All I want for Christmas is… a tan, a cocktail, some Pad Thai and maybe a massage?

KOH SAMUI

Our journey to Koh Samui started with a 5am wake up in Ao Nang, and after a taxi, coach, ferry and another taxi we made it to our accomodation where we would spend Christmas. We had booked a ‘bungalow’ by the beach in advance of leaving for our trip, so we knew Christmas wouldn’t be spending in a shady hostel feeling like a couple of scrooges. Our accomodation was perfect: we had a decent size bathroom with a hot shower (thats right, HOT WATER!), a bedroom which included AC and a fan, a lounge area and a balcony. Bluddy luxury. We were also a 30 second walk to a quiet, golden beach which had views of neighbouring islands. It was pretty cushty, and all brownie points had to go to Josh for finding this place!

The beach we were staying at on Koh Samui (Meanam beach)

After a quick freshen-up, we had a walk about the local area. We found an amazing food court / gathering of shacks on the side of the main road about 10 minutes from our bungalow. They had 5 diffferent vendors, serving up pizzas, burgers, thai food and desserts, all costing around £2. We would have been put on Santa’s ‘Naughty List’ devouring a pizza, burger and fries… we just had that craving… I know its only been 2 weeks but sshhhh!

We then headed straight for the beach, it was just what we expected; it had the softest sand and the sea was warm and delicious. That evening we walked along the beach front in search of a cocktail at a beach bar and found exactly that. Josh had his first experince of how strong a cocktail can be; he nearly choked after the first sip! Pretty sure it was all vodka with a shot of cranberry juice, but it did the job, we were tipsy after just one. This is how we stumbled upon the infamous Mr Mee’s…what a guy, and what a restaurant. Mr Mee is the chef at a small Thai restuarant just up from the beach, who greeted us when we sat at our table and chatted to use for a while. It didn’t take us long to find out they had half price cocktails and what turned out to be the best ‘Curry Fried Rice’ we’d ever had. The Chilli Eye did come to Lu but she tried to subtly wipe the chilli tears away when Mr Mee asked if the dish was too spicy.

Living on the beach wasn’t too hard
Selfie with Mr Mee

On our second day, we hired a moped again; this time, the vendor asked Josh to ‘test drive’ the bike as if the bike would be the issue rather than the baby-faced Brit who again had issues switching the bike on. But after a bit of bartering and purchasing some gasoline, we were off on two wheels again. The bike gave us the freedom to explore nearly all of Koh Samui over the 5 days we were there.

During our time, we visited two waterfalls, which Lu had a splash around in (see evidence below), the ‘Big Buddha’, some temples and beaches. Even though some areas were a bit touristy, it was great to see so much (and get so many selfies with every tourist attraction – thanks Lu). We also hit a milestone on our gap yaarrrr – Josh purchased elephant trousers.

Lu swimming in the waterfall
If you had to worship one…who would you choose?
Big Buddha. Little human.

So after a few days of seeing sites, it was Christmas morning. We woke up a tad later than planned but headed straight to the beach and got a massage. It. Was. Amazing. Following a relaxing hour of being twisted, stood on, oiled and beaten, we went for brunch at the food shacks up the road. We toasted a merry Christmas over some Chang beer, a pizza and a burger with our Christmas hats on. The afternoon was spent on the beach sunbathing and swimming – our first ever warm Christmas, and it was AMAZING. Not the usual turkey, crackers and rainy weather we are used to.

Christmas pizza nom nom nom

Being completely honest, we did genuinely miss home when we video called friends and family. Seeing our families enjoy a traditional roast and having drinks around the Christmas tree did make us wish we were with them. To cheer ourselves up, we headed to Mr Mee’s, who’s wife had promised free food if we joined them for Christmas. Turns out, they had an all you can eat buffet of Thai food. We added a few cocktails and beers to help the food go down and enjoyed a party with a number of expats and locals. We met a German couple in their 50s who were on holiday, and toasted to Christmas with a shot of Schnapps. The outcome is on a video on Facebook which shows Lu slightly merry on the walk home. It took a while to walk the 500 metres along the beach, but with an ever dissipating concept of time, we got some cheese toasties from the local supermarket (the toasties cost 20Baht / 50p and they heat them for you – so delicious) and relaxed on the quiet beach admiring the moonlight.

Fast forward past the horrendous hangover Lu endured, and it was time to move on to the island of Koh Tao. It took a long time to sort a ticket to get to Koh Tao, as the local vendor who sold tourists travel tickets was an old lady who enjoyed some conversation, but once purchased, we were on a boat.

