Great snorkelling and kayaking and a lovely hotel in Koh Samui, Thailand
KOH SAMUI, THAILAND - What a great day.
My first full day on this lovely island was actually spent almost entirely elsewhere; snorkelling up near Koh Phangan. We got hooked up with a tour that took us on a day-long excursion with really friendly and helpful guides and plenty of pop and water on board.
It was about an hour to reach the snorkelling spot, a quiet kind of bay between two rocky islets off the coast of Koh Phangan, which is just north of Koh Samui and where they have those wild "Full Moon" parties each month. It wasn't the clearest day in the world for being in the water, but it was pretty good and the fish were plentiful; large green and orange ones and a couple schools that had hundreds of yellow and white and black angel fish (I believe). There some spiny, black sea urchins as well and other fish and it was a great day for a swim; about 30 degrees and sunny.
After about an hour of that, we cruised south for 10 or 20 minutes, pausing along the way to take photos of the towering islands that jut out of the sea around this part of Thailand. We then hit a beautiful island with a huge lagoon on Mae Koh Island in Mu Koh Ang Thong National Park. It was a tad crowded with tourists but the views were remarkable from the top of a series of steep, and I mean steep - stairs you could climb. The lagoon is a brilliant shade of green-blue and is nearly circular in shape, flanked by steep cliffs topped with jungle growth. Luckily there also was a shady bar with cold drinks and beer for a couple bucks.
After about 45 minutes on Mae Koh we powered south a few miles to Koh Ang Thong proper, where we had lunch and explored a bit and watched some wild monkeys play before taking an hour to kayak in the sea. There are pretty rock formations all around the island and the waves have created hollow spaces under the rock like caves. Very cool. Sadly the small beach we saw on one of the nearby islands was covered with plastic bottles and other litter.
Still, it was a great trip and a nice way to see the area. Koh Samui was far busier than I expected but still great; especially the Hansar resort near the Bo Phut fishing village. It's only a short stroll from the hotel to the village and to shops and restaurants on the main road on the island, but it's a very quiet and serene location.
Our room was quite large and had a great walk-in shower and a balcony with a day bed for lounging, which all the rooms seem to have. They have a very pretty infinity pool that's just steps from the ocean and a nice stretch of beach with plenty of chairs to relax in. And there are fine views of the island itself and of nearby Koh Phangan.
The main restaurant, H Bistro, serves up some remarkable Thai food with European influences and the head chef apparently used to cook for the King of Jordan. The seafood was outstanding and the spices gentle while still flavourful. We also had lovely slices of steak served up with Thai spices that was out of this world. And I had a fabulous martini with lemongrass and other Thai influences that I'd highly recommend.
We also had a chance to try the spa. I'd have a few pummellings from other spa visits on the trip (I know; tough life) so opted for a more gentle approach this time. And it was heavenly; a nice workout and a fair bit of hot oil spread generously over me. Nothing untoward, of course, not a nice hotel. And not down the street in the Fisherman's Village, either, where I stopped for a foot and neck massage. You sometimes hear about Thai massage places offering extras, but I didn't get any sense of it personally. Unlike a trip I took to Vietnam last year, where I had one particularly attractive woman in Halong Bay ask if I wanted some "boom-boom."
I thought Koh Samui was pretty and I'd recommend it. But only if you can find a quiet resort. I found much of the island overrun with traffic, but there are several quiet pockets such as the Hansar and probably, from what I could see, the W and the Four Seasons and a few others.
I got a tour that took us past Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks. The Grandfather is a large rock shaped much like a giant stone penis, which gives the tour guides lots of photos to take with guys lying down and pretending it's theirs and even with a few women doing suggestive things. Nearby is a large, slit-like opening in a rock that they called Grandmother. Hokey but harmless.
I also got a chance to visit Muang Falls, which is beautiful. It wasn't quite rainy season and there wasn't a ton of water, but the falls spill down an impressive slab of black and brown stone and the water collects in a small pool at the bottom. Local kids were jumping off nearby boulders into the cold water when I was there.
The town of Chaweng is a popular spot for tourists, with tons of raucous bars and nightclubs offering overly sweet mixed drinks for as little as $3 Cdn, or 90 Thai baht. My daughter and I sat and watched a parade of people go by and were highly entertained. We also watched a couple dozen trucks zip past with giant speakers advertising Thai Boxing matches as something that would be "the highlight of our vacation."
Somehow it wasn't enough to get me to go...