Our luck had to run out at some point…

12 Apr

…Well the question of where to go next was answered when I got an email from Tom, the man I was supposed to be working for in Koh Tao, to say sorry he hadn’t got in touch but his plans had changed and he was now in Koh Samui and could we still come?

Given that Koh Samui looks like this

it wasn’t an especially hard decision. So at least that was taken out of our hands :)

We split up for a morning – I went to a Thai cooking course and Craig went to the market and to do a few other bits and bobs. My heart sank a little bit when the woman came to pick me up because it was just her on a motorbike…which meant only one thing: I was the only one on the course.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because I would get one-on-one tuition, but I had hoped to meet a few other people and it to be less of an intense teacher/student deal. But never mind.

Gae and I went to the market to get ingredients and to learn about all the vegetables we would be using in the four dishes I would make. (Another advantage of being by myself is that I got to cook exactly what I wanted).

She took me through fresh kaffir limes, fresh turmeric, soup packets (little bunches of herbs and vegetables that are like a bouquet garni – everything you need flavour-wise), spices, dead crabs for seasoning, three different types of basil…you name it, they had it

Then we hopped back on the bike to go to Gae’s house to begin cooking. It was an open-air kitchen in the front of her house so was a really nice place to cook, with a massive table set out with two chopping boards, knives and ingredients ready. I have a habit of injuring myself on a regular basis so Craig had warned me about the knife and so did Gae but luckily didn’t manage to chop off any fingers. As I have so far managed to cut myself whilst going to the toilet (how does that happen??), shut my hand in a train door, walk into a table and bruise myself, bruise my knuckles trying to open a door, fall off a toilet and cut my leg and hit my head on the side of a tuktuk, all of which when sober, I understood their concern.

I got to choose four courses, so went for Thai red curry paste, chicken and coconut soup, chicken and cashew nuts with rice and spring rolls…the latter being Craig’s favourite so I knew he wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t learn how to do those.

Gae was a very good teacher and she was really funny.

She went through everything really slowly and laughed at my feeble attempts to smash the paste ingredients together in the pestle and mortar without covering myself from head to toe in bits and pieces :)

After the first two courses I was pretty full so took the rest home for Craig. I think my spring rolls were not too bad for a beginner

Mother’s pride!

It was a really nice morning and I’ve missed cooking a lot so it was good to do a bit here. I also got a recipe book to take home so I can inflict my attempts at Thai cuisine on friends and family! It was quite funny though as I absolutely love chillies and Gae was obviously used to weaker Western tastes – she told me just to put two chillies in to begin with and then see if it needed more. I tasted the curry and said, yes, it needed lots more chillies. She scooped a tiny scraping more of the red curry paste and asked me to taste it again. I did so and then just chucked the rest of the paste in – her eyes widened and she whispered “hotter than Thai spicy!” then “sexy girl!” which I can only imagine is a compliment!

The next day, we rented another bike so we could explore the lake we found last time. They gave us a better, bigger moped this time, so we decided to find the track we came down the other day, and see if there was a slightly better route up the mountain rather than the road. We found a dirt road that was less destroyed than the one we came down on, and merrily zipped up the moutain on this tiny scooter, confusing all the burly Frenchmen coming down the same track on massive dirt bikes and protective gear. The bike got up there no problem and the views were beautiful

We came back down on the road as we got caught in the rain but by the time were at the bottom, we were dry again. Got to love tropical weather!

We went to book our tickets to Koh Samui with the guesthouse so that we didn’t get caught up in the New Year rush. We were told to buy tickets to Bangkok and arrange onward travel from there. To waste a bit of time before the night bus came to get us, we went to have a traditional Thai massage in the grounds of temple round the corner from our hotel.

It started off quite nicely with the lady rubbing my feet. It soon became clear that this was to lull me into a false sense of security before a world of pain was inflicted on me. Thai massage involves putting pressure on certain points of the body – some of which was nice and relaxing but most of it felt like I was being punished for some unspeakable crime, or that the lady had decided to experiment with whether you could in fact make cider from humans by pressing them really, really hard. It did make me feel better afterwards but not the relaxing experience I was hoping for!

We bored the night bus and were pleasantly surprised as there was hardly anyone on it, lots of room and good aircon. I stretched out over the aisles and actually managed to get a bit of sleep, we arrived in one piece at 6am to get on the next bus to Koh Samui…which we had to go to the bus station to arrange. An expensive taxi ride later, we found that all the buses were full, as were the following day’s ones. So we thought we’d go back to Khao San Road to the nice lady who booked our travel to Chiang Mai, but she wasn’t open so we went to the Tourism Authority Thailand to see if we could sort something out.

They did manage to squeeze us on an extra bus but at a cost – £40 per head, which is a lot more than normal but as it’s Thai New Year the transport system is pretty full. This did include the boat trip to Koh Samui and there didn’t seem to be any other option to get us there before I needed to start work so we booked it. The guy we booked it with tactfully suggested if we might like to use his shower as by then we had been travelling for 12 hours “when I talk to you I have to hold my nose”, so we gratefully took him up on his offer and felt a little better after that.

We then had nine hours to waste in Bangkok so went to get some breakfast, wandered around Bangkok (by which time we were pretty sick of) and eventually went off to get a foot massage (me), pedicure (Craig) and massage (Craig), which killed some time.

