Weeks 3 & 4 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Weeks 3 & 4 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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We came, we saw, and for 4 wonderful months, we lived.

To say that the 4 months we have spent travelling through Southeast Asia has gone fast would be a lie. To say that we have spent it in the way that most travellers do would also be a lie. We haven’t. We have spent our time travelling in exactly the way that we like to travel, at the pace we like to travel at, no more and no less. So ultimately for us it hasn’t gone quickly – it’s gone just as quick as we expected in the time that we have had, but we have had lots of amazing experiences (and challenges) along the way and many a fond memory of specific places and situations both good and bad that will keep us smiling for a long time to come!

It was never our intention to be backpackers. The backpacker lifestyle (though there’s certainly nothing wrong with it) is not the lifestyle for us, but it seems that from some  people’s perspectives, if your not “roughing it” then you haven’t had the full travel experience. Well I disagree.

Travel doesn’t have to be done on the cheap or spent at the lowliest of places. Travel can and should be luxurious! Afterall, travelling isn’t about how many places you can cram into your time, or about collating meaningless bucketlist locations to brag about on Instagram, it’s about experiencing different places, fully immersing yourself in the country, culture and customs you visit and seeing the world anew. And what better way to do that then by spending an extended amount of time in each destination?

In our 4 chosen locations (Ubud in Bali, Canggu in Bali, Koh Samui in Thailand and Chiang Mai in Thailand), we got to live alongside the locals whilst not foregoing the luxury’s that are important to us such as staying in a decent standard of accomodation, and going to nice restaurants and spa’s. We also did not want to have to keep packing and repacking all the time and as I do not travel light it was out of the question to move anymore frequently then we did.

All in all, when you factor in the 2 shambolic places we stayed at in Bali (Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin and the Akmani) where we left both promptly, we stayed in 6 different locations overall in our travels. Travelling to 6 places in 4 months meant packing and unpacking 12 times! 12 times! There is no way that I would want to pack and unpack anymore times then that.

 I think that what was most refreshing about our time spent away was that we were operating from our own clock. There was no alarms to be set or anywhere in particular to be. We arose each day to decide what we wanted to do and where we wanted to be  and found that mostly, even though we had the luxury of spending every waking hour on the beach topping up our tans, we didn’t necessarily want to. We found that even though we could have spent our time experiencing every possible thing that Indonesia and Thailand had to offer, we did not want to. The touristy things that we did do we considered carefully before doing them, weighing up whether these experiences were unique to that country or not.

So overall we have had a pretty varied experience in each place – we spent some days lazing about on the beach, some days at home, some days travelling, some days in cafe’s, some days shopping, some days getting pampered. Spending so much time in each location afforded us the luxury of doing things at our own pace and it was a very delicious indulgence indeed.

Songthaew Life

Getting a Songthaew here is easy. And since we live very centrally it’s even easier – you just wave them down as you would a black taxi on the street. Granted, you do sometimes have to negotiate the price with the driver as occasionally (especially late at night), they try to charge you more then 80 p a ride, and even though you know that what they’re charging is bloody cheap you still don’t want to pay more when you know that 80 p is the standard rate. But these Songthaews are surprisingly endearing as each one is unique. The drivers “pimp them up” to reflect their individual style so sometimes you will get ones that are decorated with Thai ribbons hanging from the roof, sometimes you will get decorative patterned seats to sit on, some have an interesting interior colour scheme and some even have flashing disco lights installed in them to get the party started!

But the Songthaews have competition on the road, as there are also Tuk Tuks, which are basically converted scooters that have the added capacity to take passengers in the back. I call the Tuk Tuks the “Pimp Mobiles”. They each only take two passengers so you never have to share your ride. All of them are decorated so that they are noticed wherever they go, whether that’s with a kick ass sound system, flashing lights, bells and whistles, blankets and furr interiors – you name it, they have it. And with their flamboyance they have the driver to match.

