There was real doubt whether or not to leave Langkawi when we woke up at 7am Sunday morning. I hadn’t bothered to pack the night before and was convinced that it was going to be a gorgeous day and I didn’t really want for us to be travelling.
Knowing that Ko Samui was in their dry season prompted the departure for the long journey from an Island off North Western Malaysia to an Island off the East coast (Gulf Coast) of Central Thailand. Invariably it included some hardcore travelling and so the night before we got some prices for tours which would supposedly charter the entire journey for us.
Tour companies are always more expensive but sometimes it is worth paying more for a seamless journey. Unfortunately scams are common and it is more than normal to pay 155MYR (£31) in Langkawi for the trip to Samui only to rock up along the journey and be told you had only paid so far. Added to the fact that 155MYR seemed very expensive we decided to do it ourselves in the hope that if we got scammed it would be per sector and that we could probably do it cheaper ourselves.
And so it was that we left our hotel at 8am and set off on what was to be a good old fashioned journey to Paradise.
The price to beat was £31 each or 206,000 Thai Baht (thb)
The taxi to the port of Kuah from Pantai Cenang is fixed at 24MYR and so away we went, ignoring the usual “have you got a ticket” as though he can get us a ticket cheaper than at the actual ferry port office itself. The ferry left at 10.15am for Satun in Thailand and cost 30MYR for adults and 14MYR for kids (£6/£2.80) and was with Langkawi Ferry Company. It was a tiny little speed boat effort that an hour later pulled into the Southern Thai port of Satun. Straight off the boat we felt like we were in Thailand, lime stone islands protruded the sea and before long we were through immigration with our 15 day visa (because we entered via land) and at the port, which is smack bang in the middle of nowhere.
At the port I queried the price to Samui and was given 1,100thb which is £22 each and still more expensive than I felt it should be. Outside we got the usual absolutely ridiculous prices for a taxi to Satun bus station. We got I think quoted 600thb per person (£12) we decided to hit the road and hopefully hitch a ride to Satun town. It was literally like being stranded deep in the middle of nowhere, just a road, trees and 30 degree heat. It didn’t take long for a pickup to pull alongside us and give as a total 100thb lift to the bus station (£2) the journey took about 30 minutes.
Thailand is an hour behind Malaysia and we got the 11am bus to Hat Yai, a place I swore id never return to. There was no choice and from Satun we headed to Hat Yai for 120thb (£2.41) the journey was supposed to take an hour and half but took near to four hours.
The last bus to leave Hat Yai was at 3pm to where we needed to be which was Surat Thani. Surat is the jumping off point for the Gulf Coast Islands and so that was where I was sure we needed to be. There was a bus at 2130 but tickets didn’t go on sale until 2030 and so I had a few things to consider. Firstly did we want to risk not getting a ticket and having to stay in the skid mark that is Hat Yai overnight, secondly did we want to travel overnight when already we were knackered. Compounded by the fact that when we travel we don’t eat or drink properly – It is difficult to grab anything other than a snack when you have tight connections and you don’t really want to drink much since there aren’t usually toilets on the buses and 4 hours is a long time to hold a piss. Abi struggles holding it for a minute.
And so I decided to get a minibus which supposedly was to take 4 hours and get us to Surat Thani for 8pm, from there we would get the 2330 night ferry to Samui which would get us there for about 0500.
The guy who drove the minibus was a dick, pure and simple and the company through which we hired him is called ‘Pai Ma Dee Tour’ and is located at the far end of Hat Yai bus station. We paid 280thb each (£5.60) (which is actually a very good price) for the 300km journey North Bound. The problem was the driver, who decided to drive round the planet a few times before setting off. Then when he asked where I needed to be he got his bird on the phone (since he spoke little English) to try and charge me more. Eventually and 6 hours later after he had run round dropping everyone else off he refused to drop us even 1km away. We got ditched at Taleh Kaset 2 in Surat Thani at about 10pm. I had already decided that we were too tired to start messing about with night ferries and so we would hole up in Surat for the night. I knew a hotel in the town centre courtesy of LP and got a price of 150thb (£3) from the taxi. I had no idea where it was and so we set off in the taxi. The driver had a grin that was bigger than his face and I found it a bit insulting that he didn’t have at least have the decency to drive round the block a few times to justify the price, no, rather he simply drove out of the station and 100metres down the road to the hotel.
When inside I was negotiating a price with the reception and out of the corner of my eye I saw someone, I turned around and the taxi driver was stood there shaking his hands as though to say “tell them you have no room” I told him to go away and in typical SE Asian mastered style he walked off with that smug bastard laugh.
The room was 400thb, I checked next door and paid 370thb (£7.40) for a room and before id read a few lines of my book the kids were fast asleep, a couple of chapters later and I was asleep too. It was about 2330.
The alarm kicked off at 7am and we headed for a tuk tuk. 10thb per person (20 pence) to Talah Kaset 1 and 15 mins later we were there.
The guy who drove the pickup for the 60km journey to the port we needed to be at ‘Don Sak’ was a man who was so glad to have turned up when he did that he had a permanent smile etched on his face the entire journey and then as he pulled away. You see, when you ask for a price you don’t ever get it. Ever. What you get is a few smiles, a bit of Thai and then consultation with everyone around you. Then you get your price, with huge “if I pull this off I am certain to get the leg over tonight” sort of smile. Well, it was 100thb (£2) and for him it was all his Christmases come at once, for us it was a bloody good price despite us getting shafted and away we went.
At the ferry port there are a couple of ferries that leave for Samui. We just wanted the first and so we got the 10am departure from Seatran which was 140thb for adults and 70thb for kids (£2.80/£1.40) It was a tiddy car ferry and it was near empty. We stood at the rails as it pulled away and looking into the turquoise sea and clear blue skies I had to almost pinch myself. The crossing took about an hour and half and then we got a pickup to Moo 3, Chaweng Beach (the main area and also most expensive) he ditched us about 45 minutes later in the wrong place. Google maps and a few phone calls later and we set off for the mile and half walk to our hotel. Laden with our bags, 30 degree heat and exhaustion we, at 3pm the day after we set off and what eventually ended up costing half the price including the night’s sleep, got to our apartment 32 hours after we had set off.
We headed straight for the beach which literally is 1 minute away and was faced with the single most stunning beach I have ever set foot on – The sea is turquoise and clear, the sand white and the sky blue.
Seriously, we have been all over the US including about 40 of the states. Clearwater beach on the gulf coast of Florida has always been my favourite, much better than any of the highly rated Californian beaches. I have been to the Cancun and seen some stunning beaches including the tiny Mexican island of ‘La Isla Majures’ which was nothing short of breathtaking. I have been all over Europe including the UK, we have been to China, all the main beaches of Vietnam and the islands of Malaysia, Singapore and even Bali. We have also been to the jaw droppingly beautiful Phuket and none come close to Ko Samui; Chaweng beach is on a different scale.
The sea is calm, and so warm you get out to cool down. It is crystal clear and I have it on good authority that it is amongst some of the clearest on the planet.
Naturally we hired a jet ski and raced up and down the coast as we suddenly forgot about the tiring journey we had just completed. We raced to 62kmh which is 40mph across the sea. The kids were screaming in excitement and I finally realised that whilst we might have been in paradise in Langkawi we were in heaven on earth in Ko Samui.