We flew into Bangkok and thus began the next leg of our trip - South East Asia On A Shoestring (to quote the Lonely Planet Guide). We spent a few nights in Bangkok, and took the opportunity to take a much needed rest after the last two months intensive travelling. The plan had always been to head down to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand for some rest and relaxation, and we assumed we would take the overnight train in true travellers style. However, as Mark's birthday quickly approached, and the desire to be on the beach for his big day grew stronger, we found ourselves surfing the web for a cheeky flight to take us directly to the island of Koh Samui. From Bangkok to Koh Samui in 1 hour. By train and boat this would have taken more like 24 hours.
The travellers bible, Lonely Planet, gave us a cheap hostel recommendation on Chaweng Beach, so we headed there. We checked in and quickly unpacked the bikini and trunks and secured a quiet spot on the beach for the afternoon. The beach was just as we expected - clear blue waters and white sand - picture perfect. The only draw back was all the tourists! Fortunately, it is a large beach and able to soak up the crowds, and with it being end of season, it wasn't actually as busy as I imagine it had been earlier on in the year. You do however get quite a few Thai's walking up and down the beach trying to sell you something, but they are friendly and harmless enough once you get used to them!
After two nights in Chaweng Beach, we decided that we were not ready for the loud party scene that comes with the venue just yet, and needed some more peace and quiet to recharge our batteries. Off we headed further up the island to Choengmon Beach, a smaller and less commercialised resort. By wonders of the internet, we found a great hotel on the beach front with gym, swimming pool and wifi for the same price as the hostel we had stayed in in Chaweng Beach! I began to wonder if Lonely Planet had actually done their research properly. We really enjoyed our four nights at this resort and could easily have stayed longer were it not for the pending Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan. But more about that in the Koh Phangan article.
Whilst still on Koh Samui, we took a day trip to the Angthong National Marine Park to see the full beauty of the area and to also visit the lagoon that inspired Alex Garland to write his first novel "The Beach" which was made into an extremely successful Hollywood film. It was a great day out with snorkelling included - neither of us had ever been in the sea before with so many fish swimming around us. It was quite an experience, like being in an aquarium Mark said! I was enjoying feeding the fish a banana until the shoal got too big and they started to nip my hand instead of the food!
Snorkelling with Fish ...at the lagoon featured in 'The Beach' View from Angthong Marine Park Our speedboat to/from the Marine Park
The only negative about the day out was the speed boat ride across the Gulf of Thailand there and back that we had to endure to reach paradise. The ride was hell. An hour each way, which seemed like the longest two hours ever. I had a sick bag ready, but miraculously I didn't need to use it - unlike the couple who were sat opposite me. Sensible (paranoid?) me also wore my life jacket for the journey, a few others did the same, whilst the rest of the group probably wished they were wearing theirs half way through the journey too.
We finished our short stay in Choengmon with what had now become our regular venue for dinner - the beach. Our hotel exchanged the daytime sun loungers for tables, chairs, plants, candles and lights every evening. We drank cocktails and ate dinner whilst listening to the soft lapping of the waves on our quiet beach. Ahhh bliss.