Unlike the Songthaews, which are mostly driven by the older generation, the Tuk Tuks are mostly driven by younger guys, who have better English, know more of the up and coming hangouts and are far more cheeky. The Tuk Tuks also go faster then the Songthaews so if you’re going somewhere in a hurry then they are perfect, but both of the sides are open and the temperature in Chiang Mai drops at night so it can get quite chilly when you’re driving through the city at pimp mobile speed. Also, they are more expensive then the Songthaews so most people try to avoid using them. This makes the drivers of the Tuk Tuks naturally a little more aggressive as they have to fight to get people to pay the measly 40 p more to ride with them!

There are hardly any pavements here and no traffic signals for pedestrians whatsoever. It is becoming a bit of a challenge trying to cross a 6 way junction with no green man for pedestrians and tbh I’m very surprised that I haven’t witnessed a fatal accident in the time that we have been here. It is bloody dangerous and also extremely polluted in Chiang Mai. Never mind Indonesia and volcanic ash, these people are suffering from petrol fumes! I’m sure that my lungs have noticed the difference since arriving here.

Home Alone 

Josh’s friend is also in Chiang Mai at a Kung Fu Training Retreat in the mountains. If it sounds ideal then perhaps you need know that as part of his training which incorporates not just the practical side of Kung Fu but also the philosophical side too, he wakes up at 4:00 am each day to begin his training. There is of course no drinking or smoking allowed (and he does both with regularity when he’s back home), instead, he is required to meditate daily. The Kung Fu Master is originally from England but has been living in Thailand for over 30 years and has won various Kung Fu Awards and was chosen by the previous master for his skills so clearly this is no joke business. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that Josh’s friend had planned to attend the retreat for a month as I knew that he partied pretty hard. He contacted Josh and said that he was going to be staying in Nimman for a night before he went onto Phuket to meet his girlfriend who was flying out from the Isle of Man (where they both live) to join him, and then he was going onwards alone to Japan and China (now THAT I was envious of!).

Josh organised to meet him one night for dinner and I didn’t particularly fancy being a third wheel so the plan was for me to eat early and then stay at home for the rest of the evening whilst he met up with his mate. Staying home was my preference as we usually went out for dinner each night so I figured it would be a welcome change, but it was also a necessity as we only had one key fob to get into our apartment and indeed our whole building as for some strange reason, the woman who rented us the apartment didn’t think it necessary to give us 2 key fobs despite her knowing that there was two of us staying there. And she didn’t even live in the country! Ridiculous.

The security in our apartment block was intense as it was one of the nicest developments in one of the nicest areas: Nimmanhaemin. This meant that we needed the one key fob we had between us to access the lifts, to get up to the floors and to get into our apartment. In reverse, this meant that you couldn’t enter or even leave the apartment without it, therefore I was essentially “banged up abroad” whilst Josh was out socialising.

Before Josh went out to meet his friend I went to a local pizzeria which I had never tried before to pick up a pizza to take home with me. The pizzeria we had been to before in Chiang Mai, which had come so highly rated, turned out to be average and after having such exceptional pizza in both Bali (Spaccanopoli) and Koh Samui (Coco Tam’s) respectively, I did not wish to eat an average pizza. So I thought I’d try this other place out. The pizza, as with everything else in Chiang Mai, was cheap beyond belief. £3 for a pizza! Just unbelievable. And even though it wasn’t as good as the others I’d had – it was at least better then the other pizza I had had in Chiang Mai and for £3 I really could not complain. I didn’t really understand how these people (the owner was Italian) could be operating a business – a bricks and mortar retail store selling their pizza’s at just £3 a piece but this was the reality living in a place such as this!  

After Josh left to go and meet his friend (and I told him to film his friend doing his newly learned Kung Fu moves!), I chilled at home watching Netflix. Yes, Netflix and Chilling, lol, but alone. About an hour later my phone started ringing – it was Josh saying that he had just got to the hotel where his friend was staying but that when he text his friend to tell him that he was waiting downstairs in reception he text him back saying that he had the wrong day. They were supposed to be meeting up tomorrow! Well he couldn’t believe it and neither could I. How could he have got the day wrong for goodness sake?

