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Koh Samui – Home Sweet Home #1

June 1, 2013

We had been looking forward to setting up a longer term house rental (and the accompanying stability and extra room that would come with it) for some time.  We had very fond memories of our time in Koh Samui 12 years ago – picturesque beaches, a calm peaceful road circumnavigating the island, and bamboo huts right on the beach front.

With a gleam in our eye, a smile on our faces, and a bounce in our step, we headed off the boat and boarded a shared taxi minivan to head to our temporary hotel that would serve as our base to scout out the island and pick a place to live.  Stuffed like sardines in the minivan we cruised out of the parking lot and onto the main island road.

Wow! …. can things change a LOT in 12 years.  Gone were the peaceful roads (Brad had envisionaged renting a car and driving with one finger on the wheel while looking into the back seat chatting with the girls), and gone were the beachfront huts (replaced by 5 star resorts).  Our quiet peaceful island of yesteryear has turned into a busy tourist hub – chock full of tourists, traffic, and unbridled construction.  As we drove to our hotel, we both shared a look with each other saying, “Oh boy”.

Our first impression of Koh Samui was not great … and almost prompted us to move on to the neighbouring island which promised a bit more of the peaceful living we were looking for.  We stuck it out … and now we can say that Koh Samui has really grown on us … so much so that we don’t really want to leave.  We have adapted to the business of the island and have come to appreciate all of the amenities that come with the tourism – the island is chock full of activities, dining options, free events, etc etc etc.

Highlights

  • Our hotel that served as our base of operations (www.pandorasamui.com) was a wonderful oasis near the heart of the busy tourist hub.  The place looks like something right out of the Flintstones and clearly demonstrated the French owners love of mood lighting.  There were ambient lighting gizmos everywhere you looked … including the rooms.  The girls had quite the time playing with the light show in the room.  The owner was fantastic – and we had many laughs with him.  Added bonus was Mimi the cat … Lucia was in love again….not for the first time nor the last time.  Tears were shed again when we moved again and had to say good bye.
  • The house hunt.  This ended up being much more of a hassle than we were expecting.  We discovered that the mulitude of houses listed on the websites are often actually rented – it seems they don’t pull them off the website if they are rented.  Add to that the fact that many owners take this time of year (slow/low/and hotter than ever season) as an opportunity to leave the island …. many places we contacted didn’t respond at all.  It took three long days and a fair amount of frustration to source out a place to stay….but we found one and are really really enjoying it.  The girls held up really well during the search and we so appreciated their patience.
  • Our home – http://www.samuiislandestates.com/rentals.  Ahh….how we enjoy the space of living in a “normal” home again.  We have a two bedroom townhouse in a nice complex that holds around 12 units in total.  We are here in the low season and our complex is entirely empty except for one single Russian man…so we have the place and pool almost to ourselves.  Brad looked at the website for the first time recently and was shocked by the pricing listed on the website – we are paying a lot less (approx $35/night).  Apparently it does pay to wait until you come to the island before booking a place.
  • We have wheels!!!  Having access to your own transport, and the associated freedom/independence that it provides is something we always take for granted back home.  A few weeks without it….and you sure appreciate it when you get it back.  We have rented a car for our time here and love it.  The roads are definitely crazy compared to back home – we drive on the left side of the road, watch for scooters everywhere – they will pass you on both the left and right hand side of the road, and the yellow line in the middle of the road is considered more of a “suggested” division of the road and is regularly ignored.  For added excitement scooters will often travel the wrong way on the sides of the road ie. coming towards you in your lane.  For our first while here – it was definitely two hands on the wheel, radio off, and no talking in the car while Brad navigated the streets.  It didn’t help that we witnessed an accident our first day driving.  Two scooters collided and sent a helmetless lady through the air right in front of our car.  She (and her head) hit the ground and skidded for a meter where she lay semi-conscious and barely moving.  We stopped the car and Brad got out with another westerner that was passing by and carried the barely moving lady to the side of the road.  Luckily for the lady the other westerner had medical training and took control of the situation while a Thai man jumped in to direct traffic.  A bit of a scare for us at the start – but Brad is pretty comfortable driving on the road now with a number of days driving under his belt.  Also, because of the traffic, speeds rarely go over 60km/h and our little mini car is big enough to keep us protected from most likely incidents on the road.  We definitely would not be comfortable driving a scooter here, unlike the locals who often wizz around one one with their entire family seemingly comfortable, all while one adult is balancing a large propane tank.
  • Settling in to a more “normal” lifestyle routine.  Doing dishes (yes even this is pleasurable…right now), going grocery shopping, booking the girls in swimming and dance lessons,  eating at the local markets etc.  Our first day in the house – we found a spider the size of a raquetball in the girls’ room.  Luckily for us, the girls weren’t present when said spider was found, terminated and removed from the premises otherwise our dreams of seperate bedrooms from the girls might have ended on our first night.
  • Living in a “jungle environment”.  You can’t leave ANYTHING in the cupboards or on the counter.  All food is kept in the fridge or freezer…otherwise within an hour you have a swarm of miniature ants attacking the food.  We have almost used up an entire bottle of ant spray to try and keep them out…but they always find a new way in.  Things aren’t built very air tight here for obvious reasons.
  • Things you don’t say in Canada but do say in Koh Samui:
  1. Hurry up, close the door, you are letting in the hot air!
  2. Who left the sugar out of the fridge again?  There are ants everywhere!
  3. Girls, salt is like a vitamin….it is important to make sure you eat enough of it.
  4. I am finding doing dishes kind of carthartic for some reason.
  5. I am liking this Justin Bieber CD we have for the girls more than I probably should be.
  6. Why are there so many people that look like us here in Koh Samui?
  7. Guys you might have to get out and push – I don’t think our car can make it up this hill.
  8. I have sand in my bum.
  9. Did you see that monkey riding on top of that truck full of coconuts?
  10. Lucia it is time for homework … please go outside and count rocks again.
  11. That meat on the skewer – is it chicken breast, skin or cartiledge?
  12. Girls do you want some deep fried crickets or Mang Mou beetles from the market?
  13. Wow…I just saw a scooter with 5 people on it…and one of them was carrying a ladder!

SEE MORE OF OUR TRAVEL PHOTOS AT:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/simpsonfamilytravels

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One Comment
  1. Martin permalink

    Another great report! I’m really enjoying them. And the girls are so pretty and grown up! Martin xxx

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