Oh Koh Samui, Thailand. It was a long and tiring month, but at least we were on a gorgeous island in the Bay of Thailand. Koh Samui, Thailand is a mix of local Thai culture with mega-tourism. On this island, you may choose to lounge on a beautiful beach and swim in the turquoise waters, or you could opt to stroll down neighborhood streets and dine with local families. We were lucky enough to experience a bit of everything during our month on Koh Samui.
Our primary reason for being on Koh Samui was to get our TEFL certificates. We were taking a course to become certified in teaching English as a foreign language. Even though not every country requires certification, it doesn’t hurt to have it. Plus, Josh and I knew that since we are not actually teachers, we could really learn something to help make our future teaching experiences more effective. Our plan is to keep our certification in our pocket, just in case we decide to get a job (or even tutoring) in the future to earn some extra cash during our travels.
Getting Certified to Teach English at TEFLWorld, Koh Samui, Thailand
Our experience at TEFLWorld on Koh Samui was really impressive. Our instructor, Darren, was top notch. Not only did we learn a lot from him in the classroom, he was a valuable source of information with regard to future teaching opportunities; and life in Thailand in general. The owners Phil and Ying were super helpful and friendly too, and we enjoyed visiting with them and their daughters (and adorable puppies) each day while at the school. Overall, we definitely got what we were looking for out of the class.
Getting Around Koh Samui, Thailand
We quickly learned that Koh Samui can be an expensive place. Especially when it comes to transportation. Public transportation consists of Songthaews (trucks where you hop in the back for a pre-negotiated rate), and taxis. That’s about it. Taxis are a complete rip off here, even if you use the meter, because they charge a 50 baht minimum PLUS a 50 baht service charge! So it’s 100 baht just to get in, regardless of where you are going.
Songthaews are more reasonable, but we found that 100 baht was still the going rate for a few of the places we went. Scooters are available to rent widely on the island; however, Koh Samui leads Thailand in the number of accidents / deaths on scooters. In fact, we saw numerous scooter wrecks while we were on the island…including one on our 2nd day! The combination of traffic, rain, sand (it is an island), crazy drivers, and tourists who don’t know what they are doing, is a recipe for disaster.
We opted not to chance it with the scooters on Koh Samui. Maybe for a short distance on back roads they would be okay, but it just wasn’t worth the risk to us. Even our TEFL instructor’s local Thai teaching partner recently got in a terrible scooter wreck. She was extremely lucky to live, but has lost complete use of her right arm, and is still undergoing surgeries.
One option that we did check out was renting a car. We only rented a car for 1 day, two times over the month. We made it more affordable by splitting it with a couple friends in the class. This way we were able to check out the island together, and run some errands. It was cheaper than taking a taxi, that’s for sure!
Fisherman’s Village, Maggot-eating, and a Birthday Party with Ladyboys!
During our first weekend on Koh Samui, we headed out to the Friday Night market at Fisherman’s Village up in Bophut. This is a more of a family-friendly event and it consisted of lots of shopping stalls with both generic and unique hand-crafted items, as well as lots of food and drinks. We had a nice time strolling this market in the evening and sampling the super cheap eats! Then we headed back to the hotel. However, our night wasn’t over.
We followed our classmates and friends, Max and Mark, to a market around the corner from our hotel to get a couple other final snacks. At the market, we saw some local snacks…of crickets, maggots, and all kinds of other fried bugs! For whatever reason, the boys decided this might be fun to try — and thus, began to challenge each other. And so it began, Josh ate a few crickets and some maggots too! Liz was not having any of it.
Then we wandered through the market and found a stage, where there was quite the concert taking place. We went to the front and began to dance around the stage, just embracing the moment (even though the songs where in Thai). Next thing we knew, we had a fan club! A group of locals (including girls, boys, and ladyboys) started dancing with us. They invited us to join them at their table in the front, and even brought over more tables and chairs for us.
Then they shared all of their food with us (insisting that we eat, which would be rude if we didn’t). They also gave us drinks…and birthday cake! Turns out, it was a birthday party – and we all sang and toasted happy birthday to our new friends. And proceeded to periodically dance the night away — until well after 2 am.
FREE Muay Thai Boxing Every Saturday Night in Lamai on Koh Samui, Thailand
Josh has been dying to see some Muay Thai Boxing matches since we’ve been here in Thailand. Muay Thai is the national sport, and it’s a form of kick boxing. It is rooted in the culture, and really appreciated – it goes beyond just the sport. There are Muay Thai matches all over Koh Samui in the big stadiums, and trucks drive around blasting announcements and carrying big billboards; so you know when a fight is taking place.
Unfortunately, the matches at the big stadiums are more expensive than we wanted to pay. But we heard of an affordable, yet entertaining, option down in the town of Lamai. Each Saturday night if you head to the main part of town where the bars are, you can attend a FREE Muay Thai match! In this part of town, you will see a Muay Thai ring outside, surrounded by bars in thatched-roof huts.
Admission is free, but you are supposed to buy 1 drink (even just a juice or water) from the bar where you choose to sit — which is still a bargain for a night of entertainment! Starting around 9:30 or 10 pm on Saturday nights, head to Lamai and grab yourself a seat for the match. They typically run until midnight (or a bit after). We had a blast watching the different matches and cheering on with our friends. There were 5 matches in total, including kids and ladies! Yes, Muay Thai Lady Boxing!