Anyway there was nothing that could be done about it now. But it dawned on me that him getting the wrong day also meant that I would have to do the home alone thing again the following night because I didn’t have a key fob to get in or out!

What kind of foolishness is this??

The next day came and I went back to the same pizzeria (because I really couldn’t be arsed to find anywhere else) and the Italian man there was very happy to see me (likely because he assumed that I must like the pizza so much to be back the following day!) so I had to lie to him and tell him that the pizza was really good. He had no idea that I went there out of necessity because I knew that I was soon going to be “banged up abroad!”

When Josh left I done the same thing that I done the night before – Netflix and Chilled and thankfully he didn’t call me an hour later telling me that he had the wrong day. But it did occur to me as I was sitting there in the comfort of my cosy little home that due to this ridiculous policy of needing a key fob to get in and out of the building and not seeing any fire escape on our floor (though I’m sure there must have been one), had there been an actual fire in the block, I would have been burnt to a frazzle because I couldn’t actually get out!!

Not a Chiang Mai Grenfell

I didn’t want to perish in our glamorous but bijou apartment in Chiang Mai. And I most certainly could not read any of the fire documents which were all written in Chinese. I hadn’t seen any fire escape notifications and was completely unaware of what to do in the event of a fire or indeed how to exit the building at all. I was essentially a sitting duck.

When I had heard about the Grenfell fire in London a few months before I had been utterly horrified and angry. I seriously could not believe that something as horrendous as this could have happened and I was furious to think of it possibly being premeditated by anyone, let alone a government conspiracy. Do I think anyone would do such a thing? you ask. The answer is yes, though please do not ask me who done it or why because I’m not a detective but where there is motive, there is a criminal and what better one then one who can make money out of tragedy? Afterall, most of the poor people who lost their lives in that fire were not valued members of society. They were just poor people. Tis sad but true. 

Anyway, I do not wish to dwell on such painful things, it’s just that it did occur to me, whilst I was “banged up abroad” looking out to the mountains ahead and the mist filled sky, that if the building were to go up in flames then perhaps I would too, because there was nothing in this small apartment to throw out of it in order to break my fall if I jumped from the balcony, nothing apart from our mattress that was, and we all know about my mattress don’t we..

Hard as a Rock

I have never in all my days slept on a mattress so hard. It takes my breath away, both literally and figuratively to believe that such a hard mattress exists. Because this thing is so hard that we wake up every morning winded from almost having our ribcages crushed under the magnetic weight of it. Aching from the pain of how hard it is and with a backache because it is so very uncomfortable. So when I think about throwing out the mattress in the event of a Grenfell fire in Chiang Mai not only am I sceptical that I will even have the strength to lift this 50 tonne mattress out of the apartment onto the ground but I also very much doubt that I would survive the jump as mattresses are supposed to be firm but soft but this one was firm and hard. VERY HARD. I think that if I jumped onto this mattress it would literally break my legs. A terrible thought indeed.

Birkenstock Awe

I’m so glad that Josh managed to convince me to buy a pair of Birkenstocks. They have been absolute lifesavers during my travels. I never thought that I would wear a pair of shoes so frequently but he was right when he said that once I got into them, I would never want to come out of them! They are unbelievably comfortable and have got even more comfortable as time has gone on. German Engineering has allowed me to walk the streets of Bali and Thailand without my feet aching at any point in time which I think is incredible. Unfortunately for me, the luxury of wearing such comfortable shoes does not extend to England as it’s far too cold to wear them there but if it wasn’t, or they had a closed toe version that actually looked good (they don’t), then believe me I would be wearing them there too. Highly recommended if you go travelling and want your feet intact!

