Tuesday 30 November 2010

Sexy Time in Southern Samui ...

The very first time I went to Samui (circa 1997) I stayed at a place called the Butterfly Garden, a modest establishment which was in Laem Sett ... way, way, way away from anything, accessed through screeds of coconut plantations where collared monkeys darted up trees to pick the choicest coconuts one by one. And that's what drove Samui's economy. Then.

Fast forward a decade, and here I am tootling toward Laem Sett on a scooter past the glittering IT malls and shopping arcades of Lamai, and further to the Laem Sett turnoff. Signs everywhere pointing to a hundred different offerings herald that this steep and sleepy hollow has been discovered. Indeed, although there is still plenty of greenery around, no sign of those monkeys anymore. Soon I see the Butterfly Garden, almost unnoticeable compared to its new neighbour, the massively sprawling flash new Centara.

Then it's down to first gear as my scooter smokes it way up another hill, round the bend, down, up and around, affording beautiful glimpses through the trees at the lovely blue waters beyond. Finally, a series of smart flag/signs signal Shasa Resort and Residences. Over another crest and ...

WowweeEEE! The 32-suite ShaSa looms out of the foliage. A surprisingly ambitious development for a one-off hotel with no sister properties. The resort cascades down the hill towards the bay.

The welcome is slick yet warm and down to earth. The resident manager is the charming Sam, who used to work at one of my favourite Bangkok hotels, the Dream. A good start. And then it just gets better ...

Our suite is cavernous. A full kitchen here, a dining area, a comfortable living area with a kinky recliner. Massive balcony which affords an overview of the property: pool, pool, pool, lagoon, all visually blended. But while everything feels big, it smacks of a romantic getaway for couples.

Take the door sign, for example. I don't mean literally take it. I mean, the door sign instead of saying Do Not Disturb reads Romantic Time. Practical. Realistic. Reminds me of that cheesy movie Borat and his expression: ''Sexy time."

The bedroom and bathroom are certainly geared for that. Make sure you stay for at least three nights here. Not that you need that long to unwind, but that's how long it takes to fill the world's largest bathtubs here.

A good bathtub is my measure of a great hotel room, and on that scale it scores ... well, off the scale completely. The US Navy's 7th Pacific fleet could hold war-game exercises in this tub and almost go unnoticed. It's that big, jing jing.

And if you want your privacy and seclusion to continue, just call the spa and get them to come and do you both on the balcony. (Er, that doesn't sound right.) Massage you both on your balcony, I mean, where a massive daybed is laid out. What a treat, as your body soaks up the morning sun, to be rubbed and stroked with perfect pressure. And you never have to leave your room.

But eventually you'll need to surface for sustenance. And Z Restaurant does the trick with a contemporary air and flair, fusing Thai with Mediterranean and seafood.

It's from Z that I spot the hydrotherapy pool with its jets and bubbles and sprinklers and other weapons of delight. An invigorating session in there, and a lounge on the bean bags around. Aah! Bloody magic.

While I might have initially lamented Laem Sett's loss of innocence I am now feeling To Hell With The Monkeys. It's called evolution.

Footnote: Stu Lloyd travelled to Koh Samui with assistance from Bangkok Airways www.bangkokair.com

Monday 29 November 2010

No bucket, no boom-boom!

It used to be that Samui was on the hippie trail and the backpacker circuit, but then the great unwashed gradually got more dissatisfied with the development, progress and cost of ‘their’ island paradise and moved on to Panghan.

Panghan was where the Full Moon Parties started, firstly with boats landing a few hundred people from Samui on a remote beach called Haad Rin. Magic mushrooms were consumed in quantities that would leave Cordon Bleu chefs scratching their heads (and perhaps other body parts) in wonder.

They danced and writhed and raved all night. I mean all night, man. And it was good.

A new paradise was declared. A nascent nirvana.

