Koh Samui Stopover
Travelling can be tiring but even more demanding, we discovered, are big cities. We knew we had to stay at least five days in Bangkok – the time it took to process our Indonesian visas – and were a little apprehensive about our time there. We arranged to meet up with my father, who was spending the summer in Thailand, and looked forward to be with him and discover the Land of Smile as it is referred to. Our preference would have been to spend that time together in a more rural place or even better by the sea – an opportunity to have a pause.
The journey to Bangkok was very pleasant. We were served a nice vegetarian Thai meal and our seats were almost magically transformed into individual births with curtains. The only available tickets were in an air-conditioned carriage – not our preferred choice and it is was the last time in our trip that we needed our fleeces and neck warmers.
We arrived at the crack of dawn, had enough time to leave our luggage in a hostel by the station, print out our visa application forms with the help of the kind staff there, and went directly to the Indonesian Embassy to be the first ones there before it opened. To our bewilderment, we were told that as it was the end of Ramadan, the Indonesian Embassy was closed for the whole week and would only open its doors the following Monday. We had to totally rethink our plans.
We spent the day exploring the city and ended up in Lumphini Park mesmerised by some intriguing looking creatures in the water ways. We later learned there were giant monitor lizards. We also visited a very special Buddhist temple, near the Chinese district.
The next day we met up with my father who had travelled from the island of Koh Samui to spend some days with us in Bangkok. After meandering through the hectic streets of the capital to find a suitable place to stay, and given that we could not process our visas, we decided to leave the city behind. Our hostel was near the station and in under an hour we managed to book some last-minute combined train and boat tickets to Koh Samui where my father had been residing.
The unexpected embassy closure turned out to be a blessing.
The journey south was slow but very pleasant. A comfortable over-night train ride, was followed by a smooth crossing. We enjoyed the lush landscape and a turquoise sea.
We stayed at a lovely guest-house owned by a Frenchman, friend of my father, a short walk from the beach.
The five days spent on Ko Samui offered a welcome break – a true holiday. We visited some temples, water falls, rambled among tall trees , saw some interesting insects, and walked along fine sand beaches. Buffaloes are still quite a part of rural Thailand.
We even saw some elephants. Although there were not badly treated, we questioned the fact that there were there for our entertainment.
We could not help noticing a lot of developments and considerable traffic. On speaking to people who knew Koh Samui, this increase has its effects on the quality of life in the island and is starting to be addressed. We used Songthaew whenever possible. It is a useful van like vehicle with rows of seating in the back.
We also managed to plant a tree in the precinct of a Temple where it will be protected and taken care of. The Buddhist monks of Thailand are actively involved in planting and protecting trees as well as animal welfare.
We swam, ate nice food, had our clothes washed and recharged our batteries so to speak, and got ready for our next leg of the journey toward Singapore.
On long journeys, it is important to take a break from travelling, to stop, relax and enjoy the beauty of one place. Thanks to my father and to an unexpected embassy closure, we were able to do that on the beautiful island of Ko Samui. Tropical islands have enchanted countless travellers, and despite its somewhat over-developed side, Ko Samui gave us tranquility and a taste of our final destination: Bali.