The Miserable Pork Balls seller

They are crazy for Pork Balls over here. Pork Balls are round bits of Pork (like sausage meat), on a stick that they fry for you on the roadside by the boat load. I don’t know what it is about Asians and pork but they absolutely love it. I guess the same could be said for Caribbeans and chicken and Africans and fish but Pork is the number 1 seller here and Pork Balls are King. You can get them for 30 baht (around 70 p) from the street sellers and they seem to do very good business (especially with the Chinese). We saw this Pork Balls seller outside Dom’s, getting prepared for his Pork Balls debut that evening, and he looked bloody miserable. I couldn’t work out what had happened to this guy for him to be so miserable looking but as people walked by glancing occasionally over at his balls he seemed to get angrier and angrier and by the time I dared to look over at him he was positively furious. I was unsure as to who would DARE to buy a Pork Ball from him when he was glaring at everyone in his line of vision. The man looked so vex it was as if he wanted to chop everyone in their neck back. He was bloody terrifying.

Thankfully for us, we weren’t in the market for Pork Balls, whether they were being sold on the roadside or elsewhere, so we didn’t have to go anywhere near him.

Favola

We went to Favola for dinner which is an Italian restaurant inside the Le Meridian hotel in the centre of the Old Town. I was desperate to find somewhere, an actual restaurant, where we could have a nice meal. I was fed up of this casual eating thing. I was seeking some glamour!

Unlike Bali and Koh Samui, which had glamour in abundance, Chiang Mai seems decidedly lacking where fine dining restaurants were concerned. People seem to like crowding the streets, sitting outside decidedly average looking restaurants or eating from sellers dishing out sticks of meat from food vans on the extremely polluted roadside. But that was not my thing at all. All I wanted was to find a restaurant, with nice decor, good service and tasty food in Chiang Mai. Favola looked to me to fit the bill, though from the pictures I’d seen of it online, it still didn’t look as nice as some of the other places we’d been to. But the food was rated highly which was promising.

When we arrived at Le Meredian I immediately saw a cockroach scurrying past the entrance and I hoped and prayed that this wasn’t a sign of things to come.  

The cockroach turned out to be just an unfortunate reality of living in a hot country. It thankfully wasn’t a reflection of the shoddiness that lied within because Le Meredian was actually rather glamorous inside. A typical large chain hotel, but a nice one nonetheless, the smell that was wafting out of the vents and into my nose was a delight. The staff, who were very friendly, escorted us personally up to the restaurant, which we had made a reservation for, but when we arrived we could clearly see that we needn’t have bothered, for it was almost completely empty, aside from a couple sitting in the corner and a big table of Chinese people who as time went on, and they got drunker,  became increasingly louder.

Clearly, street food is all the rage here and all the fancy restaurants stay empty! But the restaurant itself was lovely. The decor was suitably glam, with neutral tones, an open kitchen where you could watch the chefs preparing your food, beautiful lighting, tasteful furniture and a huge wine cabinet behind the Chinese contingency who were getting so loud I could scarcely hear our waiter repeat back our orders.

The food however turned out to be a success. We both ordered a risotto to share as our starter which was delicious, and then I had an artichoke ravioli dish in a tomato sauce and Josh had seabass, both of which were richly flavoured and well cooked.  

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“Marble” chocolates at Favola 

I was determined to get gifts for people to commemorate this once in a lifetime experience travelling around southeast Asia and we were best placed to get some after dinner as the Old Town Night Market was on every evening from around 16:00 until 23:00 and they sold everything under the sun. After traipsing around for a couple of hours we returned home knackered but had managed to buy a gift for almost everyone in our families plus a few extra treats for ourselves. Josh really liked the look of the “Karen Hilltribe” trousers, and judging by the amount of sellers who were selling them it look like it was a very popular choice. Even more popular then those though, were the baggy elephant pants and almost every tourist in Northern Thailand had picked up a pair of those alas even though we liked elephants we did not like the trousers with them on them. They looked like pajama’s. 

