After a sleepover in LA we were off to our next destination… Ko Samui, Thailand! This trip is a little different than some of our previous ones because we were meeting a third person to come along with us for the next 4 months. Jared is someone who works with us in our online business and we hired him to come with us traveling around SE Asia for 4 months to take photos and videos of us for the business. So in LAX we met Jared (he’s from Ohio) and we all flew out to Samui together.
Our flight path looked like this:
Los Angelas to Xiamen, China (15 hours)
Xiamen, China to Bangkok, Thailand (3.5 hours)
Bangkok, Thailand to Ko Samui, Thailand (1 hour)
Our recommendation is if you can avoid flying through Xiamen do it! This is probably one of the most disorganized and ill planned airports we have ever experienced. Although we were just on a layover for 3 hours (flying the same airlines the whole way through and tickets were booked all at the same time) you actually had to clear customs and re-check in. No matter where you were flying to next, every person on the flight had to do the same thing. It doesn’t seem so hard but when theres no signs, and no airport employees to guide the process it’s sort of a free for all. The customs was a very long drawn out process with fingerprints and the longest passport examination we’ve ever seen and finally once you are cleared you sort of just walk out in the main airport without any direction as to what’s next. And then when you finally sort out where to go to go check in again there’s these crazy lineups everywhere and every traveler who is in transit seems to have the same look of wtf? Across their faces. By the time we made it back through security our flight was boarding… 3 hours after we had landed. It was just insane and after speaking with a few of the other travelers in transit we all unanimously agreed that we won’t be flying through that airport again anytime soon.
Where we stayed?
After a very long day of travel we arrived at our home for the next 30 days. It was honestly a little oasis located just a block off the beach of Bang Po, a quieter beach town than some of the more popular backpacker beaches located around Samui. Our Airbnb was a 2 level house split into 4 vacation rentals, each with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It was absolutely perfect for us! It was just off the main road in a gated property with this beautifully large (and clean) pool out front. From our back deck we looked out into lush green vegetation on the hillside and from the front balcony we could watch the sun set over the water.
For the first 2 weeks of our trip we hit some unfortunate weather. When we had booked we always do a lot of research as to the expected weather and usually December is supposed to be fairly dry on Samui but we got to experience the full monsoon effect on the island. For nearly the first full two weeks, it rained and rained. I’m not talking some uncomfortable weather where you need an umbrella but ultimate downpour where the streets were flooding in parts of the island and scooter tires were engulfed in enormous flooding puddles where you couldn’t see the bottom. There was a few days where we’d wake up to pouring rain and it wouldn’t stop all day. We made very good friends with the restaurant owners next door because we ate there A LOT over those 2 weeks because we couldn’t really go too far from our house.
Luckily for us, after those initial 2 weeks the weather gods gave us the blue skies and sunshine we’d come to Thailand for! Truthfully, having experienced such gross weather for the first two weeks it really made us appreciate the fact that we were here for longer, that we had the flexibility and freedom to be able to experience the island in the good weather.
During those first two weeks we also had the unfortunate issue that our Macbook laptop started shutting down repeatedly and without warning. Having just arrived in Thailand we spent many hours on the tech support with Apple trying to figure out what was the issue and after speaking with multiple employees it was decided it needed to go to a technician to diagnose the problem on hand and the closest “Apple Dealership” was a 12 hour bus ride or a flight back to Bangkok. With our warranty on the laptop only valid for another week (the timing I tell you) we rolled the dice and found a place in Samui of a guy who called himself “Doctor Mac” and might be able to help us. Of course given the torrential downpour at the time we hailed a taxi and made our way to this guy whose shop was literally a little bare bones shop with a work desk in the back and a display of macbooks out front. Him and his wife spoke some English and so they took the laptop and told us they’d take a look into it and call us to let us know if they could fix it and how much. So we stuck around the area and waited when all of a sudden I get a whatsapp notification “we fixed your laptop, you can pick up now”. This was probably the best news we had heard all week!! So we raced back over and low and behold it was back up and working like new!! Turns out it was just a micro chip that needed to be replaced. It cost us $130 CAD to fix and a cab ride to and from our apartment so it was definitely worth it! If you are ever in Samui and need a Mac guy- “Doctor Mac” is your guy!!
Ohhh the food, what more can I say than yum!! As I’m sure you all can gather from previous bloh posts, Piet and I love to experience and sample all the local cusine. So besides cooking breakfast in the mornings we ate out lunch and dinner every day. We couldn’t get enough of the local dishes. Most meals Piet and I would get 2 dishes to share so that we could try out more dishes at different spots. Some of our favourite dishes are Pad Thai, Green Curry, Massaman Curry, Tom Yum soup, spicy papaya salad and morning glory. Each dish has such distinct levels of spice and flavours that thai food has fast become one of our most favoured cuisines!
