Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Koh Samui Trip Day 3: Round Island Tour

12th August 2007, Lamai Beach
Probably it was the Pinacolada that gave me good rest or my body not adjusted to 1 hour jet lag. I woke up pretty early on Sunday morning, 7am, and felt so much in the mood for morning running. As I was warming-up and walked pass the reception, the owner gave me thumb-up encouraging me in my morning run and exclaimed "Keep fit ya?". Replying "Yeah" with a smile, I started my run ...

Lamai beach road was pretty quiet in the morning where tourists were hardly seen along the road. As I jogged, street sweepers were busy cleaning up the mess from the busy night before. Yeah, I like Koh Samui's cleanliness, a clear-cut opposite of Bangkok. My aim was to run to the local market at the northern end of the beach road to look out for young coconuts and local breakfast.

The jog was enjoyable as the weather was not hot but lack the wind. In about 15 minutes later, I arrived at the market after making a left turn into a small road leading me to the outer Lamai road. The morning market was not packed with locals making it a pleasant visit for the sweaty me as I wandered from one stall to another. Communicating with the locals was really difficult as they don't understand English well but somehow I managed to buy 3 packs of kuih-muih. Specifically for "Mango glutinous rice", I did try to question whether it was "Mango" and the lady nobbing her head says "rai"... haha... it turned out later that "rai" is not Mango but paste that taste 30% likes kaya and 70% unknown of what is it....;)

My eyes were wide open when I saw a stall that was selling green coconuts. OMG, only 15Baht compared to 80Baht in Koh Nang Yuan. So, I thought it was cheap until Tesco-Lotus in Nathon town. A chilled ready-to-drink coconut is just 12Baht... I should have ask for 8Baht one in the market....

Thinking coconuts carrying was good for building more solid muscles and Varinda Resort is probably just 15-minute away, I ordered 6 coconuts to go. :P Alright, I must confess that carrying 3 coconuts at each hand and walk for 25minutes was not as easy as I thought. The numbness in my arms midway really tempted me to just drink two refreshing coconuts and bring back 4. Afterall, nobody is going to know about it right? It was meant to be a treat from me for arranging such wonderful trip.

Fast forward to after breakfast. At about 9:15am, the local chinese guide arrived in a chartered van to pick us for round island trip in clockwise direction starting with the first stop - Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks.

Spots for Round Island trip

Grandfather anf Grandmother Rocks
The specialty of the village at the entrance to these rocks is Dodol. We were given sample before purchase. Yummy... it is soft and particularly I love the Pandan Dodol. 1kg of Dodol costs 100Baht, a price pretty standard in Malaysia too, in fact Melaka TKH dodol will cost more.

So, what are so special about these rocks? Well, it is rather 18SX and you will surely discover what these rocks resemble once you look at the photos below... the best pose to take photo with Grandpa is to lie down on rock mimicking him... keke... I dare you... ;)

Left: Grandpa lazing around sunbathing....
Right: Need a bit of imagination. Can you see pp at 5 O'clock? Excuse me.

Left: Wild flower among the rocks extending towards sea
Right: The shame shame of Grandma

Rather slippery when going to see Grandmother Rock.

Taking photo of Grandpa is easy but not grandma. So, my recommendation is to buy a postcard that has both snaps for 5Baht. From the tour guide, I also came to realize that there is no shell in Koh Samui and all the decorative shell souvenirs on sale in Koh Samui is from Phuket. Come to think of it, dead shell and corals are not hardly seen along Lamai Beach.

Mummified Monk
Among the locals in Koh Samui, the monk was a highly respected person that can foresee one's destiny. He was married with family and decided to become monk at the age of 50. Towards the end of his life, he foreseen his death and started cleansing his body by controlling his diet. His body was then formed into manditating position by his apprentices and laid against a wood to support it. To know his story, please click the photo below. Unlike the mummy in Egypt that is usually wrapped in linen cloth and placed inside a wooden coffin, the coprse is displayed inside a showcase. A gold-platted sculpture of him is placed in the middle of the temple in front of the mummy. If you are small hearted person, my recommendation is not to look a the mummy.

What interest me more is a big, greenish bronze gong with "Try to make me cry" label besides the temple. Everyone of us was trying to make it cry by rubbing our palm against the raised centre boss as it was believed that those that could will have good fortune. Unfortunately, none of us manage including myself. If you can, please tell me ok? Haha....

