Week 1 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Week 1 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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As soon as we arrived in Chiang Mai we were greeted with a sun so intense it almost scorched both our eyebrows off. Before we had left Koh Samui for Chiang Mai we had been warned by various people there, including our villa’s cleaners and the staff at the Anantara hotel in Samui, that Chiang Mai was cold at this time of year so we were a half expecting to have to purchase coats when we arrived but as it turned out it couldn’t possibly have been hotter.

When we checked the forecast for the coming week all we could see was wall to wall sunshine on the horizon and it was due to be even hotter then the time we spent in Koh Samui and Bali combined! Woo hoo!

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I hadn’t done much research on Chiang Mai before we arrived there so I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that it was a very popular destination for travellers because of it’s temperate climate, had an abundance of things to do, and was even cheaper then Koh Samui. And I also knew that this was the home of Thai Elephants.

Seeing elephants, up close and personal in their natural surroundings, living their lives happy and free, was something that I always wanted to see whilst I was in Thailand. And in Chiang Mai, because it was located in the mountains, there was an abundance of elephants, lots who had been taken into good and into not so good care by sanctuary’s once the law was passed a few years ago that they mustn’t be used for work. But many of the sanctuary’s, indeed the vast majority of them in Asia, used the animals instead as ploys for tourism and allowed these beautiful, intelligent creatures of majesty and awe to be ridden. Not only did not I not want to ride an elephant, I also did not want to even see them being ridden as the thought of an elephant, so graceful a creature, being used in this way for our cheap human titillation made me feel very sad. So Josh and I had decided that the only way that we would want to see an elephant in Thailand is if it were free, and by that we meant no chains, no ropes and NO RIDING.

Our accommodation whilst we were in Chiang Mai was in the heart of the city. This time I knew that we had picked the right location for our travels as our condominium was located just a few minutes walk away from the very glamorous MAYA shopping mall, and just off the hugely popular Nimmanhaemin  Road, considered to be the most upmarket area of Chiang Mai with it’s abundance of boutique shops, bars, spas, restaurants and luxury condo’s and though our condo was not as new as two of the other properties we had stayed at, namely Pumpkin Village in Ubud and Bali and Sense in Canggu, Bali, The Nimmana, where we were going to be staying for the next month, was one of the newest condominiums in this part of Chiang Mai, which meant that we were one of only a handful of people to stay in our apartment which we had booked directly through the owner on Airbnb.

Chiang Mai itself I soon found out was actually a very busy city. It offered access to the mountains, vast national parks and temples but it was still a city with lots of traffic and noise and absolutely no beaches but I was thankful when we pulled up to our new apartment that it was largely shielded from the noise. The Nimmana was a high rise building, with around 350 individual private apartments. With high security posted at the entrance 24 hours a day and key card access to the lift, rooms and floors, it felt very safe indeed. Along with it’s great location on Nimmanhaemin Road, it also had a huge pool, a sauna and a gym, which for Josh and me, meant that we would have to find yet another reason to evade exercise, lol.

Our apartment was on the 4th floor and in stark contrast to our previous villa in Koh Samui, was a bijou 1 bedroom apartment which was ultra modern, extremely clean and had a balcony that overlooked the pool area. The owner was Chinese and perhaps had never even stepped foot in the property judging by how immaculate the place was and the choice of glamorous interiors. Perhaps she had just purchased the apartment as an investment and hadn’t even lived there.

After being what was seriously beginning to feel like being under siege by the steady stream of gecko’s that were waltzing brazenly into our home back in Samui, I breathed a sigh of relief as I knew that now, finally I could get some undisturbed sleep as I realised that somewhere as clean and new as this was extremely unlikely to have any gecko’s at all. And I was right. There were absolutely no gecko’s to be found! And unlike in Bali and Koh Samui, though admittedly Bali was far worse, since arriving in Chiang Mai we had seen absolutely no dogs whatsoever!

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Our apartment at The Nimmana in Chiang Mai 

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The feeling of Chiang Mai, when we dropped our bags in our apartment and went for a walk couldn’t possibly have been anymore different from how it felt to walk in Koh Samui. It was very busy, with people, cars, bikes and taxi’s everywhere and it had a real buzz about it. The climate was dry and intensely warm, like the best summers day in England you could possibly imagine. It was nothing like Bali’s climate, which was very humid, and nothing like Koh Samui, which was generally overcast for our entire stay. Instead here it was sunny, warm and dry – almost spring like. The weather was ideal – I couldn’t for the life of me work out what on earth the people in Koh Samui were talking about – it was by far the best weather we had experienced so far!

Strolling around we could already see why Chiang Mai had such a good reputation and why there were so many people walking around with backpacks (who were clearly travellers like us). It was because it had a distinctive vibe about it, wasn’t overly commercial but it had lots of shopping centres, cafe’s, quirky little shops and restaurants serving everything from Japanese to Iraqi cuisine but it was still very Thai. The highly rated MAYA mall, when we got to it, looked to me like a smaller version of Westfield back in London and it was very glamorous indeed. Infact I was quite shocked to see how much money had clearly been spent on this shopping mall, and the surrounding area. MAYA looked like a huge crystal maze and another glamorous new shopping centre named One Nimman that was due to be officially open looked like Thailand’s version of Covent Garden. It was lovely!

These establishments clearly had some money behind them – they looked far better then any shopping mall I had been to in Koh Samui, infact right now, Chiang Mai was putting Samui to shame!

We checked out the mall which was a multi-storied extravaganza of floors selling a minimal amount of clothes (compared to UK stores) on the 1st floor along with makeup and fragrance, on the second floor there was sports ware, some clothes shops and homewares, the third floor the entire floor was pretty much dedicated to electronics everything from phones to camera’s, the fifth floor had a food hall, where we popped into a Japanese restaurant called Fuji to have some sushi  – so good! And then on the floor above that was an arcade, a social hub/co-working space, a cinema that was also showing 4K movies, a normal gym and a Muay Thai gym where you could sign up and learn Muay Thai in just a month. And the best thing about it was that even if you didn’t want to learn Muay Thai you could just sit there and watch them spar. So cool! And then on the floor above that there was rooftop bars that were only open in the evening.

London had a lot to learn when it came to the variety of shops available in it’s super duper shopping malls as far as I was concerned. In particular, when it came to providing places for people to work, such as this co-working space which almost took up half the 6th floor of the MAYA mall. It was amazing. Lots of break out spaces and private meeting rooms aswell as desks and benches to work from and it was open 24 hours a day allday everyday.

On our way back down the escalator we almost walked smack bang into an Anantara Vacation Club presentation table. When Josh saw it he pointed it out to me and we had a private chuckle amongst ourselves but again, the lure of the free gift vouchers proved to be too strong and by the time we had arrived back at our apartment we had decided that we were going to go again meaning, that we were going to approach Anantara pretending to be yet another couple (for the third time in our travels) in order to try and get some more of these vouchers. We decided that tomorrow would be the day!

We had a clear plan in mind. All we wanted was to get the free Anantara vouchers and for that we knew that we would have to sit through another one of their presentations only this time, we would have never been to the Chiang Mai Anantara before so we didn’t need to worry about being spotted (unless of course the Koh Samui branch had alerted them of our scam), lol.

The way we saw it was we were just claiming what they were offering though of course to claim what they were offering we would still need to pretend to be someone else then who we had been previously, lol so when we approached the Anantara desk in the mall casually as if to enquire about their Vacation Club out of interest, we gave them the names of Vanessa Thomas and Rob Jackson, a mixup of my mums maiden surname and my current surname and his brothers and my sisters first names to allow us to remember them more easily, and a new address etc and then they booked us in for the presentation the following day. Since we didn’t have any transport yet and we were staying in an apartment not a hotel we knew that it would be fine if they picked us up from our apartment this time since the security guards at our apartment didn’t know the names of who was staying in the condo’s. Once again, so far anyway, our audacity had taken us through to the next stage and we were feeling very confident indeed!

Ginger & Kafe

That night we went to a Thai fine dining restaurant in the Old City called Ginger & Kafe, which was in a part of the City that still retained some of the earlier Chiang Mai before it was rebuilt and expanded. The restaurant was very quirky and colourful and the food excellent. It had come highly rated and I could certainly attest to the quality of the food and the thoughtfulness of the interiors. It also had another more casual restaurant attached which looked pretty good also and there was a garden which looked like it might be a nice place to go for afternoon tea in the daytime.

Anantara Part 3

The fact was that we quite enjoyed hearing these presentations. Well I did anyway. Partly, I was interested in luxury travel and that was what they were selling, partly, I really liked the brand, partly I was amused by William and his antics and partly I wanted those generous vouchers again. Since they were picking us up from home and dropping us back, offering us tea and coffee and taking us around the resort to promote the Anantara brand, I thought that it was a pretty good deal for a couple of hours of our time. And at no point in time were me and Josh in the market for signing up to a Vacation Club anyway even if it was one of the more appealing ones. Still, when we arrived I felt the familiar buzz of anticipation, both with the excitement of possibly getting found out, wondering what kind of sales person we might get and what they might say as it seemed to me so far that every presentation was different depending on who you got. The first girl wasn’t very convincing at all, the second guy was better and we were given more information about the vacation club then the girl had provided. We wondered who we’d get this time?

We got an English man. As soon as I saw the guy I started to feel slightly uneasy for if there was going to be anyone to sniff out our identity’s then this guy would be the one to do so. He seemed nice enough though so I told myself to just relax and keep to the story of me being Vanessa and Josh being Rob and we’d be alright.

He began the presentation by trying to find out a little more about us, our travel habits, our holiday plans, our holiday budget. I had previously been warned by Josh to let him doing the talking since this being our third time it was likely to be a little more tricky with the details. I was under the impression that since there was no possible way for this man to convince us to sign up to his scheme it didn’t really matter what I said, but I vowed to listen to Josh. I would keep it zipped. It didn’t take long before I think we both realised that this guy, coupled with the fact that he was a native english speaker from our own country and so naturally had more in common with us then a Malaysian salesperson, he was actually pretty good.

So much so infact that by the time he got halfway through his presentation, despite me hearing this presentation 2 times before just a few weeks ago, despite the offer being pretty much the same, and despite the fact that we were only there for the vouchers and were not in the market for a timeshare at all, I was almost ready to sign up. And so was Josh! But surely he was just telling you what you had already heard? I hear you ask. Well yes and no, he was throwing in a few extra’s but also, more importantly I think, he showed us ways of getting the most out of our “points” and scamming the system that was trying to scam us in a way, he showed us more options then we knew had existed before and also he took us around the hotel grounds and to a show apartment to give us an example of what we would be getting if we signed up and of course I liked it very much.

The show apartment, which highlighted both the spaciousness and the distinctive Asian inspired Anantara style, was great, and getting access to all of the facilities in the hotel was a bonus. Perhaps to the salesman, whose name was Julian, it was starting to look as if he was wearing us down and maybe he was, well me anyway, as when I thought about all of the amazing locations the hotels were located in, many of where I’d never even considered going before such as Abu Dhabi and Mozambique, coupled with the ones I had such as Sri Lanka and Brazil, it was starting to make sense to me.

Did we like this brand? Yes. Could we afford it – technically yes if we were able to pay in installments. And the key question from him to us: Would there be anything that would stop you having a holiday within the next 5 years time? – this is where I had to keep schtoom because I knew in my heart of hearts that there was literally nothing that could keep me from travelling within the next 5 years time but I knew that Josh didn’t want to be backed into a corner by this guy as though he was also feeling the pressure with the deal looking more and more impressive by the minute, he was the logical one and had no intention of signing up to this club. But when Julian went to go to the toilet Josh admitted to me that if we hadn’t fraudulently used different names in order to get the free vouchers then there was a very strong possibility that he would have considered signing up. But now obviously we could not.

When we walked out of the Anantara with our third lot of vouchers in hand, this time we felt a little differently then the times before. It didn’t have the sense of naughtiness and excitement attached to it, perhaps in part because we’d played this game a few times now and maybe had gotten used to winning. But it was also because we felt that an opportunity had been missed that though expensive yes, would have opened up new and exciting possibilities for Josh and I in our travelling life and thus we have decided that when the time is right we will revisit the idea again for the purpose of seriously considering it.  So in that way, maybe they will win afterall!

IMG_1458The Anantara at night: Schmancy even then!

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Night Bazaar

The night bazaar is a huge area spanning 1 kilometre of food stalls, craft sellers, clothes, art and trinkets. You name it – the night bazaar has it. Open every night from 18:00 till around midnight like Fisherman’s Village the stalls can be browsed for literally hours in a continuous succession of shoppers delight. It is infact so big and so spread out with side streets here there and everywhere, coupled with live music, restaurants and spa’s vying for attention, that it almost impossible to deny yourself the lures of the things being sold even despite the fact that many of the same things are being sold just a few tables down. Night markets are a hugely popular part of the Thai culture and the tourists just love it. Strolling around Josh and I almost (almost!) managed to ignore the pull of the stall sellers but then I saw some pink fisherman’s trousers that I liked so I bought myself a pair and Josh got himself some blue ones. These are the kinds of things people buy here in Thailand knowing that they are probably never going to wear them again once they get home but I really like mine and they were only £4. Bargain!

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Tasty, healthy food from The Salad Concept

Soul Singer Kim Jung Un

We arrived at another part of the night market called Ploen Rudee Night Market to find an area filled with food stalls and benches which wouldn’t have looked out of place in England. It was obviously very popular as it was packed to the rafters with people from all over the world and then a band came on who apparently was going to entertain us with Soul Classics. Normally that would suggest something like Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson, which though I had nothing against, I really would like to hear some proper soul music and not the predictable kind. So I was left left surprised and I have to say quite amused when a small, innocent looking Thai guy who looked very much Kim Jung Un, came along with a full band and started belting out the likes of Earth Wind and Fire, Roy Ayers and Rick James! And though he didn’t have an amazing voice and the backers were clearly struggling to do the harmonies that were required, I was very impressed with his attempt at singing such obviously soulful tunes that many people wouldn’t dare trying to sing and he was singing with true conviction – the man was loving every minute of it! I loved Kim Jung Un.