Ko Samui Island
We spent a few days exploring the island on scooters. The first day we all got our own scooters to get comfortable riding them and then after that Piet and I doubled up while exploring. You can basically ride around the whole island on a scooter in about 2 hours non-stop. The traffic in the busier spots are crazy busy and you are weaving in and out and around moving and parked cars. The general rule on a scooter is to stay on the left hand side of the ride in the “bike” lane and only move on to the road if you are moving past cars or anything else in your way. There were certain times though that you’d feel a huge cement truck come barreling up behind you and nearly graze you as it passes on by. This was definitely one of the busier islands to learn to drive scooters on so it was great practice for before we get to Bali. It was insane how fast some of the motorbikes went by, blink and you’d miss them! Most of the time people weren’t wearing helmets either (don’t worry mom… we had ours strapped on tight). We were lucky to have only experienced one accident where a kid was going too fast on his bike and lost control and he skidded down the road along with his bike. He was in a tshirt and shorts and no helmet and looked about 12 years old. Besides some gnarly road rash he walked away a very lucky kid.
One day we took the motorbikes to the immigration office to get our visas extended for an additional 30 days. The whole process took about 2 hours, by the time you filled out some forms, brought it to the office to pay and waited for them to process the extension. At about $65 CAD this allowed us to be able to stay in Thailand for a total of 60 days instad of the normal 30 day visa.
We also took the motorbikes to go explore Wat Phra Yai whichis known as “Big Buddha” and it’s literally a huge golden buddha statue at the top of a large set of stairs. It’s a pretty beautiful structure and on a good day or early in the morning you can even snap a photo without anyone else getting in your picture! You’ll even find monks walking around here as it’s a sacred place for budhhists. Although I brought a long sleeve to cover up my shoulders they still gave me a sarong to wrap around my waist as my jean shorts were unacceptable (things I should have researched before we left).
After we were all “templed out” we found this awesome bar to relax at for sunset.
It had these great bean bag chairs on the beach, beach loungers and delicious cocktails and it had probably one of the best views from sunset I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if we just got lucky on that night but the sunset just kept getting better and better with more incredible colours every time I looked up.
One of my favourite things to do when I want to just relax is to get a massage and there are cheap thai massages everywhere! For a traditional thai massage it costs around $12 CAD… for an hour!! You can find small little huts all along the beach offering different spa and massage services so you can have your pick! What a way to unwind with a massage and the waves rolling in as the sun is starting to go down. I definitely don’t think I can get enough of these massages before we leave Thailand!
The beaches around our place were very warm that it made swimming in there so enjoyable. The disappointing thing was that we got to see just how much plastic garbage washed up on shore every single day. It was truly sad to see just how much washes up on one single beach. In SE Asia they use a lot of plastic. Plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic to go cups, plastic bag holders for your to go cups to sit on your motorbike (no joke) that you have to start to wonder where all the plastic goes and unfortunately it seems a lot ends up in the Ocean. I was in Thailand 7 years ago and I don’t remember it being this bad but then again I may have slept a lot later and not saw what was on the beach first thing in the morning before it was picked up.
The thai people have all been very lovely so far! They are gentle and so relaxed, a much slower pace of life over here than North America. We get fruit and eggs from one of the local stands by our place and the one women who owns the shop always comes over and helps us pick out the best fruit, she’s just lovely to deal with! Most people speak some English, some just enough to get by and others have really great English that it’s as if there’s no language barrier at all!
Spending Christmas overseas in a hot country was definitely a little different for the 3 of us, especially being in a country that doesn’t really celebrate Christmas to begin with. I began playing Christmas music on the 24th but both boys said it just felt a little weird without the cooler winter temperatures and a Christmas tree and decorations. We did try and find a place that “christmasy” and offered a more traditional North American Christmas dinner but there really wasn’t much. So we embraced where we were and found a great little restaurant offering tables on the beach and some delicious thai food. Our dinner consisted of pineapple red curry with shrimp, green curry and pad thai and it was delicious! This is also one of the few spots that offered reasonably priced red wine so we had to have a few glasses with dinner to toast the Christmas holidays! We returned back to our place after dinner and all cuddled up on the couch to watch Elf together!
We rang the 2019 New Years in with a group of friends on the beach. We had a delicious BBQ meal and some drinks and listened to a live band throughout the night. As we got closer to midnight we could see everyone preparing for fireworks and the craziest thing for us to see was one of the guys who was setting everything up and arranged the fireworks was smoking on a lit cigarette while handling the fireworks! The safety precautions aren’t exactly taken to the same degree as they are back in North America. Once midnight came we sat back and enjoyed so many different sets of fireworks all down the beaches and islands close by - it was an incredible sight to see!