Koh Samet

leaving Samet 22nd Nov 2016

WE had a fantastic week on Samet and we were sorry to leave, had we not already booked accommodation in Bangkok and an onward flight to Laos we probably would have added a few more days.

We really needed a break after all the traveling but we didn’t find it easy to relax ,it took at least 5 days for us to wind down.

The Island’s have a rhythm and we were tuned in to a very different wave length.

Sitting on a beach isn’t a simple task, there are routines and ritual’s which have to be observed or you find yourself out of synch.

There are obvious ones such as when it get’s light and when it gets dark, which was about six o’clock, though the sun went behind the trees that edge the beach at four O’Clock each day, which signalled its own changes.

The beach bar’s put their deck chair’s (yes they still use some of the oldest most decrepit deck chair’s you’ve ever seen) out in a straight line very morning at about eleven o’clock. Each pair of chairs has a small table, some wooden but as a nod to modernisation, some are plastic.

umbrellas-and-deck-chairs

Then they dig a hole and plant an umbrella to give each pair shelter from the sun.

However, before theses can be put out they rake the beach to gather up all the leave’s and debris that has fallen from the tree’s over night.

Throughout the day there is a constant battle between the bar staff and the tourist over the position of these chair’s. Like a strategic manoeuvre on the western front the chair’s are moved by the guests and immediately put back in neat straight lines by the staff.

But at four O’clock there is a change.

When the shade of the trees stretches out across the beach the Umbrellas become surplus to requirements and are lowered, like a flag at the end of battle, rolled up and carted away.

Then the line of tables and chairs are advanced further down the beach toward the water’s edge.

pink-sky
evening light

Interestingly there has been a Full Moon this week and at one stage the moon was apparently at its nearest point to the Earth for 68 years, which resulted in particularly high tide’s which ate most of the beach leaving only a very thin strip of sand which at times became very congested.

The beach next to our Hotel provides large plastic sun beds which they squashed into the available space creating a multi race Ghetto of sun worshipers.

This closeness of so many nationalities was sure to need a United Nations peace keeping force to maintain order.

Having observed beach life at some length we started to recognise individual people and they became part of the fabric of our day.

The beach trader’s and their wares became familiar. Like the two guys who sell Sarong’s they were most persistent swirling their goods like flamenco dancer’s. Quick to spot any ‘Newbies,’ often targeting them before they had chance to pick a spot on the beach and sit down.
Strangely Jaki bought another Sarong (to go with all the others we have at home) and told me she got it for a good price, though she never revealed exactly what that was.
Thinking this would be some sort of immunisation from further approaches was completely wrong. The sellers recognised a weakness and exploited it at every opportunity. Encouraging us to buy    ’Just one more.’

The Lady who sells BBQ chicken walked up and down the beach carrying her hot coals and a cool box on a pole across her shoulder. Her chicken was very popular with other beach workers as well as tourists and she could be seen squatting on the sand where she cut the pre-cooked chicken joints into smaller pieces with a pair of scissors whilst making up a spicy salad .

Fresh fruit is always available. Mango, Banana and Pineapple are peeled, cut and diced with amazing skills.

fresh-fruit-man
beach traders

There are Fake Tattoo’s on offer and the guy’s carry the images in weather worn portfolios. They use black Henna which can burn the skin and the images are at best Naive, at worst, down right awful and i didn’t imagine anyone would pay to have one. Then I saw a guy (about my age) have a huge ‘Tat’ on his arm which he sported proudly whilst his mate took various pictures of him, but I wonder what it looks like now.

The tourists too become regulars and some are creatures of habit, to which you could set a clock.

The Tall lady and her partners walk up the beach every afternoon at five. When I say ‘the tall lady’ I really mean tall. She must be at least six foot six, maybe more. Her partner is no slouch, I suspect he is 6-2 or 6-3 but she towers over him.

At just after 5 Pm two figures can be seen swimming around the headland, their Orange water proof bags proclaiming their progress. This Austrian couple set out each morning and snorkel round to Ao Nuan for a sunbathe then continue snorkelling up the coast, returning at the same time each evening.

Once dry they come out of their sea front bungalow at Pudsa and have a game of Boules till the sun goes down. We joined them for a game on Monday evening but lost 10-7 so had to buy a round of beers as consolation.

playing-boules
playing boules

First thing in the morning an older couple (who must have been original Hippies) walk from left to right down the beach and around the headland to a tiny cove called Ao Nuan where there’s a small bar set back in the tree’s amongst some of the most Heath Robinson Cabins we’ve seen to date.

This area seems to attract more back packers and the Hippie element, probably because the rental price’s are that much cheaper. We had lunch there and though it was cheap we didn’t really enjoy our meal. Jaki had what was described as Indian Vegetable Curry but  looked like no Indian we had seen. It was a mix of leftover Sunday Lunch veg, mixed with a tossed salad and dressed with watered down Soy Sauce. Not very appetising.

The far end of the beach before going around the headland (TubTim) is well know to Bangkok Gay community and there were plenty of people walking up and down the beach displaying like peacocks. One guy wore the most outrageous shocking Pink two piece swim suit, whilst others seemed to be wearing only underpants?

