Goodbye Samui, Hello Chiang Mai

January 6, 2009 - 6:58 pm 2 Comments

Staying on Koh Samui a couple of extra days meant that I had to change my tickets that I had booked through Expedia. After three completely useless and expensive phone calls (sorry, Doug), I was told that they couldn’t do anything for me and that I had to contact Bangkok Airways directly to change or cancel my flight. Of course, it was the middle of the night here in Thailand by the time the Expedia agent gave me that information, and out flight out was at 7:45am the next morning. This meant that I had to hop on my scooter and head over to the local Bangkok Airways office. So at 7am, that’s what I did. Naturally, they didn’t open until 8am, so this meant that I had to race over to the airport. So I did.

I wasn’t sure where the airport was, but I figured it out, getting there at 7:40am. I knew they would not allow me to change my ticket after the flight departed at 7:45am, and I thought that I might have already been screwed. But to my surprise, the lady behind the counter of the ticket office immediately canceled my reservation at no charge. The second leg of the itinerary was with Thai Airways, and she said she couldn’t do anything about that. She recommended I go over to the Thai Airways ticket office next door. So I did. But they were not open yet. So I waited.

At 9am, they finally opened the doors. The lady behind the counter told me that Thai Airways couldn’t cancel the ticket and that Bangkok Airways would have to do it. So I went back to Bangkok Airways, where they canceled it for me, again at no charge. I would later visit their office to find two available seats on a previously (for the last three months) full non-stop flight from Koh Samui to Chiang Mai.

Despite a few hiccups, I have become a big fan of Bangkok Airways. With their friendliness at the airport ticket office, no fees to make changes to my tickets, and the great experience we’ve had with them in the air, they are my kind of airline! On the flip side, Expedia can suck my balls. They are completely incompetent, disorganized, and probably ugly, too.

We filled our last couple of days on Samui by scootering around the island and doing some of the activities that Kyle had recommended to us back on Koh Phangan. I really enjoy how every business on Samui is named with some combination of “Beauty,” “Smile,” “Friend,” and “Happy.” You’ll find “My Friend Restaurant,” “Beauty Smile” (a dentist), and “Smile Massage” (I bet). The English spelling errors on street signs, advertisements, and menus are too numerous to be humorous.

Doug was really really looking forward to doing some some ziplining, in which you hang from a wire cord suspended between two trees and slide down. We went to a place called Treetop, high in the hills of Samui, to do it.

Jeff Having Fun

Doug Being Cool on the Zip-line

Thumbs Up!

Son of the Treetop Lady

Samui Rooster

We also stopped at the Aquarium & Tiger Zoo, which had a mediocre aquarium but a pretty spectacular tiger and bird show. I had no idea birds could be trained that well.

Mommy Elephant & Child


Tiger Kiss

Tiger Smiles for the Camera

Lisa, the Burrowing Owl

Hungry Monkey

On our last full day, we took a day trip out to Ang Thong National Park, a collection of tiny islands a short ferry ride from Samui. First, some kayaking around and under some of the limestone formations making the islands, and then a few hikes up to viewpoints.

Ang Thong From a Distance

Off the Boat, In a Kayak

Doug Enjoys Kayaking

Under the Rocks

Talay Nai Lagoon

The hike up Ko Wua Talap was extremely strenuous. They should not allow people who are wearing flip-flops to do the hike. They should not allow people who are wearing flip-flops and have a stubbed toe do the hike. And they certainly should not allow people who are wearing flip-flops, have a stubbed toe, and are carrying a big-ass camera to do the hike. It took some work, and I almost ate it a few times, but I finally got to the top. The view of all 42 islands in the national park from the top was worth it. Barely.

From the Top of Wua Talap

On the Shore of Wua Talap

On the way down, I stumbled and skinned my knee. Stopped at the first aid booth right at the bottom, where they patched me up. Looks like they deal with bumps and scratches every day.

One night, we went out to Fisherman’s Village to drink Bahama Mama’s (!) and watch the sun set. Doug resisted the urge to make out with me.

