Our week on Koh (or Ko) Samui was a little ‘holiday’ for us, a break from school for Lincoln and his teachers and we were getting ready to celebrate a pretty big milestone – Braxton turning 5!!
Even since we knew we would be on Koh Samui for Braxton’s birthday he started referring to it as “his island” and this quickly caught on with the rest of the family. So here is our review of our week on “Braxton’s island”.
Our ferry from Don Sak Pier was meant to leave at 1pm and take 1.5 hours to get across to Lipa Noi Pier, but as 1pm neared we could see the ferry just coming in. It took about half an hour for the vehicles and passengers to disembark and reload so it was 1.30pm before we left the mainland and the trip was just over 2 hours. Walking down the reasonably long pier at Lipa Noi we really appreciated seeing some beautiful, clear water that we knew was safe to swim in. Lipa Noi is on the Western side of the island and we were staying a little South of here in the village of Taling Ngam, away from the main tourist spots. We met our driver and drove to our next Airbnb house, ‘Neil’s house’, a classic beach house – full review here.
After checking out our latest digs and getting things a bit organised we were well and truly ready to head to the beach for a swim and to cool off. The beach was about 1.2km from our house and when we hit the sand just before 5pm there was no one else on the beach. The water was so warm it was more like a jacuzzi so it didn’t really do much to cool us off, but the boys had plenty of fun while Logan and I sat at one of the tables of the beachfront restaurant, 4 P, and had a refreshing drink. We ate dinner here and the meals were substantial and tasty, a total cost was 610 THB/$ 24.40 NZD. After dinner we explored the beach a little and the boys had an after dinner swim as the sun went down – just stunning. 🌅
Visiting Koh Samui and not hiring a scooter is like visiting a vineyard and not drinking wine; plus Lincoln had been waiting, since witnessing the sheer amount of scooters around in Malaysia, to ride one. Our Airbnb host had left some advice around reputable hire companies on the island so we used one of these (Samui S.R. Tour) after researching approximate costs online. We ended up with two scooters and four helmets for five days costing a total of 1,500 THB or $60 NZD, which was more than reasonable given the freedom they provided us over the next few days.Having never ridden a scooter before I was not at all worried, thinking how hard can it really be? However, after a close call with a fast-moving parked van a mere 5 metres from the rental shop I decided I should take things a little slower, especially with Braxton holding on for dear life behind me. Unfortunately that was not the only incident of the five days with Paula having a couple of near misses with bushes on our driveway, her and Lincoln falling off in slow motion when stopped (not to sure how it happened but it still brings a smile to my face, especially since no one was hurt) and when Braxton decided to accelerate while on the scooter with Paula while she was looking at the maps app. Paula however managed to stop the scooter with the help of the kerb/pavement a couple of inches away from a parked car. As you would probably guess there was a bit of a pattern here with them all involving Paula and her “orange machine”, however the only real injury was to me and my ego when my jandal got caught on the road and I ripped the skin off my big toe, so even now over a week later I am walking with a limp while it heals. Considering the amount of tourists we saw with broken bones and large body grazes we thought we did well, with no lasting injuries or damage to the scooters. Although I don’t think Lincoln or Braxton will be in a hurry to get back on a scooter with us!
The Elephant Gate
Not far from our house was the impressive Elephant Gate, built-in 1979 from monies raised by the village as the head monk wanted to beautify the entrance to their village to encourage all to visit this quaint area and its beautiful temple.
Each of the gate’s two elephant are life-sized representations and are well-crafted to represent the importance of elephants in the local culture.
The gate is currently under a restoration project to return the statues to their grand state again, however, the original gemstones eyes have been removed and the elephants currently have painted eyes instead. After the next royal ceremony, the gemstones will be again placed back on the elephants.
