I first went to Thailand just over a year ago, lured by the promise of a congenial climate, glorious scenery, and a lazy time pattering barefoot along white-sanded shores. Accordingly, I googled something facile like ‘tranquil Thailand locations’, and hit upon the island of Koh Samui. A quick image search brought up visions of heaven – a sun-drenched paradise island washed by crystalline seas. It seemed a far cry from the cold, damp and granite-cliffed British backwater, lashed by the stormy Atlantic, which I call home. Without further ado, I broke open my savings and booked myself a ticket. While my experience turned out to be rather more action-packed than I had expected, I shall certainly be back as soon as I can afford it!
Koh Samui’s Reputation
Admittedly, I did not do my research quite as well as I should have. Koh Samui has been the established superstar of the Thai foreign tourism industry since the very early days – which on one level made sorting out my various pre-holiday provisions rather easy, as the infrastructure and vendors’ knowledge of Koh Samui was well-established. On a more personal level, however, I was a little disappointed not to be breaking new ground. For much of its (rather short, in terms of human settlement) history, Koh Samui has been the province of tourists, and made a thriving career from her beautiful beaches and paradisiacal situation. This means that transport and hospitality on the island has had plenty of time to hone itself into a fine art. Were one to judge an area by its airport alone, Koh Samui must certainly be up there with the best of the best – and I found that getting to my destination from the airport was an absolute breeze thanks to the ease with which the island’s transport system can be navigated.
A Deserved Reputation
It did not take long for my idle worries about going on a clichéd holiday to be blown away by the sheer beauty of the place. The island is – there is no other word for it – stunning. Never in my life have I seen seas of such a sparkling blue, nor beaches quite so inviting as those I encountered upon Samui. I discovered while I was here that Koh Samui provided the inspiration for Alex Garland’s book ‘The Beach’. I’d seen the rather dubious film of the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, back when it came out – and can safely say that the island upon which it was based blasts the Hollywood version out of the water. I did not quite believe that the shores of Koh Samui would live up to the images I’d seen on the internet before coming out – when I actually got there, I quickly realised that they actually far surpassed any digital representations of them when seen in real life. Further inland, mist-wreathed jungle and luxuriant plant-life enticed and inspired me.
I had, of course, planned on doing very little during my stay on Koh Samui. A little sunbathing, a little paddling, a little light strolling if I was feeling in the mood for something more strenuous. As it happened, I found myself rather more stimulated and active than I’d expected. This was by no means because Koh Samui forced its activities upon me – plenty of holidaymakers spent their time in peaceful seclusion upon the beaches – it was because the opportunities offered by Koh Samui were simply too good to be missed. Who would possibly pass up on the chance to go elephant trekking through the jungle? Certainly not someone from a place where the closest you’ll get to anything like an elephant trek is a sedate plod along a rainswept beach upon a bored donkey. If you’re less into wildlife and nature than I, then fear not! The island is also home to an incredibly wide range of restaurants, nightspots, sites of historical interest (some of them rather bizarre), and shopping – enough to keep even the most materialistic culture vulture perfectly contented for a long time! All in all, despite it not being entirely what I had expected, I had a far better time than I could ever have hoped for upon this beautiful island, and have been saving up to go back ever since!
Article by Sally James, 16 Dec 2015