On the journey, we cracked open a beer and hung our feet over the sides of the ferry. A side note: there is literally no consideration for health and safety in Thailand: pavements are almost non-existent, drivers obey few traffic laws and regularly drive on the wrong side of the road, uncooked meat could be stored in the sun next to the vegetables and electricity wires often hang loose enough to scrape your head if you’re not careful…to name a few examples. But still, it’s an amazing country and if no one is questioning it, people just get on with life.

On the ferry to Koh Tao

KOH TAO

Koh Tao is a well known island for diving and snorkelling due to it’s clear waters and coral life. As a friend pointed out on our first night, it’s also internationally known for murders and has the nickname, ‘Death Island’… Great! Having only found that fact out after arriving and organising 6 days here, we agreed to try not to worry 🙂 (smile smile smile). The island on arrival provides a view of amazingly green, dense jungle and turquoise waters. We found our accomodation, a cheap diving resort off the main high street, and headed for the beach to watch the sunset. As we sat on beanbags on the beach with a chilled beverage in-hand, we witnessed one of the most incredible sunsets we would ever see. The colours were extraordinary and it painted the sky for hours.

Sunset on Koh Tao

Being on a budget, we were a little naive and decided we could snorkel on our own, we figured all we would need is some decent shoes for hiking, a map and a rented snorkel. Oh how wrong were we! Koh Tao is a very hilly island (VERY), reguarly going from sea level to 300 metres and back down again. The dirt roads are incredibly steep and it took us 2 hours in 40 degree heat to reach the first snorkelling bay at the north of the island, only to find you have to pay a 100Baht / £2.50 entrance fee to a rock which is still a few hundred metre swim to the actual beach. 5 people walked past all advising us to not bother and to try out a different location. So we hiked another hour following signs and our map to an area further east; which as it turns out had been destroyed by bad weather and was inaccessible. After another hour of hills and profusely sweating, we FINALLY found a beach where we could snorkel. Who knew it would be so damned difficult to find a beach on an island?! Along side a hearty lunch of Thai food (obvs), we spent a couple hours swimming in the bay with fish through the clear waters.

A view from a hill

Not being deterred by the heat or hills, we again attemped snorkelling on our second day and hiked most of the south island with limited success on the snorkelling front. That’s when we were deterred by the heat and hills! So on day 3, we gave up and paid for an actual snorkel tour round the whole of Koh Tao. Over 8 hours, we visited a nearby island which isn’t habited (Koh Nang Yuan), and snorkelled in 4 different locations; a mixture of off-beach snokelling, in a bay and deeper water. The water was incredibly clear and you can easily see the sea bed 10-20 metres below. We saw so many fish of different shapes, sizes and colours. Even after we both had minor stings from jellyfish, we were immediately distracted by a school of bright orange fish. The best part of the day was having an amazing experience swimming with giant green sea turtles. These are incredible creatures who are so much bigger than you would expect. It was breathtaking to see how majestically and effortlessly they glid through the water! At the end of our last stop, we both swam a bit further out to sea (away from some of the other snorkellers) and were lucky enough to see a turtle swim right next to us as it went up for a gasp of air, before diving back down to the sea bed. (We have a couple videos we’ve made of life underwater in case anyone would like us to send them via Whatsapp).

Green Sea Turtle
Snorkelling off a beach

For New Year, we had booked a 4-star hotel for 2 nights to again ensure we weren’t in a lonely shack chatting to Wilson (Castaway reference). Our hotel had two pools, and even though it rained a little, we managed to snag in some pool time and sunbathing. Earlier in the week, we had spotted a food stall down an alley which was selling huge chicken burgers, so for dinner we grabbed one each and sat on a swing on the beach to eat. We started our NYE celebrations at a cocktail bar who served us a Ginger Mojito and a Dragon Fruit cocktail, before heading to a beach bar which had an incredible fire display. Being Thailand, there were a few mishaps: a fireball broke from the chain it was being swung on and landed on the lap of an audience member, a drunk tourist volunteered to blow fire and set fire to his face (no injury sustained but he lost his beard) and a wild dog interrupted the show as it casually strolled across the beach front. We stayed for several hours, had a bucket of cocktail each (why have a glass if they serve cocktails in buckets?), and watched the fireworks as it hit midnight. A truly memorable way to end a year – bring on what 2019 has to offer!

Fire show on NYE
This guy was amazing – he could slackline while catching fireballs and balancing a fire stick in his mouth all at the same time

So it’s time for us to stop having a ‘holiday’ and do some actual travelling again. Koh Tao was a beautiful island, and we have had some delicious food in both Koh Tao and Koh Samui, but after 2 weeks hopping around islands, we now head up to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand via a night bus to Bangkok, then a night train to Chiang Mai over 2 days. After that, wish us luck as on January 9th, we have a 20 hour bus ride across the border into Laos.

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