Chiang Mai is a huge city. There doesn’t appear to be a “centre” per say but there does appear to be a lot to discover as we have done just driving through the city. It’s a fascinating place.

Service 1921

Service 1921 was Anantara’s secret spy themed restaurant fashioned after the British consulate which the building actually was at one stage in time. The vouchers they had given us this time around they had cleverly only listed tours on the island and businesses they owned such as their spa and their restaurants but thankfully we wanted to go to their restaurant anyway so we booked a table there. Chiang Mai is a funny place as it seems quite difficult to find “fine dining” restaurants of the abundance and level that we can find elsewhere but thankfully Anantara’s Service 1921 was supposed to be one of the finest. And it was. A combination of Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine we had our most amazing meal there by far since arriving in Chiang Mai and the setting was suitably ambient. We used our vouchers so we didn’t pay a penny for our 3 course meal with cocktails but we enjoyed it so much that we will definitely be returning!

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My delicious and impressive “Gold Leaf” Cocktail at Service 1921

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Lip smackingly good!

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Menu’s are given to you in a spy like folder to keep with the secret agent theme 🙂

There are Chinese people everywhere here! Everywhere I tell you! Infact, there are so many Chinese people that I’m beginning to think that there’s more here then Thai people, they seem to be in the majority by far and that I guess would explain the investment in the area. We had a walk through One Nimman, the new shopping area that’s not officially open yet though alot of the shops there are and it looks amazing. It’s very high end and almost all of the shops in it are boutique brands that I’ve never heard of before including a fragrance brand called Pan Puri which I have discovered since arriving here that I’m a little obsessed with (though I refuse to pay their ridiculous prices). I refer of course to the branding itself and not the smell of the products as thus far from what I’ve smelt I haven’t been very impressed with their scents but I appreciate their eco credentials (they only use essential oils in their products) and have utterly captivating names and scent descriptions. I am definitely going to take some inspiration from them in my own business!

 But back onto the Chinese. There’s loads of them. This is clearly their number one travel destination outside of their own country and judging by the number of them in our apartment they are either living here or own properties here. Most of the businesses have signs in Thai and English but also in Chinese too which I don’t think I’ve even seen before and on some occasions there is only Chinese writing, no Thai at all! In our apartment we have a list of all the people who have stayed here and they all appear to be Chinese too like the owner.

The Chinese seem to travel en-mass, like a multi-generational group of people as if none of them have been on holiday before and what makes it more apparent when they travel in such large groups is the fact that there are hardly any pavements here (yes, no pavements), which means that you have to dodge them and their umbrella’s when you are trying to walk down the street.

The Business of Bleach

Is it raining? I hear you ask. No, it is not raining. It is infact the dryest, hottest and most pleasant climate I have experienced in a long while. And though it can get quite chilly in the evenings and early morning during the day it is lovely but these people, mostly Chinese but a few Japanese and Thai’s too I have to say, walk around with umbrella’s because they are afraid to get darker. They have an obsession with protecting their skin from the sun not because of any health reasons of course or else they would just wear sunscreen. No, they are absolutely terrified of getting darker and for a proud brown skinned lady such as I, I not only find this ridiculous for if they don’t want to get a tan then don’t come to a hot country (duh!) but also offensive, as both Josh and I have been trying to cultivate our tans and see it as a sign of good living and being well travelled, not the opposite! Some of these girls look so pale they almost look as if they are deceased. Why are you seeking the look of death? Why do you wish to appear as if your life has come to an abrupt end? WHY?- I honestly do not get it.

Of course this obsession with staying pale we all know is not just restricted to our Asian counterparts because in the black community we are just as bad if not worse, for over here, this kind of white seeking is the social norm, whereas we perhaps have not quite admitted it and overall like to pretend that we are proud of what we are whilst lusting after the opposite and buying under the counter face lightening creams – prevalent in both Nigeria and Jamaica not to mention other blessed brown places in the world.

It is upsetting to me. And utterly pointless. In almost every shop I have been in here from their small local shops to Boots they have skin lightening ingredients listed in almost every one of their products, proudly being displayed on the packaging as a benefit to the product and infact Josh has found it hard to even find a men’s face cream without the dreaded skin lightening ingredient in it. This isn’t being sold under the counter but very much on the counter, on brazen display and even in advertisements on gigantic billboards around Chiang Mai.

But what of I? – am I to also feel ashamed of my skin? Something that is a continuous battle in my own community, in my own country and certainly in the wider society? OH HELL NO. I do not seek the look of death and I would suggest that if you do that you do it in your own time and not try and force this completely un-natural nonsense upon me. For the sun is there to give you energy and colour to bring vibrancy to your skin and to your life. To hide from it is the very definition of self hate not to mention the fact that it’s not healthy to do so (in moderation of course) and I’m not down for it. Bring on the sun!!!

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Bleaching L’Oreal products for men found in Boots would you believe?!

Dash Teak House 

We went to Dash Teak House for dinner and it was great. I did try and make a reservation on the phone first but they wouldn’t take my reservation – they just told me to come down so we jumped in a taxi and went. Located down a dark and dingy, and quite frankly questionable alley with the perves of the foreigner variety, there with their short skirted Thai brides who were there scouting for more perves of the foreigner variety in small and distinctly looking seedy bars, we finally arrived at Dash.

Had we not been following our Google Maps, with the guarantee that Dash, one of the best restaurants on the island was located there, we would almost certainly have turned back as this particular road, with it’s dodgy looking unattractive English, American and French men sniffing around the much younger, and much more attractive Thai women, was not the kind of location for me. I felt dirty just venturing down it to be honest but finally we arrived and we could see that the place was heaving with people with a large Chinese contingency of about 10 people vying to get in, not to mention 6 other people in front of us but the guy at the door told us it would only be 20 minutes to get us a table so we went to the local bar and got some cocktails and less then 5 minutes he was back telling us that our table was ready.

The place was buzzing with live blues being played upstairs. We were seated in the garden so we couldn’t see the band but we could hear them and they sounded pretty good. As we had come to expect in Chiang Mai the food was both delicious and cheap! I was starting to think it was really quite criminal for food to be this cheap. It was certainly starting to become understandable why people made a life here. High quality of living and cheap as chips!

We encountered 2 cafe’s in our search for cafe’s where we could both work, one was open for 24 hours and was called Tom Tom’s fashioning itself off the Costa Coffee brand but it was huge and had actual meeting rooms in it! And then there was Dom’s, a uber cool cafe/dessert place/coffee place serving up some of the tastiest and most unique desserts I had ever seen! Things like Honey Toast with Milk Ice Cream. It is multi-level and has lots of places to sit and work and indeed we saw lots of people there with their laptops out doing just that. Reliable internet, great decor and great food, including their amazing Mulberry Cheesecake and Coconut Cake which are both to die for! What more can you ask for?

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Salmon Teriyaki, Miso Soup and Caramel Macchiato at Dom’s

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Some of my favourite snacks 

Elephant Dreams 

Finally our dreams came true and we made a plan to visit the Elephant Sanctuary. We walked into a local tour office on the high street and enquired about their Elephant Sanctuary’s whereby of course they immediately produced about 5 which allowed you to ride the elephants. I was insulted but soon realised that that is exactly what the vast majority of unthinking tourists wanted to do, and infact it was quite rare to find ones that did not allow any riding of the elephants whatsoever but that is exactly what we wanted. I did not come all the way to Thailand to see the abuse of these amazing sentient beings. Perhaps people don’t know that riding them hurts them. Perhaps they don’t care. But I do.

After finally explaining to her that I wanted a sanctuary that did not allow the riding of their elephants finally she produced some options. And it didn’t take me long to find the one I wanted to give my money to. The Ethical Elephant Sanctuary is a charity committed solely to the preservation of these amazing creatures. A family business passed down from generation to generation and providing employment to the Karen hill tribe, the elephants there have free reign, with their own personal mahout to ensure the happiness and welfare of each elephant. Local, ethical and a place that knows and cares deeply about the animals they look after. That is where I want to go. So we booked to be picked up the following day from our hotel for the almost 3 hour journey into the mountains to visit the elephants. The elephants who were truly free.

For some peculiar reason, they couldn’t give us an official time to collect us from our hotel. All they told us was that we would be collected somewhere between 6:30 am and 7:30 am in the morning for the journey into the mountains. Now that is bloody early and even earlier when you factor in the reality that for more then 3 months I haven’t been getting up any earlier then 10:00 am on average which has been really quite delicious, lol. Anyway we were picked up around 6:45 am by a fluent speaking Thai guide who so it wasn’t too bad and then we made the journey to pick up other passengers before making our way to the hills. Half way we stopped off at a local market, where we were told that we could go to the toilet and buy some food and drink if we wanted to but by the time I had seen the state of the place I decided that there was no way that I could eat there. I could just about make it to the toilet I was so freaked out that a rat or something would appear out of nowhere.

The journey into the mountains was treacherous indeed so I was very thankful to have such a skilled driver in charge of taking us there. And what made matters even worse was the fact that there was cyclists everywhere navigating the almost vertical roads on some adrenalin junkie business that I just did not understand. It was so steep that I could see that there was no way for them to stop for a rest otherwise they would just roll back down the hill, lol.

With a mixture of genuine excitement and anticipation I went to meet the elephants, for though I knew these were gentle giants I didn’t know whether today might be the day where one might decide to buck me with it’s huge head, afterall they are wild animals. But most of all, I was utterly terrified of seeing one being mistreated. I of course had never met an elephant before so wasn’t sure what to look for but in my heart I believed that I would just know and if I felt as though they weren’t being looked after and loved to within an inch of their hugely loving lives, I feared that my heart might burst with sorrow. Humans have done such harm to the world, to ourselves, the planet and to animals and I have kind of seen it all before where we’re concerned but harming an innocent animal is one of the most despicable and evil things that I can think of as they cannot protect themselves.

Thankfully I needn’t have been concerned for after we all changed into a traditional hill tribe shirt (so that they could recognise we were there to visit them so we were told), we were introduced to around 8 elephants of varying sizes and ages with 2 itty bitty babies which were the cutest things I’d ever seen in my life. And they were FREE! There were no chains, no ropes, not even an indication of any of these things and they looked both happy and healthy and very used to visiting humans. Indeed, they were the gentle giants I had imagined and hoped them to be. Thinking, feeling beings. I could sense it and my heart soared with joy. There were around 6 men and the guide there to watch over them and they spoke to them in Thai, which unbelievably the elephants seemed to understand! They were very well looked after, of that there was no doubt.

Soon we were given big buckets filled with banana’s and we were instructed to feed them one by one. A few of them were so big that I was a little afraid for I realised that if one decided to stomp on me he could very well do so without a moments hesitation and I would be done for, but I soon realised that all they wanted was their banana’s, and even though they were huge and could clearly do damage if they wanted to, when you reach out to them to hand them banana’s I could sense both the gentleness and strength in their grabbing of the banana from my hand. I didn’t like the wet, slightly rubbery feeling of their nose grabbing the banana from my hand but what did I expect? These were animals, it wasn’t going to be a clean, sanitised experience, lol. The more banana’s I gave them the more relaxed I was with them and thus they were with me. Of course I was in love. Who could not be?

After the feeding, which was surprisingly civilised considering they can eat up to 10 % of their body weight every day we were allowed to meet and stroke them including the adorable babies who were as cute and naughty as could be. Unfortunately before one of the elephants had been rescued it’s foot had been injured in a landmine incident on the border with Burma but other then that all of the elephants looked very well and relaxed. Their mahouts who stood by to play and interact with them aswell as ensure that nobody got hurt including them, and they seemed to have a wonderful and close relationship with them.

After feeding and meeting the elephants we followed them down to a mud bath where we were instructed to get in the stream with them which was filled with mud and wash them. When I envisioned bathing the elephants I had imagined it perhaps being with clean water but perhaps that was a little naive of me. Elephants loved mud of course. And it was good for the skin so after some reluctance I got changed into my bikini and got in there with them! Realising that I could get crushed between these huge beasts who seemed to be loving every minute of being in the water and having us splash them with it and rub them down with mud, I made sure that I checked my footing. The baby in particular was having an absolute blast! He loved it when we chucked water all over him and submerged himself completely in the muddy water wailing and kicking his legs as he went. He was adorable.

Afterwards we followed them into a river where we continued washing them and I was enjoying myself very much until I saw 5 gigantic lumps of doo doo floating towards me. That was when my foray into nature came to an untimely end. I had just about got with the mud situation – realising that they loved it, it was completely natural and was probably good for my skin but a doo doo bath I simply could not do!

Today I walked with elephants and I was left humbled. Truly this was one of the most memorable if not the most memorable experience of our travels thus far. 

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Baby loves his banana’s! 

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Standing next to Gentle Giants 

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They love the water! 

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Who couldn’t love these amazing animals?

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Josh with the little one 🙂 

 

 

 

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Week’s 3 and 4 in Koh Samui, Thailand

Week’s 3 and 4 in Koh Samui, Thailand

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The night before my sister arrived in Thailand we were still hunting for the giant lizard that was on the loose in our villa.

We still had not found the tookay who had seemingly set up permanent residence in my sisters bedroom, and even though we could clearly hear it scratching about and running up and down the ceiling late at night, his long talons clinging, scaly tail swooshing about as he went, we simply could not locate him for love nor money and so in the end we had to call in the assistance of our villa manager Khun Tor.

