Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

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We arrived in Koh Samui, Thailand with a great sigh of relief.

Our long transfer between Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport left us with literally minutes to spare before our plane took off and we were convinced that we would miss our flight.

We had no idea when we booked our flights to Koh Samui via Bangkok that the transfer between it’s airports would be so long and during the what felt like almost 2 hour transfer we grew increasingly more and more relieved that we hadn’t chosen Bangkok as one of our travel destinations because from what we could see Bangkok looked utterly horrendous.

Bangkok was a city that was both noisy, busy, dirty and absolutely HUGE. Not at all what we were looking for.

2 years ago Josh and I had visited the Thai island of Koh Samui and had fallen in love with the tropical paradise that seemed to offer alot more then just stunning beaches. A true taste of Thailand, it was a great spot from which to visit the many other neighbouring islands, see ancient Buddhist temples, sample the world famous Thai cuisine, meet with endangered animals, languish on palm fringed beaches, and experience the centuries old wellness traditions that see Thailand as having some of the best spa’s in the world. Indeed, Koh Samui appeared to have it all.

We have never been the slightest bit interested in visiting Bangkok because it sounded as if it was the seedy part of Thailand. We wanted to experience a much more natural environment and see a more traditional way of life so we had chosen Koh Samui as our first stop in Thailand where we would be staying for a month and then we were off to Chiang Mai, the magical, spiritual place in the mountains.

After our experience with miserable Lena The Cleaner at Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin in Bali, I was a little concerned about what we might encounter when we arrived at our new villa in Thailand. In Canggu, we had been staying at a brand new luxury hotel, and being only the second people to ever stay there it was ultra, ultra clean with no creepy crawlies whatsoever. And now that I had firsthand experienced of people essentially LYING about the quality of their establishments on Airbnb I had cause for concern because I knew that I would not be able to deal with any frowsiness or nastiness therefore I was praying that the description and pictures that had been posted online were accurate.

Our 3 bedroom private villa was located in Mae Nam, in the middle of Santiburi Golf Course – Samui’s largest Golf Club. From what we could see of the pictures the villa looked not just huge (it was over 4 thousand square feet!) but lovely too, with lots of beautiful and original features, it’s very own infinity pool, balconies from the bedrooms overlooking the surrounding forest and mountains, a sala (a traditional Thai open pavilion where you can sit and be protected from the sun and rain), tropical gardens and an out-house, where the master bedroom was located with it’s own luxurious outdoor bathroom.

When we had found it we were immediately seduced by the spaciousness, and how clean and immaculate it looked. Also my sister was going to be coming to Thailand to stay with us for just under 2 weeks (yay!) so we knew that we had to get somewhere reasonably big and this villa comfortably housed 6 people so we had plenty of space!

We were picked up from the airport by the villa manager called Tor (yeah I know, lol) who seemed lovely and very professional (not at all like miserable Lena the Cleaner!)

I knew that we were staying in a private residence that was essentially on the grounds of a golf course but this still did not prepare me for the long drive through the forest to get to our villa.

When we turned off of the main road onto the windy road that was to be our refuge for the next month I began to get excited. What an entrance! With gigantic coconut trees lining the path on both sides and the sunshine streaming through the trees it was all very wild and dramatic. Round and round the windy road we went, with the forest getting denser and denser as we went. We passed a few small houses on the way, but the more we drove the less habitation we saw and then I could have sworn that I saw an animal amongst the trees – it looked to me like a bull or something. What kind of location is this? I’m being taken to I began to wonder.

Minutes later and we were still driving through this jungle of a place and I began to get concerned as it dawned on me that Josh and I would have to do this journey everyday! And since Josh was so into this scooter business at the moment then we would have to do this journey everyday on a scooter in the dead of night as this place had sporadic lighting.

Almost 6 minutes later and we arrived at our villa and by then we were so deep into the forest that I couldn’t for the life of me remember the way back!

