Ko Samui, Thailand

Day 25 – 28, Ko Samui, Thailand

When travelling, timing is everything. This is a lesson we are just starting to learn. We arrived in the tropical island tourist hotspot of Ko Samui in good weather and just in time to enjoy the arrival of monsoonal rains.

However, being in bad weather is infinitely better than being in a terrorist bomb target, like Bangkok, New Year’s Eve (where we just left a week earlier) and The Philippines (also where we’ve recently visited).

I guess in hindsight we’re pretty lucky…

Lonely Planet’s South East Asia on a shoestring, otherwise known as the yellow bible, describes Ko Samui as something along the lines of “a naturally beautiful woman who still feels the need to put on too much make-up”. It’s an apt analogy. Ko Samui is over-developed, ultra touristy and pretty tacky. It also has beautiful beaches, views and waterfalls, and is quite a fun place to zip around on a moped and go partying with other travelers.

We arrived at Samui Airport from Bangkok on 15 December. It was a warm sunny day. On the flight, we were surprised to read in the airline magazine that Samui Airport was voted 4th best airport in the world (by who, I don’t know, but anyway…). Anyway, I’ll give it credit, it was certainly like no airport I’d ever seen, and it really summed up the tropical island vibe.

Besides the standard runways, Samui airport consists of about 3 reed-roofed huts without walls. It was pretty nice though not particularly pleasant on stinkin’ hot days – gimme real aircon over Flintstones style any day…

Welcome to Samui Airport
This airport was in the style of tropical beach huts.

Baggage claim hut
One of the airport huts. The red rucksack is mine. Actually it’s Trev’s. Thanks again for the loan mate, I’ll get it back to you one day :)

As I mentioned, we arrived in time for monsoonal rains. Pretty much the day after we arrived, the rains came, and came down hard. I’m kinda glad we didn’t splash out (ha! more like splashed on) on a beachfront bungalow and just stayed at a nearby guesthouse 200m or so from the beach.

It's raining... rain... hallelujah
This road turned into a river. It bucketed down like hell for about an hour. We took shelter in a noodle soup place and had breakfast.

We just spent the next couple of days sampling the various restaurants, bars and massage joints. The most authentic (and dirt cheap) Thai food was to be had at the local food markets. Not many tourists here (not close enough to the beach I guess) and the vendors didn’t speak much English, but we kinda liked that it was non-touristy and a bit of a challenge for us. We just pointed to a good looking meal someone else had and asked for one with chicken and one with pork. Delicious and spicy as hell, washed down with a beer from the general store across the road and all for probably under $5 for the both of us. That’s what I’m talking about.

The other memorable event at Ko Samui was riding down to the local Muay Thai (Thai boxing) stadium to check out the Saturday night fights. The entry fee lets you watch 8 fights, including the “Super Boy” fight (with a couple of 11 year olds) and the main event.

Muay Thai is steeped in ritual and is quite respectful and humble. The fighters start in prayer and a warm-up dance ritual before the fight. They don’t grandstand and they leave the ring as friends. The matches have live percussion and horn music that sounded to me like snake charming music. That was pretty cool compared to the end of round pumping commercial dance music, with dance hits blaring like Crazy Frog’s Axel F and the Numa Numa song.

The matches go for five rounds of three minutes each (from memory) and for the adult fighters, the loser seemed very likely to have to be carried away from the ring – not dead or unconscious, but pretty screwed. I would point out that there was never any blood. Quite amazing with these legs and fists flying about. Probably because it seemed to be mostly knees to the ribs…

Muay Thai...
Muay Thai aka Thai boxing. Advertised all over Ko Samui from cars with loudspeakers: "The real Thai boxing, the real Thai boxing, fight starts at 9pm, fight starts at 9pm, get the seats earlier, get the seats earlier…"

Muay Thai
I call this guy the cobra, he sways his head that way. Quite mesmerising…Muay Thai
This guy was probably half a foot shorter but totally kicked the other guy’s arse. The other guy couldn’t walk and was pretty much carried away, just like most of the other matches we saw.

We stayed on Samui for three days before getting a fast boat to Ko Pha Ngan, more on that next post.

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  1. wow the real thai boxing looks great, I especially would have stuck around for the super-boy fighting! I can’t believe I clicked on and listened to that numa numa song… what was I thinking???

  2. Yeah i’d like to get some pics up of the Super-Boy fight when I get the chance.

    That Numa Numa song has been really popular throughout Asia. Crazy!

  3. I agree on the muay thai fighting, I haven’t seen any real good ones since being in Thailand here. I checked out some fights in Pattaya and Patong in the tourist areas, but nothing great. Your videos are awesome. I need to drag myself over to the fights here in ko samui! Maybe you gave me some motivation… Do you fight? I had some friends that were enrolled in classes and they’d routinely get beat up by the much smaller Thai guys! Funny stuff. Ok, thanks for the videos! Vern