Left: "Try to make me cry" Gong
Right: Mummified Monk

Story of Mummified Monk

Na Muang Waterfall
As we travelled from Mummified monk to Na Muang Waterfall, the tour guide started to cast a concept that many chineses come to Thailand to pray in temple and take elephant ride to change a person's luck, i.e. richer. His pitch became even stronger when we arrived at Na Muang Waterfall. Soon we came to realize that the ride would cost us 600Baht per person for 30 minutes ride and each elephant can only carry 2 persons. Well, I guess the price factor decouraged us from taking the ride.

Well, for me if the pitch is not on changing destiny but on wonderful experience like an ancient Thai King travel across river stream in parade, I would have bought his idea. Better pray for wisdom or patience in life than wealth ma...

When I saw the waterfall, I felt so eager to jump into the pool and standing under the falling water letting the flow massages my tired shoulders. Oh yeah, before we left the place we have refreshing coconut drink at 20Baht each.

Na Muang waterfall

Left: Elephant ride. Right: Coconuts!!!

Street Shopping and Lunch at Nathon Town
As we were travelling to Nathon Town, the tour guide started to share about the success of Koh Samui tourism so much so Malaysian tourism board is engaging Goodmorning Travel Agency to learn about it. Well, I can't be more agreed with him on the charm Koh Samui has managed to develop even though it is booming in tourism industry here. The brochures are simply first class. The beach is simply nice and clean. The people is nice and helpful.

Nathon Town is the gateway to the island for those travelled here via waterway. The town is really nothing spectacular and shopping here is ok. The town is pretty run-down that day because it is the Queen's Birthday. However, the lunch that we have was not bad. It was recommended by the tour guide. Particularly worth mentioning is the Jungle Curry Chicken. It is so spicy that most of us cannot really take. If Mr. Tan was here, he would be very happy and savouring the gravy with "lam lam" sound. :P

I also found out that coconut in Tesco-Lotus is just 15Baht. OMG.. I was "cheated" in the morning market.

Left: Fried Brocollie with char siew Right: Tom Yum Seafood

Jungle Curry Chicken. Thumb-up some more!!! Got Kick!!!

Big Buddha Beach
At about 1pm we arrrived at Big Buddha temple located at the northern part of the island. This temple is much more grand than the Mummified Monk temple. The huge golden statue has staircase leading towards the upper deck. I once heard the reason why there is such staircase is because when the visitors walk up the steps their head will bow down in a position that is showing a sign of respect. ;)

It was scenic at the upper deck where beautiful view of Bhoput Beach is on the left and Koh Pha Hgan on the right. There are hanging bronze bells around the temple with sticks available for hitting. Probably, hitting the bells would mean calling for intervention from Buddha to change a person's life?

Shops with modest variety of souvenirs are set up in front of the temple. Something that drew my interest were those metal sculptures very artistic in its own right. I was indeed very impressed with the level detail and resemblance of these sculptures particularly Dark Vadar, Alien, Gremlin just to name a few. The first time I saw such craftworks was in Hatyai 5 years back. If budget was not the concern, I would probably buy a Gremlin back ... and my mum would surely exclaim "What is that creature?"

In another shop, I came across a very cute wooden miniature owl. It was 120Baht and I managed to bargain for 70Baht. [After much bargaining in Lamai Beach, I am beginning to master the skill.. Haha...] Yes! It is my very first miniature owl collection and more to come in future travelling. I reckon owl is much more cute and elegant than cat or duck. I like particularly the big eyes. So, my friend, if you are travelling please don't buy me any hardrock pin or fridge magnet. I want miniature owl. Ok? :)

Left: Chinese Bells for hitting
Right: Group photo with Bhoput Beach as backdrop

Nice Shot of Big Budda Temple.

Expensive Souvenir Shop
Before ending the round-island trip, we made a quick stop at Koh Samui Island Souvenir Shop besides Tesco-Lotus. Yes, I agreed with the guide that the quality of souvenir here is high quality. Naturally, they are more pricey. Running low with cash, I decided to pay my purchase by using credit card which is convenient but with the caveat is 30Baht surcharge. There is no sign and I was not told about such surcharge until I signed the bill. My recommendation, get your souvenirs from Chaweng Beach and be prepared to bargain.

Tesco Lotus
As it was too early to go to Chaweng Beach, we decided to chill out in Tesco-Lotus Mall which is the biggest shopping mall in town. It has Tesco hypermarket, HomePro furnishing depot, bowling alley, cineplexes and retail shops. We didn't do much in the mall except for window shopping and chit-chating. Everyone was quite bored and tired. I did the next best time passing activity - enjoying a banana cookies sundae from KFC for 19Baht. :P

The other two guys are adventurous. They have a hair cut and washing for 200Baht per head. Stylish mate!!