When Khun Tor arrived we explained to her that Josh had sighted a tookay in my sisters bedroom more then a week ago, and we could hear it clearly every night around the same time seemingly running across the ceiling but despite our efforts, we still hadn’t managed to find him. Khun Tor went onto tell us that there had never been a tookay in the house before (as if we somehow had invite him in!), a tookay in the home was considered to be good luck by the Thai people (no thanks!), but she said that she would look for him herself.

I knew that there was no way that she was going to find him as as we had clearly stated in our text to her, we had already supposedly confined him in the bedroom but we had checked it multiple times only to find he wasn’t there and the cleaners had looked for him too and hadn’t found him, plus we had recently discovered a hole the size of a letterbox in the overhanging coving in the ceiling which he could probably fit through.

It appeared that the stupid builders had thought it a good idea when they built the villa to leave a hole in the ceiling where the ceiling light’s wiring went and it was big enough to allow tookays and gecko’s alike a perfect place to hide. This also made sense as it sounded to me as if this beast was running up and down within the ceiling as if he were trapped there or something. No, this was a job for the professionals, and by that I mean lizard removal men! Alas Khun Tor didn’t listen. She was determined to locate him herself.

She got a ladder and took it upstairs into the bedroom to attempt to peer through the hole in the ceiling to see if she could see him, to no avail. 10 minutes later she comes downstairs. It appears as though she had no idea that there were large holes in the ceiling and says that she will call someone out to come and have a look. In our short time here in Thailand, Khun Tor has impressed us with her ability to fix almost any situation with speed and ease. She seems to know everyone in Thailand and we have had a succession of cleaners, tookay hunters, pool men, gardeners, electricians, scooter rental and car rental reps at our door within a matter of minutes after alerting her to an issue. Undoubtedly she is a very busy woman, but she seems to enjoy her job and is very good at it. Though she doesn’t seem to ever respond to text messages, her command of English is very good, far better then most of the service people she deals with.

Minutes later a very small man arrives, along with one of our cleaners (the one who couldn’t find the tookay the last time), and an adorable baby girl in a pink Hello Kitty outfit who she holds on her hip. Standing next to Josh, who is 6’2, this little man looks ridiculous. What on earth will he be able to do? Yet it is him who is able to stand on the top of the ladder and almost climb right into the hole because he is so small. Plus being a local I’m sure that he has come into contact with these little critters before!

STori, Mother of Dragons, Guardian of the villa

Thankfully, whilst we were waiting for the professionals to arrive Khun Tor actually heard the tookay for herself which made me very happy as I realised that by now I was probably starting to sound as if I was going mad! Yet despite the little man, despite Josh, despite the cleaners, and despite Khun Tor, nobody could locate this bloody tookay!

By this time, with the arrival of my sister getting closer and closer I told Josh that under no circumstances could we remain in this villa if this thing was not found. Was I prepared to move again? you ask. Yes, I most definitely was. Even though we were really enjoying staying in the villa and were very comfortable there I was simply not prepared to share my home with a dragon.

So these people best find it!

Josh and I had already decided that unless they physically saw and removed this beast we would have to sleep in the main house and give up our own bedroom in the small house to my sister. They returned defeated but then seconds later another group of people, this time around 4 guys that looked like actual professionals, dressed to the nines in protective clothing, gloves and a top jaw rope – those ropes with a hoop on the end that they use to catch CROCODILES, arrived. These guys meant business! And since we knew we were dealing with a crafty fellow this is exactly what was required – professionals. The very fact that they came with this piece of equipment to deal with a tookay meant the thing I had heard about them were true: they were potentially dangerous.

Unfortunately, even though they searched the inside and outside of the house thoroughly they still did not find it. But as they were leaving and Josh and I were waving goodbye to them on the porch, with Khun Tor in her usual position talking frantically on her mobile phone, I spotted a tookay crawling gingerly on the outside of our roof as if to attempt to evade capture.  At first it did not occur to me that it could possibly be the same tookay that we had been hunting for almost 2 weeks because that one, I was convinced, was trapped in the house.

Or was it?

I pointed the tookay out to Khun Tor who looked as if she couldn’t believe her eyes upon sighting him and she yelled to the guys who were literally just about to leave that she had seen a tookay! They came back, extended this top jaw rope towards the tookay who looked very displeased to see them and then abruptly, with lightning light speed they threw the loop over his head and yanked him down and into an awaiting sack which they promptly closed and sealed firmly. But this thing wasn’t going to let them get away that easily. Oh no. He proceeded to squeal a murderous squeal before riggling violently and hissing loudly at them. This was no household pet – this was A BEAST.

It didn’t occur to me to think that this tookay, who had mysteriously appeared was infact the same tookay that we had supposedly trapped in my sisters bedroom, because they said that they hadn’t found it when they had looked and as far as I could see there wasn’t a way out, but undoubtedly, it did seem to be a big coincidence. They took the tookay away and then we said goodbye to Khun Tor.

For the next couple of hours we listened out to see if we could hear the “remaining tookay” but we didn’t hear a thing. It was really odd as usually this would be the tookay’s prime roaming time and at the time I just could not explain how it would have been able to get out of the house if it had been trapped in that room so we decided that to be on the safe side we would sleep in the main house for the next 2 nights so that we could assess the situation. This meant that when my sister arrived the next day she could sleep in the small house for the first night so that we could ensure that it was safe for her to move in.

I was a little on edge that night as although we were not sleeping in the room it had been spotted but in the twin bedroom next door, I still didn’t know whether this thing had managed to escape or not. Also, as it was twin beds that we had pushed together I kept on slipping into the cracks, but other than that I can honestly say that it was the most restful sleep that we had both had since arriving at the villa, partly because the bedroom seemed far less frowsy (or musty) then the other bedroom in the small house (perhaps this was because of the abundance of curtains that the owners seemed intent on using in it), it was far less dusty, and there were less places for gecko’s and other questionable creatures to lurch. And the bed’s were far more comfortable than our own!

The following day we got up bright and early so that we could go and pick up my sister from the airport. Since arriving in South East Asia almost 2 and a half months ago, I had had the pleasure of seeing my Aunty Jac in Bali, who had come over for a holiday with my Uncle and now, I was getting to see my sister, who we had invited over to spend some time with us in Thailand. Being a huge family person, and blessed with a close and loving family, it was important to me to maintain those family connections whilst I was away living my dreams, so to have them along with me on my travels at various points was a blessing indeed. I knew that my sister had been suffering from exhaustion back in the UK, both physically and mentally, and was desperate to get away from the doom and gloom of winter in England and get some much needed sun, and I knew that coming to the exotic natural beauty of Thailand would be just the remedy!

When we arrived at the airport we found her flight had been delayed. She had been travelling nonstop for 13 hours, with a stop over in Malaysia so I knew that she would be absolutely bushed when she arrived. I was relieved when she arrived safely and I was very happy to see her but unfortunately we had no suitable food in the house for her to eat since she is diary and gluten intolerant so I suggested that we drop her off at home first so that she could sleep whilst me and Josh went to Tesco’s to pick up some bits. Alas she said that she would rather come along so off we went to do some shopping with my sleepy sister in tow!

When we arrived back at our villa we told my sister about the current tookay situation and advised her to sleep in our bedroom for her first night there. She loved the villa, both how private it was, how well designed, comfortable and spacious it was and said that she would be happy for us to spend lots of time there just chilling out but I had other plans for her!

She had less then 2 weeks with us in Samui and I wanted her to get the very most out of it and what it had to offer. Being that it was now mine and Josh’s second time in Thailand, and in Samui specifically, we knew that we had a pretty good understanding of the very best places to go and the best things to do and I wanted her to go back having experienced a good portion of it, but of course I realised that she was tired so after a leisurely dinner, where we chilled out and chatted about what was going on back home, she retired to bed.

Tomorrow, I promised her, the fun would begin!

Fisherman’s Village Night Market

I had made a list of all of the things that I felt she should experience in her time in Samui, trying to make sure they were as varied as possible and that morning over breakfast, we went through them to identify which ones she really wanted to do and which ones we would do if we had time to and then I set about identifying which ones were weather dependant or needed booking and made the relevant reservations but the first one was really easy, as it was only a short drive away, free, and was where we went most nights for dinner: Fishermans Village.

Every Friday night Fisherman’s Village in Bophut had their legendary nightmarket and tonight was the night.

Nightmarkets were a big part of the Thai experience, and everywhere in Thailand, from Bangkok to Phuket to Samui, were capitalising on their growing popularity. It was something that seemed to be unique to Thailand, and I had certainly not experienced the sheer scale, variety and originality of this anywhere else in the world. And in Koh Samui, the Fisherman’s Village nightmarket, was the best one of them all.

Transformed into a pedestrianised street, stall sellers selling anything from dried crickets to fake handbags, handmade soaps to Bob Marley t-shirts were sold on the Fisherman’s Walk and surrounding roads by the locals. The variety of items on offer, even if they were not to my taste, or not particularly of a good quality, were still mesmerising to see in such unbelievable abundance. And the vibrancy of the streets lit up with live music, restaurants and spa’s all heaving with customers and seeing people from all over the world, who came to touch, smell, look and haggle with the local sellers over the various items for sale was quite intoxicating. Even if you weren’t there to buy, or had no interest in trying the questionable foods being sold on the food stalls (like us), it was still something worth experiencing, and admittedly the market had a little something for everyone to draw you in. My sister was completely mesmerised by all of the things on offer, and being a slight shopaholic, lol, she set about haggling with the Thai people with ease!

The Thai people are very relaxed about most things in life, and selling fake goods such as designer purses, bags and jewellery was among them. At this market you could buy all manner of designer goods, some which came from the very same manufacturers that made the “designer” goods, on brazen display, infact there were even retail shops in Samui selling fake goods such as these and they seemed to be doing very well indeed!

When we were in Samui last I picked myself up a bag and Josh got himself a watch (which is now no longer working I hasten to say). Alas, it was so cheap that he could afford to buy more then 10 of the watches for the price it would cost him to buy 1 that is why they were doing such good business here.

After escaping the lures of the nightmarket we experienced a bit of Thai hospitality at a lovely Thai restaurant called Krua we had been to before which overlooked the beach.

The tookay that we were convinced had infiltrated the villa and was hiding in my sister’s room never made another appearance, therefore it became clear to us that the one that they had removed was the same one we had heard. The following day I went into my sisters room to double check that there was nothing lurching there and almost immediately I spotted a gecko scurrying across the wall. This gecko was a slightly larger gecko, bigger then the ones that frequent our bedroom but it was a gecko nonetheless.

Could this be the “tookay” that Josh said that he saw? – it certainly made sense.

  1. The tookay they removed from the property had clearly been the same one that we had been hearing on the roof running, scratching and searching for prey as since that night we hadn’t heard a dicky bird.
  2. We never actually found the tookay that Josh reported seeing despite confining it to a bedroom, where it was too big to hide and a literal army of people searching for it. 
  3. This was a gecko that perhaps upon initial sight could have been perceived to be a tookay when infact I could clearly see that it was a gecko.  

I pointed it out to Josh and my sister and Josh got rid of the unwanted by using his favourite weapon: Dettol.

Of course I’d like to say that this gecko murder wasn’t neccessary. That I would be able to coexist with the beast shitting all over our house, scaring the bejeezers out of me everytime I opened a drawer or went to the toilet or chirping above my head whilst I was in the middle of a deep sleep, but that just isn’t true. This gecko business was starting to become unbearable. And since they did not want to take their cue that the outdoors is where they should reside and NOT my house, we had no choice but to take action. Did I feel good about giving Josh the go ahead to eradicate this critter from my life? No, I didn’t, infact I felt very sad about it as I know that it was essentially a small and defenceless creature but that doesn’t mean that I must be forced to live with it. I want it to live and I want it to thrive but NOT IN MY BATHROOM. Alas, it had to go.

On a positive note however: now that we had finally identified what the unbearable noise was that we had been hearing, seen the professionals remove the tookay from the property and dealt with the roaming gecko, my sister could now move into her room with no stress, and we could move back into ours.

Lamai and Muay Thai

We had stayed in Lamai in our previous time in Samui and though it wasn’t as quiet as Mae Nam it was still pretty lowkey in comparison to Chaweng, asides from the nights when it had it’s own nightmarket and it’s Saturday night event: Muay Thai Fighting.

The beauty of being in Thailand of course was not just it’s beaches and stunning landscapes, but it’s buddhist temples, amazing food and of course: Muay Thai. In Samui, as I’m sure all over Thailand, they were big on Muay Thai, and you could see the big fights in a huge local arena almost every week here, however I knew that they had a tradition of selling tickets to tourists at “tourists prices” and I didn’t particularly fancy sitting there watching 12 other minor fights whilst waiting for the big one to begin therefore when we found out about a Muay Thai fight that you could go and see for free, in the middle of popping into a local restaurant for a Pad Thai or perusing the local stalls for various unnecessary goods, we were sold.

The last time we saw Muay Thai fighting here it had been between young children (who seemed to be somewhere between 8 and 10 years of age) and girls, interspersed between ladyboy’s dancing in between the fights but this time, though there was a fight between young boys again (one of whom was far too cute to be fighting I thought), there was also a fight between older boys (teenagers really), young men and girls. Of course the fighting between the girls was the most enjoyable. For some reason the butch and ugly looking one seemed to believe that she was a winner as she had a very aggressive style of Muay Thai and had seemingly a large portion of the audience rooting for her, but I was rooting for the other one, who to me though less aggressive and explosive, had a more unique fighting style which if used right would certainly be the victor.

At the end of the rounds the butch looking girl started yelping and jumping up and down as if she had won but I don’t know why she thought that as the other girl clearly had the edge on her. You lost love! 

With the combination of the tasty Thai food, the variety and excitement of the nightmarkets and the Muay Thai fighting, free for all on the streets, my sister was certainly hitting the ground running with her authentic Thai experience and she was loving every minute of it.

