best nights sleep. I think knowing I had to check out before 11 was also on my mind.

After showering, around 9, I headed out for breakfast and to get wifi – I needed to confirm my place at the backpackers tonight. I unintentionally had a big breakfast. I ordered cereal and yoghurt and eggs. The cereal arrived and it was huge. I tried cancelling the eggs but they were already cooked. So, I did the only decent thing and ate it all. My place at the backpackers was confirmed. I also met a girl at the restaurant and she told me about cheaper bungalows here – might be worth checking out.

Back to the room to pack and then to reception to check out. No cheaper rooms so onto the backpackers. It was definitely the hottest day today and the backpackers was a fair trek up hill. By the time I got there with my bags I was sweaty wreck. Despite being early they checked me into my dorm. It was a 8 bed dorm and I was the only girl. Sharing a small bathroom with 7 guys!!!! This could be interesting!

  

  

  

      

  

  

I dumped my stuff and headed off to the beach. I wanted to jump in the sea to cool down but also explore some too. I found a shady spot to stash my things and walked out into the sea. It was shallow a fair way out but got deep enough to swim. At this point the coral appeared and the water became to shallow to swim over it. I grabbed my snorkel and went back into the sea. There was quite a variety of fish to see and it kept me entertained for a while.

    

  

  

  

I carried along the beach until I came to a rock formation blocking the beach. I tried to walk around it but had to turn back. I met four people and joined them for a snorkel. They were all travelling alone but had met at their backpackers. Over time I realised their hostel was the one I’d just checked into. Cool! I spent most of the rest of the day. Great fun. They headed back to the hostel while I explored more of beach area and beyond. I wandered back past the ferry pier and checked out the small stalls before turning back. As usual I got a bit lost but eventually found my way.

  

  

Back to the hostel to wash and change. It had been a very sweaty day. The shower was a challenge trying to wash and keep the rest of my stuff dry but oh, that cool water was so welcome. I managed the logistical challenge in peace, then went down to the common area. It was great to chat with everyone and it was BBQ night. The food kicked in around 8. Coleslaw, a mash mountain and beef, chicken and pork. This is the most food I’ve eaten in ages. We all sat around on a huge tarp eating, talking, listening to music and laughing. A really fun night. I turned in just after midnight which is just when the others were heading out.

It was an awkward time trying to change for bed in the presence of 2 guys I hadn’t met yet – both more my age.

Anyway, it was nite nite.

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