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Koh Samui – Home Sweet Home #2

June 4, 2013

watching the performers at the Maenam marketSeveral more weeks in Koh Samui have got us pretty acclimated to life here.  We have figured out the lay of the land, discovered some favourite restaurants (and foods), started a bit of a routine with the girls for schooling, dance class and swimming lessons and have gotten to know a few longer term expats and children.  We have embedded our “normal life” on the island with a number of the many many tourist activities that this island has to offer.

Highlights:

  • * Brad was researching some activities on the island and discovered the world wide running club called the “Hash House Harriers”.  The club describes itself as:  “A drinking club with a running problem”.  (ie heavy focus on socialising).  The organization originated amongst a group of expats living in Kuala Lumpur in 1938 and has since spread around the world (with three active chapters in Calgary).  The basic premise is that a volunteer  “hare” heads out to set a trail using something to mark the trail (in our case shredded paper) which the rest of the pack tries to follow/figure out.  The hare also makes several “lost trails” and “false trails”.  Example – if you come across two crossed palm fronds with a coconut on top ….the the trail is lost and everyone has to fan out to locate the trail – which typically starts 100 metres away in any direction.  The false trails lead you off in a wrong direction and eventually end with a pile of paper with a coconut on top – telling you that you have gone the wrong way.  There are also a number of rituals pre and post run – better left to be experienced than told but all of which involve a beer.  It is actually pretty tame and respectable overall.  The runs are hard work – all have been trail jungle runs through the hilly interior of the island and have lasted over an hour.  Add in the heat and humidity and your shirt is absolutely sopping by the end.  The jungle runs have been beautiful but you have to keep your wits about you as you run – there are many coconuts and palm fronds on the trails, and there has been barb wire and the occassional hand-sized spider to dodge.  The group is filled with a very diverse (and colorful) cast of expat characters from around the world – many owning businesses on the island or retired here permanently.  It has been good fun …. and would get much better once you started to get to know the people better.
  • Market nights.  There are several communities on the island, and each of them has a special street market one day a week.  The main street is closed off to vehicles (this creates a rather magical respite from the constant state of alertness that we have to maintain anytime we have to walk with the girls) and the streets are lined with vendors selling all kinds of merchandise and food (….ooooohhhh the food).  All kinds of meats on a stick, fruit shakes, candy cotton, curries, corn on the cob, pizza, pad thai, and a myriad of other foods greet you with each bloated step that you take down the road. The entire family can feed…and feed well…for $10 to $15.  There is also a stage area where local artists can showcase their talents (Thai dancing, bands, fire spinning, singers etc) for tips.  The girls have loved the shows … and have learned the fine art of tipping.  The town we are living in is fairly quiet and draws quite a few families….so there are children everywhere – both Thai and tourist.  It is a wonderful experience and one we look forward to weekly.
  • You never quite know what you are going to get when you cross the threshold and enter one of Thailand’s many tourist venues or shows.  We have yet to be disappointed by any activity we participated in during our time in Thailand however.  No exception to this rule was the Samui Crocodile Farm, featuring both a snake and a crocodile show.  We entered the premises to find an area filled with a variety of different holding pens and cages containing all kinds of monkeys, crocodiles, snakes etc.  Observing these animals offered many interesting experiences, from the cobra that would rear up, flare its neck, and strike the glass when we walked close to the cage, to the monkey that “played” Brad.  Surprising us all, the monkey that Brad was offering a banana to, had other ideas.  Only pretending to reach for the banana Brad was offering him, he did a quick switch up and actually grabbed for Brad’s hand instead (with a pretty evil look on his face we might add).  “Hmmm,” thought Brad, “Now what other animals could I feed?”  Soon there after, we came across a large pen of about 40 crocodiles  – big ones.  For $1.50 you were able to use a fishing rod to feed a chicken to the crocodiles.  Leaning over the questionably thick/high cement wall you would thrust out the rod and dangle the chicken in the pen.  Like a moment out of Jurassic Park, the crocodiles would become alert and start shambling towards you (here you become very thankful for the aformentioned cement wall).  They are quick to snap their jaws over the chicken and rip it right off of the string.  It was a very interesting experience and it felt very primal – not sure how else to describe it.  This, however, was just the precusor to the real shows – the crocodile and snake show.  The crocodile show had two Thai trainers showcasing six large crocodiles.  By banging a broom on the ground and then bringing the broom head close to the crocodile they could induce it to “strike”.  The jaws clamping down made a sound that echoed through the entire area.  The best description for it would be taking a cleaver and slamming it down onto a wooden cutting board as hard as you could…only slightly higher pitched.  The trainers then went on to have the crocodile open its mouth and reach into it to pull out money, put his head into the crocodile’s mouth, and one man reached his hand all the way into the crocodile’s throat (up to his shoulder!!).  We remind you of the sound of the cleaver hitting the wooden cutting board to help give you some sense of the drama we were feeling.  Right before they did all this …both trainers showed us their right hand wrist – which was heavily scarred and disfigured.  Yep…. some previous shows  obviously did not go according to plan.  Seeing the scars made it very real, and we were very very tense during the show.  More than once we thought “we hope this will be an enjoyable memory for the girls, not one that will require therapy back in Canada.”  The crazy, crazy things you see in Thailand.  Next up is the snake show – Brad was nervous enough about the safety of the show to research an escape route over the back wall if necessary.  