At the End of the Pier

Night Falls on the Pier

Sunset at Fisherman's Village

Welcome to Fisherman's Village

After dark, we’d always end up in Chaweng, cruising the cramped streets by scooter and the narrow sidewalks by foot. The scene was becoming familiar. Lots of guys selling suits trying to shake our hands and pull us into their stores, lots of guys with vicious monkeys on their shoulders, lots of taxis beeping at anyone who isn’t inside of a bar, lots of Thai girls waving us into bars that were mostly empty. The ease at which the Thai girls ride sidesaddle on the back of tourists’ scooters is frightening. Doug and I are starting to get tired of all of this.

We checked out Lamai, a slightly smaller and supposedly less seedy version of Chaweng. We found it to be much the same, with souvenir stands, crepe carts, and pirated DVDs. My favorite items were the woven bracelets, similar to ones saying “BERMUDA” or “CAYMAN ISLANDS” that you might pick up when you’re on vacation. They said things like “FUCK MY ASS,” “FUCK YOU,” “LONG PENIS,” “LONG VAGINA,” and my personal favorite, “I LOVE RAPE.”

Lamai had even fewer people than Chaweng. We still don’t understand why it’s not that busy out here. Certainly looks like there are enough bars and restaurants to handle five times as many people. Is it because of the airport protests a few weeks ago? Did that many people really cancel their trips to Thailand?

In the end, we feel like we’ve done and seen pretty much everything there is to see and do on Samui. And after everything, I think we enjoyed zipping around the island on our scooters more than anything else.

Chaweng Beach

Plane Over Chaweng

Condom Bar

Q Bar

This morning, our last in Samui, I woke up early for an hour-long foot massage on the beach for 300 baht (US$9). For the first time all trip, the sun came out, and it was blazing. The beach was borderline uncomfortable. We complained about the weather at first, but Doug and I agree that we were lucky to have the haze and clouds for the whole time we were in Samui. The sun together with the humidity would have made it very uncomfortable.

Chaweng Beach

We checked out of Fair House dripping with sweat. Like she did when we first checked in, the lady at the desk handed us cool, wet towelettes on a cute little tray to wipe ourselves down with. Then we zipped off to the airport just in time to catch our flight to Chiang Mai. Quick and painless.

Bangkok Airways Tail

While waiting for our baggage, I spotted a brochure for a sweet-looking guest house near the Chiang Mai city center called The Castle. (I must admit I was lured by the HDR photos of the building all over the brochure.) We didn’t have anything booked, so I called from a pay phone and managed to secure a reservation for tonight.

Our taxi meandered the dusty streets of Chiang Mai before eventually getting here. We walked inside The Castle and were blown away. Beautiful architecture, great facilities, and a very friendly staff. One of the ladies at the front desk spoke exceptional English and was able to answer all of our questions about our stay in Chiang Mai.

We were led to our room, which not surprisingly is awesome. Doug enjoys the opportunity to use yet another shower without doors. The entire bathroom is the shower. We even have free wireless Internet here, which should make researching and booking the rest of our trip pretty easy.

For our accommodation in Chiang Mai, we totally lucked out. Like I said to Doug, when you’re traveling, sometimes it just all comes together.

Right now, I am downstairs near the lobby, in a room with a public computer and a 42” LCD television. I sit at a large, oak dining room table, a planter filled with fake orange-yellow orchids sitting in front of me. The sun is setting outside. In the distance, dogs are barking and a Thai man is making some sort of speech through a loudspeaker. Doug sits across from me with one earphone plug in, studying maps of the city and figuring out how we’re going to fill the next few days.

Tonight, Doug and I venture out into Chiang Mai.

The Castle at Night

The Castle

Up in the Castle

    2 Responses to “Goodbye Samui, Hello Chiang Mai”

  1. Aidan Shealy Says:

    Glad you are having a blast. Sounds like an interesting trip.

  2. Kathy clausen Says:

    Jeff – Thanks for keeping Doug’s friends informed. I don’t know what we’d do without you!

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