We did marvel at the power of ‘Gaydar’ when a young fellow who had been sat reading his book for hours, suddenly jumped up, stripped off his shorts and ran into the sea in his underpants and an erection.

We watched as he approached another guy who was merrily Bobbing about on the briny and then ‘Hey Ho Hello Sailor’ they were as close as peas in a pod. This relationship was short lived and the guy returned to the beach, dried himself off and went to join the queue for an Indian Pancake.

Guess all that activity made him hungry?

In my day we had a smoke afterwards.

pancake-seller
You could set your watch by the pancake man.

Some people though just refuse to conform.

Like the guy who sells Indian Pancakes with various fillings. Our favourite was the chicken masala, tasty and filling but the most expensive on offer at 100 Baht each.

The first day he arrived at 3 pm.

We bought our first pancakes and enjoyed them so much we decided to make this a daily ritual.

“Im always here every day at 2.’ He said. (Though it was actually 3pm).

The next day, true to his word, he arrived, at about 1515hrs.

Then on Saturday when all the day trippers from Bangkok had swollen our little community to breaking point, he arrived at 3pm, made a complete killing, selling out his entire stock.

Then, he  was never seen again!

Its not just people who have routines. The dogs do too.

The beach has a whole pack of dogs that live quite happily (well, most of the time) and are tolerated by tourists and locals. Some have become celebrities in their own right, like the little sandy coloured dog that someone has painted eye brows on.

eyebrows
dog with eye brows

These dogs generally have their own little area and don’t seem to stray too far. But.

Every evening at about 4.30pm a large brown dog (some time’s in the company of a black dog) came up the beach from the South. As he got closer the Jack Russell from Trio Bar began to get agitated and eventually there was somewhat of a commotion. Usually this involved the Jack Russell running out to meet his Nemesis, then when he got within about 8 feet he turned turtle and legged it back to the safety of the deck chairs from where he could send out a few threatening bark’s.

Yesterday though a very different scenario took place. The owner of the brown dog stopped for a drink at Trio bar, bringing brown dog with him. Jack Russell had no option at this point and was forced to issue a challenge. Big mistake. Brown dog , teeth bared  like fangs, grabbed him by the neck and would’ve snapped him in two if the owner’s of both dog’s hadn’t intervened.
They separated the two with ineffectual slaps from one and a good boot up the arse from another. Brown Dog Man picked his dog up by the scruff of its neck and the skin on its back and tried to carry him off. Sadly this resulted in him getting bitten on the hand by his own dog.
At which point, Jack Russell saw his chance and leapt from behind a flower pot, sinking his teeth into brown dogs dangling leg.

It was all very exciting for a while.

Then, everything just went back to how it was.

The Speed boats which ferry tourists from the pier at Ban Phe to the beach outside their chosen hotel make’s regular visit’s. They cut the glassy surface of the water leaving a white scratch in their wake, then as they near the orange buoys the motor is cut and they sink deeper into the water.

speedboat-loading
unloading tourists

They spin around and with a roar of their out boards and a bit of showing off, they reverse up to the beach. The outboard’s are lifted clear and an anchor is tossed off the Bow. When the stern has touched the sand the anchor line is tied and the waves keep the boat pressed snugly against the shore, allowing the passengers and their bags to leave the boat without getting wet.
One group off, another group on, then they pull on the anchor line, which moves the boat into deeper water, engines are lowered. A big splutter and a belch of black diesel smoke and they are once again racing back across the water leaving the stink of diesel fumes in their wake.

This method of arriving at your chosen hotel has the advantage of saving 200 Baht per person as they by-pass the park rangers who collect the toll from customers like us who came by Taxi.

The Big Boat’s too make a call here. They arrive and anchor just off shore. A Guy from the bar rows a small boat out and is handed a length of 45 ml hose (the same type as we used in the fire service). He then rows ashore and connects the coupling to another length stretched across the beach, this is connected to a water Hydrant. Once the boat is full, it sounds it’s horn, a long belching cry and the hose is uncoupled.

So, each day unfolds. A Tapestry telling a small but interesting tale. Each person playing their part. Each routine, each action articulating a time.

For our part, we had to recognise the contours and then blend in.
It wasn’t easy, we were rigid and fractious. Caught up in the urgency of organising, traveling , unpacking.

Too busy to read to anxious to chill.

Then, on the 5th day, like an epiphany, it suddenly click’s and you are on the beach, sat in a broken old deck chair, watching the tide , the people, the routines.

Almost a part of it.

Sitting in the same place every day.
Speaking to the same people.
Ordering an Iced coffee every morning.
Eating an Indian Pancake  ‘almost’ the same time every day.

The trick is, to leave and for others to ask ‘Wheres that Fat bloke and his wife?”

Then you know you’ve made it.

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2 thoughts on “Koh Samet

  1. Handbill (got it right, this time),

    There is, indeed, sustenance in sitting on a beach, far away from the maddening crowd, and knowing that you have found Nirvana. I can remember, some 40 years ago, when I worked in Manhattan. One of those places that assumes the world revolves around it. When we visited some friend in Florida, we drove down to Key West, and there is one spot, where everyone goes to watch the sunset. As I was leaving, there was a street sign on a small alleyway, which read: “Wall St.”. Case solved.

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