Our villa thankfully, came as a pleasant surprise. Located down the end of a quiet, residential tree lined street, it had an immediate feel of calm and exclusivity about it. Despite being so deep into the forest, there were clearly many other foreigners who had bought land here and had built their own villa’s in this very remote and peaceful location. You really were surrounded on all sides here by thousands and thousands of Coconut trees that seemed to go on for miles and miles. All you could see where Coconut trees, and apart from the roads that meandered to the various houses scattered among it there were no other roads, therefore no road noise.

And despite the lack of a sea view, it had a magnificent view of the surrounding hills and mist covered mountains that was spellbinding. I needn’t have worried about frowsiness thankfully because the villa was immaculate. Clearly belonging to an older European couple, the villa was crammed full of oriental art and statues, plus it had books for days! The owners had left us a manual, which was both comprehensive and funny, giving us lots of information about the house and the surrounding area.  They said that they lived there for 3 months of the year and we could tell because the place felt very homely though the decor was perhaps a tad dated.

When we arrived we also met the cleaners who had done an amazing job of cleaning the villa and had left us with fresh flowers in almost every room and a bowl full of fresh fruit and a fridge full of drinks to welcome us. And we did feel very welcome.

We took a stroll around the villa and were pleased to find the 2 double bedrooms in the main house immaculately clean with towell decorations and flowers on the beds, plus they both had en suites and balconies with stunning views of the mountains. I was sure my sister was going to be very pleased with either!

The large kitchen was open plan and lead out to the tropical gardens on one side and a generously appointed infinity pool on the other. Seating too was abundant, with a dining table in the kitchen, comfortable sofa’s in the front room, another dining table outside by the pool, cushioned chairs in the sala, chairs on the balcony outside our room, sunbeds beside the pool and chairs in all of the bedrooms. We were literally spoilt for choice when it came to where we chose to luxuriate ourselves!

Our master bedroom was particularly lovely. It had floor to ceiling windows on all sides and though slightly overlooked on one side due to it partially facing a neighbours poolside it was protected by foliage, yet still felt wonderfully private and luxurious. It was HUGE, with a dark wood four poster bed and carefully chosen pieces of art signifying it’s grandeur. But of course for me being the bath lover that I am, and certainly my main reason for me wanting this villa in particular, was the bathroom.

Double doors lead us into a marble floored bathroom which was spacious with his and hers sinks, a seperate shower and a glass partition that lead outside to a stunning outdoor bathtub with a surrounding wall, pebbled flooring and a view of the tall coconut trees swaying in the breeze.

Conjuring up an evening outside in the bathtub by candlelight with the scent of orchids and frangipani’s growing freely in our gardens I felt at ease.

Yes, I considered. I think we will be happy here.

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Our 3 bedroom villa with seperate master suite and infinity pool 

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Double doors leading into our elegant bathroom

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The Master Suite

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An outdoor bathtub (yay!)

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Pool Access, just like at Sense, but here, we have it all to ourselves!

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Balcony view from our villa 

Skeeter Syndrome 

The next morning I awoke to an intense throbbing and itchy pain on my buttocks, my thighs and my legs. The mosquitoes had DESTROYED ME. Realising that when the cleaners were here preparing for our arrival they must have left the doors and windows wide open, the mosquitoes probably sensing new blood (i.e me because they never seem to go after Josh!) had basically ravaged me and when I awoke to see how many times this abominable mosquitos (or indeed mosquitoes) had bitten me I was left in shock. They had literally bitten me about 20 times!!

After Josh checked me over properly he found that it was even worse then we had initially thought – some of my bites had swollen up and were hot to the touch – particularly the one on my thigh. I have had this reaction before to mosquitoe bites – it appears that I am allergic to them. I had felt really hot in the night, partly it was because it was hot (our ceiling fan was not working and we had turned the AC off), and partly it was because I was uncomfortable in this new place. It always takes me at least a few days to acclimatise particularly when staying in a place so WILD.

