Only a few days left before we have to head home. One of the places Mom and I wanted to visit before our trip ends is the island Koh Samui. It is long-considered to be a “must go” destination in Thailand, and since it’s quite close to Su’s house we thought it would be a great opportunity to check it off our Thailand bucket list. Early this morning, my favorite uncle Na Kiiao, Joy, and another one of Su’s uncles picked us up very early to get in the queue for the ferry. The ferry ride takes about an hour, and my goodness was the view spectacular. It was a bit hazy at first due it being the crack of dawn, but even still it was some fantastic scenery. (And we get to add ferry to our list of transportation methods.)
We started our island tour at a local tourist trap – disguised as a Buddhist shrine – called the “Big Buddha.” At first glance you get the impression that this is a legitimate shrine set up with some stores to sell the typical Thai tourist goods. Look a little bit closer, however, and you soon discover that this “shrine” is really just a huge scam. The “monks” that work at the shrine are actually just locals who shave their heads and wear fake monk’s robes, manning the chatchka booths to peddle trinkets. I could not have been more disgusted at the sight of one of these “monks” on break, walking around the shrine smoking a cigarette to pass the time. Typically, charms and other souveniers are sold to help with the upkeep of the temple. In this case I’m not so sure the money is going to the upkeep, so there was no way I was going to give them my money. The surrounding shops, however, are a different story. It’s very obvious that these are private vendors looking to legitimately sell their goods to visitors, so I see no problem with patronizing their shops. In fact, Su and I purchased a nice wooden hanging sculpture that we will be putting up in our living room somewhere.
After Big Buddha we visited another shrine/temple. Still very tourist-friendly, but not nearly as obscene as BB. Actual monks were staying here (go figure), which restored my faith in the island a little bit – for the time being, at least. The pond surrounding a few of the statues contained literally thousands of catfish, which you could feed after making a small donation. We didn’t spend too much time here, but I did get a few nice pictures.
I have to say, overall I’m really not impressed with Koh Samui. In fact, dare I say the island is something of a letdown and I honestly do not see the appeal of the place for farang. I say this, however, as a result of the farang, not as a result of the Thai people. There are several nice-looking resorts that I’m sure are quite swank and relaxing, but unless you are planning on staying inside the entire time I just don’t get why you would want to be here for more than a day. I think I’m jaded at this point; my experience in Thailand has been the greatest of my life, and I know that Mom and I are seeing a side of the country and people that most visitors never will. Nonetheless, there has to be a happy medium.
The one highlight of the island was the monkey theater. We were a few hours away from show time and did not feel like waiting around, but Na Kiiao managed to convince the show staff to let us walk around and look at the monkeys. In case you didn’t know, monkeys are cool!
All in all it was a fun day, mixed feelings notwithstanding. It was on our list of places to go, we went, and now I don’t ever have to worry about seeing it again.
The evening’s festivities were a party we threw for all of the people andt their families who helped out with the wedding. You guys are the best!