Beach Republic

Beach Republic was one of the few beach clubs in Koh Samui, and in my opinion, the best one. It was located on a seemingly private stretch of beach and had a really cool, laid back, chilled out vibe about it. We happened to stumble upon it when we were in Thailand before and had liked it so much that we went back a further 2 times so now that we could verify both it’s quality and consistency, we decided to take my sister there. Beach Republic was great firstly because of it’s location. On a picturesque stretch of beach in Lamai, it was both private and peaceful and had an eye catching colour scheme of red which was splashed liberally throughout it’s sunbeds, beach sala’s and lanterns that were dotted all over the resort. Aswell as being a beach club, it was also a spa and a hotel, but it was so laid back there that each time we had gone there despite them telling us that the beach sala’s were reserved for hotel guests only they had allowed us to use them, and the sala’s had a great invention: they had a button on them which allowed you to call a waiter over without even having to move your head or raise your hand: Genius!

We arrived at Beach Republic in time for their Sunday Brunch, which they had every Sunday. For the cost of your ticket you could get a free cocktail and an unlimited supply of their very delicious and abundant beachside brunch. Their brunch options were so vast that it would simply be impossible to try all of what they had but I remembered in fondness how despite the fact that they were putting on essentially a buffet (which I personally am not a fan of), the food was always fresh and delicious. In the main course section you could have sushi, fresh salmon, a Sunday Roast (which was pretty good actually and had all the trimmings), various types of meats, pasta’s, salads, Thai food, fish, vegetarian dishes, rice, noodles, and there was another section where you could get fresh lobster, steaks and prawns cooked for you there and then. The Pad Thai was also cooked fresh with your choice of ingredients aswell as the pasta dishes.

Desserts, which included cheesecake, brownies, carrot cake, fresh fruit, cheese board, pana cotta, chocolate mousse and icecream were kept cool in a temperature controlled room. And the best thing of all was that there was a crepe van there too – a van where a man made fresh crepes from scratch with your choice of fillings and sauces. I chose a caramel, coconut and banana one and it was very tasty indeed. My favourite dessert combination was having a fresh caramel, coconut and banana crepe with a scoop of vanilla bean icecream on it. Deeelicious! For my main course I had vegetables in oyster sauce with egg fried rice and a mojito and I was very happy. I really didn’t need anything else.

After having lunch in the restaurant we were shown to a lounge area with big sofa’s and cushions that we could stretch out on and enjoy the stunning views of the Andaman sea lapping gently against the shore. We had completely unobstructed views but could see other islands on the horizon and with the combination of the chilled out music that was provided by the very talented resident musician who we remembered hearing play the last time, we were completely blissed out. The sea was calm, the sun was shining and it was very refreshing having a leisurely swim in the sea whilst the music was playing in the background. The musician played acoustic guitar (but acoustic guitar that was devoid of the usual cheesiness associated with acoustic guitarists), and once he finished playing the resident DJ started playing (who coincidentally, along with the resort manager was from the UK), and he was excellent. He played a combination of soul, funk and house music and played tune after tune after tune. He certainly kept the chilled out vibe going. And then we had another surprise: A saxophonist came on and played along with him for the rest of the afternoon and he was great! It was such a lovely, unusual surprise but the saxophonist was clearly very good at improvising and was able to play along with every single song even when it was booty shaking house. I loved it.

Since the beach sala was unavailable when we arrived we had been keeping our eyes open for when it was so that we could move onto it as soon as it became available and so when we saw one was empty we retreated there where we continued enjoying the good musical vibes. My sister was enjoying herself so much that she spent an extended amount of time in the sea dancing to the music and then took herself off to have a Thai massage on the beach for an hour and a half. I was glad that finally she had completely left the UK behind, with all of it’s stresses and strains and was absorbing herself fully in the moment. It was a great day. And of course I got to press the service bell which filled me with a totally unneccessary kind of joy.

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A chilled out Sunday afternoon at Beach Republic

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Beach Sala’s. Ring the bell for service!

Greenlight Cafe

The following day we took my sister down to a healthy cafe we had encountered on the island – one of a very few I’m afraid to say! Unlike Bali, which is very much a health conscious island, perhaps because of the abundance of health conscious Aussies on the island I’m not sure, Koh Samui has an abundance of fine dining results with exceptional cuisine but they aren’t so up on the allergy thing, which means that for someone like my sister who tragically is both gluten and diary intolerant, there are not many places she can go where she will have a full menu to choose from.

But Greenlight Cafe offered peace and tranquility, located down a quiet part of Fisherman’s Village, and health conscious food, a combination of vegetarian, gluten, organic and allergy considered menu and the staff there was very friendly. We both chose the gluten free pancakes as though I am not allergy ridden, I liked the sound of the pancakes that came with fruit and honey and was felt like having something sweet to eat. Josh chose a healthy salad and a fresh shake, which was named “Heaven on Earth” a bold statement indeed, but when he tasted it I could immediately tell that something heavenly had occurred as he refused to share any of it! It contained almond milk, almond butter, dates, cinnamon and cacao and when I did manage to get to sample it I really could not believe how heavenly it tasted either. It was so good it was bad. Surely this cannot be good for you! I thought.

Our pancakes, as expected were very good, but the portion size was ridiculous. As soon as I saw the 2 pancakes, which were big and fluffy and had an abundance of fruit between and on top of them, I knew that I was going to have trouble eating them, especially since they were not buttermilk ones, which tend to be a little less dense and heavy. By the time I had eaten one I was really starting to struggle and so was my sister. The last thing I wanted to do was offend these people by sending it back because it was very good but portion control was clearly not happening here as Josh’s salad was huge also. Josh managed to finish his salad but my sister and I got about 3 quarters of the way through our pancakes before we had to give up.

Chaweng Beach

The weather was glorious so we decided to take ourselves down to Chaweng Beach, the best beach on the island, for a leisurely beach day. Samui had many beaches to explore but Chaweng is the finest one of them all. It is well developed with lots of resorts and restaurants on the beach but is big enough to take them all without it becoming overcrowded or too commercialised. You could still find a lovely stretch of beach without anybody on it, plus the sand was a soft, powdery white and the sea an aquamarine blue, with almost no seaweed or floating rubbish whatsoever. I’m not a fan of swimming in dirty sea water but thankfully the sea here was crystal clear, clean and warm. It was so glorious that it was extremely difficult getting out of it and my sister certainly did not want to leave at all!

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Chaweng Beach and their £5 an hour massages 

Dinner was at a Thai restaurant in Chaweng called Red Snapper. Chaweng High street with it’s vibrant nightclub, retails shops and massage spa’s a plenty was not renowned for it’s food but Red Snapper, a Thai seafood restaurant, served some very delicious and fresh seafood including the best starter I’d had since we had arrived here: scallops and prawns on a vegetable pie with a creamy, spicy sauce. It was really really good!

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Scallop and prawn starter at Red Snapper 

The Anantara vouchers we had managed to scam so elegantly, we had decided to use in one of the most expensive restaurants, infact perhaps the most expensive and certainly the most highly rated on the island: Tree Tops. Essentially a small collection of private treehouses with their own butlers serving an extortionately priced Mediterranean menu from it’s perch above the trees and overlooking the beach and tropical gardens of the Anantara Hotel, Tree Tops was described as being the most unique dining experience Samui had to offer.

When I had come across the restaurant before and looked at the price to dine there my jaw had literally dropped. I simply could not believe that Thailand were trying to ask for more money then many of the best European restaurants, even despite the fact that it was supposed to be a once in a lifetime experience, but when I established that it was another William Heineke establishment as Tree Tops was actually a part of the Anantara Resort brand and was located on the grounds of their Chaweng branch, coincedentally which is where we went to get our second round of vouchers, I wasn’t surprised anymore as William is on a scam!

The price to dine there was so high that even our vouchers (worth just under £250 in total), was not going to cut it.

I made our reservation for a couple of days before we left the island and I sincerely hoped that they blew me away with their offerings because I had not been frequenting shoddy establishments and I knew what quality such monies should give me!!

Dr Frog’s

Dr Frog’s, despite the name, was not a French establishment serving up frogs legs, but an Italian restaurant in Lamai.

It was one of the most popular restaurants on the island for it’s food, which was fresh, good quality, authentic Italian, and it’s scenery, which had a backdrop of staggering beauty with uninterrupted views overlooking Lamai beach and the sea beyond.

Dr Frog’s also happened to be somewhere that we could use some of our vouchers at and after our disappointing experience with Happy Elephant I really wanted to use them somewhere worthy. We arrived around 17:00 just before the sun went down and we did indeed have wonderful views. My sister in particular was very impressed with how beautiful the island was in this light and we got to see a lovely sunset as we were having our cocktails. I remembered the head chef, who seemed to make a point of going over to each and every table (there were only a few occupied), and making small talk with them. He was an Italian man, and despite the many years he had clearly been working and living in Samui he still had an impressively strong accent. This gave me hope regarding the food as the appearance of him to me solidified my assumption that we were going to get some authentic and hearty Italian food. 

But instead of him going back into the kitchen to begin rolling my spinach and ricotta pasta parcels he just stood around looking bored as if he had nothing to do. But he did have something to do: My pasta! Now I was worried. Had this man fallen out of love with cooking now? Did this mean that he was getting a Thai chef to cook his authentic Italian menu? Was I going to get inferior food??

Unfortunately, yes. When our food arrived (we had all ordered various pasta dishes as we thought that they would be cooked the best), it was a disappointing experience. Josh could even have sworn that they had given him a reheated lasagne! Unacceptable!

The head chef didn’t even bother to go into the kitchen during the period that our food was being cooked to check on the quality or presentation of it. He didn’t seem even remotely bothered and instead kept on walking around with his hands behind his back, belly protruding forward whilst a Thai chef tried in earnest to follow his Italian Grandmothers recipe!! This will never do I thought: Get back in the kitchen!!

Alas, the man refused to go into the kitchen. And thus the food was average. Perhaps average was a little strong- it was still tasty, but it was without a doubt far better the last time we had been there and that was a damn shame.

Firedancers on the beach

The following day we had dinner at Coco Tam’s, the beach bar and pizzeria on Bophut beach. It’s a great place to chill out because of it’s strategically placed position on the beachfront with a view of the firedancers who performed on the beach nightly. So far we had seen them perform around 4 times already, but they changed up their routine so that it was new each time and it was always great fun and a spectacular show.

The pizzeria was a new feature of Coco Tam’s and seemed to be doing very good business. It was packed each time we went there and on a few occasions when we had wanted to eat there we couldn’t because they had no available tables and they had only been open for a couple of weeks. The pizza there was unbelievably good – my favourite is Margherita, always has been even before I stopped eating meat, and this one was unbelievably tasty. The base was fresh and perfectly cooked, the tomato sauce on the pizza was juicy and the cheese was both buttery and salty. So good!

After dinner we moved to the beanbags on the beach to watch the firedancers do their thang. They had a few new routines, some that didn’t go so well but overall it was an awe inspiring thing to watch and completely free! If this was in London they would have charged alot of money for people to see it yet here we were on the beach watching firedancers for free.

Big Buddha and the climb of death

Now that we had ticked off a few things off our list we wanted my sister to experience the more cultural side of Thailand. One of those things was going to see the Big Buddha statue and visiting Numuang Waterfalls, one of Samui’s most impressive natural waterfalls. Both of these things we had seen before, but though we told my sister that we had personally found the Big Buddha statue underwhelming, my sister still wanted to see it, which we completely understood if someone hadn’t seen something like that before, so we planned a trip to visit them both on the same day.

When we arrived at the site where the Big Buddha statue was located we were left underwhelmed again as similarly to at Tanah Lot, though perhaps not quite as desperate, there were sellers of various cheap and nasty wares posted up around the site ready and waiting for the tourists who had come to visit what was supposedly a sacred site. I was struggling to understand the correlation between the monks, who were there dishing out blessings to individuals who paid them for it, and who insisted on visitors covered up their arms and legs up before making the climb up the stairs to see the big gold Buddha and not adorning themselves with items depicting Buddha because it was offensive, and the many retail stores that surrounded the site selling cheap knick knacks to unsuspecting tourists.

Again I wondered about the validity of their claim that it was sacred when they allowed such unsacredness to occur in front of their very eyes. But perhaps they didn’t have a choice in such matters, who knows. All I knew was that once we got to the top of the staircase that lead us to the buddha all 3 of us were left underwhelmed yet again. We could see that he had had a fresh paint job that much was certain, but I could see still the unmistakable sign that he had been painted and thus the mystery remained completely nonexistent. I could see that this buddha had upkeep, I could see that he was within a supposedly sacred sight that didn’t feel very sacred at all and overall, I felt as though it would have been much more believable if he was actually a gold buddha, not just a painted gold one. Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with this tourist attraction and my sister wasn’t particularly impressed either. We left the miserable place and started making our way to Numuang Waterfalls which was on the other side of the island.

We arrived quite late to the waterfalls as the drive was much longer then we anticipated but as soon as we got there we had the pleasure of witnessing a herd of majestic elephants on their walks around the grounds. The last time we had been here we had witnessed elephants chained up in cages and it broke my heart. I love elephants and seeing them outside of their natural habitat, being ridden by humans or being chained up and prevented from living their natural, wise, immensely humbling and awe inspiring life was a painful thing to see. I remember looking into the elephants eyes and seeing a knowing there and elephants have and will remain one of my favourite animals, along with monkeys, because of the depth of understanding and emotion that you can seemingly read in their eyes. They are beautiful animals.