Since we had encountered so many abominable creatures in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (such as bats, snails, gecko’s and spiders), and caterpillars and even cockroaches in Pumpkin Village, I was on edge at what might lurching in the darkness. Also, I had heard strange noises in the middle of the night. It sounded like it might be a gecko. For this reason I had probably been sweating like woah, and therefore the mosquitoes had probably gone into into a feeding frenzy (since they are attracted to body heat).

The pain and discomfort on my legs and buttocks, despite me using bite soothing cream did not appear to be improving and instead some of the bites began to become inflamed and I struggled to sleep because of the discomfort. These buzzards had eaten me alive and now I had to sleep on my back to try and get some reprieve.

What is the bloody point of mosquitoes anyway?! I ask you.

 Josh done some further research online and he encountered a symptom of mosquitoe bites called Skeeter Syndrome which he immediately diagnosed me with. Skeeter Syndrome is a severe reaction to the saliva from a mosquitoe which produces an enlarged swelling of the infected area (check), that itches, is painful and is hot to the touch (check, check, check). That’s it! Doctor Josh, lol, prescribed me some antihistamine tablets and hydrocortisone cream to bring down the swelling, plus we got some salt to add to a bath to reduce the swelling also which we picked up from Boots the Chemist would you believe?! Yes, there is a Boots here and they have a Tesco’s too which is where we’ve been doing all of our shopping. It’s great! lol

Bathtub Betty

Now that I have been diagnosed with an allergy to mosquitoes we need to be especially careful about me getting bitten. In our villa we have patio doors with internal mesh sliding doors that you can use when you want a bit of fresh air with no creatures (always then!) and once we had decided to sample our luxurious bathtub we made sure to buy lemongrass scented candles (since we couldn’t find any citronella), and have our bath in the early evening before the mosquitoes emerged to try and find their human dinner. The bathtub was big and comfy, and having the gentle breeze kissing your skin, with the sounds of nature whilst you sit in a steaming hot bath with a rose scented bath bomb is second to none.  The bath was lovely but I still think they should have put mesh over the top as creatures can still fly on it and that is not the most relaxing of experiences. At Pumpkin Village we also had an outdoor bathroom with mesh covering and that seemed to work well (mind you they had an infestation of caterpillars!)

*sigh* this wildness really is a challenge!

Fishermans Village

Fishermans Village is a popular, pedestrianised area in Koh Samui, a short drive away from our villa in Mae Nam, with a collection of some of the best restaurants and boutique retail shops on the island. It’s location alongside Bophut beach, featuring free nightly fire dancing entertainment and it’s famous Friday “night market” where locals sold their arts and crafts and street food, made it one of the most popular places for tourists on the whole island. When we had visited 2 years ago, we liked it so much that we visited it a few times and it was always busy and vibrant. Plus, because alot of the sellers were locals you could pick up some really unique handmade gifts for cheap. There was a particular restaurant that we had discovered whilst there which done really good food so we decided that we’d go back there for dinner.

Barracuda was a restaurant in the middle of Fishermans Village offering deliciously fresh seafood and since Josh and I are trying to stay away from meat, the abundance of fresh fish on their menu suited us just fine. When we visited again we were delighted to find that the food was just as fresh and the menu just as original as we’d found it 2 years ago.

Josh’s Birthday 

It was Josh’s birthday the following day and I had booked a spa day for the both of us and then a wine tasting experience and dinner at The Dining Room, a restaurant in Lamai that we had discovered in Thailand in our previous trip and had fallen in love with.

If you’re wondering whether we have spent all our times in luxury spa’s then you wouldn’t be completely wrong as this would be our 8th spa treatment since being in SE Asia. Not bad at all!

