With mixed emotions, I headed towards the Donsak pier in Surat Thani to catch a boat to Ko Samui. Surat Thani is the gateway to this heavily developed and very expensive island and my home last night, the slick dealings and price of my room clearly foreshadowing the hell that would await me in Samui. Coming from the sleepy town of Phang Nga, that tries with dignity to compete with Phuket Town’s dominance of its own star attraction (Phang Nga Bay) by way of day tours, Surat Thani’s stark contrast in attitude was frustrating. As I exited the bus I was literally pulled by my arm into a tour operator’s office! After a few moments the stun wore off and I shook my arm free, annoyed. (The bag, they can carry that however.) I’ve been here before… in Ko Chang during the first week of my indie travel and it drove me to the far corner of the country, way off the beaten track. So why am I choosing this heavily stampeded path now? Good question.
Honestly, it is the same thing that had me tickled with glee in discovering Sweet Avenue Bake Shop, a cupcake bakery in East Rutherford, New Jersey, existed or Bloodroot, a feminist bookstore/vegetarian restaurant in Bridgeport, CT. I simply love the process of traveling and, separately, a destination that promises a worthwhile taste experience, never neglecting any of my senses’ need for quality. Like a film aficionado revels in the technical art of achieving emotional catharsis (an oxymoronic process of sorts!), its complex craft of words and moving image, I enjoy the symphony of a good meal. Others, opting for ease and convenience, enjoy a pop song of a meal; they may find traveling for food silly. I find it on par with traveling for sightseeing, very much worth planning and tedious effort. Knowing the emptiness of a bad meal (movie, song, social interaction, etc.), I put the effort in because my senses deserve the best! In all their fickle and erratic glory, they’re worthy.
So I am pressured into visiting Ko Samui because of the “lauded” organic vegetarian restaurant at the Spa Samui Resort… 1 of the top 50 restaurants in the world touts Restaurant Magazine. The proximity of the restaurant to some other attractions rounded out my day trip. Right off the pier, I hired the first taxi driver that approached me to take me to all my sights, my restaurant and then back to another pier, leaving the island A.S.A.P. Here is my driver, a sweet woman who lives on the island but is certainly not an official taxi, despite the brash clash paint job of her car. She was a hefty baht but the lay of the island and its popularity merits the price I suppose.
My first stop was the Ko Samui Butterfly Garden. The small, enclosed grounds were beautiful and pushed away from the crowded beach streets. But it was not conducive to much up close viewing of the butterflies that fluttered about. Unlike the Bronx Zoo’s Butterfly Garden, which hs scrumptious feasts of sweet fruit placed strategically for ample butterfly viewing, catching more than a whisping glance of these beauties was more a matter of luck. There were many gorgeous species I saw for prolonged periods of time: one, unfortunately smashed on the floor, and others preserved unsmashed in glass cases. Also interesting, the many insects they had catalogued.
Next stop was reaching a bit. Hin Ta and Hin Yai (Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks) are rock formations off the island’s Southwestern coast. Legend says that when an elderly couple died at sea after a storm smashed their ship, their bodies floated ashore and their genitals solidified in rock creating this odd tourist attraction, complete with an aptly-named bar at the entrance to the sight and many vendors. Ok, tall rock next to short rock: check. Onward in Samui.
Lastly, my meal. Wonderful. Fresh Vietnamese rolls, raw vegetable lasagna and the spectacular raw chocolate fruit cake. The cake really took the cake. With soaked and paper-thin layers of banana, papaya and mango under a delicious nutty chocolate compote, it was one of the most perfect food items I’d ever tasted. Would certainly consider visiting this place again. The grounds were beautiful and, though I was surrounded by all Richy-rich types, reasonably priced. They offered fasting and detox programs, yoga, meditation, swimming pool, beachside bamboo bungalows and a private beach: the standard spa resort fare but with a suprisingly down-to-earth attitude.
I finished well before my boat was scheduled to leave. The next stop on my island hopping adventure: Ko Phangan.