A piece of my heart was left in Chiang Mai. That is one place I just feel drawn to go back to, further build relationships, and explore more of. As hard as it was to travel on, I was ready for some more island life. My entire life I’ve lived coastal, and if there’s one thing this trip has confirmed is I get some sort of peace being near the ocean. When looking out at its vastness I tend to daydream of all my wants and desires. Then, like a horse drawn to water, my mind gravitates and rests in thoughts of the depths of God’s love for me, His mighty sovereignty He has proven over my life, and the endless array possibilities that are far beyond what I can see, all held in the palm of His hands. The opportunities He has opened doors to so far are beyond what I ever imagined my life to be; I just had to be courageous enough to continue to walk forward. He has done and continues to do the rest. I ponder all these things for hours when looking out at the ocean. The best part of going to Koh Samui, aside from being at the beach again, was we could actually take a plane there. A friend of mine met me in Chiang Mai for a bit and we decided to travel these islands together.
Getting around on these islands is easiest if you rent and know how to drive a scooter. These islands are big and a scooter rents for about $6 US dollars a day. That’s less than one taxi ride. Our hotel was literally on the beach and also at the end of the Fisherman’s wharf that housed the fun night markets. The location couldn’t have been better. We steered away from the wild nightlife areas, wanted to be on the beach, and the semi-peaceful, semi-lively fisherman’s wharf was the perfect in between. Along the wharf’s alley like streets where many restaurants, clothing and craft shops, and every kind of variety shop you could imagine. Getting out on the scooter and venturing to other sides of the island and other beaches is a must. Hiking to and swimming in the waterfall pools was also a favorite moment.
The natural beauty of the islands east of Thailand’s mainland is astonishing, however, like many beautiful places around the world they have now make a huge amount of their money based on tourism. This means, more pollution in touristy areas, expensive guided tours that you feel like you are in a cattle drive, and locals treating you like, well, a tourist. They want to make money and the easiest way to achieve that is selling you things. Ask questions about the tours they want to sell you. How many people are on the boat? How much of the island do I actually get to see? A lot of these tours will let you go to a specific location but not allow you on the rest of the island. They will also limit your time in each area. The guided tours are okay as long as you are clear and accepting of what you are getting and where you are going. One example of this was when we went on a boat to visit a specific island. They explained that they did not want us sitting on towels or laying towels on the beach because the beaches are losing sand. So, to stop this there were dozens upon dozens of beach lounge chairs to sit in. Once you were sitting in a beach chair they then told you it wasn’t free and the cost to sit amounted to about $10 US dollars for one hour. These islands are beautiful; just be knowledgeable on what to expect where you are going. My favorite moment in all the boating amongst the island was the Ang Thong National park. It is absolutely breath-taking, and kayaking around its waters and an island is worth every penny for the life time experience. I was a bit under the weather for part of this trip so my friend helped me with some photos when I just needed to lie on the beach.
Traveling is one of those life experiences that has you constantly out of your comfort zone and your “normal”, and in a state of heightened sensitivity to what is happening around you, well hopefully. Especially when you are traveling in third world countries. I have strong guttural instincts that so far in life, have not steered me wrong. I usually know right away if someone is being dishonest, trying to take advantage or me or the situation, or something is just off. So, when I get them, I listen. I can get pretty bold when in these situations and won’t hesitate to ask more questions as needed, be very slow to answer or make decisions, often standing in silence thinking and processing all the while letting others sit in their discomfort of their own insincere motives. My friend wanted to go to a specific island that just didn’t sit well with me. I had nothing to base this feeling of just not wanting to go on. I told her I was probably just going to stay on Koh Samui and not go to Koh Tao to stay. I went back and forth in my head several times because as a friend, I of course wanted to do fun things with her and not have her travel alone when unnecessary, but something was just telling me this wasn’t this place for me to go. Literally two days before my friend leaving for Koh Tao I get a message from a friend in Hawaii with an article attached. She said “make sure you don’t go here”. The article was about several backpackers ending up missing and later found dead while staying on this island. It is not for me to speculate what happened or make any decisions for anyone else’s future travels, however, for me this confirmed this just wasn’t a place I wanted to stay. I probably would’ve been fine however I am careful with the environments I enter into. The only reason I bring this up is to encourage fellow travelers to listen when something doesn’t feel right for you.
Next stop Phuket!