Anantara, the giant of a hotel brand that had stunning resorts all over Asia, was somewhere that I knew would be right up Josh’s and my street. It was both mysterious  and exotic, decorated in a luxurious and unique asian inspired style and heavily influenced by nature so displayed by their use of local wood, distinctive lily ponds and coconut tree lined resorts in far away locales. This is where I had chosen to take Josh for his birthday, during which he would experience almost 3 hours of their spa treatment aptly named the “Gulf of Siam”. Comprising a shower, foot bath, royal thai massage, foot reflexology and an Anantara signature facial after which he was then served a light snack, sounded perfect and I was sure that this, combined with the unique location of the spa amongst a tranquil paradise like tropical gardens, with lily ponds, water fountains, coconut and palm trees, and secret passageways would make for an exceptional experience of pure luxury and abundant relaxation. And I was right. We were taken to a large private walled suite within the gardens where we were pampered to within an inch of our lives.

I had chosen their “Journey of Siam” spa package which was just over 2 hours long and featured a floral foot ritual, herbal thai steam, shower, coconut body scrub, another shower and then a royal thai massage and refreshment and I was utterly knackered by the end of it. Each treatment was equally relaxing and equally luxurious, and the showers amongst the gardens made me feel like I was in the Herbal Essences/Timotei advert again!

They used a blend of wonderfully scented natural ingredients that just soaked right into my skin. I could FEEL the quality. My therapist seemed to know every trick in the Thai book of massages. And in my experience they are the best at it. Afterwards I felt as though I was floating in the air and I was so content and literally falling asleep that at one point I think I may have even dribbled! lol.

Josh on the other hand was literally on the verge of a coma when he returned from his 3 hour pamperation. He even LOOKED different. His body and feet had been massaged to within an inch of their achy lives and his face had been transformed into a shiny new (and perhaps younger) version of his self. I hadn’t told him beforehand what they would be doing to him but all the while he said that he was just thinking to himself: How long can this possibly go on for? lol.

I will admit that it did feel like a deliciously long time but I guess you get what you pay for!

Whilst we were there, we took the opportunity to enquire about Anantara’s Vacation Club – essentially a timeshare for staying in their luxury resorts worldwide. Since we were now convinced about the Anantara brand based on the standard and style of their hotels and the locations of their resorts (they were based througout Asia though they also had a few locations in Africa, and the Middle East also), we took them up on their offer to attend a presentation to promote their various “packages”. Really, we were already half convinced that they were going to come with a request for an extortionate amount of money to opt in that we had no intention of paying but we thought we would hear them out anyway and besides, they were offering free vouchers (worth quite alot of money) to use in their spa’s, select excursions and various high end restaurants on the island whether we did or did not sign up so it was a no brainer!

It was a wonderful experience at Anantara but unfortunately it didn’t leave us much time to go home and change before we had to leave for our dinner reservation and it didn’t look like we would make the wine tasting.

On the way to dinner we remembered seeing a sign for a “Shortcut to Lamai” which was where the hotel/restaurant was located. As I was keen to make the wine tasting that was happening an hour before dinner I agreed that we should definitely take the shortcut which was off of the main road. But little did we know what this shortcut consisted of.

Not more then 5 minutes in we start creeping up a steep incline, it was almost as if we were climbing a mountain it was so steep. I didn’t sign up for this! I scream at Josh and we just about make it over one incline and down a sharp hill that we can’t even see over the dashboard and up another extremely steep mountainous like terrain. I felt like I was in the krypton factor or something – some kind of bloody assault course or a ride in Alton Towers. When we looked ahead all we could see was sharp turns and steep drops on both sides of the road. It was by this time getting darker and darker and we had extremely poor visibility due to the insistence of the Thai authorities of not providing lighting in these kinds of remote areas. It was utterly petrifying. A part of me, a big part, was utterly convinced that we were going to fall to our deaths either because of our gears giving up the ghost and rolling backwards to our deaths or by falling over the side of these narrow and extremely sharp mountain ranges. And since we were not driving a 4 x 4 this was a very possible outcome. It was tense. Thankfully we arrived there in one piece but it was not without a calm and skilled level of driving by Josh.

When we got to the restaurant and told them about our journey the waiter basically told us that it was far too dangerous to drive that way at night, alas there was absolutely NO SIGNAGE to tell us this before we embarked on the perilous journey, or even to inform us of the steep inclines of the road (i.e mountain!).

