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Floating in a Thai heaven

Floating in a Thai heaven
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Some people, when given a long time to cavort the world, fill their itineraries with a blur of destinations and experiences. I like to slow down so I can dig the place inside out, smell it and feel its pulse. Which is why, when my husband and I set off for a long getaway, we pinpointed a single destination. Koh Samui, a tiny speck in the Gulf of Thailand, is a paradise for leisure travellers. Blessed with pristine beaches of white sand, coral reefs, coconut trees and sparkling sea, the island is an amazing mix of tranquility and vibrance.

The ferry blew its horn and as grey smoke gushed out of the chimney, she rocked against the waves of the ocean, making her way tirelessly towards the ‘king of islands’. Away from the noise and clutter of the large cities of Thailand, she was about to enter a spectacular paradise on earth. As we stood on the deck of the rickety ferry, we were greeted with the warm scent of the sea, the cool breeze fluttering through my hair and the sun smiling on my face. For miles in every direction lay the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean and like a distant mirage in the desert, I could see the outlines of the island I would call home for the next five days.

Stepping out of the ferry, we felt like entering the world in a picture postcard where a turquoise sea gently laps the virgin sands as warm sunlight peeks through dense coconut groves, and everything is just so happy. As our cosy and party-ready van zipped across the island, we took in the views of this lazy town. Calm and relaxed, Koh Samui seemed a stark contrast to the maddening crowd of bikini and skimpy sarong-clad tourists of Thailand. Our van took us to an elevated part of the island, which was home to sprawling villas opening into the ocean.

As we entered our villa, last monsoon showers came down sending our resort staff in a tizzy over equipping us with an umbrella and towel each. What a welcome! But none complained. There was so much to behold, the liquid sky, the relentless downpour over a colourful sea, the tropical vegetation sapling green in the rain and a white beach. It was surreal, and we couldn’t wait to explore the whole 42 acres of this rain and sun drenched wilderness. A cold glass of the ‘house special’ margaritas and a relaxing dip in our personal pool was a perfect way to rejuvenate our tired souls. Spicy hot penang curry along with flavoured rice tingled our taste buds as we took in our first ‘authentic’ Thai experience. To the Indian palette, this cuisine was a welcome change, while maintaining the richness of spices which we are so attuned to. With our bellies full and bodies rested, we set out to explore the island and all it had to offer.  

Unlike the usual tourist route of ‘island tours’, we fancied independent travel. Armed with spotty helmets and an Indian driving licence, we wandered around the island in a cheap hired scooter. The well maintained road, ease of navigation through road directions and the helpfulness of the locals took us by surprise, while making our exploration a true delight. With the monsoons still fancying an occasional downpour, we decided to buy the plastic ponchos, which proved to be an interesting souvenir of our travel.

On the surface, the main town of Koh Samui might look like any Thai holiday hotspot: palms, water and beach bums sipping beers. Hawkers pace the beach with a selection of Ray-Bans; baby-faced backpackers in string bikinis flirt in beach-side bars, drinking cocktails from buckets. With only a few hotels, restaurants and bars, this side of the island felt like a private retreat.

A walk around the bay took us to a secluded beach with private villas right on the sand. But zipping past palm forests, monks and burning incense on our cheap hired scooter, we discovered a much lovelier beach in the north-west of the island called Chaweng.

Known for the famous night market, Chaweng beach is the most ‘touristy’ beach Koh Samui can offer. With resorts by all the big international brands, Chaweng beach is the go-to place for most travellers. With a host of dining options and an array to street shops, this part of the island is always filled with locals and tourists enjoying their stay on this paradise.

To adventure junkies, this part of the island provides easy access to everything that the sea offers – deep sea diving, snorkeling, fishing, speed boats among many others. The island’s rocky terrain also offers for mountain biking and 4X4 adventure travelling.

Leisure travelers like us won’t go disappointed either. If unwinding is your idea of a holiday, you shouldn’t miss out a nice, rejuvenating therapy at the spa! After a nice milk bath, we went in for a traditional aloe vera full body massage with hibiscus aroma oil followed by a refreshing pool-side sleep. Though a tad expensive, you get good bang for your buck. So much so that we wanted to go back the next day!

And, for all the seafood lovers, this is your place. From tunas, crabs, prawns, squids, lobsters, cuttlefish, to oysters, the options are plenty. Added to your rice, your grills and curries, they are a core ingredient in every meal. 

At the end of our fourth and last night in Koh Samui we still hadn’t had our fill of its unpredictable showers, the bright morning sunshine, the striking colours of the sea reflected in the open sky, the large meals and endless swigs of beer. Like an answer to our prayers it began to rain without ceremony as we took our seats in the little aircraft ready to fly out of paradise.

(With inputs from Sumeet Kale)
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