Day 4 of our travels last year ended with a mini-bus hurtle from Penang north to the Thailand border, a bizarre border town where we temporarily lost a passenger and found an elephant in the main street, and eventually a transfer to a bigger bus to continue north. Day 5 started in surreal fashion, waking periodically to the steady drum of the racing bus and the loud noise of the TV with some violent video. Sometimes the bus paused and extra passengers ended up sitting in the aisles. And it roared on through the night, eating up the highway – such that it was.
Then at 4.30am it stopped. At some sort of checking post in the middle of nowhere in particular. The quiet was a welcome change. Nothing seemed to happen. Some other vehicles came and stopped as well. Some moved on. We remained stationary and most passengers slept on. The local dogs turned up. They sat around as well. Sometimes they lay and sometimes they got up and walked around. It was that sort of place. It was still dark by the time I’d got the social structure of the dog pack sorted out.
Eventually we moved on a bit further and we could see that we were at a port, of some sort. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but my memory from 35 years before was not proving very reliable anyway. We all got off the bus to stand around – which made a change from sitting around. The tired ones soon went back to sitting. It was that sort of place.
Eventually we got sorted out and issued with tickets – it seemed there were different islands and different boats. Most of the passengers were younger – about 35 years younger – and they were heading for the diving/party islands. We were heading for Koh Samui where I’d been 35 years ago before it was even in the book. We knew it’d been overrun but hoped there was still somewhere nice to stay. The ferry boarding was all a bit haphazard – it wouldn’t have paid to be dozing or in the toilet or off looking for a coffee or anything. The Koh Samui ferry finally left, still in the dark, and we found somewhere to doze some more. It was a trip of only an hour and a half, and dawn had dawned by the time we arrived at the island. It didn’t look anything like what I remembered and I had an awful feeling that maybe we’d been on the wrong boat.
We got off and most passengers disappeared. We sat around, wondering what to do next. I picked up a map and got a shock to see that it was the wrong island. Until I turned the map over and found our island on the other side. Be still beating heart. We worked out that our ferry had come to a wharf about 10kms from the main port/town. I was sure all taxi drivers were crooks/touts etc so we didn’t get off to a good start with any negotiations.
We’d decided that Lemai Beach wasn’t as bad as Chaweng Beach so eventually engaged the only taxi that hadn’t given up on us to head in that direction. He suggested a place he thought might be good and we agreed to have a look. It was our lucky day as it turned out to be a lovely little bungalow/resort on the quiet end of Lemai Beach. They had some delightful rooms at more than we wanted to pay and back from the beach. But clean cool and comfortable. He was not a crook/tout taxi driver after all – it was somewhere just right for us. We were soon enjoying breakfast at the beach-side restaurant and soon enough had our first swim of the day. Koh Samui may be Paradise Spoiled, but it is not yet completely Lost.
Gallery of photos – Travels in South East Asia August-September 2011
Click on thumbnails to see full size. (And then you can click through them)