But I got myself a few pairs of these roomy, culotte looking trousers and Josh got about 3 pairs of the Hilltribe versions which really suited him. They are too odd looking and too summery to wear in England but if we have a good summer then perhaps they will make an apperance afterall!

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Josh and I wearing our Hilltribe trousers

We went back to Fern Forest for one last time before we left Chiang Mai to attend their Sunday Jazz event. Every Sunday, they have a live jazz band playing in the gardens and since Fern Forest had become our favourite place in Chiang Mai we decided that we just had to check it out. When we got there we were immediately greeted by our favourite waitress, who always remembered us and made sure she reserved us the best seats and was always very sweet and kind to us. Since alot of the time we went there to work she always asked us if the wifi was okay and if it was a little iffy then she would disappear to go and fix it for us. She was very attentive to us. When we arrived as we suspected it was packed but we managed to find some good seats, close to the area where the band would be playing. The only problem was that it was very very hot that day and eventually, once I could feel the energy draining from my body, and recalling the time when I fainted in a restaurant in Kingston from heat stroke, we decided to ask our waitress if we could move upstairs instead.

By then the band had already started playing, and they were pretty good but not even they could keep me there any longer. We went upstairs to a large, bright and airy dining room with french doors that overlooked the garden and the jazz band below. Utterly stunning in typical colonial style, the dining room was decorated in white and had marble tables, huge windows letting the light stream through from all angles, a big flower centrepiece, huge chandelier and floor length curtains. It was both glamorous and tranquil, and the beauty was that similarly to Clear Cafe in Bali, they didn’t allow anyone to wear shoes in that part of the restaurant so it felt very much like you were in someone’s elegant home. From there we could both see and hear the band very well but we had protection from the intense sun. It was a glorious day.

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Fern Forest Cafe 

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A day with the Monks

We visited some buddhist temples and it was great. Temples can be found all around the city so even if you haven’t been into one it’s quite easy to appreciate their glamour and opulence without having to actually venture into one. But when we came across this collection of temples in the middle of Chiang Mai city we couldn’t resist. Turns out that like in Bali, they do not take kindly to women being in their temples whilst menstruating (like as if that’s a carnal sin!), but rather then them asking women to refrain from entering the temple whilst their in their time of the month they don’t allow women to enter at all! Like, ever.

I must say, I would have expected better from the Buddhists. Alas, it would seem that sexism is alive and well even in the humblest of places. The temples and statues were amazing to see up close and we even got to watch a ceremony performed by the monks in the temple, which was impressive in both size and sight.

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Me outside a buddhist temple in Chiang Mai

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One Nimman

The new boutique shopping centre complex near our apartment, One Nimman, is still not fully open but as the Chinese New Year is approaching it is looking more and more ready to receive visitors and it really is an impressive sight. Comparible to the most elegant of shopping centres in London, Paris or New York, One Nimman is punching well above it’s weight. With it’s huge courtyard with twinkling fairy lights suspended between the buildings, beautiful stone used to build the clocktower centrepiece and all of the shops surrounding it, lots of stunning boutique shops, none of which I’d ever heard of before (and a Pan Puri fragrance shop opening up soon), it is enviably gorgeous. We walked through there and found a brand new coffee shop called Graph, selling really fancy coffee’s, a perfume shop which I was too afraid to go into as it looked so lovely and I knew if I ventured in there I would have had no choice but to buy some, a huge canteen area selling lots of different types of food, a creperie, and a brand new restaurant called Ginger Farm Kitchen.

This Ginger Farm Kitchen must have only been open a couple of days as we had never noticed it before. Decorated with a theme of an abundant summer garden (a theme I like very much), the place definitely had the wow factor. Plants and flowers were everywhere. Sitting on shelves, hanging from the ceiling, on the walls, tables and even in our food! Colourful and thoughtfully done, the Ginger Kitchen had clearly been put together from someone with a very good eye and an attention to detail.