On this site, along with the waterfalls, they also had an area where you could do quad biking, zip lining, elephant trekking and the latest attraction: “taking a picture with tigers” which I was also not very impressed about. I wondered how on earth it was possible to take a picture with a tiger unless it were not operating within it’s normal characteristics and I had heard stories of tigers being injected by people in order to stop them from being their natural tiger selves which was just terrible. No, I did not wish to see a paralysed tiger thank you very much!

The waterfalls were located at the top a very steep hill which I remembered Josh and I had walked the last time we were here but nobody else seemed to bother because they had a contingency of 4×4 jeeps ready and waiting to take people there.

This time we decided the smart thing to do considering it was getting late and take the jeep there rather than walk. So my sister and I jumped onto the roof and away we went up through the surrounding jungle where our heads almost touched the top of trees to the beginning of the hike up to the waterfalls. When we got off we were greeted with an almost vertical climb to visit 2 of the magnificent waterfalls. Josh and I had done this hike before so we weren’t at all concerned about how strenuous the climb might be and  began making our way to the first point of the hike.

Strangely, there was now a rickety looking make shift wooden bridge crossing, that had been put up over the rocks that before we had just climbed over. I wondered what had happened that they felt they had to erect a wooden bridge? Had someone had a terrible accident here? That was entirely plausible since it was quite a treacherous climb, and was certainly not suitable for alot of people since it required climbing up steep inclines, crossing streams and balancing on rocks. But what was most disconcerting was the fact that according to the sign posted up at the start of the bridge, we should only go over it one by one!!

Why was that I wondered? And, was it one by one Asian style or one by one Westerner style? – because we have all seen the size and weight of alot of Westerners and in some cases they are worth approximately 3 Asian people on average. This was concerning. None of us were overweight but would this rickety bridge hold our weight? – we decided to take no chances and crossed it one by one with the stream rushing violently by underneath our feet. Thankfully we made it across it one piece and now we began the real climb, up the side of the waterfall to get to the next level which was hidden out of sight. Once we got there we allowed ourselves to marvel at the natural beauty and power of this water display, which cascaded over rocks with wanton abandon with a stream of sunlight from above illuminating it and tropical, dense woodland on either side. We sat on the rocks for awhile taking in our surroundings. There were a few others there too – a group of French people, who were sat on the rocks taking pictures. But apart from that it appeared that we were late to the party as we had arrived at the waterfalls just before the park was closing so we decided that it would be best to press on.

The last time Josh and I had climbed this waterfall we had done it from the other side of it, which provided a much more user friendly experience, though it had still been strenuous. But Josh, for reasons unbeknown to me, decided that he knew that way to the top of the waterfall and thus me and my sister should follow behind him. There was absolutely no signage posted up to tell us which way to go – not with text, not even with an arrow so we trusted him with the directions implicitly, but when we started climbing up essentially what was a vertical rock face which required my hands and legs to get into positions that just did not seem physically possible, I knew that something was wrong.

Did Josh know where he was taking us??

Something inside of me told me that something was not right. Partly it was because Josh isn’t the best person for directions in this relationship: I am, and partly because I know that he is a little bit fond of getting himself and therefore me into dangerous situations. But he was insistent that this was the way, even when the foot holds became smaller and smaller and further more inconspicuous and even when my eyes could see no end to this evil climb. I was especially terrified for my sister, knowing that if any one of us did have a fall (and right now I could see that it was very possible if not inevitable because this trail was not meant for random tourists), then we would be in some serious shit because we couldn’t even describe where we were.

To top things off, as if they couldn’t get any worse, was the fact that it was rapidly getting darker and being that we were in the middle of borderline jungle, we had already started hearing sounds such as none of us had ever heard in our lives and apart from us, there wasn’t anybody else around.

What kind of sound was that? A silverback gorilla perhaps??

After an especially hairy part in the climb, which required us to grab onto nonexistent rocks buried within the soil in order to hoist ourselves up, my sister had finally had enough. She said she couldn’t go further and I agreed. We seemed to be going deeper and deeper into the jungle and we didn’t even know if there was another crossing. We could just be climbing further and further then how would we get back down??

Alas, when I told Josh I did not think it wise to go any further because I knew for a fact that he was just “chancing it” and didn’t actually know whether there was a way down that way at all, he seemed positively gleeful. He was actually enjoying this! Josh was taking pleasure from our pain!

Rage and Fear

The emotions were rage and fear. My rage and my sisters fear. My fury was growing as Josh, grinning from ear to ear, tried in earnest to convince us to keep going. But my sister could not go any further and I did not want to go further because I knew that he didn’t know where the bloody hell he was taking us!! Sweat was streaming down my face at this point and my thighs were literally shaking they were being put under such pressure. I did not want to scramble further into the darkening jungle just to satisfy his boyish danger fantasies and I did not want to be responsible for anyone of us having an accident which to be completely honest, would not have been me but probably him or my sister because I was far too enraged to fall!

The biggest concern of all was that if we went any further we wouldn’t be able to get back down and that wasn’t something that I was prepared to chance especially since I couldn’t see anybody else attempting this climb but us.

Thankfully, Josh agreed to go on ahead to have a peek up the waterfall for himself to see if indeed I was right and there was no reasonable way up and finally he agreed that we should divert our journey and go across the waterfall instead, via the way of the protruding rocks which the stream was rushing over. Below that was a vertical drop but trust me when I say this was the best way down.  

One by one, we gingerly made our way over the rocks, which required a lot of skill, patience and confidence – and since there was some algae on the rocks we took our shoes off to avoid slipping.

All in all it was a horrendous experience and despite Josh’s enjoyment of the scenario I can assure you that there was nothing funny about it!!

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Big Buddha 

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Numuang Waterfalls

The following day, after the trauma of the waterfall experience my sister and I decided that we were very much in need of a spa treatment so we booked one at a resort that was nearby and we took ourselves off to Chaweng where we had a walk through the main road, which had an abundance of retail shops and markets, where both Josh and my sister were seduced into buying watches (fakes of course but very good ones!), and after that we started discussing having a spa treatment at one of the many spa’s on the high street. Another thing Thailand is renowned for, asides from their amazing cuisine, Muay Thai and famous nightmarkets are their spa’s, which they have literally hundreds of from bargain basement to ultra luxury.

You can get one in someone’s home, at your hotel, on the beach, and in many many spa’s on the road of varying quality but though Chaweng wasn’t somewhere that I would choose to walk the street looking for one necessarily (because it was a tad bit tacky), It DID have lots of spa’s and I saw nearly all of them occupied with Westerners getting a rub down before or after their night out so I chose the most luxurious and cleanest looking one that I could find and all 3 of us booked ourselves in to have an hour and a half worth of treatments. Such a thing would be unheard of in London as it was approaching 12:00 am midnight at Dusit Spa, which was when they closed. Alas the Thai people are extremely hardworking and are always accommodating so of course asking for 3 massages at 12:00 am midnight was no trouble for them at all!

We were whisked inside and almost 2 hours later – 2:00 am in the morning, we emerged refreshed and feeling limbo. My sister and I had gone for a spa package and had had both a facial and a massage and in comparison to all of my experiences in UK spa’s, the treatments here are far superior and need I say FAR FAR cheaper!!

It seems completely criminal to me that when you go to a spa in the UK, even some of the best ones simply cannot give you a proper massage. It’s almost as if you are being tickled such is the pressure they give you. It’s rubbish! And another thing is that masseuses seem to pass onto you what they themselves are feeling so for instance if they are feeling tired then they will give you a “tired massage” and if they are feeling lazy then you will get a “lazy massage”, but here in Thailand, the quality of the treatments is pretty consistent, so you feel like you always get your moneys worth, even if you’ve only spent £5 for an hours massage on the beach!

Unbelievable. Needless to say, we very much enjoyed our midnight massage and we certainly did need it after our horrendous experience at the waterfall the day before!

The following day we had booked ourselves in for a long and luxurious massage at a more pricey establishment the Peace Tropical Spa in Bophut and then we were going to a meal at one of my favourite restaurants, the wonderful Zazen.

As expected, our massage at the Peace Tropical Resort, despite the torrential tropical rain, was divine. Better then I expected and infact the best I’d had since arriving in Koh Samui. The woman who gave me the Thai massage was expert at kneading out the knots in my back and calves until they had dissipated and I was eternally grateful. I was finding that as the day went on my body, and my thighs in particular, were aching more and more, which was directly related to the strenuous and stressful hike we had done at the waterfalls. In some respects I was glad, as with all of this fine dining, occasional meat eating and minimal exercise I was feeling a little guilty for how lazy I was being, but I knew that the exercise that I done yesterday was worth about 10 sessions in the gym because my body was telling me so!

Zazen

I was so glad when I found Zazen. When Josh and I went a couple of weeks ago we had loved it so much that we vowed to return and I thought what better time to do it then when my sister was here and on their traditional Thai dancing night which they had every Thursday and Sunday.

My sister, as expected was completely blown away by their elegant but dramatic decoration and the anticipation they had created with the long coconut tree lined entrance that was sparkling with hanging fairylights on the trees.

The magical entrance required a meander through their tropical gardens which were maze-like with their complexity with huge secret doors scattered throughout. Had we not been here before I’m sure we would have lost the way alas we managed to find our way to the restaurant where we were taken to our table to enjoy the show. In all fairness, the traditional dancing seemed pretty poor in comparison to what I had experienced in Bali, and there was a male dancer who was wearing very heavy makeup, including foundation and lipstick who was a little off putting but as far as the decor, ambience and food went: Top marks. My sister absolutely loved it and even enquired about their room rates! Lol. Needless to say, they were pricey.

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Crepes Suzette at Zazen

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The magical ambience of Zazen

The Jungle Club

According to the weather forecast, tomorrows weather was going to be good so I had booked a table at The Jungle Club, a restaurant/resort located high up in the mountains with magnificent views that overlooked the whole of Koh Samui, but as my sister was leaving in a couple of days she wanted to get one last trip to the beach so we decided to go that day and then go to the beach tomorrow.

The Jungle Club, I’d had no knowledge of when I had been here previously, so it came as a great delight and surprise to me to find that such a place existed here. Located up a very steep mountain, with completely unobstructed views, was a place that had some of the best views I’d ever seen, but seemed completely secret. It was as if only a handful of people knew about this place, but I was so glad I was one of them when I saw how beautiful and tranquil it was. From this height you could see the beach, the sea and the mountains, and because it was so high, there was absolutely no noise, not from neighbours, traffic or even nature. It was almost as if we were so high up that we were above nature. I could have slept there it was so peaceful.

I wasn’t sure that the food would be anything to write home about but I was elated to find, when they brought me my raspberry, coconut and pineapple juice and then my lunch: Chicken Massaman, that everything was fresh and delicious!!

I haven’t had a massaman since being in Thailand as it’s usually made with beef but I’m telling you this one was the best I’ve had. The chicken was on the bone so it retained all of the flavour and the sauce was a rich, creamy and spicy luxuriant curry that I will remember fondly for a very long time afterwards. Delicious!

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The staggering views from The Jungle Club

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Perve Town

It is most unfortunate to say but there is a distinctly perve quality to Thailand.

I’m sure it is FAR worse in places like Phuket and Bangkok but still, the persistence of sleazy behaviour, cheap women and gold diggers persist and I feel as though it has definitely increased since we were last here. Perhaps these women decided to move to Samui from Bangkok, as more Western men were holidaying here, who knows. All I know is it’s something that you don’t get used to as more and more women seem to be standing on the street corners outside “spa’s” or “massage parlours” wearing next to nothing and even though you don’t quite understand what they’re doing there, their body language is warning women not to approach. Infact, they don’t seem particularly bothered with their own Thai men either: the only thing they seem to want is Western men, and no doubt Western bank accounts, and they flaunt their sexuality openly to get them and of course the men lap it up.

This means that sex is being openly sold everywhere, whether discreetly or otherwise and almost every Western man has a Thai girl in tow, often much much younger then him. The disparity in both culture, age and language is very blatant and I feel that both the women and the men are taking advantage of each other. It doesn’t seem to be a relationship of equals in most cases and it is a sad (and a little sickening I have to say) thing to see. This kind of sleaziness is spoiling Thailand and no doubt vexing the humble local men.

We went to Chaweng beach again but it wasn’t anything like it was the last time we went when the sun was shining and we had beautiful cloudless skies. In reality I really wasn’t feeling it as I don’t see the point in going to the beach when the sea is choppy and it’s not hot alas it was my sisters final day at the beach and she wanted to make the most of it and make the most of it she did! She had a great time splashing about and flirting with the men folk 😉

Afterwards, we thought it would be criminal if we didn’t get a massage on the beach to end our time there so we went to the first 3 masseuses we could find and each got a massage. Unfortunately, after my massage at the Peace Resort, I knew that my masseuse didn’t stand a chance in impressing me, but since it was so cheap I allowed her, however what I did not appreciate, was the strong smell of Vick’s Vapour Rub that was seemingly enthused throughout the bedding and pillow that I was lying on. I was almost choking on the bloody thing. I asked for a Coconut Oil massage NOT a Vick’s Vapour Rub massage! I wasn’t too impressed with her capabilities and method either. 

William’s on a scam

This William guy (William Heinecke), the owner of the Anantara brand, the man with 40 vehicles, and multiple businesses, so we were told by his employee’s, is on a scam. You already know about the ridiculously priced Vacation Club scam that we were so unimpressed with that we decided to sting them twice for. You already know about the Tree Tops restaurant, which is far and beyond what any restaurant should be charging in Thailand, irrespective of whether or not they have a unique location. But what you don’t know is about William’s many franchises. William has franchises of various persuasions. He doesn’t just stick to what he does well: hotels and resorts, he also has retail franchises too, such as GAP and Burger King.

