Koh Samui to Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday 14 July 2001
The day dawned clear, sunny and idyllic – in a way I’m sorry not to have had another day to spend just relaxing here (and riding a bike!). I walked along the beach and had a last tropical swim then breakfast at Silver Sands. Decided to get another of the Fish T-shirts for Chris and also another massage (this time without whisperings in the ears and offers of optional extras).
I walked all the way back to the T-shirt shop to find that it was shut until after noon, so had a massage at an upscale resort opposite Silver Sands which was much better than the previous – the masseuse had to keep waking me up. After another hunt for the right place, I collected my laundry, quickly checked my email and went back to my room to pack up and check out. Caught a meter-taxi right outside and asked to stop at the T-shirt shop. Unfortunately it was still closed, but I was wearing the shirt and the driver knew of another outlet and took me there (it turned out to be not far from Silver Sands), and I bought two just to be sure.
Samui International Airport is a charming open-air arrangement of open-sided thatched huts. Small tram-like carts ferry passengers across the tarmac to the ATR72 twin engine prop 50 seat aircraft. The flight to Bangkok wasn’t fast at an hour and a quarter, but uneventful and comfortable.
On arrival and collecting my bags I ran the gamut of some smartly suited touts trying to ‘control’ the crowd flow to over-priced taxis by trying to give the impression they were airport security staff. I pushed past and went upstairs to the departure hall, as I’d read somewhere that that it was considerably cheaper to grab a taxi that has just made a drop-off and head straight out without paying the premium charged to park at the arrivals hall. (Chris later confirmed this, saying that a ‘voucher’ system operates, his fare had been around 260 baht, where as mine was 150 baht).
The driver spoke very little English but was cheery enough. The freeway from the airport was quite clear on a Saturday afternoon, apart from the driver making a couple of stops on the hard shoulder to pour water into his overheated radiator. Bangkok’s legendary traffic caught up with us near the centre of town and it took ¾ of the duration of the total trip time to travel the last ¼ of the distance. In the end the driver dropped me at an up-market hotel at the opposite end of Mah Boon Krung shopping centre, and I walked the few hundred metres to The White Lodge, but managed to find it OK thanks to See Tiek’s clear directions.
My room wasn’t ready so I filled in a couple of hours inside MBK, which was easy enough as it is huge. After I checked in, Chris called (he’d ended up staying in another hotel next door) and we met up at 7.30pm. We found a restaurant at Siam Square, just over the road which served tourists but also plenty of Thais, then went to Patpong, the notorious nightlife area to visit the huge night market. I began to buy some gifts for folks at home, then later worked out what else I needed.
Coming back from Patpong, where we’d practiced our bargaining skills, we had trouble getting a taxi that would use the meter – they were quoting 100 baht for the trip that had cost 40 baht the other way. We walked along the street and again grabbed a taxi that was dropping people off. This sort of behaviour went on constantly in Thailand, especially in Bangkok, where tourists are treated much like a resource by sections of the service industry. I found this to be a frustrating but interesting contradiction to the friendliness of Thais in general. It was very difficult to know when to trust anyone.