Word got around. Numbers increased. More shacks sprung up to accommodate the curious and the curfew-less. Hundreds grew into thousands. And numbers peaked at 40,000 with the Millenium party which reportedly raged on for endless nights and days.

Others tried to capitalize. Even Singapore tried to get Full Moon parties off the ground but failed (not enough mushrooms perhaps?). And even Samui offers Full Moon, Half Moon, Black Moon parties. And, not to be left out, the United Nations have a Ban Ki Moon ...

But there’s only one authentic Full Moon party. And even in the low season it draws around 6000 party-heads of, well, just about all ages. (At 48 I reckon I was the third oldest person there.)

The recipe is simple. Hop a song taew van from your resort or the jetty to Haad Rin. Hop off when you see the streets lined with stalls selling sand buckets. That’s right, that’ll be your fine crystal glassware for the night … a plastic bucket, sold along with your choice of spirits and mixers, ie, a small bottle of vodka with two cans of soda and a can of red bull for around 250 baht. Then get your wrist band to go in; that’s 100 baht.

Face and body painting. Tatoos. Day-glo fluorescent wear. Everything you need for a complete night out is there.

Then it’s down onto the magnificent beach – a sea of love and lights – where the music is pumping from any number of pubs, bars, restaurants. Just stroll along until you hear the flavour that’s right for you. Cactus and Drop In seemed about the most popular. Any vantage points, such as chairs and tables are taken early, and party-goers will be standing atop these, shirtless (only the guys, sadly, from what I saw), hip-shaking and fist-pumping all night.

Generous gulps from the sand bucket becomes too much for some. As the night draws on, it’s like a scene from the Somme. Comrades are fallen everywhere, and lie where they fell. An official ‘sleep area’ with plastic sheeting and cordoned off is available for those who need a little power nap. But, hell, I’ll sleep when I’m dead and live while I’m alive, as Bon Jovi used to sing …

If an economist or marketing guru wanted to study the free market system and competition they could do no better than watch the bucket stalls along the beach. Handpainted signs appeal to national patriotism (especially signs for Brits, Scandinavians, etc), popular names, the downright cheeky (‘Love you long time’) and the out-and-out sex appeal of ‘No Bucket No Boom-Boom’, jing jing.

 Fire-dancers and fire-swallowers wow the crowd with throat-burning antics. Burnt-out try-hards litter the beach, having peaked too early.

But the hard-core are now fired up and can be seen sliding down a makeshift slide, three stories high onto (but sometimes over or beside!) a rubber dinghy. A chiropractors’ delight! It’s like a bad  car crash – you have to stop and watch it.

Around 3am, the party was in full swing. But we’ve had enough fun and call it quits. I am pleased (and somewhat amazed) to have witnessed nothing untoward all evening -- just a crowd of fun-loving people partying with much bon-homie.

‘You mean you didn’t see people making out on the beach?’ asks my friend Shana. ‘Oh …’ she seems disappointed. ‘You didn’t see people making out in the water?’ Negative again. ‘Oh …’ she seems more disappointed. ‘You mean you didn’t see people throwing up everywhere?’ No, sorry. Her brow furrows like the absence of any of this is a cause for concern.

But clearly all was not well. Her husband Pong, who runs the Blue Lotus Resort where we stayed, tells me of an Irish girl who had hurriedly checked out at 4:30am without the girlfriend whom she’d checked in with. ‘Oh, getting the first boat out,’ nods Shana knowingly, as though she’s heard it all and seen it all before. In a way she has – after all the American has lived on Panghan for 20 years.

That’s clearly the Dark Side of the Moon. But I prefer to look on the bright side. As a party venue, Panghan is hard to eclipse.

Friday 26 November 2010

Cracking serious wood ...

If you've ever lusted after a huge piece of wooden Thai furniture, or gushed over an ornate wooden carving, chances are it came from the Hang Dong or Ban Tawai area of Chiang Mai province. The region is rich in traditional artisans, helping Thailand to its position as the 17th largest exporter of creative products in the world.

