After leaving our apartment (and getting ripped off by a taxi diver), we arrive at Bangkok’s main train station just as it gets dark. Now that Koh Samui has an airport, we could have flown down to the islands (most people do), but we thought the experience of the overnight train and ferry would be more interesting for the kids. And they loved it. After settling in, we enjoyed watching Bangkok’s suburbs slowly go by, while having a bit of dinner and a chat with our neighbors. Just as we are getting tired, the attendants come through the carriage and convert the seats to beds. Of course, Finn and Lara opted for the upper ones, which suited us fine … we all fell asleep within minutes.
Back in February, we had booked a house in Mae Nam (on the north side of the island) via airbnb.com … and like it as soon as we see it. A large porch (perfect for eating and school work), full kitchen, a sitting area and two breezy bedrooms. It’s a 5 minute stroll to the beach with easy access to restaurants and shops.
The island has changed dramatically (and for the worse) since I was first here, more than 20 years ago. Back then Chaweng and Lamai (the two nicest beaches on the island) had a few simple backpacker bungalows on them … now they are densely packed with resorts, restaurants, souvenir shops and bars. Mass tourism (the ugly kind) has completely taken over and package tourists from Europe and Russia are everywhere. As you can imagine, this mass influx has driven up prices dramatically as well. It’s still rather cheap compared to Europe or the U.S., but nothing like it was even ten years ago.
After renting an old jeep and driving around the island, we realize that we actually like our (Mae Nam) beach the best. Enough infrastructure to make it pleasant, not (yet) enough to be overrun by mass tourism.
Truth be told, after almost ten days .. it’s getting a bit boring. The first few days it was a great change from the constant driving in Australia and from the hectic pace in Bangkok, but lately we are all getting a bit itchy to see something new.
Our original plan was to hop to the neighboring island (Koh Phang Ngan), but we changed our mind after talking to a few people. It’s main draw are the famous full moon parties, which are not exactly “child friendly”. I was there twenty years ago and they’ve only gotten bigger and rowdier since then.
Instead, we’ll head straight to Koh Tao (the smallest one of the three gulf islands), which is renowned for it’s diving and snorkeling. Unfortunately, it’s high season here by now, accomodations are filling up fast and prices are rising. So far we haven’t really found anything that looks good to us.
Here are more pictures from our first week in Koh Samui: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uwefassnacht/sets/72157634632062086