If Koh Samui created it’s own calendar, every day would be Sunday with all clock hands pointing to morning. It’s a place where everyday is a day of rest — and it makes you feel like it’s well deserved. Go on, take a nap by the pool, the island whispers, you’ve worked hard reading all of those pages in your novel.
The sunless and muggy air wraps you like a warm blanket and the sea breeze pushes you gently towards the lounge chairs by the pool. Moritz, his parents, and I aren’t made of stone, so of course we fell into the temptation of doing nothing on an island so persuasive.
The hottest debates between the group revolved around should we eat now? Or later? Should we swim in the big pool Or the small one? Koh Samui was the antidote to sensory hangover of Bangkok.
Moritz and his father would read the latest German action novels by the pool while Birgit and I found a second home at the Yogarden, a holistic yoga studio made from an old Thai house behind our hotel. Unlike a lot of the yoga studios in Perth that employ a formulaic “pilates/power yoga” type of practice, the Yogarden embraces different personalities and styles of yoga.
In Ashtanga class, our petite teacher corrected every posture with a preciseness and attention to detail that I’ve never had before. She aligned every one of my joints with patience and thoroughness to show me what the pose should really feel like. In the background we could hear nothing but birds chirping — though I was too busy willing myself to mentally shut up and hold the pose to pay attention to them.
Anna, the teacher for our Vinyasa classes taught in such a contrasting way. I was transformed back to my seven year old self, where I’d sit on the floor with my feet pressed together like butterfly wings and daydreamed of all of the places I could fly. With a playlist concocted of AC/DC, Ben Howard, Fleetwood Mac, and other assorted artists beating in the background, the sun salutations felt familiar while my mentality did not. Usually, yoga centers my thoughts and keeps it from obsessing over my everyday worries and stresses. In this class, my mind was able to not be grounded but freed to escape my worries by thinking about magic. “Life is a song — sing it!” Anna advised while giggling and guiding us into the next sequence.
It’s not very often that at one studio yoga can be both playful dancing or rigid precision, depending on the teacher.
Dreaming of a Thai Christmas
When Christmas day rolled around, everything felt so off. I was in a tropical climate, without my blood relatives, and in a non Christian country. Because so much of Koh Samui relies on the tourism industry and as a result of creeping globalization, the entire island decked themselves out in what they thought would bring Christmas spirit.
They flung Christmas lights over the spirit houses and the waiters donned Santa hats. The streets of Bophut resembled a mish-mash of clashing cultures. The Thai people went far enough to please the tourists by embracing Santa and winter themed decorations, but all semblance of Jesus or Christianity stayed within the hearts of the Christian travelers and off of the buddhist Thai streets. Still, the atmosphere was warm and inviting, where it felt like everyone wanted to spread Christmas cheer regardless of what religion you believe in or country you hail from.
Going to the Gonads
Maybe it was because we were finally itching to see the rest of Koh Samui, or maybe it was because our kindles died… we rented a driver for the day and saw some of Koh Samui’s more iconic sites.
…And one of those sites happen to be a monolith of a penis and an accompanying rock formation of a vagina affectionately named by the Thai people, Hin Ta and Hin Yai (grandma and grandpa.) Don’t ask me why or how these names came about because frankly, I wasn’t interested in finding out the relationship between genitalia and someone’s grandparents.
The Thai people have capitalized on tourist’s fascination with rocks shaped like privates and lined the entire pathway to the penis with kitschy shops selling phallic keychains and coconuts.
Usually when you visit famous geological structures like Uluru or the Grand Canyon, people stand with their jaws agape and eyes wide.
Here, people mostly stood confused and slightly perturbed at the sad state of grandma (who we couldn’t distinguish among an array of rocks with cracks in them). Do we comment that the penis looks majestic? Inspiring? Anatomically correct? There’s only so much to say about a place that’s famous for looking like a dick… especially in the presence of strangers and your boyfriend’s parents.
Our group ended up being more impressed by a rock that looked like an abstract crocodile so we turned on our heels to head over to the next destination, the Na Muang waterfalls.
We piled into the back of a 4×4 truck and were carted away to the top of a hill where rickety boards nailed together formed our pathway to the waterfalls (named “Waterfall #1” and “Waterfall #2” in English). Fellow travelers flooded the scene and peeled off their clothing to take a dip in the water. A local Thai girl who’s parents owned the shabby snack shop nearby proudly flashed us a smile and showed us a leaf-woven fish.
Wat Phra Yai, The Big Buddha, was the last stop before heading back to the comforts of our family style hotel. The Big Buddha spans out over the sea and can be seen from miles away along the coastline. The locals are doing construction work around it, and for 100 baht you can paint your name on a roof panel that will be built into the temple–something they’ve resorted to because donating based off of charity hasn’t raised enough funds to update the temple.
Koh Samui probably won’t give you an exotic local experience — where you go days without seeing a fellow traveler and can’t understand anyone, lest the restaurant menus. What Koh Samui will give you is just enough excitement to leave your lounge if you’d like to but above all provides a place to recharge and recover from more taxing parts of Thailand.
Sleeping in Bophut:Smile House: located in the cute town of Bophut, Smile House offers friendly service, an earthy cabin type of lodge, and two pools to take a dip in.
Eating in Bophut: There are so many amazing restaurants here, you really can’t go wrong! I liked Billabong Surf Club a place to get a glimpse of Australian sports and listen to live music while having a drink. Yogarden for fresh greens. The Seaside Steakhouse offers enough to please both vegetarians and meat eaters. Above all, Shades Thai food ended up being my favorite.