There is no coffee culture to speak of in Koh Samui, perhaps because it’s more of a holiday island, but the one coffee place we had managed to find was called The Coffee Club, an Australian coffee brand which has been franchised in Thailand by none other than greedy William. When we ventured in there to get some coffee’s we were horrified to find that we were being charged over £9 for a coffee and a hot chocolate. 9 freakin pounds! What a liberty! But it did not stop there as William also wanted your passport details in return for internet access! And he only allowed you a measly 45 minutes to use it too!

Gusto

The owners of Gusto are an Italian man and his wife based in Fisherman’s Village who served up delicious, authentic Italian fare beachside. Since I wasn’t eating meat I was surprised and delighted to find an abundance of Italian restaurants on Samui serving up wonderful pizza’s and pasta dishes that I could have to replace the meat dishes there was on seemingly every other menu. And in comparison to Dr Frog’s, which was a pretty disappointing experience overall, Gusto’s was great. The owners were very warm and friendly and had managed to decorate their restaurant in such a way that it really transported you straight to Italy. Since my sister is wheat intolerant it is difficult finding Italian restaurants in particular who cater for her allergy but thankfully Gusto was only too happy to oblige and we had a wonderful meal there where she was finally able to indulge in some gluten free pasta that actually tasted good!

Lulu’s

Unbelievably, we had been without a washing machine in each of our accommodations.

In our first one in Ubud, Bali, we had been staying in a villa where there was no washing machine, and in our second place, another villa – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, he had no washing machine and neither did the following 2 hotels where we had to pay for them to do our laundry and now in our 3 bedroom villa, the largest place we’ve stayed in yet, that sleeps up to 6 people, it too, has no washing machine either! How do they justify not having a washing machine in a villa for 6 people that is big enough to accommodate one? I was so desperate to have ultra clean clothes that I had literally been dreaming of putting on a wash as soon as I moved into the villa but no.

I had been hand washing my smalls and saving my dirty clothes up to take them down to the local laundrette (of which there were many on the high street). The shops on Mae Nam high street are really more like shacks, and it is really hard to decipher what it is they are actually selling in them as they all look pretty much the same so when I saw a big sign that said “Lulu’s Laundry” I told Josh to park up. This was where I would take my laundry. When I walked into the shack like shop I was immediately taken aback by how small and cramped it was in there. There were piles of clean, ironed clothes in plastic bags to my left and to my right was an old, small and lonely looking washing machine.

I was greeted warmly by a middle aged woman carrying more piles of clothes towards me from a room down the hall. It seemed as though this “shop” might actually be this woman’s home. Lulu was very friendly and I took to her immediately. There was something in her genuine nature that reminded me of my late Aunty Cynth.

When I went to pick up my clothes from Lulu the following day at first I couldn’t see her. It appeared as though she wasn’t in the shop. We had agreed a time for me to collect my washing however so I decided to wait but after a few minutes of waiting around and nobody arriving I started to think that maybe she was in her house somewhere. I began by calling her name a few times and then started slowly walking down the passageway, all the while calling out to her as I went, before I heard the sound of a Television. Soon I came to a room and there she was, fast asleep on a bed with the covers pulled over her. I called her name gently a few times and then she roused from what was obviously a very deep sleep. I felt awful. This woman had clearly been up all night and all day washing and ironing other people’s clothes and she was knackered!

What kind of an existence is this? That she should have to live in the same place as where she works because she’s too poor for anything else? And when I heard the price she was charging for my 2 bags full of dirty clothes I couldn’t believe my ears. It was CRIMINALLY CHEAP. Something like £2.50! She was getting paid far too less. After paying her and taking my clothes I vowed to return with more clothes for her to wash and tip her generously.

Unfortunately, the clothes that she had ironed so earnestly, were not completely clean and there were still stains left on clothes that I was hoping she would have got out but after meeting her, and seeing what she was using to clean the clothes I wasn’t bothered about the clothes anymore, I just felt bad for her. The woman needs a new washing machine!

The next time we went to Lulu’s I was with my sister and she was also shocked to see the conditions this woman was living and working in but Lulu lit up when she saw me and seemed touched when I tipped her double and she even gave me a hug so hopefully I brightened her day if even just a little bit.

It was my sister’s last day in Koh Samui tomorrow and I was determined that I was going to make her last dinner a memorable one. So far, in her short time with us here she had experienced multiple massages in various settings, seen breathtaking views at The Jungle Club, chilled out and listened to some great tunes at Beach Republic’s Sunday Brunch, indulged in some retail therapy in Fisherman’s Village nightmarket, been hiking up Numuang Waterfalls, was entertained by Thai dancers, firedancers on the beach and Muay Thai Fighting, was wined and dined at the finest establishments Samui has to offer Zazen and spent days of sun soaked indulgence on beautiful white sand beaches. So I felt she had a full experience of what Samui had to offer and tonight, I was taking her to Saffron, a traditional Thai restaurant located in the hillside of the Banyan Tree’s five star resort.

Saffron

What better entrance to Saffron’s hillside location overlooking their private bay, then by golf buggy? Josh and I had experience of being transported to a restaurant via golf cart a few times whilst in Thailand and it was always a nice experience. In the main because you know that since it requires a golf buggy to get to it, you are almost certainly going to be rewarded with wonderful views when you get there. And the journey to Saffron was as exciting as it was long, as the buggy went up steeper and steeper up the hill through mysterious, coconut tree lined inclines until finally we arrived at the restaurant.

We were greeted warmly by staff wearing authentic Thai uniform and taken to our table which did indeed have the wonderful views that were promised. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that along with the menu, which was a completely Thai menu (some of the restaurant menu’s are mixed with a few select Western dishes), the restaurant had been decorated with a distinctly Asian style and they were playing traditional Thai music. The food, when it came, was also very impressive – perfectly cooked and wonderfully flavoursome.

We all agreed that Saffron had been our favourite dining experience yet. To finish the evening off we were transported back to the bottom of the hill by golf buggy. What a night!

My sister almost missed her flight as we were having a leisurely lunch at The Coffee Club when we looked at the time and realised that she should have been at the airport around 20 minutes ago and she still hadn’t packed! Time had gone by so fast whilst she was here it seemed very cruel indeed that she should have to leave so soon. Thankfully, she did make her flight in time though and then we went home to start our own evacuation procedure as we were leaving the island of Samui to go to our next destination in Chiang Mai in just a couple of days time.

We returned home to no internet so we had to go back to greedy William’s coffee shop to use the measly 45 minutes he gave to check us into our flights, communicate with our next host regarding our arrival time, plan our route to Tree Tops, which we were going to tomorrow,  and our trip to to the pier as we were going to Koh Phangan the day after, book our taxi to the airport and inform Khun Tor about our lack of wifi situation at the villa. All in 45 minutes. To say it was stressful was an understatement but we done it.

Tree Tops

Tonight was supposed to be the night to end all nights. Tree Tops was the restaurant on the island that everyone was talking about. It had won awards, was in all of the best publications touted as being one of the most unique dining experiences on the island and was charging a ridiculously extortionate price to dine there. Tree Tops, as with most of the places that Josh and I had frequented, was basically a honeymoon destination, as it was far too fancy and far too expensive for the average couple, alas we knew that we would not be going to Tree Tops either if we didn’t have the vouchers so generously given to us by Anantara. The situation with William and his greedy ways, had backfired on him terribly as chancers like us was going to use his gift voucher offer to pay for our entire meal at the Tree Tops as we were determined not to give him a penny!

I was expecting big things from this place. Of course I was. They were charging European prices and I had already been to some of the best restaurants on the island who were charging far less and were comparable to some of the best restaurants in Europe. We had the anticipation of waiting for this day to arrive for a couple of weeks now and had timed it perfectly to coincide with good weather and one of our last meals on the island.

When we arrived at the Anantara in Chaweng, which was where the Tree Tops restaurant was located, we were taken to their “sky bar”, an elevated bar area that overlooked their immaculate grounds below. There we had a cocktail and a sparkling wine, before being shown to our table, located with our own private treehouse that was accessible by a wooden candlelit staircase. We were informed by our private butler that because we had booked in advance the best table in the restaurant had been reserved for us. The view from our spacious treehouse which was above the trees and jutted out over the tropical gardens below, had a perfectly serene view of the beach, sea and mountains and the treehouse itself had been decorated very tastefully with comfortable wooden high backed chairs and gold lanterns. Undoubtedly, it was lovely but was I blown away? No, I’m afraid to say I was not. 

We decided to dine from their “candlelight degustation” menu which was their 5 course meal that came with an accompanying 5 course wine option and cost almost 4,000 baht per person, which is the equivalent to about £100 per person. We knew then that we were going to have to pay William for the privilege as our gift vouchers only totalled £180 and the meal alone was costing more. Nonetheless, we looked forward to the arrival of our food as I had specifically eaten less in order to accommodate it!

Firstly they gave us a shot each, but I still had some of my sparkling wine left so when the first wine and course arrived I started to get a little concerned because rather than giving me a little taster they had given me a full large glass of wine. However I was impressed, more with the wine I have to say, which was a Sauvignon Blanc which went with the salmon perfectly.

By the time the second course had arrived I had already been to the toilet once, which required a pretty treacherous walk in my high heels up and down steep wooden stairs with a low balcony from our treehouse. I figured that if I didn’t go to the toilet and flush out these alcoholic toxins there was a real danger of me getting very tipsy indeed. With the arrival of the second and third course I was getting more and more intoxicated. The food portions were minimal, and though cooked well, they were not sufficient both in portion size and quality to stave off the effects of the alcohol which were taking hold of me. However, despite the fact that I am not a big alcohol drinker, I like to think that I’m reasonable knowledgeable when it comes to good quality wine and these wine pairings were excellent.

For the first time perhaps, I was enjoying the wine more then the food, hence why I was draining each and every large glass they brought me and then wobbling to the toilet afterwards to drain my rapidly expanding bladder. I was now getting drunk. This I knew because the intensity of my toilet needs and my inability to walk straight had me genuinely concerned that I was going to fall from this bloody treetop to my impending death. When the fourth course arrived I was officially drunk. My head was spinning, I was barely in control of my speech and I had tried to call my brother, my mum and my sister to warble nonsense to them down the phone, thankfully to no avail. The call did not connect.

The fifth and final course I enjoyed immensely because it was a wonderful chocolate, peanut and vanilla construction that had been presented perfectly with an accompanying wine to take me over the final edge. I was now DRUNK BEYOND BELIEF.

Thankfully, even though Josh had had the same menu as me and therefore the same wine, he was driving so he didn’t drink all of the wine they gave him but in my drunken stupor, after I had been to the toilet for the seventh time since arriving, and Josh was hit with another £70 in restaurant bill even after the £180 vouchers we gave them, I finally understood what had happened: Bloody William.

This man was determined to make as money as possible, needless to say at the expense of the hard working Thai people he employed since most of his establishments were located within Thailand, and from us, a couple seeking luxurious experiences in exotic locales at reasonable cost. But this was not reasonable. The thing I treasure about being sober, is my ability to think clearly and despite my drunken status, I was still aware of the nonsense I was talking, how I was walking etc, I just didn’t or couldn’t care to do any better. But even in my drunken state, I was aware that though the food was good, and the surroundings elegant, this was not my best dining experience in Thailand.

That award had to be given to Saffron. Or even Zazen. And they both were charging FAR FAR less. But their strategy here you see, was to ply people with alcohol so that they were unaware of this fact, and it might have worked perhaps if people were a little weaker of mind, but I knew that the wine, granted, was wonderful, it went with the food well and the food was good also, but it was not exceptional, and it was Mediterranean cuisine afterall, which let’s face it, cannot compete with Thai food when it’s done well.

I was drunk because they plied me with alcohol when I arrived – a sparkling wine, a shot and then a further 5 large glasses of wine within 3 hours but the food in its portion size was not equivalent to the amount of drink they gave me. Infact, I could have eaten more.

William was greedy but he could not fool me. Despite the fact that we had paid £70 extra which we were definitely not expecting, it was still a small price to pay for the experience, which was hilarious and I will remember for a long time afterwards.

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Tree Tops

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The view from our “treehouse”

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A chocolate extravaganza!

Koh Phangan

The one thing we had yet to do whilst being in Samui was visit one of the surrounding islands. Samui was a fantastic jumping off point as Thailand had other very beautiful islands within close reach with their own lovely beaches and sights and as yet we hadn’t seen any of them so we had booked a trip to Koh Phangan, one of the closer islands, located a mere 20 minutes ferry ride away, and the site of Thailand’s famous Full Moon party, a FULL ON party that thousands of revellers from the world over attended wearing day glo and all manner of tacky wares. Taking the ferry to Koh Phangan required us waking up around 6:00 am in the morning to catch the ferry at 7:30 am from the pier but not only was I feeling completely destroyed from the drunken night before but we had also both had a restless night due to yet another freakin tookay who seemed determined to scratch his way into our abode from the rooftop. It was unbelievably loud and got louder and louder until eventually we had to change rooms (again).

I’m telling you this tookay and gecko business was becoming the bane of my life!!

We were not interested in partying, what we were interested in was their beach, one of the best in Thailand we had been informed, so when we arrived at Koh Phangan pier we booked a taxi to take us straight there.

30 minutes later and we arrived at the beach. Naan Thong Beach, almost entirely deserted by the time we got there at 8:00 am in the morning! was a lovely beach, but I didn’t see how it was better than Chaweng. Despite it being completely devoid of the commercialism that Chaweng was notorious for, with no large hotels or beach clubs in sight, I didn’t see how it could be better then Chaweng when the sea in Chaweng was bluer and the sand whiter. But as the day grew on and the sun grew stronger, casting it’s gaze on the bay, I finally I began to see the magical and unique beauty of this place.