Painted a pea green with enormous windows looking out onto the courtyard and the busy Nimmanaheim Road, the restaurant was light filled and sunny, with colourful cushions on the chairs and a colourful menu featuring mainly vegetables and flowers. They had some meat dishes too, but this was not the main feature here – beauty and colour was.

Both the drinks and the food was a winner. They are going to do really well I think and should we return we will definitely go back.

As we were leaving to go home and pack (boo hoo), we past another new business at One Nimman, it had no name and looked as if it wasn’t even properly open yet but the place looked amazing. It was perhaps a cafe of some kind as we could see a coffee machine on the counter as we walked by, but it also featured a huge variety of stone busts on tables, shelves and on the floor, along with comfy sofas and chairs amongst lively green plants. The place was like a living, breathing art studio/cafe. I was dying to go in there, I KNOW that it would have been right up my street alas it is not open yet and we are leaving Chiang Mai tomorrow. 

It is Valentines Day today and as I write this we are on our way to Singapore where we will be spending the day before going onwards home.

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The stunning garden like interiors at Ginger Farm Kitchen

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Deeelicious!

Singapore, the city of modern architecture

 When we arrived at Singapore Airport we found out that we could do a free tour around the city. We were on our way home but we had an 8 hour stopover in Singapore so we thought that it would be fun to do the tour in a city whose airport had been voted the best in the world for 5 years in a row and was STILL expanding. This airport was a monster! – with a cinema, swimming pool, spa, free massage chairs, sleeping cabins, shops and restaurants galore, flower gardens and even a butterfly museum.

We joined the tour group and after taking an age to get through customs we finally arrived on the streets of Singapore where we were bustled onto an awaiting bus. My first impression of Singapore was that it was clean. Like, spotlessly clean. When we started driving through the city, and listening to the guide tell us the history of the city, I was reminded again of how empty the place was – there were quite a few cars on the road but hardly anyone was on foot. It was another sprawling city, but unlike cities like New York and Bangkok, it was green, clean and almost devoid of people. And the architecture was impressive.

Undoubtedly, when it comes to modern architecture, Singapore is king. Almost all buildings there have been designed to reflect the forward thinking, ambitious modernity of the city. And rather then it just be all concrete tower blocks, they have invested heavily in landscaping so that all around the city there are an abundance of trees, plants and flowers. They even have parks dedicated to flowers that are free for tourists and residents to visit, such as the famous Flower Dome and Gardens by the Bay.

When we got closer to the Flower Dome where in a few days time they were going to be holding a celebration for Chinese New Year, the city suddenly got busier. I was surprised when the bus stopped and we were allowed to walk around the marina as technically we were just on a tour and didn’t have a permit to enter the country, but I was eager to see what it was all about. We strolled around the marina, which showcased the legendary “boat hotel” which was a hotel that looked like a skyscraper with a boat shaped top and was absolutely packed with tourists and residents alike, and then we were taken to the gardens, a stunning feat of architecture, botany and artistry with some truly amazing sculptures made from flowers.

We were in awe of the originality of some of these centrepieces, which were clearly designed to wow, but what we were not in awe of in Singapore was the distinct lack of vibe. It appeared to us that this city was a manufactured one, lacking in soul or energy which comes from the people who live within in. It was clear to me judging by the fancy hotels and restaurants I could see, that money had clearly been spent here and people were living well here (materially anyway), but that even that wasn’t enough to provide the sense of life and vibrancy that a good world city needs. In the end, I was happy to have seen it, to see what money buys you, how good it can make your city look. But ultimately, a place without vibe is no place at all.

So we have come to the end of our travels, and naturally the feeling is bitter sweet. We did not wish to leave, well not to go home anyway as we could have easily have gone on for another 2 months, alas it is what it is. We take home our memories, our stories and our pictures of which we took a few, but of course not nearly enough.

But what it has done for us, is to cement what we’ve always known: That we love to travel and we will making plans to do it again!