And few have been as influential as Khun Areesak (Pop's) business ...

On the main road from Chiang Mai to Hang Dong, you can't miss the Thai Plit Pan Carving Factory, with its massively wide wooden frontage with artifacts spilling out all over the place. This was started by Pop's father, Khun Somrot, 45 years ago.

'When he started, everyone was just carving animals,' says the congenial slender all-in-Johnny-Cash-black Pop, who happily shows me around the several floors of the main shop, and then takes me out the back, up the garden path to a series of old out-buildings and warehouses full of rotting wood, artifacts-to-be, and nearly finished products. It's a timber version of Steptoe and Son.

The rotting wood, as it turns out, is like gold dust. 'Old teak trees, about 400 years old,' says the gracefully middle-aged Pop, tapping a pile of old lumber. 'Old wood is better because it doesn't crack.'

Sculptures, statutes, folding panels, and furniture all magically take form under the chisels, saws and planes of his craftsmen. The intricacy is bewildering -- some details in a wooden mural no bigger than toothpicks -- in tableaux that take literally years to create. A team of around 50 craftsmen and women turn teak into treasures, some of them specialising solely in village dioramas, others mythical naga serpent figures.

But his pieces-de-resistance are tables. Imagine BHP Billiton or some other large conglomeration that has need for a boardroom table to fit hundreds of directors around. Pop makes them BIG. Half a forest goes into some of these. One is on display for 800,000 baht; that's about 25,000 bucks, jing jing

'We have sold many pieces for over 1 million baht,' declares Pop proudly. 'And we once shipped an 11-metre table to Norway.' They've clearly come a long way since his dad decided there was more to Thai craftsmanship than chipping away at little sculptures of elephants.

One of the tables on display is a hollowed out teak trunk, full of fantasmagorical fish and mermaids and crabs and all things maritime carved into its interior. The top is glass. The idea is that the table will be filled with water and become a giant fish tank-cum-conference table. Talk about a present for someone who has everything!

Upstairs, as I try out a really comfy chair, I spy Pop's mum doing the ironing in a back room. And his father, who still despite his advanced years, works the shop floor keeping an eye on Pop. Then he introduces me to his daughter, a student at Chiang Mai university, who also puts in time at the family business.

But the problem I have is that as much as I like these tables, I don't think my landlord would take kindly to me bashing out one of the walls in order to make it fit the lounge room. There again I could always put the table out in the garden. After all, this wood's been sitting around in the sun and rain for 400 years already ...

Thursday 25 November 2010

Koh Samui -- A new player on the beach at Bo Phut.

It's a delightful evening on the beachfront at Bo Phut, Samui, with just the faintest tinge of wind rustling the palm trees in front of Bistro H. Silvery reflections of the full moon complete the postcard-perfect scene of classy beach-side dining. 'The moon is a bit late tonight, I'll speak to engineering about that,' jokes the good natured Indonesian GM, Indra.

It's just one day past the Full Moon Party which has been celebrated across the water on Koh Panghan, clearly visible from this vantage point at the front of the new Hansar Resort and Spa. A khum loy lantern is lit on the beach and floats whimsically skyward. The wheeeeeeeEEEEE-bang of a firework rocket somewhere further down the beach towards the hip and happening Fisherman's Village.

We are enjoying a meal which I've been looking forward to since Indra mentioned their chef Stefan had done a stint as the personal chef for the Jordanian royal family, or Michael Jordan, or someone very lofty in any case, jing jing.

And so it begins to appear. Abalone from Hokkaido. And wagyu sirloin that tastes just as you'd expect a cow that's raised on a steady regimen of beer and massages to taste. (Hmm, I wonder if my meat tastes like that?). Some very fine wine, Chilean if I'm correct, accompanies it. I'm sure the King of Jordan wishes Stefan was back there now.

