When we arrived at Samui aiport in Thailand, we were all shuttled in these trolleys (just like they do at Disneyland) to customs and baggage claim. It was 9:30pm when I tried to get a taxi to my hotel in Lapanoi Beach: Big John's Resort. The taxi driver told me that it would cost 1000 baht since my hotel is pretty far from the airport. Luckily, I knew it should only be half that and asked the airport clerk to help me negotiate a discounted fare with another driver. Thank goodness for local airport helpers.
The following morning, I caught an 11am shuttle to Nathon town. Nathon is a neighboring town with plenty of street vendors and not much else. I had 4 hours to kill so I meandered through various alleyways trying to walk as slowly as possible since the entire town can be traversed in only 1 hour. Just my luck. I stumbled upon a used bookstore selling various English titles. Even though I can't fit anything else in my bag, I purchased 5 books since I badly needed brain food for my journey. I found a way to stuff them into my mini pack.
Afterwards, I made my way down an alley towards the Hainan Temple, which was built in 1862. It was empty with the exception of 2 locals sleeping inside the temple. I took a few shots and quickly got out of there in case I wasn't supposed to be inside. After several hours, I was ready to go back to my room. Unfortunately, the shuttle forgot to pick me and another couple up so we ended up baking in the hot sun for another hour before someone finally remembered to get us. One thing I observed during my wait: Minibikes are very popular on the island. I even saw a family of four crammed on a mini bike - 2 adults, 1 toddler, and a BABY! How frightening is that?
I woke up early on the 27th super excited to start my day since I booked a half day Samui Safari. It was pouring rain when I boarded my jeep - all part of the experience. I joined three couples from Ireland, London, and Denmark. All spoke English thankfully. On the way to meet our guide, the Denmark couple and I kept getting scratched by numerous branches that were poking us through the windowless jeep.
Our guide spoke English with a heavy accent so I didn't catch his name. One of the highlights of this tour was the Thai curry cooking demonstration. Our guide mashed lemon grass, ginger, garlic, chili pepper, and black pepper to make the curry powder. We were able to sample some precooked curry and rice when he was done. We watched the guide grind fresh coconut then mash it with his fingers to make coconut milk. Then a monkey trainer had us interact with one of the monkeys. I loved this! I had coconut suspended from my hand and the monkey spun the coconut until it fell to the ground. He held my wrist the entire time. WOW!
Next, we went elephant trekking in the jungle. Since I was alone, one of the locals volunteered to accompany me (probably to prevent me from sliding back and forth on the 2-seater). We went through the forest and across the river while I laughed hysterically since wet leaves and branches kept hitting me in the face. So much fun! My elephant was extremely slow. The local told me it's because he has "low battery". The local also grabbed a handful of lonzones from one of the trees so I could sample them. These taste like grapes, but are far better! Once we were done, I fed the elephant with a stack of bananas I purchased for 30 baht (approximately $1). I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
We then proceeded to Namuang Waterfall. My guide helped me take some stunning photos since he ventured off to more slippery areas to get better shots. Totaly worth it. After this, we went to the rubber tree forest for a rubber tapping demo (Note: Thailand is the #1 exporter of rubber) and then off to Mountain View to take additional scenic photos. The last part of my tour included Thai lunch at my resort - Big Johns. We feasted on several chicken dishes with vegetables and fruit. Had the opportunity to talk to my safari mates during our meal. They were amazing! All were on extended holiday just like me.
I ended the day with a traditional Thai massage. OUCH! That was painful. Imagine deep tissue massage on a taffy machine. The masseuse was incredibly strong for her age (late 50s) and she stretched, pulled, poked, and pounded me for what seemed like an eternity. There were times I felt she intentionally wanted to pull my bones out of their sockets. At least I can say I tried it once. Off to Phuket tomorrow morning!