Remarkably, this is our sixth pass through Thailand in the two years we’ve been on the road. In part that’s a function of Bangkok being a transportation hub, with Thai Airlines being pretty flexible for us to use our United miles on. Beyond that, though, we love the heat, the tropical feel, the beaches, and the food. Especially the food. And while often they tone the heat down for us Westerners, sometimes it comes piping hot like the Thais eat it. Turns out that’s great for my diet since I just can’t eat too much when it’s that hot!At any rate, the second we stepped off the plane in Koh Samui we were struck by the intense midday heat and the heavy, humid tropical air. I’d sort of forgotten that since we got to Saigon in mid February, we’ve essentially been traveling through spring weather, sometimes a little warmer, sometimes cooler, but always pretty temperate. Not so here: there is no spring in the Gulf of Thailand. There’s sun and rain, and we had a fair amount of both. The rain, though, this time of year at least, comes in intense but relatively short bursts so even on a day with heavy rain you get plenty of sun.
We first came to Koh Samui in January 2014 and, as countless tourists before us, found it to be a spectacularly beautiful island. So, as we were looking for a place to lay back, rest Mark’s knee, and celebrate his 50th birthday, Koh Samui leapt to mind. And after nine days here we’re confident it was a good choice.
What do you do for nine days on Koh Samui? Not a lot, to be honest. The first four days we splurged at the W Resort on the north coast of the island, celebrating Mark’s birthday. It was a bit of a strange experience insofar as we weren’t really that crazy about the resort as a whole or the beach there, but we loved our villa with great views of the Gulf. So you rent scooters and go out for lunch at Fisherman’s Village, maybe go back there for dinner, but mostly just hang around the pool and read. Very luxurious.
Then we headed south down the island to Rocky’s, a beautiful but much more affordable resort near Lamai Beach. We found this just a lot more comfortable, friendlier, more accessible. The woman who did the design obviously has a great eye and great attention to detail; it was a place where you were always noticing another beautiful touch. And speaking of nice touches, once a week the management at Rocky’s sponsors a one-hour cocktail party, giving guests a chance to mingle and chat and, of course, drink. We met a bunch of fun Brits on the island for a wedding.
The only slight disadvantage to Rocky’s is that, like the W, it didn’t have a very nice beach. Or, more specifically, the beach was nice but the swimming was all but impossible; very shallow for a long time and lots and lots of rocks (thus the name of the resort!). There’s an easy solution to a problem like that, though: rent scooters and head to Chaweng Beach, just a little north. This was where the backpacker set “discovered” Samui back in the 1970s and while it’s grown up a lot since then – until 1970 there were no roads on the island at all – the beach itself is still spectacular. We’d spent lazy afternoons when we were here a year ago, and after trying some of the other places on the island we decided it really was perfect for us.
One of the great things about returning to a place like this, and having great records of where we ate and all that, is that we could go back to the same place on the beach with spectacular beach chairs that they rent out for about $6.25 a day, per person. It’s a beach restaurant called “Eat Sense,” which really doesn’t make sense but we loved their slogan: “A perfect combination of good and delicious.” (If “Eat Sense” sounds like an odd name, our favorite restaurant in Fisherman’s Village was called “Starfish & Coffee.” Weird.) At any rate, Eat Sense has big, comfy chairs and big umbrellas to sit under. So the last two days, finally, we were back in bliss.
And that’s pretty much it. Mark turned 50 and finished his massive Ken Follett trilogy. I worked through a history of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and did a lot of running. We had some great meals and watched a few great rainstorms. And we relearned a lesson we (should) know well: location, location, location. We’ve stayed at three different resorts on Koh Samui, now, all of them a bit distant from the best beach on the island because we liked the look of the resort. Next time we come here – and there will be a next time – we’ll probably stay in Chaweng, since it is one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever found.
Next stop, Bangkok, and then off to Bhutan!