Before I start, I just want to say a big thank you, to all of you who helped with the planning of this trip. A special mention goes to those of you on the two 'Countdown to Koh Samui' threads, initiated by Mossy and then Travelling Mitch. They proved to be a valuable source of information, but most importantly provided an opportunity for much banter (travel related of course!) and a chance make and meet new friends. A special, special thank you to Pea, and also to Matt, whose sense of humour provided much amusement (often at my expense!). And to Mac wherever you are.
Well, it's now a week since we got back from Bophut; the weather in the UK today is glorious and a far cry from the snow and biting cold, easterly wind we left behind us at the end of March.
We arrived at Heathrow, on Thursday 27th - bang on time at 6.00 pm, handed the car keys over to the Chauffeur parking and literally ran into the terminal, because it was so cold. Our bags were checked in all the way to Koh Samui, and then we made our way to the lounge I had booked. (We like to do this as it gets the holiday off to a great start). The lounge was, as I expected, rammed because of the Easter Weekend, but we managed to get a couple of seats next to a great couple from Wales, called Robert and Shan, and by the end, we had exchanged phone numbers. Truth be told, we probably had one or two glasses of wine more than is sensible when embarking on a twelve hour flight!
The flight to Bangkok went smoothly, and then we had two hours between our flight, with Bangkok Air to Koh Samui. The time flew by (sorry dreadful pun!) and before we knew it, we were re-aquainting ourselves with the sounds, smells and sights of Thailand. Although I had heard about Koh Samui Airport, nothing could have quite prepared me for our first sight of it - it felt a bit like being on a Disney set, or in Disney World.
We landed at 6.30 on Friday evening, and were met by Moo, the driver from our hotel, The Baan Bophut' and he drove us the short 15 minute ride to the hotel. However, Baan Bophut, which is a fabulous little hotel on the beach, is at the start of the Fisherman's Village, and the Walking Market spreads out onto the street in which the hotel is located. And of course Moo wasn't able to drive us to the front door; instead, he pulled into a 'scrubby' piece of land, serving as a car park behind a restaurant or bar. And, it was a case of what you don't see doesn't hurt, because it was typically shambolic and strewn with litter. Martin, my husband, actually thought it was the back of our hotel, and was wondering what on earth I had brought him too. In fact, he is really the reason why we have increasingly stopped going to 5* chain hotels, in preference to small, independent hotels (tight Scot) but I think I had him genuinely worried. We then lugged our suitcases, and hand luggage in the dark until we emerged into the Walking Market itself - the highlight of which, was lifting the cases over a charcoal grill, complete with chicken and ribs, and then wheeling the cases past the stalls until we arrived at the hotel. it was certainly one of the most novel arrivals we have experienced, and will be remembered with some amusement for a long time to come.
Baan Bophut, was everything we hoped it would be; it was a little piece of paradise on the beach over looking Koh Phangan. We dropped the cases, and headed into the garden, which is in front of the beach and ordered a couple of beers from Tik, the barman. Heaven! I had already known that Elaine, who had been on the countdown thread was staying at the hotel, and she and her husband were also sitting having a beer and we joined them. (It was only after they had left the hotel, that it finally dawned on Martin that I hadn't in fact sat down next to a couple of 'randoms', but had in fact been in touch with Elaine for some time). Doh! From there, it was out into the madness of the Walking Market, and we knew the that we had made absolutely the right choice in coming to Koh Samui, to Bophut and to the Baan Bophut. A few mojitas later, and I don't think we would have cared less!
The next couple of days were spent chilling on our beach loungers, reading, admiring the views, making the difficult choice between a beer or a G&T, strolling down the beach for a bit of exercise and planning where to eat in the evening. But on Tuesday, we decided it was time to hit Timmy's and made our way to South Chaweng so that Martin could be measured for a couple of suits; I also wanted some dresses altered. They were brilliant - Martin was measured, we then when to the beach for a few hours, and came back later for a first fitting. We then got a songthaew back to Bophut, via Tescos for essential top ups, such as Baileys, Gin etc etc. However, because it was before 5.15, they couldn't sell it to us, so we had to leave it behind. That was a bit of a low point, but the local 7/11 was able to meet our needs, including bags of ice in a freezer, for those essential late night caps.
On Thursday, we were booked onto a Koh Samuitours VIP speedboat trip to the Angthong National Park, which had been recommended by Mossy in her JBR. And I have to say, that both Liam the owner, and the trip, lived up to expectations. As they are based in Bophut, we strolled down to meet the boat for nine o'clock and teamed up with another couple, who were great fun. We then picked up a further 9 people along the way, until we arrived at our first destination - snorkelling at Koh Wao. One of the crew came out with us which really added to the experience, since we went further out then we would have done on our own. He was also able to point out things of interest. (I was pleased that we didn't have any personal encounters with a sea snake, which happened to us last year in Phi Phi).
After snorkelling, we headed off to the Emerald Lake and viewpoint. Now this is not for the faint hearted! The steps up to the viewpoint are vertical in places, and even harder on the way down to the lake from the viewpoint, but definitely worth it. I was pleased that we kept our dive shoes on rather than flip flops, because the ground was tough going. The Emerald Lake is supposed to have inspired the novel, 'The Beach' and it certainly is beautiful. After this, we had lunch @Koh Ploy in a fisherman's village / island, which was an experience in itself, and enjoyable food too.