Untouched, unspoilt, and beautifully natural with shallow, transparent coloured waters,  surrounded by mountains on both sides with a view of the misty horizon and rocks protruding from the sea, with hammocks swaying lazily between coconut trees, quiet and tranquil, finally: I understood. In Naan Thong I had found a paradise and by the end of our time there, after I had spent a hugely enjoyable time splashing in the waves, sunbathing on the rocks and burying my feet deep in it’s soft, powdery white sands, I understood: This was my true sanctum.

Tomorrow we move onto to our fourth and final destination in our travels: Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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True Sanctum in Koh Phangan 

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Week 2 in Koh Samui,Thailand

Week 2 in Koh Samui,Thailand

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There’s A DRAGON in our villa.

We were sitting in the kitchen in the main house around 7:30 pm one night, drinking and talking when suddenly I heard a loud scurrying sound go across the ceiling. My heart jumped into my throat.

At first my immediate thought was that there was either a mouse or rat in the house since what else would be scurrying about unseen, but when I listened again closely I quickly concluded that it sounded far too loud to be a mouse or a rat and the scurrying had a sharp, scratchy sound to it – it was as if the creature had CLAWS and A TAIL.

Only one type of creature exists here in South East Asia that loves to infiltrate people’s homes and set up residence there, and they have sharp claws and a long DRAGON LIKE TAIL – and that is a gecko, or more likely it’s larger, more vicious counterpart a tokay, who are essentially miniature lizards AKA A DRAGON!

Oh HELL NO. This beast needs to go!

As you know, I cannot deal with creatures of any kind, be they mouse, rat, creepy crawlie, gecko, or whatever else nature seems to produce with not a moments thought to my health and wellbeing.

So I sent Josh upstairs to investigate.

Josh the Tokay Hunter

By now the scratchy, clawing sound had increased in volume and it sounded utterly terrifying. Whatever it was that was in my house it had to go IMMEDIATELY. My sister was due to come in a couple of days time and she would not take kindly to living with any kind of lizard like creature and neither would I for that matter!

Josh was gone for around 15 minutes and in that time I was worrying about what he was encountering up there and wondering whether I should go upstairs to investigate.

I was far too scared to face the beast myself but what if he was in trouble, or whatever it was bit him? All these thoughts were running through my mind as I tried hard to listen to what was going on up there. One thing was for sure, whatever it was it clearly wasn’t easy to catch! – I couldn’t hear the scurrying noise anymore but I could hear the sound of Josh moving furniture and banging things so my imagination was going into overdrive as I imagined him caving in the head of a giant tokay!

Finally, he emerged from the battle ground looking defeated. He told me that he had some good news and some bad news. In these instances I always ask for the bad news first as if hoping the good news will override the bad news just given. He told me that as we thought, it was definitely a tokay, which is the larger cousin of a gecko, and when he went in there it was on the wall at first but as soon as it saw him it scurried into the crevices of the ceiling and disappeared.

The ceilings in our villa have an interesting coving pattern that though architecturally appealing, makes for the perfect hiding place for these kinds of animals. Also, because the ceilings are so high and the overhang of the coving so wide, it is impossible to see to the back of it and goes too deep to reach.  I asked what the good news was? And he told me that the good news was that he had seen the creature! Some kind of good news that is!

Alas, it is what it is. Josh had at least closed the door to the bedroom (which incidentally was the same room that my sister was going to be sleeping in!) so that the tokay would not be able to escape. If it had been a gecko trapped in there then it would be small enough to fit underneath the door frame but this tokay, Josh reliably informed me, was too big to fit underneath the door therefore it was definitely trapped in there.

Once we had managed to figure out a way to catch the bastard then Josh was going to go back in and try again.

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One of our ceiling coves

The weather here has been pretty shoddy in all honesty. When we came here 2 years ago it rained for the first couple of days but after that it was brilliant sunshine almost everyday for 2 weeks however the 2 weeks that we have been here already has seen torrential rains the likes of which we never experienced when we were here before. I’m talking rains that have literally gone on for the whole day which has meant that we didn’t bother to leave the house.  Because of this, it has meant that alot of the touristy things that we had planned to do in Samui, such as visiting the other islands or going to see some waterfalls had been put on the back burner. But luckily for us, we have another 2 weeks here to fully take advantage of what Samui has to offer and of course, many of it we have already experienced when we were last here, however when it does rain consistently in a place like this it’s just miserable. You don’t WANT to go and sightsee, and there’s certainly no point in going to the beach!

Dream Team

We have always worked well as a team. I guess part of being in a relationship is working as a team, alas not all relationships are equal but I like to think that ours is without too much hard work. Really from the start we’ve been good at treating each other as equals, recognising each others strengths and weaknesses and naturally splitting chores. We have also, in our almost 7 years of being together, worked well when seeking special priviledges, upgrades or making complaints, and this particular aspect of working well together is what has set us up to have some pretty unique and amusing experiences over the years.

When we came to Thailand 2 years ago, we called on our ability to strategise and we managed to get Booking.com to move us from the current property we were staying in to another, better suited property. And this as you know, we orchestrated twice whilst we were in Bali and though it wasn’t easy, it just showed us what we could do when we both put our minds to it!

When I took Josh to Anantara for his birthday we visited their Vacation Club front desk where we enquired about possibly signing up and we were then invited to attend one afternoon to see a presentation. Since we like the Anantara brand we were partly curious about what it was they had to say but what we really wanted was the free gift vouchers that they gave to everyone who attended this presentation whether they signed up for their timeshare or not.

We had previously attended another timeshare presentation last year in London and as a consequence, we are getting a free holiday to Turkey in June next year. I wouldn’t usually pick Turkey as a holiday destination but I don’t turn down free holidays! GET IN!

On the day of the presentation we were both as cool as a cucumber. We had already prepared our strategy, which basically consisted of us looking through their wonderful offerings and then telling them that we couldn’t afford it. We agreed that we were not going to be pulled into their dirty sales funnel unless they were offering us a REALLY good deal, and even then, they probably wanted more buckaronees then either of us were willing to give.

Unfortunately, Thailand had decided to open up the floodgates and it was raining heavily by the time we set out of the house and there was heavy traffic so we arrived around 10 minutes late. We went to reception and filled out a form which basically wanted to know a) whether we were married or in a serious long term relationship and b) whether we could afford it. They didn’t want any households who didn’t earn over £75,000 a year. They also wanted to know which hotel we were staying in as they wrongly assumed that we were staying in a hotel and not a villa. The last time we were there they had offered to pick us up but we declined on the basis that we had our own car so didn’t require a collection.

After we had filled out the form and returned it to reception a few seconds later a young woman approached us and introduced herself to us as the person who would be taking us through the presentation. I think she said her name was Ellie and she was from Malaysia. She took us through to a room that seemed to have a similar set up to the one we experienced in London though the room was much smaller then the other one, the furniture was of a higher quality and overall it was more discreet.

Ellie was very friendly, and offered us both drinks so I asked for a cup of tea and Josh got some coffee and soon a waitress appeared with our drinks.

Ellie began the presentation firstly by telling us all about the owner, who despite the name and distinctive branding of the hotel, wasn’t Asian at all, but American, though he had come over to Thailand when he was a teenager and started his first business in Thailand.

His name is William Heinecke and he owns multiple hotel and resort empires worldwide including the Marriott and Four Seasons brands so he wasn’t doing too badly!

She went onto tell us with extreme excitement (as if any of this information would make a jot of difference when it came to our final decision) how many businesses he had (including franchises of Burger King and Swensons which was not impressive to us at all), and how much money he was worth.

I assumed the purpose of this was to show us how stable and trustworthy the man was, how good he was at doing business and therefore we should trust him with our funds but from where we were sitting it was sounding like the man was a wee bit greedy.

The hotels they showed us, as we had anticipated were impressive. We loved the fact that the hotels were in mostly in exotic locales and had been designed by local designers in their host countries so that each one reflected the style and culture of the place they were in but with the Anantara luxury, mystery and exotism thrown in. This to me was what made the Anantara brand unique.

I particularly liked the look of the China, Abu Dhabi, Mozambique, and Zambia resorts. They were completely different from one another but they all held a certain amount of beauty and charm that completely fit in with their natural environments.

The hotel in Zambia had striking colonial architecture and was set in a safari with stunning natural landscapes and wild animals that you could be amongst.

The hotel in Mozambique was located on a private island that could only be accessed by airplane and it had to most bluest sea with the whitest sand I’d ever seen.

The hotel in China was against a backdrop of mountains and with its traditional Chinese architecture it looked like a fairytale.

The hotel in Abu Dhabi was located in the middle of the dessert and was opulent beyond belief, mimicking a typical Arabic palace. All 4 places I would happily go to but I did not like the price these people were quoting to be a member of their vacation club. At all!

Once we had done the calculations, and believe me they tried their very hardest to confuse us so that we didn’t, we worked out that if we joined their “exclusive programme” then we would get to spend 1 week A YEAR at one of their establishments (not including flights food or transfers I hasten to add) for the better part of £30,000 which we had to pay up front and which would allow us to have 1 week of holidays a year for the next 27 years. What a cheek! I don’t go anywhere for a mere week unless it’s local (i.e Europe) and they aren’t even offering breakfast! Oh hell no!

Anyway, I didn’t allow myself to get too het up as the point of us attending this presentation was not to sign up to their extortionately priced vacation club but to collect these free gift vouchers they were offering which very generously, would allow us to have a spa treatment or a fancy dinner in Koh Samui at their expense. Oh yes!

Despite our horror at the pricetag Ellie had quoted we had still enjoyed the presentation and it had given us some inspiration for other countries that we hadn’t thought about visiting before. She was really sweet when we told her that we wouldn’t be proceeding and essentially agreed with us when we pointed out that with their “points system” we would never be able to afford to go for longer then a week a year without “borrowing” points from the following year, that it basically wasn’t a good deal!

Afterwards she accompanied us back to reception to collect our gift vouchers that had a value of £120 that we could use in a few of our favourite restaurants around the island, tours or spa treatments. £120 is a very generous amount of money to give away and to get that for just sitting there listening to someone talk about luxury holidays (one of our favourite topics) for 90 minutes is even better!

We had already picked out the restaurant that we wanted to go to with our freebie vouchers. I hadn’t realised it before but it was actually an Anantara restaurant and it was considered (alongside the amazing Zazen) to be one of Thailand’s most romantic restaurants. It was called Tree Tops as it was located as you would imagine, high up in the tree tops. And we could now go there for free!

On our way home, happy with our gift vouchers, we began talking about this vacation club business that they were running. These people were milking it!

Essentially they were sitting there giving out vouchers to people left right and centre, £120 twice a day everyday, and who do you think is paying for that? – yes, you guessed it, the gullible people who have more money then sense and signed up for their extortionately priced scheme! I honestly don’t know why anyone would sign up! 2 grand for a weeks holiday not including flights, transfers or food, even breakfast? And the price could go up at any moment as it wasn’t a fixed fee? – I don’t think so love!

Yes it’s nice but it’s not that nice. We are currently staying in a beautiful, private 3 bed villa with an infinity pool and we haven’t even paid that for the month! Jokers.

Anyway when we arrived home it dawned on Josh when he realised that Anantara had another hotel in Chaweng and therefore would be running the same deal, that we could  get more vouchers if we posed as new customers again. He asked me what I thought about that and I said “Lets go for it!”

So we set out again, this time on a mission to get what we were due. Again. lol.

When we arrived at the Anantara in Chaweng I was nervous as essentially now I had to be the one to lead the enquiry. We had read the terms and conditions to be eligible for these vouchers and needless to say they did not allow people who had already seen the presentation less then 12 months to see it again so we were definitely taking liberties. And I had no idea what they would do to us if they found out that we had been lying and would probably die of embarrassment anyway! But we also understood that it could still be done. If we were smart. If we were ballsy and worked as a team.

We knew that in order to prevent people from just coming to collect the free vouchers they held a database with all of their customers details so we knew that we would have to have a new address for the accommodation we were staying in, and a new name (as they said they would require ID), so in order to pose as a completely new couple I gave my full name as the contact rather then Josh’s, put down my Mum’s home address instead of ours, and put Josh down under a different name (and we agreed that if they asked him for his ID then he would conveniently say that he had forgotten it so they would have to use mine instead), plus the new dates of us being in Thailand (just incase they matched us on that), and a new villa name.

When we walked into the other Anantara branch it was extremely busy and I was not keen on just walking up to the desk and enquiring about their vacation club so I used the premise of enquiring about their Tree Tops restaurant instead and then casually remarked about the vacation club afterwards.

Of course these people are keen to get anyone they can in for the presentation who they think might wish to be fleeced so they told us that they could book us in for a presentation on NYE. We said that would be okay. She also remarked that it was policy for them to collect us from our hotel but we weren’t staying in a hotel I insisted (panicking that she would demand the full address of this villa that I had made up) and thankfully in the end she relented and said that we could make our own way there.

Fast forward to the moment when she tells us that we would have to go to the SAME ANANTARA BRANCH THAT WE HAD JUST ATTENDED A PRESENTATION AT THAT VERY SAME DAY.

I was in horrified! This is going horribly horribly wrong I thought to myself. I thought we would attend a presentation here! She has just signed us up to attend a presentation that we have already seen at the same bloody hotel! And I know approximately how many desks there are in that presentation room so it’s an extremely high possibly that we will get the same agent that we had last time who will definitely blow our cover! Or even the receptionist. Infact, any number of people could bait us up.

We took her appointment card and got the hell out of there. I told Josh that there was no way we can go but he says that we will think about it over the next couple of days, weigh up the risks and then make a decision and by the time we had arrived home we have decided that we are going to go for it.

We have thought of a plan (which of course we are praying will work but have no guarantee of), and we have decided that for the sake of £120 that we can use in a restaurant or spa of our choice, it is worth the risk!

Unconventional.

We are unconventional. Sometimes we do some ridiculous things but this one really takes the biscuit!