Over dinner, Indra tells me about this all-new hotel-resort brand. 'Hansar is a play on the Sanskrit word meaning fun and playful. We're trying to hire happy people.'  The hotel is relying on all Thai input, including the architects to carve a unique look and feel for itself. If you imagine the Alila in Cha-Am (see earlier blog), it feels a lot like that, because the property was originally ear-marked to be an Alila. But it has been tweaked with some less austere, more quirky, touches -- such as the off-kilter woodwork resembling wonky bookshelves -- in the reception area.

The rooms are delightfully appointed with huge balconies and day beds, and huge rain showers (no the showers aren't on the balcony, they're behind an arty screen in the bathroom, but I didn't know how else to punctuate that sentence.)

The grounds are dominated by water ponds and an infinity pool with pool bar overlooking the beach.

The unassuming young Thai owner drifts past in shorts and t-shirt, very understated, and certainly not one whom you'd pick as the scion of one of Thailand's richest companies, ThaiBev. (Ever drunk a Chang beer? Well, you just put a dollar in his pocket.)

The top suites here, on the leading edge facing the sea, go for around 15000 baht ++ per night, and the rooms start at around 5500++ baht. 'We're fully booked over Chinese New Year already,' says a delighted Indra.

So if you're looking to an alternative to the incessant activity of Chaweng, think about the beach at Bo Phut. The Hansar is feeling playful. Are you?

Friday 19 November 2010

More bang for your buck ...

Bang! Bang! Bang! I didn't sleep a wink last night ...

As you might know, everything is celebrated longer and harder and louder in northern Thailand.

And this weekend is the Loy Krathong festival throughout the Kingdom. So of course that means at least one whole week's celebration in Chiang Mai. Fireworks, rockets, bungers, and anything that catches fire -- or could catch fire if sufficiently primed -- or makes a noise is wheeled into action. At any hour of night or day.

And of course the clear night skies are already filled with glowing lanterns trailing showering tails of sparking and fizzing fireworks into the stratosphere. Bloody magical!

I've just seen my neighbour's stockpile of fireworks in his garage: it's a collection of size and potency that would interest the Taliban, jing jing! (The photo adjacent is just a little warm-up one he tested in the garden recently, a fraction of the size of some of the ones he has under wraps.)

Luckily I'm heading down to Sukhothai to watch the peaceful release of about 5000 lanterns into the sky against the spectacularly lit backdrop of the ruins of the ancient capital.

But I'm sure Chiang Mai will be still be celebrating long and loud once I'm back ...

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Food glorious food ...

According to the snappily titled Visa-Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Asia Pacific Travel Intentions Survey 2010, the main reason people would go back to Thailand is for the food.

And why not: there's MacDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut ... and even some of the local fare is worth a try.

Somboon Krobteeranon -- (whose name itself is quite a mouthful) -- Country Manager, Thailand, Visa said: "Gastronomically, Thailand has so much to offer that visitors are truly spoilt for choice, making it almost impossible for them to resist a return trip to this country. Thailand offers diverse regional cuisines formed by indigenous cultures and foreign influences, and dishes range from the crowd pleasing Pad Thai and Pad Krapow to classic favorites like Tom Yam Kung and Som Tam."
Among respondents who would consider visiting Thailand in the next two years, 61 percent are repeat travellers who said they would be drawn to visit again by the culinary experiences that Thailand offers.

Top Reasons for Revisiting Thailand in the Next Two Years:

* Food and dining options 61 percent
* Affordability 60 percent
* Great shopping 54 percent
* Great natural sceneries 54 percent
* Culture 49 percent

Drop me a note and tell me your favourite Thai dish or restaurant.

Friday 12 November 2010

A crackling fireplace ...

You've probably read much about the rain and the floods in Thailand lately which have affected many parts of this low-lying country.

