Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Ko Samui, Thailand

With only 250 miles to steam (nautical term) between Laem Chabang and Ko Samui, we arrived the next morning, just like on a normal cruise! This was another tender port, and we had to be back on board by 4.30pm which didn't give us a great deal of time. We got up early and queued for tender tickets. Katie was about 10th in line and she started queuing an hour before the tickets were due to be issued. You can see her surf board at the front of the queue in the pictures below. Once we were anchored and disembarkation had started, we hung around the area which led down to the tenders and, with the help of one of our crew friends, managed to squeeze onto the very first tender to leave the ship. It was actually only supposed to be for an organised tour but there were seats available, so we took them!

I don't like to moan about things, it doesn't seem right, but there does appear to be a problem with getting people quickly and efficiently off the ship. We spoke to people today who didn't get ashore until noon despite getting their ticket at 9.15am, and heard of others who had a grand total of 1.5 hours ashore. It's quite understandable that tempers were getting frayed, and there will be many a comment in the questionnaire at the end of this leg of the cruise. Never has the phrase, "You snooze, you lose" been more appropriate!

There were 8 of us who had grouped together to do the same thing today. 6 of us from our dinner table, and 2 others, Phill and Ollie who we know. There is not a lot to do on this small island, apart from visit the beach. So we did. In contrast to Vietnam, there were scores of waiting locals ready to take your money in exchange for some vehicular based service. We escaped the super keen ones and made it safely to the end of the line where we found a chap willing to take all 8 of us to Lamai Beach for US$30. The normal mode of transport on the island, was the same as we found in St Thomas a few years ago, a converted pick up truck with bench seats and a roof. We piled in, and he took off across the island. These trucks normally pick people up as they go along, you pay your money and you get dropped at your destination when it feels convenient for the driver. The other passengers on the "bus" might all get to their destinations before you, regardless of the order in which you boarded. It's typical island transport for those who don't wear a watch. However, this one, was ours alone. It took about 30 minutes to reach the beach, and only another 5 to find a shady spot underneath some palm trees, lay out our towels and smother ourselves in sun cream. Katie and I are not sun-worshipers and so we have discovered "P20" which is an all day lotion which seems to work well, even after being in the sea.

The sea itself wasn't as clean as we had hoped or been told it would be. It certainly wasn't snorkeling territory, so they stayed disappointingly in the bag. We did venture in though, it was lovely and warm, and although it got quite deep, quite quickly, it was visibly cleaner, further out. We messed around in the sea and on the beach all morning. Some of us sunbathing, some of us (Ollie) on his perpetual hunt for a white dinner jacket. They are not hard to come by, since Hong Kong it seems like the normal way to buy a suit is to have it made for you, but as they are all made to order they require a minimum of 4 hours from measuring to completion, and we didn't have that much time. Ollie came away disappointed again.

Katie's suggestion for a place to go for lunch was widely accepted and required us to walk all of 50 meters along the beach. It was a modest restaurant, and we sat around one big table and had the best lunch time meal I think any of us have had on any port of call. Local beers (Chang) were served in polystyrene coolers and the food was lovely. I had a sweet and sour dish, Katie had a Thai green curry. It came to about 600 Baht per couple, about 12 pounds.

With not much time for anything in the afternoon, we jumped back on the bus-van-truck which we'd "booked" to pick us up at 3 and having the promise of another US$30 to take us back, the driver was more than happy. At US$15 per couple both ways, it was a mutually beneficial arrangement and again, much cheaper than the organised tour to the beach.

The queue at the dock for the tenders was massive. It appeared everyone had left it until the last tender time before heading back, not something that is normal in our experience. I think it was down to the fact that a lot of people had not long been ashore, and I was happy to wait a while in the line if it sent a small message of dissatisfaction on behalf of those people. It did of course make us late leaving, but the consequences of that are yet to be felt. I'm glad we got up early though!

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