On the morning of our appointment I am feeling under pressure. Being a black woman I cannot take the kinds of liberties that Josh can take and clearly I am far more recognisable then he is. Once they see him, there is a possibility that they may not remember him, but with me, they will know straight away, so we have to take the necessary precautions.

The plan is firstly that we will wear completely different clothing. Since he was wearing cargo pants the first time round, he puts on some jeans and I put on some trousers as I was wearing a dress before. My hair was down before so I put it up and with the addition of some dark lipstick (I don’t really wear lipstick usually), my outfit was complete. I even felt like a different person. Instead of going to the main reception first like we did the last time we went straight to the vacation club reception and we timed it to perfection. I had tried to look up Ellie’s working hours online to find out whether or not she would be working then to no avail so our next strategy was to arrive late again, in the hope that we would be the last to arrive and so everyone (including Ellie hopefully) would be otherwise occupied with other clients and so not notice us skulking in again, lol.

Next, once we arrived at reception I would fill out the form and then pretend that I needed to take an urgent phonecall and go outside leaving Josh to look through the glass doors to see whether Ellie emerged. If she did come out and he was too late or there was no glass partition to see her before she came through then he would pretend to enquire about a pair of lost sunglasses, but if he did see her coming through then he would just vacate the building where I was already ready and waiting to flee if needs be. But if she didn’t come out and another agent came out in her place then we were in business – he would simply come outside and get me and we would go in together! That was the plan.

We arrived late and as if it was fate we had Ellie in our clear line of sight. She had 2 clients with her and was deeply engrossed in chat with them so we knew that whoever was coming was not going to be her and she was unlikely to notice us walking past. I went outside anyway just incase and pretended to take a phonecall and then Josh collected me a few seconds later and we were introduced to another Malaysian guy who showed us to our booth. We had to walk right past Ellie in order to get there but thankfully she was too busy to see us.

This time around the presentation was really quite enjoyable. This was despite the fact that we had seen most of it before just the other day, and despite the fact that I had to remember to lie about a number of things without getting it all confused with what we had already told the other agent. The agent we had this time was very good at his job, and he showed us lots of things that Ellie hadn’t bothered to. We both found it interesting and found him to be a very relaxed and friendly guy. It didn’t bother me at all that we were basically making him go through this presentation knowing that we were only there for the vouchers as the deal itself was simply not good enough – even if we had the money we wouldn’t go for it as we get much better deals when we look ourselves and we don’t want to be tied into anything for 27 years.

Unfortunately for us though, this arriving late thing, which had been a genius idea at first was starting to work against us as everyone else finished up their presentations and we were now one of the last ones left. This left us in a very dangerous situation as now Josh could clearly see all of the staff members loitering at the back of the room instead of going about their business and Ellie was standing with them. It was at this point that I began to panic a litte as I realised that if she didn’t leave the room then we would have to walk right past her and it was almost impossible for her to not notice us when she had no other distractions.

Sure enough, our presentation came to an end and we could stall no longer – we had to walk past her. It was bloody TENSE. I didn’t look her in the face – I concentrated instead on looking out of the window but I could FEEL her eyes on me. Thankfully she didn’t say anything. We went through to reception where again my plan was to pretend that I needed to take an urgent call to avoid the receptionist recognising me as I picked up my second lot of gift vouchers in as many days.

But I am pleased to tell you that our utterly AUDACIOUS manoeuvre, in this luxury hotel, in broad daylight, in the exact same location as we’d been a mere few DAYS before WORKED WONDERS We got the vouchers!!! And now we have £240 to spend! Get in!!

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Our Anantara Gift Vouchers

We felt awesome. It took some big kahuna’s to do what we done especially with Ellie standing right there but we done it. Successfully. Afterwards we went to Fishermans Village for lunch where I passed by the toilets and I saw a pair of Vivienne Westwood sunglasses lying by the side of the sink and I was feeling particularly naughty so I took them! Normally I would have just left them there for the owner to find but I was feeling particularly badass in that moment and decided to swipe them! And now they’re mine. Moo ha ha ha ha! Moo ha ha ha ha!

As we were strolling through Fishermans Village, talking about our stroke of good luck, we passed RIGHT BY Ellie, who was with her colleague and was clearly cussing us, telling her how we brazenly came into her place of work and scammed more vouchers! lol!

It was a good day. A great day even, and now the sun had come out!

Not so Happy Elephant

Happy Elephant had advertisements all over Bophut, claiming to be one of the longest standing traditional Thai restaurants on the island. They were bigging themselves up no end and were also one of the featured restaurants that we could use our gift vouchers at so we decided that we would go there for dinner before we made our way to Nikki Beach, for the beach party to bring in the new year. It was a big restaurant and it seemed pretty busy when we arrived in the evening but we were taken to what seemed to be the best table in the house, a table right at the end with a view overlooking Bophut beach.

I think that perhaps this was because we had made the reservation in person earlier on that day but I couldn’t be sure. Either way, I certainly wasn’t complaining.

The menu they gave us was huge, both physically and materially, and despite their claim to be a traditional Thai restaurant I could hardly find any Thai dishes within it. It seemed to have every cuisine under the sun, including Thai, American (if you can even call their food a cuisine), Italian, Mexican, British and every other imaginable cuisine you can think of. Also, there was no dinner menu as such, the menu consisted of breakfast lunch and dinner all in the same menu and it was very confusing. I was concerned. Usually when a restaurant offers everything under the sun with no particular cuisine speciality it is a sure sign of a disaster.  And though it was advertising itself as being a Thai restaurant I could scarcely understand the Thai dishes that were within it.

In short: I was bloody confused. In addition, the table next to us, which was now full of a group of Chinese people was UNBELIEVABLY LOUD. One woman in particular was literally YELLING across the table to her dinner guests and it was becoming increasingly more and more unbearable.  Even the waiter came over to apologise to us because he knew it was too loud in there, alas what could he do? Indeed what could we do when these people seemed to have no spacial awareness whatsoever and no volume control?

The food when it arrived, much like the menu, was a confusion. I ordered as best I could but the food was decidedly average and I was VEX.

How dare these people trick me into eating in their shoddy establishment?!

After dinner we returned home so that I could get changed and then we made our way to Lipa Noi beach, where Nikki Beach’s annual NYE beach party was being held. I had never been to a Nikki Beach party before so I had no idea what it would be like but the other beach club we liked on the island Beach Republic wasn’t doing a beach party for NYE and we didn’t fancy just dinner so we decided to go there instead. The price for hiring a bed for the night and including their “buffet” (sorry love I don’t do buffet) was extortionate beyond belief and try as I might I simply did not see the value in it.

The only thing I cared about was whether or not the music was good, and no bed, and no buffet would save me if it were not and I’m not paying £5,000 in order to find out! We decided to arrive late, bring in the new year there and see what it was all about. I figured that since they were commanding such princely sums they must get some pretty dimwitted and pretentious people attending their parties and I’m sorry but I’m not one of them. I don’t like pretentious, materialistic people and I don’t enjoy fakery of any kind. I prepared myself to encounter many an American and Russian!

When we arrived, we walked through a long blue chiffon archway with fairy lights that looked dramatic and eye catching. It was pretty but when we got to the other side I straightaway started seeing the people that I imagined I would see: FAKERY EXTREME. The place was packed to the rafters with try hard blondes in various try hard outfits. And they all looked the same. The same!!!

Clones Galore

As I suspected, it was packed to the rafters with Russians and Americans with absolutely no taste whatsoever and it was tacky beyond belief. Fake boobs galore, makeup caked on faces like it was going out of business, high heels on the sand, bleached blonde and all manner of Botox and goodness knows what else. They looked either bored with life or drunk – there didn’t seem to be any middle ground. These were not our people.

And as for the music – it was HORRENDOUS. Surprisingly, even though they clearly had the money, after fleecing almost everyone in there for at least a grand each, they had no taste, as the decoration of the venue looked shit. I could have done a better job with a quarter of the budget they had. They seemed to have spent all of their budget on skinny girls who walked around half naked masquerading as “dancers” when they couldn’t dance for shit! What an absolute waste of time and money. There were roped up areas up the hooley too, which no doubt pleased the Russians and Americans who seem to need that kind of irrelevant shit to massage their ego’s. Thankfully for Josh and I we had already half prepared for this outcome and had purchased the cheapest ticket going so we were alright jack but it was bloody awful. They didn’t play one decent tune! Not one!

What an absolute sham. The fireworks were cool and it was memorable being together in Thailand again to bring in the New Year but I will never go to a Nikki Beach party ever again. Infact I don’t even want to hear the name Nikki Beach!

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  Nikki Beach Entrance

We finally visited our local beach Mae Nam Beach and it was nice, though very windy. The sand is not as white as in Chaweng and Bophut but the sand was finer and softer then on Bophut beach and it was most certainly much more quiet. It has a kind of rustic charm.

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Mae Nam Beach

Finding Afro Hair products in Asia is a non starter. They simply do not cater for the black demographic. This is naturally the same when trying to find makeup products for black skin but since I’m not a big makeup user this isn’t a problem for me. The main problem is of course, that Amazon do not have warehouses in Indonesia or Thailand and you can only get select products shipped to you from the UK/US to those countries with a very high mark up so I made sure I stocked up on my favourite products before I left which included my skincare regime, my haircare and contact lenses. The rest such as my toiletries I knew that I would find in abundance where I was going. But my haircare resources are running low and though I have partially supplemented them with natural Coconut Oil that they have here in the case load there are some things that I just NEED. So I have ordered them on Amazon and my sister, who is arriving in a few days time is going to bring them with her. Result!

Josh has come down with some kind of cold or virus – he has a sore throat, a runny nose and high temperature. We picked up some meds from Boots so hopefully in a couple of days with some rest he will be over the worst of it.

Bamboo Park

There is a place called Bamboo Park near us. It is supposed to be a collection of eateries but I really do not understand the concept at all. Firstly, there is hardly any customers in any of the eateries there. None of them look particularly appealing and it’s not very obvious what any of them even are. Secondly, when you go in there they give you one menu and it has all of the businesses that are within the complex within it so without realising it you can order from another restaurants menu which is just ridiculous. We got caught out one evening with nowhere to go for dinner so we went to this Bamboo place because it was close, and accidentally walked into the cleanest looking one – a German and Thai restaurant the owner reliably informs us.

I’m sorry but there is no such thing. Nobody eats German food asides from German people or tourists if they are in Germany and can’t find anything else to eat but everybody eats Thai food. I don’t know why they are trying to piggy bank on the Thai people’s delicious cuisine as if it is somehow related. It is completely unrelated. Nasty white German sausages are not related to Green Thai Curry I’m sorry. Anyway the owner(who was German) seemed nice enough but I was not happy that I was going to be presented with a white sausage menu. Thankfully, there were lots of Thai dishes on the menu and Thai women in the kitchen. Phew! I thought.

I ordered a vegetable stir fry, which I was quite convinced would be bad to average but it ended up being really tasty. All throughout the German man seemed vex that everybody in the restaurant wanted the Thai food and not his German food but surely he must know that nobody is interested in his curry sausages, white sausages, pickled sausages or whatever other style of sausage he is offering?!

I ordered a drink thinking that it would be coming from the restaurant I was in but then the German man tells me “Okay, I will just go and order it for you” and disappears into another restaurant! What kind of thing is this? – about I’m ordering from every restaurant in the complex! That is pure foolishness. So what, he has to go and walk over to each restaurant and order a drink from here, rice from there and meat from there? – what a ridiculous system. I did not like that Bamboo place at all. It’s backward.

It rained allday today and it was utterly miserable. I didn’t travel all of this way to get rained on and I’m not feeling it at all.

2 Fishes

We passed this new looking Italian restaurant and thought we would give it a try as the owner had come out and made the effort to talk to us. The menu at 2 Fishes was very small (take heed Happy Elephant!), and the owner very amiable, clearly passionate about the food and our enjoyment. Because of this I knew the food would live up to expectations and it did. It’s mainly a seafood restaurant and I haven’t been eating meat but he had Spaghetti Carbonara on the menu, which as you know has bacon lardons in it, and I have had a craving for that for awhile and knew he would do it justice so I ordered it. And it was delicious! Josh had Duck Ragot and it was also delicious. We will return!

We are now in stage 3 of tokay hunter mode. After Josh was unable to locate the thing we notified the cleaners who are locals and know how to deal with these kinds of things and after much laughing at us they promised to find and remove the tokay from the room we had trapped it in. I have heard it scurrying and scratching again so I know that it is still up there and it must be getting hungry by now as the windows are not open for any insects to make its way in there but I want it banished for good. When we returned home our cleaners were gone but the door to the bedroom was still closed so we didn’t know whether she had found it or not. The bed had been made up in there but I didn’t want to assume that it was gone and leave the door open incase it was still there and it escaped to another part of the house so we kept it closed. And here we are trying to catch it again!

We read online that Dettol kills gecko’s and tokay’s and Josh killed one with it yesterday. This is the last thing I wanted and I do feel bad but I cannot deal with the faeces all over the house, the sudden scurrying when you turn the lights on and the freaky chirping sounds above my head in the middle of the night and they just won’t leave!! They run, they hide, they shit and they won’t leave and if the cleaners can’t catch them then we sure as shit can’t, therefore I have given Josh the go ahead to spray Dettol around the perimeters of our house to prevent them from coming in and on them if they do come in.

We caught two yesterday and sadly one perished but the other managed to escape possibly to await his fate in the great outdoors. I’m really not playing with these beasts.

This tokay has infiltrated my house and is steadfastly refusing to get out and I will not be under siege in my own house!!

Josh is prepared and armed with a selfie-stick to see to the back of the coving, a chair to stand on, a stick to prod, a brush to swipe, and Dettol to kill.

Stay tuned to find out the outcome!

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NYE