I personally have not seen rain for about 3 weeks as I've moved about lately from Chiang Mai to Samui to Bangkok -- lucky timing I guess -- but one thing's for sure is that up here in Chiang Mai the wet season is well and truly over as we slip into three month's of beautiful refreshing winter.

Forget your image of what winter is. Here the days are blue skies with temperatures in the 20s, or even 30s. But it's the mornings and evenings which get interesting. Down to about 6-12 degrees in the mountains of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces at the moment.

So you can pull out your trackie daks and beanie and footy jumper, and sit around a crackling fireplace nursing a heart-warming tipple, jing jing.

If you've never experienced this side of life in Thailand, you should. November to February is really a magic time of year up here.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Steamy Windows: water sports for adults

All guests at the new Banyan Tree Samui are entitled to a one-hour Rainforest Experience session in the spa, according to the in-room materials.

Yeah, whatever, I'm more interested in kayaking, snorkelling or just lazing around the plunge pool in the villa. Or even just staying in bed in our villa, it's so damn comfortable.

But at the urging of my companion, we hop on the golf buggy to the spa. The buggy ride in itself is an adventure, as the gradients on this 89-rai block of seaside land verge on the vertical at times. I'm sure this guy was a stunt driver in Police Academy! In fact, this remarkably steep hotel site was chosen for the propitious 'Turtle Rock' which the owner believes will bestow long life on all guests. It is a feat of engineering in itself that the resort was built within just 2 1/2 years, as all the buildings are propped up on pillars to maximise their outlook over the South China Sea.

Wooooooo! Weeheeee! We are like kids on a roller-coaster at a summer carnival. Screech! The buggy deposits us at the Spa.

The receptionist gives us an overview of the Rainforest Experience, a signature innovation first introduced to the chain's property in Sanya in 2008, and subsequently rolled out to a few new properties including Samui.

'Ten unique hydrothermal therapy experiences,' the receptionist tells us. Indoor water sports for adults is my translation.

First off, you walk down a pebbled corridor, lined with bamboo. Sensors are activated and you are showered with alternately hot and cold jets, like a monsoonal downpour. Then you enter the main chamber where Enya-esque music soothes your inner beast. 

Here, a series of herbal saunas, steam rooms, showers, drench buckets, and hydro-massagers await you. We were given suggestions on how long to linger in each, but it's up to you to tailor your experience how you want. I love the herbal steam, and revisit that a couple of times. My companion spends far too long (I think) in a shower that directs jets of water at strategic parts of her body that are not usually massaged in public, jing jing

To my disappointment, I find the jets of water aimed too low to do me any similar good!

Then out of the sauna and we pour crushed ice cubes over each other, and slip the odd one down each others' costumes.

Next it's into the warm pool, where we fire up a range of massagers that bubble and squirt and pour and gush water at various angles. I love the sensation on my neck especially. We move along the pool and lie on submerged recliners, as our bodies are tickled by gentle streams of water. Finally we reach the last station, which are raised day beds, heated to more than body temperature. The smiling assistant brings us a drink as we lie there.

Then I notice a funny thing. Both of our chests are heaving. As though we've been, um, how shall I say this ... exerting ourselves. Our hearts are both thumping. So all this hot-cold, in-out, round-a-bout treatment has really got our blood pumping.

We feel wonderfully alive after our trip to the Rainforest ...and we still have the buggy-ride back to look forward to!

Stu travelled to Koh Samui with assistance from Bangkok Airways www.bangkokair.com

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Koh Samui -- Turning the blue waters, er, green.

Sands Restaurant, in a sheltered cove near Lamai that is home to the new Banyan Tree on Koh Samui, is a very pleasant spot, with all the usual ingredients of paradise: calm blue water, coconut trees (in the millions as this was till recently a coconut plantation) and four colourful wooden fishing boats riding at anchor just off the golden beach.

Cliches abound, so where am I possibly going to dredge up an interesting travel story here?