The trainer was in a small area enclosed by a 2.5 foot  high glass wall which was also what separated him, and the snakes, from the spectators. (yes you read that correctly – 2.5 feet).  He proceeds to pull out 5 cobras and does a kind of dance with them – they try to strike him, he pulls foot/hand/head out of the way in the nick of time.  The cobras are about six feet in length and made quite the spectacle as they all reared up, necks flared, eyeing the trainer.   At one point the trainer grabbed one snake by the tail and swung him out across the barrier towards the crowd.  Later on he had a cobra braced around his torso, one hand controlling the head, and then he stepped over the barrier to walk out into the crowd to let people “pet it”.  He then pulls out a 10 ft King Cobra and goes through a very similiar routine.  At one point during the show Amelie leaned over and whispered in to Brad’s ear – “If I had a job here I would only do the music”.  (They had a man that worked the music/sound effects during the show.)  The “only in Thailand” was further reinforced when the 4 year old son of one of the trainers jumped the wall into the living room sized show area (all while there were 5 cobras striking at the trainer).  He was calmly removed – not once, not twice but three times.  In case anyone is thinking that the snakes had their venom removed – nope…the trainer also walked out to the crowd and milked venom out of one of them.  Not to worry though, our safety-conscious family skulked in the back recesses and top row of the seating area, a spot not chosen at random.
  • Checking out The Ice Bar.  Yes, here in the midst of hot tropical island, is a bar completely made out of ice and kept at -7 degrees.  It felt more than a little surreal walking in from the +35 degree heat to the -7  drapped in warm cloaks and hooded in Russian ‘ushanka’ hats, our flipflops just barely visible underneath.  They had a few ice sculptures in the bar area, including a full-size tuk tuk that we could sit in.  It was definitely worth a good laugh, and the cool air was quite refreshing too! 🙂
  • We stumbled across an anniversary celebration for Bangkok Airways.   They had set up a large fairgrounds – rides all free, and brought in professional dance troupe, and several high end real Thai Rock Stars for a concert in a public square.  It was the first concert ever for the girls (complete with light show, pyrotechnics etc.) and they were completely mesmerized by it even if it was in Thai.  Having recetly watched the movie “Barbie and the Popstar” only heightened their sense of wonder.  They were dancing away with a number of other young Thai girls.  It was a wonderful evening out … and we stayed up way too late for the girls …but unfortunately not late enough to catch the firework show at the end of the evening.
  • We had one of those “parental moments” at the breakfast table with Amelie the other day.  We were eating our morning muesli and Amelie had happily polished off her entire bowl.  Looking up with a pair of bambi eyes she asked for more muesli.  Brad said she was welcome to have some of his and motioned her to bring the bowl over.  She flatly refused because his meusli had bananas and mangoes in it (both of which she enjoys regularly just not on muesli – ie. she was just being picky).  Pulling out the tried and true parenting book “Lessons to teach your children” – Brad told Amelie she was just being picky and did she think that the children in some of those huts we had seen would really be complaining about having fruit in their muesli…or did she think that they would just be really happy to have any food?  Back home this lesson is very abstract in nature – here some of the sights and experiences make it much more palpable for them.  You could see this comment hit Amelie … she just paused, eyes glazed over, and started staring into the corner of the kitchen.  (We believe picturing some of the houses and people we have seen during our trip.)  A full 20 seconds of silence passed …when Brad again asked if she wanted some of his.. otherwise he was going to eat it.  Amelie promptly shushed Brad and told him, “Quiet I am thinking,” and promptly continued to stare off into the corner of the room again.  The parents were both tense….awaiting the ephiphany moment we expected to be coming with each baited breath.  Unfortunately big sis Lucia stepped in to her sister’s rescue and offered up some of her muesli (without bananas and mangoes) which Amelie promptly accepted.  Moment lost…we could only hope that part of the lesson was learned.  We also noticed that the next day Amelie accepted some of Brad’s fruit laden meusli without complaint or comment.  We are not sure if this was a result of the previous breakfast or just too distracted to notice…..  perhaps we will never know.
  • Seven days ago we booked our flight from Singapore to Istanbul – a place that we have always wanted to visit and explore.  It also provided a good starting point to travel west in to Europe through the Mediterranean.  UNFORTUNATEY the current riots happening in Turkey started after we had booked our tickets.   We are currently scheduled to fly into Istanbul on June 17th and will be watching the news very closley as it looks like we will need to be adjustinng our plans.

TO VIEW MORE OF OUR TRAVEL PHOTOS, GO TO:

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

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4 Comments
  1. uncle Daran permalink

    Thank you so much for the early morning entertainment. I’m not exactly sure who is writing these, but wow.. Whoever is doing it should right a book about the travel experiences. So enjoy reading them!!

    Look forward to hearing more about your amazing adventures and I couldn’t help smiling at the iron of being too Chicken to head to Turkey 🙂

    Don’t blame you guys… I hope it all calms down over there! Be safe!!

  2. Garry&lorraine permalink

    brad & family -we so envy you -we enjoy all your experiences so much -print them off & share them with marcy – appreciate the time you put into writing -have fun & enjoy your girls -before you know they will be leaving home ( or moving far away like rocky mtn house..garry & lorraine

  3. Mom and Dad Simpson permalink

    Wow! We thoroughly enjoy being part of the experience through the blog. Fascinating moments that will, no doubt, be referred to often during “teaching parental moments” when you get back home. Stay safe and have fun!

  4. Martin permalink

    Great report guys, as usual. We thoroughly enjoy them. Martin & Gail.

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