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Josh in Singapore

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The famous “Boat Hotel” in Singapore 

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The Good, the Bad, The Ugly, and the Busted

The Good

Particularly in Chiang Mai, things are so cheap that it is hard to believe that people are actually making a living out of selling things at this price. When you pay your 80 p to be taken to the other side of town, it makes you think of London and what an absolute scam it is to live here. And when you think about what is going on with the rise of Uber, and the determination of the black taxi drivers to drive them out of town because they are more competitively priced then them it makes you even more angry. Because Uber drivers aren’t even cheap, they are just cheaper then the alternative. But I can tell you this: I have never, ever paid a mere 80 p to be taken on any journey in London. Whether that’s by cab, train or bus. I think it costs something like £2 at the moment to go just one stop. AND you are sharing that journey with hundreds of other people with their germs and questionable habits. So the affordability of living in Chiang Mai is definitely a plus.

That goes for transportation, food, clothing, accommodation and entertainment, alot of which is free. The food in Thailand is unbeatable, and though it did get occasionally boring, as anything does if you have it too often, it was still fresh and tasty with bags of flavour though it was far more challenging finding vegetarian or vegan meals here and they haven’t even heard of gluten free!

The Night Markets in Thailand are great. Nightmarkets are such a distinctively Thai tradition and are so much fun to see even if you’re not buying anything (which I don’t think anyone could possibly do as they have a little something for everyone).

The weather, particularly in Chiang Mai was incredible. The best weather we have ever had anywhere. It never went much below 25 degrees but it was slightly chilly night which gave us a respite from the heat. There were no mosquitoes in Chiang Mai but plenty in Koh Samui so it’s pretty much even where that’s concerned, and again with the gecko’s and the tookay’s, which were terrorising us whilst we were in Koh Samui, but who we hardly ever saw in Chiang Mai.

The beaches in Koh Samui are some of the best of the world, and I found my favourite beach of all in Haad Thong Reng on the island of Koh Phangan, which was just magical.

Our day spent with elephants was something that I doubt either of us will ever forget in a hurry. Thailand remains a number 1 travel destination because it really does offer something for everyone and the Thai culture is so rich and colourful.

The Bad

The gecko situation in Koh Samui was unbearable and unacceptable. In the month that we were living there I was literally EXHAUSTED from trying to think up ways to get rid of these beasts and I couldn’t sleep at night for the noise of them. Bloody awful.

The perves – unfortunately I have come to realise that these Western perves are probably all over Thailand. After visiting Koh Samui again I found that they had increased in number but they are also in Chiang Mai too so I think it’s safe to say that these reject Westerners are all over Asia and in Thailand in particular.

The Chinese – I’m sorry but I have to say the presence of them in Thailand, and in Chiang Mai in particular was overwhelming. Partly it’s because of the sheer number of them as they seem to travel in groups of 10 or more. Partly it’s because their vanity and obsession with technology knows no bounds (the women take pictures of themselves incessantly and the boys do the same but also play computer games incessantly too). Partly it’s because they don’t seem to have any spacial awareness (they take up half the road when you are trying to walk down it as they seem to like congregating in one big cluster with no acknowledgement of others trying to go about their business). Partly, I don’t like this umbrella business because I know that if they were carrying them because they didn’t like the heat then they could just choose to go to a colder country and not come to one of the hottest, and I do not believe it’s simply because of the strength of the sun. I believe that they are desperately trying in earnest not to get darker. I know this because of the products they buy to lighten their skin that are sold on the open market and which they feel no shame about buying. 

And partly, it’s because they are far too loud. I don’t know whether it’s because they are deaf or whether their volume increases when they have had a drink but they are bloody loud and if you are in a restaurant trust me you are going to know about it!

The Ugly and the Busted

I don’t think there is a busted part of Thailand (apart from Bangkok perhaps, lol). Overall Thailand is a place with a rich culture, beautiful landscapes, good food, friendly people, amazing beaches and an abundance of things to do. The only part I really don’t like is the sex tourism which is tacky beyond belief and not particularly pleasant to encounter and the stray dog situation but other then that I think that Thailand is a wonderful destination for anyone to visit.