Overall, this isn’t where you will find professional boxers…but you will have a really good time. We even gave our own names to each of the boxers and cheered them on, nothing like a friendly competition to get into the spirit of the match! At one point, they even had an intermission where members from the crowd came into the ring. They tied a balloon to their ankles and let them loose trying to pop the balloons. If your balloon popped, you were out. What started out as a friendly match became pretty serious though, as one young girl kicked everyone’s butt — Josh was glad he got out early!
Light Up Kayaks at Night and Snookah Diving
During our time on Koh Samui, we were also fortunate to meet Dave, who runs adventure activities on Koh Samui! He was kind enough to take us out on his new light up paddle boards into the ocean at night. It was a blast! We had the ocean to ourselves and loved bobbing up and down while looking at the stars. We also had a front row seat to the crazy night bars and fire shows taking place on the beaches. Plus, the lights on the boards attract fish to the surface!
We even had fish jumping our kayaks…crazy! Stay tuned for a full post on this experience. Later in the month, Dave also took us out Snookah Diving! If you are not familiar, “Snookah” diving is a water activity that combines the freedom and capabilities of seeing see life underwater like scuba diving, but with the ease of snorkeling. Sometimes in the States, it is referred to as “Snuba” diving. Be sure to check out our complete post, and our video, of our time Snookah Diving with Dave. And be sure to check out his website at http://adventuresamui.com/ if you plan on being on Samui and are looking for activities. We can’t recommend Dave enough!
Celebrating International EarthCache Day on an Island (Geocaching)
Being on an island for a month and staying busy most of the time, we still made time for geocaching adventures. We were also asked by our friends Andi and Jim to help them kick off the Going Caching Mega Event in Rome, Georgia by sending over an into video. So we recruited our new friends Mark and Max from our TEFL course to help us make a video for the Going Caching Mega Event. We ventured out around Koh Samui to discover some new locations and some great geocaches!
Watch our Into Video to Going Caching Mega Event HERE. Our time in Koh Samui coincided with International EarthCache Day. Even though we were on an island, we still managed to get our souvenir. We celebrated this special day by heading out with a couple of friends from our class in search of a nearby EarthCache. This EarthCache had quite the legend behind it and consisted of spiritual rock formations. We had a blast going out and exploring this area on a beautiful morning!
Cooking with the Masters at the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts (SITCA)
While on Samui, we also had the chance to do something else that we always wanted to do…learn to cook Thai food! And if you are interested in cooking Thai food, the place to go is SITCA – Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts. We attended their dinner class, which included learning to make 4 dishes: a curry paste (from scratch), a chicken curry, spring rolls, and a spicy chicken salad. The staff at SITCA are top notch. In fact, they offer courses for culinary professionals too. We even met a woman who is a professional chef in South Africa and works on yachts, she was here to learn “from the best,” as she put it.
Learning to cook here was an awesome experience. Everything was very organized, and our instructor took the time to go through the unique ingredients to explain a bit about them, and have us taste. This is a really great night out for couples and groups! Keep on the lookout for a future post from us about this whole experience. But in the meantime, check out their website at http://www.sitca.net/
Meet “On”, Home Cooking that will Knock Your Socks Off!
Speaking of food, we also met a very special lady on Koh Samui. “On” was the name she went by, and we were lucky enough to get introduced to her by our friends Mark and Max from our class. On was just down the street from our hotel and she had a couple tables and chairs set up outside her home, which doubled as a restaurant.
We frequented On’s place many times – because the food was incredible! You can’t beat a reasonably priced home-cooked meal, and this really was cooked in her kitchen! We really enjoyed seeing her smiling face and dining on her delicious meals, such as the massaman curry, red curry, and basil chicken. Wow, was it good!
Oh, and of course the Crazy Green Mango & Ark Bar!
A lot of people who head to Koh Samui are also interested in the party scene, after all, this is Thailand and Koh Phangan (home of the famous full moon party) is just across the water! There are a number of chill areas to hang out on Samui, but the major party scene is the Green Mango area and Ark Bar.
A couple nights, including Halloween, we decided to go out with some of our classmates to this area. While we are not interested in some of what is offered here (you can really find anything and everything you want here), we enjoyed people watching and doing a bit of dancing!
Ark bar is on the beach just down from Green Mango, and is famous for it’s outdoor club atmosphere where you can dance with your toes in the sand, and even in the water. They are also known for their crazy fire dancers who put on shows on the beach and out in the water. So if you are looking for a real party, this area is the place to go. But be careful and watch out for the young kids, since Thailand doesn’t really have an age for going to bars or drinking, you will find kids as young as 14 partying alongside you. Resist the urge to tell them to go home and go to bed.
Could We Live on Koh Samui? Maybe. But Not Right Now.
Koh Samui was a cool place to hang out for a month. We enjoyed it, but we would have enjoyed it more if we had more reasonable transportation. It was frustrating to take public transportation, and we didn’t want to risk our lives on a motorbike. So that made it difficult for us to have freedom.
It was great to enjoy the beaches, although we would have liked to see them more. But we were so busy with our schooling and everything else that was going on, we just didn’t have the time. And honestly, by the end of the month we were a bit over Samui. Besides the fact that our internet connection sucked, we were ready to move on. But we made some awesome friends that we are sure to stay in contact with for quite some time!