Given enough time even swimming, eating and getting massaged gets a little dull. I'm not expecting much sympathy but it does. So, after around a week on Koh Samui, we decided we should make the effort to go and see some more of the island.
Our first thought was renting a little motorcycle and going and doing some exploring. Sadly, the bike rental places we spoke to all demanded that they hold on to one of our passports until the bike is returned. I understand the policy as I'm sure most rental companies have had a tourist rent a bike, crash it then leave it laying in a ditch while they head for the airport. However, not handing over passports is one of our rules. After being assured by two different rental companies that every rental company on Koh Samui would want a passport and that they wouldn't accept a cash deposit we gave up on renting a bike.
The other option was joining an organized tour. There are no shortage of these around. There are signs everywhere for both half day and full day tours. We wandered into a travel agent we had chatted to previously while sheltering under his awning from the rain and looked through some pamphlets.
Eventually we settled on the 6 hour "around the island tour" provided by Sita Tour 2000. The details are below:
6 hour tour
Adult: 450 Baht
Child: 350 Baht
Morning trip: 9:30am-3:30pm
Afternoon trip: 11:30am-5:30pm
4 hour tour
Adult: 400 Baht
Child: 300 Baht
Morning trip: 9:30am-1:30pm
Afternoon trip: 11:30am-3:30pm
The only difference between the 4 and 6 hour tours is whether or not you will visit Nathon Town. We had by passed the town when we first arrived at Nathon pier so we figured we'd splurge and go for the whole 6 hours. We also like getting stuff down early so we opted for the morning tour.
The next morning we walked the 200 metres back to the travel agent's office to wait for our 9ish pick up. We had opted to get picked up there as our accommodation was an apartment that was certain to be unfindable. And so the adventure began...
Yeah, so it wasn't the greatest tour ever but it was ok. We achieved our goal of seeing some more of Koh Samui so in that regard it was a success.
Wat Leam Suwanaram is very pretty. It is somewhat typical of tourist trap temples everywhere. Huge, expensive buildings filled with camera wielding tourists (like us) and totally devoid of locals. Meanwhile, somewhere off to the side being ignored by the people dashing to or from their minivans, is a small plain looking temple filled with local people.
The big Buddha made for some great photographs. Just be sure to do as we did and hang back a while before you head up. A big group of minivans arrived simultaneously and a mass of tourists charged up the stairs to get in each others way. Instead of following the crowd we went and had a banana pancake before heading up ensuring we had far fewer people to contend with.
The grandmother and grandfather rock are non-events. If you can skip them, do.
Similarly, the view point is not worth visiting unless you've somehow managed to spend time on Koh Samui without seeing the ocean.
The monkey show... First up, let me say that I don't like animal shows. At least these monkeys were performing something vaguely useful, gathering ripe coconuts, rather than riding bicycles or playing instruments however I get the feeling that the income from tourists surpassed the income from coconuts long ago.
The mummified monk was an interesting spectacle. The area around the building is lovely. We went and took pictures with the rest of the crowd. It felt weird though, taking photographs and video of a corpse. I doubt the gentleman involved imagined he would become such a tourist draw.
Namuang Falls is genuinely beautiful. It would have been great to have visited there another time and to have joined the locals in going for a swim. Skip the elephants though. I don't understand the desire to sit on an animal while it trudges reluctantly back and forth along a 100 metre track for the millionth time any more than I understand animal shows.
Reading back on this it sounds quite negative. It really was a pleasant enough day. Would I do it again? No. Am I glad we did it once? Yes, definitely. If we hadn't then all we would have seen of Koh Samui would have been Chaweng and that would have been a real shame.
If you're on Koh Samui do look into going on a tour. Or cough up your passport and take yourself on one. Its up to you.