Although Koh Samui wasn’t exactly known for its culture, we wanted to experience the island beyond its northern beaches, so we booked a quick 4-hour tour before saying bye to Thailand. Our tour consisted of a private driver who took us on a prearranged itinerary, hitting on 7 different attractions around the island. We took off bright and early at 8:30am, and actually drove right through the first stop, Na Thon, since it was just a pier with a market. The first official stop was the Na Muang Falls, nested on the island’s interior. After having seen the monstrous Iguazu Falls in Argentina, these falls were a small trickle of water by comparison. But, we checked that one off the list, and it was actually here where they had tigers we could pose with. Now, I went to Thailand really wanting to take a picture with a tiger…we knew there was a spot in Koh Samui that allowed visitors to do so, but weren’t prepared for the horrific way they did it. There were two tigers, each chained to a pedestal. The reason we could come so close to them became obvious when they could hardly even keep their eyes open in our “photo shoot” – they were heavily sedated. Meanwhile, there was a pen of other tigers running around, much more energized than their friends on the pedestals. So that little dream soon became bittersweet, and although we paid the $10 it cost for each of us to take pictures with them, I’ve opted to not post any of these here.
Following the tiger incident, we continued south to see the island’s famous “Mummified Monk.” Legend has it that he predicted his own death, and asked that he be preserved eternally while sitting in an upright meditation position. It was pretty creepy seeing him up close! Our next stop was the Grandmother & Grandfather rocks. A product of yet another legend, these rocks were depictions of an old married couple who died when their boat capsized in a terrible storm, who were then reincarnated into these rocks that looked like male and female genitalia just a few feet away from each other. And these rocks really did look very obviously like that. Interesting story, bizarre execution…
We headed back up the east coast of the island from Lamai, home of the Grandmother & Grandfather rocks, to Chaweng for a beautiful viewpoint where we snapped a few pics. Our last 2 stops were Koh Samui’s most famous temples in the northeast corner of the island. First was the Big Buddha, which was this absolutely enormous, gaudy, golden buddha that towered over a beach below. We wrapped up our tour with a visit to Wat Plai Laem, almost equally as gaudy with its white buddha with 18 arms overlooking a pond full of turtles and ugly fish. These definitely weren’t the most beautiful or historic temples in Thailand, but still fun to take a look.
By the time we got back to our hotel, it was already 12:30pm, so we only had 1.5 hours before having to leave for the airport. Since we knew the town of Mae Nam wasn’t going to offer anything mind shattering in terms of food, we just ate lunch at the hotel. At least we got to enjoy a nice ocean-side view while enjoying our pad see ew and beef/vegetable dish (forgot the name). Then it was off to the airport…being that Koh Samui Airport was another tiny airport and had one international departure gate, we got to the gate with plenty of time to spare. At least this airport was one of the prettiest airports I’ve ever visited – with outdoor shops, tropical flowers everywhere, and the gate itself was actually open air with an exotic aquarium in the bathroom. And just like that, we wrapped up our quick trip to Thailand, but unlike Indonesia, Doug is very much looking forward to coming back for more.