But I guess the ultimate decider is whether I could live here? Whether WE could live here?

Well we’ve been to Thailand twice now and I know that there are still many other islands to discover but from what I’ve seen so far, no, I wouldn’t want to live here. Koh Samui is too touristy, and Chiang Mai is even more so and I wouldn’t live there because it’s too busy, too noisy and too polluted. It’s a city, a unique city undoubtedly but I’m just not interested in living in a city longterm.

But Bali however, and Canggu in particular..Yes. We could live there happily (if our families weren’t so far away).

We have had many amazing experiences in our travels, and these are just a few!

#walkedwithelephants #playedwithmonkeys #swaminthesea #dancedlikeabalinesedancer #sunbathedonthebeach #hikedupawaterfall #modelledinbali #dinedinatreehouse #massagedonthebeach #dancedinthesea #visitedamidnightspa #fireworksonthebeach #sailedwithdolphins #bathedinaflowerbath #survivedanearthquake #dodgedavolcano #dinedinthesky #spentchristmasonthebeach #shoppedatthenightmarket #dinedlikeaqueen #spaintherainforest #visitedabuddhisttemple #watchedamuaythaifight #dancedatabeachclub #watchedmonkspraying #sawfiredancersonthebeach #drunkkombucha #visitedmyauntinbali #ateveganinbali #partiedonthebeach #visitedsometemples #livedamongstricepaddies #sunsetonthebeach #massageinthejungle #daytriptokohphangan #dinneronthebeach #sawmysisterinthailand #scammedabillionaire #rodeinasongthaew #spentvalentinesdayinsingapore

Places of Note:

Zazen – a magical place. Hidden away from prying eyes, once you meander through the maze like Japanese gardens your heart stops a beat you and find that you have fallen head over heels in love. Like I did. Twice.

Saffron – What better way is there to experience Thailand then from the stunning views overlooking a private beach cove? And transportation by golf buggy will be an experience I will always remember.

Service 1921 – Despite the owner being a questionable individual who seems to take pleasure from siphoning off as much as possible from the local communities his opulent hotels are located within, his restaurant Service 1921, fashioned from a colonial style secret service was top knotch.

The Jungle Club – Incredible views from one of the highest points in Samui which overlooks the whole island and offers one of the most zen like atmospheres to be discovered there.

Coco Tam’s aka Coco Piss – For the nightly fire shows that can be seen from your seat at their restaurant which offers the tastiest pizza in town!

Beach Republic – A firm favourite. Beautiful beach, great food, chilled out vibes and serious tunes. A winner.

Haad Thong Reng Beach, Koh Phangan – The sheer beauty and tranquility of this beach was astounding. It moves into first place as being my favourite beach in the world so far.

Dom Cafe – Everything in Dom’s is tasty and uniquely presented. We went to Dom’s almost everyday for a whole month and I never tired of their Steamed Chicken Bun or Coconut Rolls!

Fern Forest – We were surprised at how busy and touristy Chiang Mai was when we first arrived but what better place to escape the craziness then Fern Forest, a tranquil cafe that looks like it’s within an actual rainforest.

The Ethical Elephant Sanctuary – The best place to see elephants who have been saved from a life of servitude. Elephants who are well looked after, not ridden by humans and who live simple but happy lives in the northern Thai mountains.

Peace Tropical Spa – I had the best Thai massage ever here. Despite the paradise like beauty of Karsa Spa in Ubud, or the tropical abundance of the Anantara Spa in Bophut both which I loved, when I arrived at the Peace Tropical Spa in torrential rain I wasn’t convinced that I was even in the mood for a spa treatment but the massage I had ended up being so wonderful that I was almost floating when I emerged from my thoroughly relaxed, zombie-like state.

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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