We decided we would not be going back that way no matter how long it took us how to get home. We were very keen to stay alive.

Dinner was wonderful. And as special as we remembered. The Dining Room is the restaurant of a boutique hotel on Lamai beach called Rocky’s Boutique Resort, which in my opinion is a rubbish name that certainly does not convey the unique position it has on the beach that is both romantic and glamorous at the same time. Thousands of red lanterns hang from the surrounding trees and chairs are set up with huge cushions with tables and twinkling lights on the precipice of a rock face where you can hear and see the waves of the Andaman Sea gently lapping against the shore. Food is a mixture of French and Thai inspired modern cuisine which is delicious and the service is both professional and friendly at the same time. Since we had been there before two years ago I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be as magical as before but it was the perfect place to spend Josh’s birthday. We sat there reminiscing whilst reflecting on our time in SE Asia so far and how much we were looking forward to the future.

We spent Christmas Eve at Fishermans Village where we watched fire dancers on the beach from a brand new restaurant/beach bar called Coco Tams, which was playing simply AMAZING house music and serving great pizza’s (pizza’s that rivalled Spaccanopoli in Ubud even!). The fire dancers perform nightly on the Bophut beach, and it’s completely free to all. Spinning sticks engulfed in flames, blowing flames sky high and creating a fireworks like display of sparkles with unbelievable care and skill was awe inspiring. And being it was Christmas Eve it felt even more special.

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An abundance of nature and tranquility at Anantara Bophut

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The scene is set at Rocky’s Boutique Resort 

BAP HIM!

That night when we returned home from dinner we found our resident gecko (who doesn’t deserve a name because I didn’t like him), scurrying around our bathroom like a madman. Clearly the gecko was utterly petrified of us and wished to find a place to hide from us and I can well appreciate this, but the fact remains that I’m bloody scared of him too and I do not want to see a small brown lizardy thing scurrying about my bedroom quarters, oozing white tipped brown poo from his scaly bum, and discarding his crusty scaled tail (as they do) as he goes! I’m not into it!

I understand his strategy: He wishes to seek shelter in our abode whilst trapping small insects in the easiest way possible. And he’s completely harmless to humans – he doesn’t bite, scratch, pounce, anything. Perhaps he’s even safer then many other types of household pets such as dogs and cats who can be vicious or carry diseases but the difference is I choose for them to be in my abode. I didn’t choose him. He snuck himself in and scared the bajeezers out of me when I was trying to brush my teeth, then again when I was going to the toilet in the middle of the night, when I was trying to sleep but was rudely awoken by his distinctive clicking sound, or when I grabbed for the towell that he was hiding under after having a shower.

I do not like this element of surprise and I do not like the idea of him pooing his white tipped poo onto my head in the middle of the night. I want him gone! I tell Josh. Josh suggests that he trap him in the bathroom with a box and a broom and gently try to brush him into it, but this gecko doesn’t want to be swept. He wants to live in our abode but that will never do!

The gecko quickly scurries away and hides underneath the sink and after 10 minutes of clearing the whole bathroom and trying to coax him out of his hidey hole Josh eventually decides to give up this particular strategy. Instead, he suggest, I’ll wait for him to appear again and then I’ll BAP HIM!

Nooo! I say to him. I do not want you to BAP HIM! That’s evil! I want him to remain alive but I want him out of our abode. You’re going to have to find a way to get him out without hurting him. I feel sorry for him since we have closed every available entrance (for other creatures such as mosquitoes who might have been getting any ideas about setting up home here) and thus an exit (for him). He can’t get out even if he wanted to.

Josh says to me again that since the gecko is too fast it will be impossible to get him without BAPPING HIM so he plans to go ahead with his plan but he promises to just BAP HIM to stun him not to hurt him. Reluctantly I agree.

Since then we haven’t seen nor heard hide nor hair from the gecko. He must understand what BAP HIM means, lol.