Hin Lad Waterfall
We decided to visit one of the many waterfalls on Samui with the two closest to us being Na Mueng and Hin Lad. After our standard research, we found that Na Mueng was an easier jungle walk and as a result, it attracts bus loads of tourists, meaning you would have to share them with lots of people at any given time. The entrance to this waterfall also includes an “animal based tourism centre” which profits from tourists riding and feeding chained elephants. Although we would never partake in such a cruel activity, we decided we did not even want to witness the elephants plight. So we ended up at Hin Lad waterfall which was described as a more challenging trek to reach. After scootering the 15 or so minutes from our Airbnb home, we started the trek through the jungle with the boys trying to spot all the different butterflies on the way. The waterfalls have two main areas the lower and upper falls, however we found a great little pool and rock slides between the two falls which we had all to ourselves.After the very sweaty jungle walk of about 35-40 minutes, it was very refreshing to have a cold swim, unlike the ocean water. I decided to walk up to the main waterfall without the kids and take the obligatory photographs before we started the trek back.Having not passed or seen anyone on our way up to the falls, we encountered numerous groups on our way back down, so we were glad we went when we did which was around 9:30am. At the entrance to the track there is the Wat Hin Lad, however we had read and were later warned by other people present, that the dogs roaming around the temple were very aggressive and had bitten people before. Having already forced the boys into numerous rounds of vaccinations before leaving New Zealand of which they still remind us of, we decided it was not worth the risk, so settled on a cold drink and some freshly made coconut ice cream instead.
Braxton’s 5th Birthday
Braxton had been counting down his birthday for months and given that he was turning the big 5 we wanted to make sure it was a day to remember for him. We had started purchasing some small presents in Penang not knowing what our options would be like in Samui, so after some rearranging of the bags to make room for them we were all set. As with each and every other birthday for Braxton, he was the last one to wake up after sleeping in until around 8.30am.After opening his presents, we decided to take the scooters right around to the main area of Samui, to Chaweng. Braxton decided on some good old-fashioned McDonalds for his birthday lunch, and after a bit of searching we managed to find one. After lunch we searched for a beach to have a dip and escape the heat for a little while and found one on the way out-of-town, in which we shared with the hundreds of other tourists. I think we all in a bit of hurry to jump in the water as our iPhone joined us for the first 10 minutes of our swim, needless to say it never turned back on afterwards and we have had to replace it. (Luckily we budgeted a contingency fund for such accidents, plus we have travel insurance, although no word yet on if they will pay out replacement costs or not). We had also searched a couple of days prior for a bakery to bake a cake for Braxton’s birthday and settled on one a short ride from our house, Candlecake Homemade. Braxton choose a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and decorated with Oreo biscuits as you can never have enough chocolate! We even managed to get the cake personalised all for the grand total of 300 THB/$12 NZD. The cake survived the very, very slow, scooter ride back to the house and we were all pleasantly surprised with the delicious taste and it got a resounding tick from all us, especially Braxton.After a day in the sun, we decided on a quiet evening so Braxton could spend some time playing with his new toys and Paula and I enjoyed a quiet drink wondering where the last 5 years had gone and knowing our school roll had officially doubled.
Wat Kiri Wongkaram & Mummified Monk
Not too far, (650m) from our house was the quiet and charming Wat Kiri Wongkaram, which also houses the mummified monk, Loung Por Ruam. With this being so close we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a pleasant stroll around the temples and the grounds.Born in this very village of Taling Ngam in 1879, Loung Por Ruam ordained as a monk at the age of 21. He led a solitary life focusing on his meditation practices and having a single meal each day. He was promoted to temple principal for 30 years until his death in January 1976, at the age of 87. When he passed away his body was mummified in a natural way, without the use of embalming. Local monks claim that the mummy is still growing hair and nails, which are used to produce amulets. Interesting to see, if not a little eerie.
Our week on Koh Samui flew by and we had a wonderful time; all too soon it was time to head back to the mainland, get back to a little more reality and routine and out of our ‘island time’ phase.
Average Daily Spend – Koh Samui: $139.20 NZD ($33.30 under budget per day)
– Logan and Paula