Then the hotel's Khun Marsh introduces me to Halik (pictured), an Indonesian from Sulawesi. Has he been shipwrecked and washed up on shore here? No, the marine biologist is Banyan Tree's CSR Manager and resident marine researcher, here to help the new property establish their well-known CSR program in which guests donate US$2 per night, which is matched by the hotel. 'We would like to do conservation by ourselves, and hope to establish a lab here,' the affable chap says.

His priorities are to release giant clams and turtles into the waters here.

Giant clams are considered a delicacy and thus are an endangered species in Asia. 'They filter water, eat plankton and make the water clear,' says Halik. Clearly there are already some in the water here, then, as the water sparkles beautifully.

Five turtles were released last month already. Their homing instincts have always intrigued me in that they can always return to the same beach where they were released, even if they've swum across thousands of kilometres of ocean to another continent. 'They record all the magnetic field and sand texture and water temperature ... that's how they know where they are.' Oh, I see. No I don't -- that's bloody incredible, jing jing!

Once the hatchlings reach 55-60 days, they are ready to launch, and guests at this Banyan Tree can join Halik in releasing them.

'My job is my passion,' beams Halik. And why not. He's got a great little office overlooking this golden cove and is able to put into practice all the things he wished he could do when he was working for an NGO previously.

'Since primary school I used to watch movies about coral reef -- my brother was a scuba diver.' Now here he is on Samui where 300 coral species thrive. 'The Coral Triangle is the centre of worldwide marine diversity, and Thailand is just outside it,' he says.

Guests are able to borrow flippers, mask and snorkel for free, and wade into the waters here. 'This is quite fantastic,' enthuses Halik. 'Barracuda, even a 1-metre long grouper ... I don't want to tell my colleagues otherwise my grouper will go missing,' he laughs. There's also a school of rabbit fish -- delicious!'

Speaking of delicious, all this talk is making me hungry. Let's order ...

'Would you like to try the giant clams?' asks Khun Marsh. He and Halik dissolve into good-hearted laughter.

Stu travelled to Koh Samui with assistance from Bangkok Airways www.bangkokair.com

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Koh Samui -- Dial M for Marvellous, Magic, Massive ...

Imagine the best Aussie beach house along Palm Beach or at Lorne. Now helicopter it up to Samui and drop it right on the sand at Bo Phut. In essence, you now have Villa M.

Three stories.  Five bedrooms. Light. White. Airy. With a jacuzzi on the top balcony.

But there's a lot more to it than that ...

The bookshelves -- dark wooden affairs which reach from floor to incredibly high ceiling -- are the first clue. The works of Rudyard Kipling, Vikram Seth, the entire crime collection of  Agatha Christie, and Bimbashi McPherson - A Life in Egypt. The latter is written by a relative of the super-cosmopolitan Australian owners of this pile.

Neill McPherson grew up in Asia, as did his wife, Leslie. (If the surname sounds familiar, you may have heard of their daughter, Elle.) 'Neill grew up in Hong Kong, Manila, Jakarta, Singapore ... and is still growing up,' laughs Leslie, who was born in Singapore before moving to Hong Kong.

This Asian sensibility is fused tastefully throughout the house. Recycled teak wood floors. Black-and-white prints of coolies at work. Sepia-tone scenes of old Malaya. Camel-bone inlaid furniture from Rajastan. All carefully selected and artfully displayed.

Folding glass doors open on to a pool deck, and beyond that -- framed by a couple of coconut trees -- the sand of Bo Phut Beach and grandstand views of Koh Panghan. It is a truly inspirational view to wake up to, especially from the top-floor bed which faces directly out to sea.

For sheer livability, Villa M is a great choice. For a start, you have Khun Ake who manages it. A lively and likable youngster who is full of local tips, he also appears magically each morning to prepare your breakfast in the fully-functional Aussie style kitchen. Full oven. Even a dishwasher!