 The Weather in Samui

Unfortunately we haven’t had fantastic weather since we’ve been here. It hasn’t rained but it has been overcast which hasn’t really made us feel inspired to go to the beach and I feel as though my tan is fading which will never do!

Nonetheless, we have been swimming in our private saltwater infinity pool at our villa and it has been wonderful. And we visited Cheong Mon beach, considered to be one of the best beaches in Samui for the firsttime too. We didn’t think it was all that when we saw it but perhaps that was partly because it didn’t seem to be that big, there was lots of children and it was overcast that day. Chaweng is the most popular beach in Samui because it’s huge, there are lots of beach bars and restaurants etc posted on it and it has some of the cleanest, clearest water and white sand. But because of this it also attracts hoardes of tourists, including lots of Brits but unfortunately, they are not looking the best.

In comparison to Bali, where everyone was healthy, tanned and lovely, the people who come to Thailand look decidedly bloated, and suspiciously red raw like a lobster. Perhaps they are spending far too much time in the sun, eating far too many pies and drinking far too many beers *sigh*.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day we spent at the beach as in the afternoon the clouds decided to clear and we experienced brilliant sunshine for a couple of hours. The beach wasn’t as busy as I remembered it being thankfully, and it was refreshingly devoid of hardly any mention of it being Christmas Day which suited us just fine. The Thai people do not celebrate Christmas so why should they make an exception for Westerners. Do we make exceptions for their religious/important holidays? No, of course not. So I very much enjoyed spending a day without having the commercialism of Christmas being rammed down my throat, the cheesiness of the songs and the tackiness of the decorations. I was very happy! We had a leisurely lunch at The Library, another Thai establishment well known for it’s original, contemporary designed hotel and more specifically it’s red coloured swimming pool which did look very inviting I must say. The food was delicious – we both had vegetarian green thai curry and it was fresh and very very tasty.

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Chaweng Beach

Zazen

The decision to spend our Christmas Dinner at Zazen (minus the actual Christmas menu like all good Thai hotels on Christmas Day) was in part because Zazen had been my original choice of where to take Josh for his birthday dinner before deciding on The Dining Room as it was special to both of us.  Zazen, along with The Dining Room, were both considered to be two of the most romantic restaurants in Koh Samui, and perhaps coincidentally they both featured the colour red prominently in their establishments.

Like Rocky’s, Zazen was also a hotel, spa and restaurant, and perhaps similarly to Anantara, they were all about creating an otherwordly type of experience by combining unique architecture, with natural materials, an exquisite and ultra luxurious Asian inspired decor, landscaped tropical gardens and an impressive entrance. And as it was Christmas Day, even though they were far too high end to be cheesy with out and out Christmas decorations, they still used the combination of twinkly lights to full effect by draping almost every tree in them in the leisurely and extremely long walk up to the main reception through the beautiful natural gardens.

By the time we made it to the restaurant both Josh and I were already sold. The place was simply magical.

But they had more for us. We went for a 6 course seafood menu, and each and every dish they brought us was beyond our expectations. The food, and in particular the prawns which were hands down the best prawns I have ever had in my entire life! was certainly prepared by the hands of a master chef. The prawns were the juiciest, the freshest and the moistest and most flavourful I have had. I don’t know how long they had been marinating in the sauce but goodness me!

The decoration too, was tasteful but simply festive and Josh and I had the pleasure of being sat next to a huge red hued Christmas tree which made it feel very festive indeed. Such an absolutely stunning, stunning place! I was so impressed with the service, the food and the restaurant and hotel itself that I have decided that when my sister arrives we’re going back!

When we returned home from dinner we made sure to Skype both of our families to with them a Merry Christmas. Funnily enough they have seen/heard more from us since we’ve been away!

This Christmas in Thailand has been so special, so very relaxing and stress free that the only thing that has been missing has been our families. If they had been here then I believe we would have easily reached perfection (and we didn’t even exchange gifts!)

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Magical Zazen

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STori x

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