There’s a website called kohsamet.net which gives all sorts of useful information about Koh Samet. Bars, hotels, bungalows, where to go, and what’s to do when you get there.
Well, it also said that it is possible to walk down to the very end of the island, along the beach, and that there’s nothing very much to do when you get there.
It advises that you wear a good, strong pair of trainers and not flip flops, which is a terrible shame because I am very fond of flip flops. They are perfectly suited to this environment and climate, they are quick and easy to remove when you enter a shop, and provide a constant stream of cool water up your shorts when you’re walking in the surf.
Where we’re stopping is more or less at the very north end of the island. It is less developed but still quite developed.
The island is only 14km from tip to toe, and we walked through many resorts and along many beaches, some of which we had already bummed on.
Then there’s a point where the beaches run out and you’re confronted by rocks. The website hadn’t dwelled on this, hadn’t really said much about it at all to be honest, and a pair of tennis shoes isn’t really up to the job. The soles are too thin and the rocks are too sharp.
Some sharp rocks
Crabs. Not many discussions in the pub about crabs, but here they’re part of everyday life. There’s an illustration of how differently we live for you, it strikes me now, thinking about it.
There are crabs everywhere, and because everyone lives near the beach, everyone sees them all the time.
We were clambering over rocks and it’s been a bit blowy today, so that waves were breaking over, and that’s another story I could tell, about how good it feels to have a breath of cooler air on your skin. But I was talking about the crabs, which are not so good to have on your skin.
They see us coming, and we checked this out by standing still. They were maybe thirty feet from us. I waved my arms and they scampered away. Two of their legs are paddling legs, flattened into little swimming oars, they have evolved to escape from Thai people, who will, no doubt, eat them.
It was fun watching them.
We turned back maybe half a km from the end of the island because it was getting late and we didn’t want to be clambering across the rocks in the dark, the rocks are jagged and scary, plus we were knackered and sweating like Jimmy Saville’s ex colleagues. We stopped twice on the way back for cold cold watermelon juice.
The day before was Saturday and I woke earlier than Nel as usual and went outside for a cigarette.
I could hear some kind of a procession commotion from the end of the road where there’s nothing but another resort.
The landlady was craning forward trying to see, and then, with the sound of drums and cymbals and firecrackers, a bunch of revellers dressed in red came around the corner, and another bunch dressed in white.
It wasn’t clear what was going on but they had stopped at a shop a couple of hundred yards down the road, about fifty or seventy people.
I went to wake Nel and by the time she was up and dressed, the party he’d reached this place.
The landlady had put out a little table upon which was fruit and drink and a cup of sticky rice with four or five incense sticks in it.
There were women with boxes collecting money and a Thai Buddhist priest dressed in an elaborate white costume and a hat similar to a catholic miter in shape, but white, and with lots of pointed flaps edged in gold.
There were drums, and children dressed in white, and children dressed in red and a pole held high, with flags with Chinese writing on them. And then came two Chinese dragons, one orange and one red with two men in each bounding about working the great flapping mouths.
The procession stayed for five minutes or so, left a red paint spot, Hindu style on the landlady’s head and then drummed and bounded away down the road.
Well, we were ready for breakfast by then but it’s a mile or so into the main village.
We managed to pass the party when they encountered a taxi coming the other way and there was a scrum for a while.
All the way down the road to town people had put out little tables which they’d loaded with fruit and drink, mostly soft drinks but sometimes whisky, and incense sticks. We had absolutely no idea what was going on but we had a better opportunity to see more closely while we were sitting in the cafe having omelettes and coffee.
The blokes in the cafe don’t speak English so we couldn’t ask them but they took a little table out too and we watched the white priest bless the people and the shop.
There was a cartoonish warrior with a short sword which he used to symbolically cut his tongue, it seemed. And then red paint was smeared onto a4 sized posters which had Chinese writing on them.
Sometimes these men drank from the table and sometimes not.
The white priest was also giving blessings, and men with flags were too, so that each little shop was blessed three or four times.
A man opposite with rooms for rent and a bus hire to the airport bureau seemed more devout than most and the priest and some others spent more time there with him and his staff, kneeling with bowed heads.
And all the time the two Chinese dragons bounded about.
We did ask a girl who works at Papa Roger’s, she speaks a little English but she couldn’t explain much except making merit, which is something the Thais do a lot of.
Looking into it later I think it was probably an alms giving ceremony of some kind, though the monks weren’t the usual orange robed.
Giving alms makes merit for you in the next life, more merit if the person you give to is a good and pure person, and the alms are given by a good and pure person.
You make merit by feeding the street dogs, though not as much.
It all had the feel of one of the May day celebrations or something.
The warrior with a red tongue
We were at a beach where there were many people snorkeling, so I asked a largely bearded Swede where he’d bought the mask and snorkel from. He told us he’d got it from the mainland but they were going that afternoon and I could have his if I wanted it. This was very nice of him, I thought, even if it meant I’d be sticking it my mouth and biting on it in just the way he had with his largely bearded mouth, I’m not one to turn down a bargain. Though I did thoroughly wash it when it seemed like I could do it without it looking too obviously like I thought he looked like the kind of man who might have AIDS or something.
The water was that absolutely clear, slightly green translucence that when I was up to my chest, it felt a little like I didn’t want to push myself into it in case it didn’t support my weight, it just seemed too insubstantial and I could see quite plainly the fishes swimming around my legs.
This was plainly stupid so I put on the mask so tightly that it hurt my face, stuck the nozzle in my / and chucked myself at the ocean.
Once I was floating, oh it’s a shock even though you’ve seen it all on tv (television), with David Attenborough doing the voice over.
Little swarms of stripey fish, little neon Tetras like everyone used to have in their aquarium. Bigger sand coloured fishes with feelers by their mouths scratting about on the bottom stirring up little clouds of fine sand.
And then I went out further to where the corals are, stopping every few minutes to empty water that had got into the mask and the snorkel – I don’t think they’re brilliant quality.
Over the corals, swarms of stripey fish came around my legs. Bigger fish, the size of a plate, well, a small one anyway, and anemones with spikes a foot long and a bright blue eye in the middle that I didn’t want to go anywhere near. Clams a foot across with big fleshy fringes, that close up when you get too close or cast a shadow over them.
Slimy looking Sea cucumbers the size of a giants turd. A bloke I spoke to paid he’d seen a puffer fish. I did see pipe fish though, or perhaps it was a pipe fish dream…
A spider for linda