Time seems really tick-tocked slow in the mall... soon we decided to grab some bite of kuih-muih from morning in the foodcourt which eventually turned out to be a big Thai food bash. How can we resist the aromatic Thai beef soup noddle with self serving of beansprout and spring onion? Feeling not satisfied and since the top-up card still have a balance of 45Baht, I ordered vegetable hotplate with chicken. The gravy tasted abit like "Fu Yu" (fermented tofu paste).

Vegetable hot-plate

Chaweng Beach

Being told Chaweng Beach is just 1km away (by tour guide) we started walking from Tesco towards Chaweng Beach which was disastrous. The estimated 30-minute walk turned out to be 90-minute. Worst of all is it started to rain when we are just about to reach Chaweng Beach. Thinking of it, it was 60% ridiculous and 40% funny on how 6 smart people were "tricked" to believe that Chaweng Beach is within walking distance by the locals. Luckily the chit-chat along the walk made it less miserable and interesting... Yes.. from the start my gut feeling told me that Chaweng Beach is not at the end of the tall coconut tree but a lot of coconut trees away... Hahaha...

Looking at the map now, Tesco-Lotus is at Ban Chaweng (Ban=town in Thais) and Chaweng Beach is indeed very far away. Taking tut-tut will be a wiser choice. However, I am still proud that we walked from Tesco-Lotus to Chaweng Beach. :P Probably, we were the only people walker that evening as others were looking at us from Tut-tut.

Chaweng Beach spans over 7km. The northern half of the beach road is where the happening area lies where international brands, pubs full of guests cheering for their EPL team in big screen are so common. Along the high street, restaurants offering seafood, Indian, Western, Italian and tapas bar, truly a wide selection of international cuisine. Talk about shopping in Chaweng Beach, it is easily 200% more exciting where a vast variety of choices are available for we to pick from. Got myself a really fitting green Von Dutch for 150Baht. I mean really fitting... :P In fact, something not available in Lamai is that Chaweng has really excellent gallery for oil painting lovers. Particularly, the painting of Manchester United Former Captain Cantona is still very vivid in my mind as I write this blog.

As much as the shopping experience was great , the hunger in us compelled us to make a stop for dinner. After much research, we decided to dine in Long Table Seafood Restaurant. Ironically, the longest tables could only accomodate 8 persons. It was our last dinner in Koh Samui and by right we should be having a royal feast. Unfortunately most of the money exchange does not accept Malaysian Ringgit. For the few that accepts, the rate is so much poorer Rm1 = 8.1Bath versus 9.6Bath in Penang. Limited in cash, we could only settle with ordinary dishes envious of foreigners next tables that were chewing juicy king lobster and tiger prawn. Oh dear...

For dinner, we had 4 dishes : Thai Style Sweet-Sour Chicken, Broccolli with Musrooms, Tom Ka Gai Seafood and Fried fish in Black Temerik Sauce. Serving wise is quite small but the meal cost 300Baht each. I wasn't too full and was looking for Thai Sausage but unfortunately not common in Chaweng Beach.

After the dinner, we tried our luck to exchange for Thai Baht in K Currency Exchange which turns out to be having the best rate in Koh Samui, RM1 = 9.1Baht.

Tip: Go to K Currency Exchange to exchange for more Thai Baht.

There is Hotel called The Library in Chaweng which is pretty cool. :) Check out how these young hearts posed in front of The Library.

Tadaa!! Me in my fitting Von Dutch Shirt

Before Chaweng Beach visit came to an end, we hang around the beach area and eventually dragged ourselves back to Varinda Resort in Tut-Tut that just cost 50Baht per person. The Tut-Tut took the middle beach road passing by the hawker stalls centre that we originally wanted to have dinner in. But, if we were to walk until there for dinner we would be deadman walking....

Conconclusion, the round island trip is really just so-so. Probably, the grandfather and grandmother rock and namuang waterfall worth the visit. If I were to visit Koh Samui again, I would spend more time to explore Chaweng Beach. Also, I miss a chance to see Thai Boxing ....


Wong said...

you make me feel like flying to Koh Samui the next minute...it is really amazing!

Elvin Ong said...

Hi Wong,
Haha... it is indeed very good. :) Go go go!!