13.08.2008 - 22.08.2008 32 °C
Our time in Bali sadly came to an end on the 13th August. We jumped in a cab at 3pm with all our gear and headed to the airport for a 6pm flight. We were flying from Bali to Jakarta and then onto Bangkok for the initial couple of legs. Assuming that our flight to Jakarta would be taking off from the domestic terminal I got our cab driver to drop us there. On chatting with the check in agent, I soon established this was wrong as our second leg was international....a new one for me...so on failing to come up with an excuse for Kim, I confessed and picked up the 2 kite bags for the walk around to the international terminal...luckily not too too far!!
That was to be the only hiccup of the trip...our Jakarta leg took off on time and we landed about 7pm....we had a couple of hours to kill there (which involved a bowl of noodles and game of scrabble) before our 9pm flight to Bangkok. Garuda airlines did us proud for both legs, landing us on time at about 1am at Bangkok airport (although I did find out, just before we left, that Garuda has been banned from flying in Europe for failing to meet safety standards...I had no complaints!).
Us In Jakarta
On clearing immigration and collecting bags in Bangkok, we had time to kill before we could check in for our 6am flight to Ko Samui...we set up camp and found coffee and croissants, and after a quick nap were able to check in about 4am. Once again the Bangkok airlines flight took off on time and an hour later we were landing in Ko Samui, at a tiny little open air airport (basically a runway and a little shaded area for the baggage carousel) some 12 hours since departing (actually more with time differences...its really not that far distance wise).
I found us a bus to our hotel which turned out to be about a 10 minute drive away. We set up camp at the Shambala Bungalows in a place called Big Buddha on the northeast corner of the island. It's a tiny little village...one street of shops and restaurants but with a really nice beach and bay, all of which seem very quiet again. We spent two nights in the Shambala Bungalows, but soon discovered that it's a lot warmer here than Bali....we had gone for a cheapy "no aircon, no hot water" room....but with the pathetic fan in there, it was a little unbearable. We didn't have to walk far (2 doors down) to find another much nicer place for pretty much the same price with all the mod cons, including a mini bar and breakfast...(no complaints for less than 15 dollars a night).
Big Buddha Beach
The kiting here isn't great....we made a couple of attempts, but the wind is pretty light, and there's not a lot of room for error with a thin beach, boats and piers so we've found other things to amuse ourselves. (although I have to say the bay is very shallow at low to mid tide....waist deep for a long way out, so if the conditions ever did come right it would be a good spot). Also bumping into 2 bathing water buffalo didn't help fill me with confidence that it was going to be a great spot!
Big Buddha Pier
There are a lot of "Wat's" or Buddhist Temples on the island. As you may have guessed where we are staying is named as it is due to there being a Big Buddha at the Wat here. We can see it from the beach and I have to say when I first got here I was skeptical (shock horror I hear you say!). It didn't look that impressive and I was beginning to think they should have really called the place "Quite Big Buddha", however I stand corrected having visited it up close the other day....quite impressive...as are the other Wat's around the island. They are typically very colorful with lots of bald chaps in orange robes chanting.
We have rented a little jeep for our time here as it's so cheap and works out less than getting around on public transport (the taxi's are a huge rip off....they'll charge you 10 bucks or more for a journey of a few hundred yards). To give you an idea what this particular rental car is like, the windows will fall out if you open them to carelessly...the steering wheel has a bit of rope around it that I suspect is holding it on...the wind screen washer thing does a very good job at washing anyone who may be walking down the pavement 2 streets away, which doesn't really matter as the windscreen wipers don't really do anything...and it goes on...in fact when the guy handed me the keys and the bit of paper where I was supposed to mark off any "dents or scratches" on the little picture of the vehicle...I pondered for a minute before drawing a big circle around the whole thing....much to the amusement of the rental car folk...although I did notice they didn't change it!!! Having said that it's doing us proud and we've grown to love its quirkiness!
We took an initial trip around the island...it's not big...I suspect if you drove none stop you could circumnavigate it in an hour or less. Most of the villages are around the coast....the inland is very hilly and from what I can tell from the map mostly forest. On our first trip we failed to find the snake farm, butterfly farm, crocodile farm and the Ha Lin waterfall, but had fun pottering around looking at the different areas (we may make another attempt at some point!). Once again the trip confirmed our choice in locations, there are some terrible resort towns on the west side of the island that made Kuta on Bali (see previous posts) look idyllic.
There are lots of stray animals on the island. Kim is single handedly feeding them one by one in her rescue attempts! (what with this and her "War On Sand" in our room...god forbid I don't brush off before coming in...there's almost not enough hours in the day!!!).
Kim & her kittens!
We saw an advert soon after getting here for the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts (SITCA) that was offering various courses cuisine related....
to digress quickly, the food here has been FANTASTIC...I was worried when we first arrived that we were just going to spend all hours of the day eating (we have restrained ourselves)...so on seeing the courses we thought it would be fun to check the school out.
Turns out that there are lots of cooking classes, but also a Thai Fruit & Vegetable carving course...which runs over three days. It's a lot of fun...challenging, but doable...run by a very tenacious Thai women who will certainly let you know if your "angles are off by a few degrees" or your "cut is 5mm instead of 4mm"! It's a small class...3 hours each day and we have just completed day 2....it was water melons on the 1st day and cantaloupes on the 2nd....and assuming I don't mess up my turnip and pumpkin tomorrow, I will apparently receive a certification in "Fruit & Vegetable Carving" (that's "carving. not chopping" as the teacher likes to say to the "Italian chef" who is also on our course who seems to have a fairly hap hazard technique that has tended to result in his creation looking more weed than flower!)...who knows, maybe I'll be able to find a job at the Thai restaurant 2 doors down when we get home!
Day 1 our watermelons
Day 2 my cantaloupe & kim at work
We have plans to take a trip to the marine national park about 30km west of here in a couple of days. For those that have seen it this is where the movie "The Beach" was filmed. Apparently it's about an hours speed boat ride followed by a day of sea kayaking and snorkeling. Should be fun. We may also do a day trip to Ko Tao, which is another island a similar distance away....apparently good snorkeling.
We have another week here before we return to Bangkok....our plan then being to make our way to Ko Samet...another island about a 2 hour bus journey and hours boat trip from the capital.
(SIDE NOTE: We did indeed make national TV in Indonesia...can't say we saw it ourselves, but apparently it was "good good"!)