Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Take 11: That Funky Weather, Baby Got Me Down

So, we had a rainy night out for New Years' Eve stuck on Koh Samui. It wasn't a complete disaster, but it was a lil disappointing. Days three and four on Samui were much the same. I guess that's what happens when you over plan for a vacation and have high expectations. Frank and I were hoping to get off the island, anywhere less touristy. Our game plan early on was to hopefully catch a ferry off the island on New Years' Day and get somewhere remote to go camping. There are tons of national parks that sounded GREAT for hiking and wildlife watchin'. You can guess how well that went. We weren't goin' anywhere. There was no other option, but to enjoy what we could of Koh Samui.
The next morning we woke up just in time to get the 'free' breakfast at the hotel. I opted for the "Western" breakfast instead of pad thai or chicken soup this morning.

Gopika was leaving us to head north on a flight to Chang Mai, so we returned her bike and then headed off on our own with nothing but our giant map and the knowledge a storm might be on the way. Oh, the beautiful island mountains amid a cloudy sky and polluted forefront... brings a tear to my eye.

I was enjoying the ride and getting to see more of the island. Despite the lack of sun, we thought we would try to find a beach to at least lay and nap on. We drove, and drove, and drove some more with no sign of a beach anywhere. We got adventurous and started taking roads we didn't plan on. This also meant we had to refer back to the map about 183 more times. It didn't help any that we had ripped out the area went to the day before for "quick reference". We eventually got to a coast with a little fishing outfitter on the edge and asked them if there was just a little beach we could chill on close. This was about the time we were reminded how the tides work, and that with a storm on the way, there wouldn't be any beaches for napping. Greaaatttt. Mid afternoon the rain started...
It made us cold...
and wet.
That weekend there was a "big" festival going on on a main drag near our hotel. There were two main stages (where I assume bands were meant to play), rows of festival games, and heaps of food vendors. There wasn't a huge showing in attendees (surprise, surprise), but I got Frank and Chris to go with me and check it out. What to eat, what to eat...
flavored meat on a stick???
giant salted and grilled fish???
fresh salads, seafood, and toilet paper?
SOLD! I ended up getting a fruit smoothie (now a staple with every meal) and a spicy shrimp salad that nearly dismembered my tongue. I literally had to scrape the dressing off to eat it. I don't think I've ever eaten clams or mussels in the past, but it's clearly never been a particularly memorable experience. So I decided that if ever there was a time to try 'em out - it was now. I got the combo container. They were just as I remembered: unmemorable. Neither really has a great taste to them, and the clams have the creepiest texture and the nastiest poo juice that squirts out of them. Plus, they were next to impossible to open - I had to go back to the woman that sold them to me to ask her how to eat them. They're the seafood equivalent of a grapefruit to fruit: least pleasurable and most difficult to consume. Not worth the effort. The sauce the shellfish came with made both edible - but neither was really enjoyable, despite my smile. That smile says, "Look Mom - allllll gone!"
It was time for a dessert to get that flavor out far from my mouth and mind. This guy was making massive pancakey thingys filled with red, green, and white fluffy insides. I was intrigued. I got a piece of each. The presentation was great, and I like pancakes and colored food - so I thought I couldn't go wrong. I thought wrong. It basically tasted like a thick, chalky cornbread. Strike two.
The last attempt of the night was going back to the tried and true cream filled sweet mini-taco things. The crispy outside shell with a hint of cinnamon, the warm, thick and airy glob of cream on the inside and the sprinkle of sweet shavings on top hit the spot!
Onto Day 4 of Koh Samui. I had optimistically booked a dive off an island north of Koh Samui. Another one of my ambitions for this trip was using the PADI diving certification I had gotten almost 3 years ago in Fiji. I hadn't used it since Australia, and Thailand has some of the best reefs in the world. The Andaman Coast has prime locations, but there just wasn't time there, so of course I saved it for the Gulf. And of course, a storm was on the rising making it impossible to dive anywhere of interest. It did, however, make the waves choppy and the catamaran rides miserable as I sat in the back surrounded by pukers as I banged on the bathroom door to actually use the one available toilet. She wouldn't budge... worst 2 hours in Thailand. easily. But don't worry - I had ANOTHER hour and a half catamaran ride AFTER that one, so I got into the bathroom when she had to leave. Yeah, I choose the furthest reef to go to, as it's the most remote, unspoilt, and beautiful. Oh, and I also got yelled at for sitting on "ridiculously expensive" diving gear as I was doubled over in pain.The best part about this trip was that I was in it alone. My friends aren't scuba divers, lucky them.
I did manage to get a few shots in of "the scenery" in between fits of nausea and other sicknesses. Here's a few shots of Ko Phangan (the smaller island north of Koh Samui where we were supposed to go for New Years).

And this is Koh Tao (the even smaller island north of Ko Phanang - supposedly one of the islands that has retained relatively little development).
As we're suiting up for the dives, I ask my diving leader which reef we're headed to. I did my research, so I'm all like, "So, is our first dive at the Japanese Gardens or Chumphon Pinnacle?" He looked at me, pursed his lips, and said "Yeahhh - we can't go to any of those sites today. We'll be diving in the only area of safe water today - right off the shoreline up there." Awesome.
It did feel good to get out in the water and dive again after being away from it for so long, and I did see some fish, some reefs, and some garbage bags. Needless to say, I was once again, a little disappointed.
At least dinner that night was great! And we even made it to The Library!
The next morning was the last for Frank and I... and since we had no visible sunsets in the past three days, we wanted to wake up for sunrise. We asked the front desk what time it rose and he said, "5:30 maybe, 6 o'clock maybe". Great, so we arranged for a 5:30am wake-up call - which we didn't get. But Chris' new watch worked, so we got out on time to walk to Chawang Beach in what was the pitch black. We walked down the beach a bit to get to lay on some loungers til the sun rose in who knows how long. We then got kicked off the loungers and waited in the sand. And this my friends, was the gorgeous sunrise we awoke for on our last day on Koh Samui! It was time to go back to Bangkok. So we waited, and waited, and waited some more for our van to the catamaran (yes, back on the catamaran for me). 1 hour and 3 phone calls later, it came...
Breakfast, anyone?
Goodbye Koh Samui!
Still stormy = still shaky. This is what it looks like when you try to take a picture inside a catamaran in our weather conditions.
From van to catamaran to bus. Back on the nightbus - my home away from home.

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