We waited patiently for the bus to come at 5.30pm but after being moved three times to different points in Bangkok, it eventually turned up at 7pm. To summarise our travel experience over the last 48 hours, I have prepared a handy guide

But we eventually got on it with an Icelandic couple and an English couple also going to Koh Samui, the rest of the people going to other destinations (everyone was just given a sticker rather than a ticket saying where we were going. Ours said “Toy”!). The bus was far more cramped than the last one but there was a film on (Titanic…a disaster film about a boat; the night before, Unstoppable, a disaster film about a train…I don’t want to see any more transport disaster scenarios please!!) and blankets etc so we settled down to try and get some sleep. I got many new additions to my world-class collection of mosquito bites

At 6.30am we were woken up by the bus conductor screaming “GET OFF THE BUS! YOU NEED TO GET OFF THE BUS RIGHT NOW!” at the top of her voice over and over again. Going from fast asleep to instantly awake and ready to go was fairly difficult, and then we were bundled into a minibus by ourselves, which was odd because we weren’t the only ones going to Koh Samui. The driver said our connecting bus to the ferry was going to leave any minute so we needed to hurry, but then we screeched to a halt on the side of the road and waited for the Icelandic couple of join us. Confusing. We never did see the English couple!

As the driver was putting our bags onto the bus, he said that there would be “big problems” once we’d got to Koh Samui. We asked him what he meant and he said we’d see when we got there which was weird. Then whilst on the connecting bus, the Icelandic couple, Rein and Rachner, got a text from a friend asking whether they were ok because of the earthquake, so we were a bit panicked that we were going to get there and find that everything had been washed away.

They spoke to their friends and they said that the earthquake had been near Indonesia but there was no tsunami, so that made us feel a little bit safer, and relived for our friends in Sri Lanka too.

We got on the ferry and left our bags locked in the bus. It was a fairly short trip, but it was nice to get a drink and to be off the bus for a change. We got off the ferry on Koh Samui, having been greeted by beautiful views and went to get our bags. Immediately, we noticed that the bags were all in a different position to how we left them…and ours were open. Craig and I went through each of them and it was clear that everything had been moved around in them. Whilst we were explaining what had happened, the bus drove off. Oh, so the “big problems” were ones you were planning to cause. We leapt in a taxi and asked him to take us to the police station to try and report what had happened, and whilst we were driving, Craig realised that all of our Sri Lankan money had gone. We had had some coins left over so couldn’t get them changed in Thailand, and didn’t want to weigh ourselves down carrying a bag of loose change, so had wrapped it up and put it inside Craig’s small backpack. Craig thought that there was up to £40 in change in there.

The taxi driver was very helpful and took us to where the bus had stopped again. The driver looked pretty surprised to see us but blanked us when we got there and confronted him and the guy who was loading the bags. We took pictures of the bus, the staff and the reg number so that we could go to the police – I am certain they won’t do anything and we can’t claim on the insurance because it’s too little – bit if it puts them off doing something like this again maybe it’ll help. Craig and I were furious but managed to keep our tempers as smashing someone’s face in would probably end up worse for us than them, despite how temporarily satisfying it would have been…

So we got dropped off in the centre of Mae Nam (the driver not quite understanding what we wanted to do) and walked to the police station, where we told we’d have to go to the tourist police, another 6km away. By then we’d had enough so thought we’d dump our bags before going back round there. We trudged back the way we came and towards our new residence. We heard a shout and there was Tom and his wife, Sarah, on a scooter! They loaded up our bags for us and met us back at the hotel. I wish we’d had a chance to change and to cheer up a bit before meeting them for the first time as we were grubby, crabby, sweaty and dejected which probably wasn’t the best first impression, but they sorted out checking us in, bought us a beer and suddenly things didn’t seem so bad. Especially when we saw the rooms – it’s the nicest place we’ve stayed so far. Nice airy bedroom with a tv and a fridge (first time we’ve had a fridge since Vietnam – yay, the end of lukewarm beer!), the place has a lovely garden and swimming pool and is set off the main road so it’s really peaceful. The other people that are staying here are very friendly and the village seems lovely. The hotel we’re staying at is here http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g1182465-d1785345-Reviews-Samui_Native_Resort_and_Spa-Mae_Nam_Koh_Samui_Surat_Thani_Province.html. Pretty fancypants!

After a much needed nap and couple of drinks, we headed off into the village to get some food, to find that every Thursday they do a “walking street” market – it’s closed off to cars and bikes and there are loads of food stands, restaurants, market stalls and make-shift cocktail bars lit by fairy lights near an old temple. We got some pork ribs and salad, a caprihina each and settled down on the steps of the temple to listen to the live music they’d put on. As it’s the first day of the Thai New Year today – our third New Year of 2012 including England and Vietnam! – a massive water fight was going so we watched them (and significantly older, fatter and balding “kids”) play, listening to the man play Let it Be on the guitar and watching 50 Chinese lanterns drift across the firework-peppered sky. After the stresses of getting here, it was the perfect way to end the day. Craig’s birthday is tomorrow so hopefully we’ll be able to spend the day joining in with the mass-water fight, going to the beach and exploring the island :)

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4 Responses to “Our luck had to run out at some point…”

  1. gem 12 April 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    happy birthday craig! xxxxx was great to say hello the other day, gem xx

  2. jenraytion 13 April 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Hey Sarah. I am going to make a button to advertise your blog on my blog page. Hope that’s ok. If not let me know. Best of luck in your journey! It’s thrilling to “travel” with you.

    • toaustraliathelongway 14 April 2012 at 1:06 am #

      That would rather lovely, thank you. I’ve been meaning to do a links box for ages now so this will give me the motivation I need so I can return the favour :)

    • toaustraliathelongway 14 April 2012 at 1:06 am #

      Oh, I also meant to say – hope your hand gets better soon!

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