Finally, we ended the day swimming and kayaking on a very pretty beach. I have to say, that I really would not recommend kayaking to anyone - it was more back breaking than climbing the steps to the viewpoint! However, it was at the point when we decided to give up on the canoe, and return to the beach, that one of the strangest things happened. As we paddled into the shore (well to be precise, while Martin paddled in - i had given up) there was a chap standing on the shore who seemed to be laughing at us, and saying something. Martin assumed he was taking the mickey, and wasn't amused. However, as we got closer, we realised it was Eric, the Ranger from our golf club. He was with a private wedding party and on the same leg of their boat trip. Bizarre. Martin is club Captain, so it made it especially amusing for Eric, and there were lots of 'late to the tee' jokes etc, and the inevitable, 'Of all the beaches, in all the world' quip.
The trip was wonderful and I fully recommend it as an excursion - pricey, but you get what you pay for. That night, we had to go back to Timmy's so decided to combine it with a trip to the Starz Club, which is a Lady Boy show. Now, to be fair, it's not Martin's cup of tea - not because of the ladyboys, but because he doesn't like cabaret. However, I really enjoyed myself and fulfilled a desire to see a show. Of course the drinks are expensive, but the show is free, and the girls work really hard. They were putting on three performances - 8.30, 9.30 and 10.30, if I remember rightly. I can't say that this part of Chaweng particularly appealed to us - we found it really frenetic and noisy; it didn't help that the truck with the tannoy advertising the muay Thai Boxing, in that dreadful voice, was stuck in traffic outside the restaurant we had chosen to eat in. But, each to his own, and we didn't spend enough time there to give it a chance. We did however, see Eric again in Chaweng, when we were in the Songthaw going back to Bophut.
Friday dawned and it was time again to visit the Walking Street, but from the vantage of our hotel front door this time. it was just as lively, fun and frenetic, but in a good way, as the night we arrived. But what really made the night for us, was discovering Ba Bar, where they have live Blues on a Friday night (and a couple of other nights in the week, but can't remember which now). The musician, is an English guy called Martin, and he's really good. Now we went two more times after this one, and on the second night, we just danced the night way in there and had a ball!.However, it was on this first night, I was persuaded, largely due to Martin, (the musician, not husband) that it really would be a good idea to hire a scooter, something I had vowed never to do, despite being cajoled by my husband endlessly, not only on this holiday, but previous trips to Thailand. My answer was always, "You are not getting me on a scooter - not in your wildest dreams! Not a cat's chance!"
The next morning, while I was nursing a sore head, Martin was up and out by 7.30. He returned an hour or so later, having been to Cocooning for coffee, and to suss out the best place to hire a scooter, which happened to be just up the street from our hotel. All I had to do, he said, was choose my helmet. Oh joy! Well, there was no backing out and I would love to say, that a love affair between myself and that scooter began on that Saturday morning on Bophut. But I would be a lier. I hated it, from start to finish, but it did give us a chance to see other parts of the island and visit Silver Beach and Cheongmon. Martin also grew up on bikes and scooters, so I felt pretty confident that he knew what he was doing, although we did have a few laughs about the fact that he could feel me shaking on the back, and that I just couldn't get used to leaning into the bend as we went round corners - it seemed to defy logic to me. We also had an International Driving Permit with us, and our travel insurance covered us for a bike unto 1225cc.
Silver Beach was lovely, by the way, but there are no beds, so it's a case of lying under a tree for shade, on the sand. I kept looking up just to check there were no snakes in the tree, as I have read too many horror stories of snakes falling on people. The snorkelling was good, and we saw a lot varied sea life, in one of the most beautiful locations. We slightly preferred Cheong Mon however, because there are plenty of beds attached to the various bars and restaurants. it's also a very beautiful bay, with lovely still water, but no snorkelling as such.
We ate in a variety of restaurants, including a seafood place on the main road, by the lights, which has a corrugated iron roof and plastic tables. The fish however, as so often in these types of restaurant, was half the price of the beach front restaurants, and superb! Our favourite restaurant however, was The Hut, just to the left of our hotel, opposite The Waterfront hotel. It's small, rustic and always busy. If you can get a seat, the best thing to do is book up for the next night or nights, because it really is the best restaurant in Bophut (IMHO). The curried crab is to die for, and it was in The Hut, that we enjoyed our last meal on Thursday evening, before our flight home the next morning. There was a bit of symmetry to this evening, as we met an Austrian couple, who were sitting next to us, and were really good fun and very interesting. I ended sharing my crab with them, and they ended up buying us more glasses of wine, followed by Thai whiskey. It was great at the time, but not so great at 6.30 the following morning, although we lived to tell the tale. So no harm done.
We loved Koh Samui - we especially loved Bophut and our hotel. We will certainly return, sooner rather than later, although we are off to Hua Hin in July, so it will probably be next year now. Sorry this was so long, and I've only really just begun, but for now this will do. Well done if you have made it to the end.