The First Week in Ko Samui

Big Buddha temple in Ko Samui, Thailand.

I’m currently sitting in a roadside internet cafe with seashells hanging all around and the streets are still slightly flooded, remnants of Songkran (Thai New Year) celebrations. Despite only knowing how to say ‘hello,’ ‘see you later,’ and ‘cell phone’ in Thai, I feel strangely comfortable in a country otherwise completely foreign to me. It’s been a crazy first week.

The proverbial road to get here was a little longer than expected, largely due to a 14-hour layover in Dubai. We left Johannesburg late and missed our connecting flight from Dubai to Bangkok. Nonetheless, Emirates was superb and set us up in a hotel for the day, granting us access to the UAE (a country Morgan would have otherwise needed a visa to enter). On our way through passport control, I presented my U.S. passport and was waved through the gate. Morgan was waved through as well until he mentioned that he was South African and then the waving stopped. “Here’s a form to fill out and head to the left to receive your eyescan,” she told him bluntly. We both looked at her, trying not to laugh, as if to say, “Eyescan? Really?” From the air, Dubai looked like a small city in the desert. From the ground, that’s exactly what it was. As we walked around the city we saw temples, sand dunes, Arabic and a Chili’s restaurant advertising baby-back ribs. Who knew Muslims liked baby-back ribs?

The first thing we had to eat once we arrived in Bangkok was katsudon (a Japanese dish my grandma used to make) as we watched Thailand’s Got Talent and waited for our flight to Ko Samui.

Upon arriving in Ko Samui, we were relieved and exhausted. After arriving on Friday instead of Thursday and having gotten little sleep on the planes, we slept through Friday and most of Saturday. It was only on Sunday that we ventured out to see Big Buddha temple, ate dinner at Starfish and Coffee (one of the most beautiful restaurants on the beach) and explored Fisherman’s Village in Bo Phut before walking a few miles along the beach to get home later that night.

Because Morgan and I finished our 120-hour TEFL courses online, we are only completing an ESP (English for Special Purposes) course in the event that we decide to teach English to adults at a hotel/restaurant/resort instead of teaching to Thai children at a school. We started on Monday and our course finishes next Monday, culminating in seven hours of ESP teaching to the staff at Six Senses Hotel on the northernmost tip of the island. There’s a group of 20-somethings (10 South Africans and 1 Canadian) at our hotel also hoping to get TEFL jobs. They won’t finish their course until later this month, but they’ve been a blast to hang out with, particularly during the nationwide water fight on Wednesday which was Songkran.

From morning until night, everyone was gathered along the island’s main road, armed with water guns filled with ice-cold water and ready to drench anyone who crossed their paths. ‘Path-crossing’ persons included pedestrians, people in cars and most commonly found in Thailand, people on scooters. Ironically enough, you had to say ‘korp khun ka’ (‘thank you’) to anyone who splashed you, fitting as (from my understanding) it’s a cleansing of sorts in time for the new year. We spent most of the day at Yum Yum Bar, a pub owned by a South African and based on what I witnessed there, I cannot imagine that there was a single dry person in the whole of Thailand that day. It. was. awesome. (Check out my video under the ‘Videos’ tab!)

A few more exciting things coming up:

-After finishing our course on Monday, Morgan, Max (a British property manager who’s been trekking around Asia) and I are going to hop on a boat and head over to Ko Phangan for the renowned Full Moon Party, an all-night beach party that draws crowds of 20,000-30,000 each month. It only happens once a month and because we plan to leave for Phuket the next day (where we hope to live/find teaching jobs), we thought it was something that we couldn’t pass up. From what I’ve heard, it’s one of those ‘must do’ things if you’re young and traveling through Asia… and I’m 23, working in Thailand, and only a 40-minute boat ride away!

-From the Full Moon Party, the plan is to catch a boat back to Samui in the wee hours of the morning and sleep off the leftovers of Full Moon before we check out of Save House (our current residence). We were planning to fly to Phuket, but going by boat/bus is a fraction of the cost, so we’ll soon be catching an 8-hour lift to the other side of the country where we hope to settle down for the next year.


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