If you have a large family sharing, or many couples, there are several corners in which people can happily lose themselves. Out on a balcony, in the plunge pool, a sofa-clad reading nook, lounge big-screen plasma. (And with a capacity of 10 people, the cost works out at about AUD$60 per person per night in low season ... ridiculously excellent value.)

Best of all, you are within a 100-metre stroll of the great shops, cafes, bars and restaurants of Fisherman's Village.

Leslie tells me they didn't come to Samui to buy a house, let alone build one as they did with Villa M. But I'm sure glad they did!

Koh Samui has that effect on people, jing jing.

Stu travelled to Koh Samui with assistance from Bangkok Airways www.bangkokair.com

Monday 8 November 2010

Fisherman's Village -- Catch of the Day, and Night.

I’ve been visiting Fisherman’s Village for about 13 years now, a tiny enclave on the water near Bo Phut, nestled off a corner of the main road out to the airport.

It used to be a bunch of old wooden Siamese style wooden houses, a few ramshackle beach bars, and one or two fine seafood restaurants.  A very traditional Thai fishing village in the main, where colourfully painted boats rocked at anchor in waters overlooking Koh Panghan and the Big Buddha promontory.

Gradually its reputation grew from satisfied diners, especially from the many expats on the island who dropped in here regularly for the delicious blackboard specials at the Happy Elephant, or a beer and sunset at the former Rasta Bar.

The Village now has a large gateway sign welcoming visitors, and dozens of restaurants, cafes and cuisines from nearly every corner of the world: Indian. Japanese. French. Italian. (Australia is represented  the Billabong Beach Club where you can ‘drink between the flags’.) A new specialty teashop, Namcha Samui, is about to open its doors. And super-funky chill lounges have capitalized on waterfront locations along … along … what the hell’s the name of that road?

‘No name for the road, it’s just Fisherman’s Village,’ says Khun Nok, who owns the Carpe Diem Hotel further along the eastern end of the strip. She picks Just A Pizza as her favourite local haunt. ‘You’ve got to try the spagetthi,’ she says. ‘And they cook a pizza with kua kling, like kapow, so hot and spicy even I can’t eat it!’ she laughs.

Leslie McPherson, an Australian who grew up in Southeast Asia and owns Villa M along the same stretch also fell in love with Fisherman’s Village. ‘It’s the last remaining village with that original Indochine feel.’

Locals and tourists on scooters putter around at about 30 or 40km/h thru the village, giving it a cruisy languid feel ...

Having been here dozens of times, I only felt it has really come of age this time around. And real estate prices now reflect that. ‘The price of land is same as Silom Road in Bangkok,’ says Nok. ‘Crazy!’

What is crazy is the Friday night walking street market. Barricades are thrown up from 5pm, and people gradually filter out into the street. All the vendors put up stalls, spruiking specials, be it fashion, food, jewellery, you name it. A long queue forms up outside Namcha for its fresh Vietnamese spring rolls. And punters take a seat outside Carpe Diem to enjoy Khun Ake’s special Mojito recipe. Then a bunch of musicians start up the serenade … and ... and ... fire jugglers who walk a tightrope ...

So make sure next time you’re in Samui on a Friday night, head for Fisherman’s Village.  The only downside is remembering where you parked your scooter at the end of the night. They all look the same after a few of Ake’s mojitos, jing jing.

Friday 5 November 2010

November Fare Sale on THAI Airways

Ok here's the deal from our friends at Thai Airways ...

Book/ticket/travel by 30 Nov ’10 to Asia (including Thailand)
Book/ticket by 30 Nov ’10 and travel by 17 Dec ’10 to Europe (choose from 13 destinations)

Fares to Bangkok and Phuket from only $721* return (including taxes), jing jing!

Contact your travel agent -- or if you're a travel agent, contact yourself? -- for full details and bookings or visit Thai Airways website (click on title above) or call THAI on 130 651 960.