As an aspiring world traveler, I was so grateful for the opportunity to explore Thailand with my close friend and her family. Aside from America, I have been to Mexico (like every Arizonan), Spain, Italy, and France. I was absolutely ecstatic to travel to Asia and finally get to the other side of the planet. Was the 14+ hour flight worth it? Definitely. Would I do it again? Absolutely.
I'd like to provide some background information about the island of Koh Samui before I get into my adventure details. Koh Samui is just east of the Malay Peninsula in southern Thailand. It is Thailand's second largest island, next to Phuket, however it is only 88 square miles. It is believed that the island was first inhabited around 1,500 years ago by fisherman. Samui was an isolated community up until the early 1970's the original roads were built. European backpackers and hippies were the first tourists in Koh Samui - at that time they were sleeping on the beach in huts. Fast forward to 2017, there are hundreds of resorts and hotels.
I felt safe on the island and the locals were very kind, even though I couldn't always understand them. I survived only knowing the Thai words for "hello" and "thank you." The island was a lot more westernized than I anticipated; McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, a Croc store...you name it. I mainly stick to a vegan diet so finding food was difficult, but manageable. There was a small restaurant near the hotel called Siam Dreams that had some bomb veggie burgers. Those saved my life!
Aside from relaxing on the beach, we went to some of the main tourist attractions on the island. Here are my favorite adventures along with some photos! :)
Na Muang Waterfall
Visiting the waterfalls of Na Muang was the most memorable part of my trip. From the main park, I was taken on a rocky ride through the jungle to reach the falls. When I arrived, I had to walk across narrow bridges and up steep rocks as I held onto ropes. I reached the first big waterfall and it was filled to the brim with people. You certainly couldn’t take a picture without a random tourist in it. It seemed that everyone was so intrigued by the first waterfall that they didn’t notice that the path continued. The hike was a lot harder than I expected but I had a feeling there was something better ahead. Side note: wear hiking shoes. I almost fell in and died. There were a couple small waterfalls along the way, but once I finally reached the top I couldn’t believe my eyes! The waterfall was a lot bigger than I expected. I haven’t seen a lot of waterfalls in my lifetime but this amazed me. Thankfully there were only a few people at the top and I got some great pictures without bystanders in the way. Aside from the water, the jungle was dream-like. Green, luscious, and surprisingly not filled with gross insects.
The Magic Garden
The Magic Garden, also called the Secret Buddha Garden, is a collection of statues atop one of the highest peaks on the island. A retired durian farmer began creating it in the late 70’s. It’s filled with sculptures of Buddhas, angels, cavemen, fish, mushrooms, you name it! I can't say I've ever seen anything like it. This place lives up to its name; it's as if magic radiated from the trees! When I got there it wasn't filled with people, which was awesome. Perhaps because it’s a SECRET garden? Anyways, this was truly one of the only adventure spots where I could be in a meditative state due to lack of tourists. It was so incredibly green and there was a small waterfall than ran through the center. I sat beneath a tree, took deep breaths and listened to the world around me. Mindful moments can create some distinct, magical memories.
Wat Plai Laem
Wat Plai Laem is home to the largest temple on the Island, Guanyin. She is the 18 armed goddess of compassion. This temple was my favorite and it definitely stood out to me as my flight touched down onto the island. There is a collection of other temples and shrines such as the laughing Buddha. All of the temples emanated vibrant colors and intricate details. There were a lot more golden roosters than I expected. I was allowed inside two temples, we had to remove our shoes before entering to be respectful, a common act across Asia. I wish we did more of this in America...mostly because being barefoot is fantastic, otherwise it keeps the floors clean. The walls and ceilings of the temples were covered in breathtaking artwork full of gods, goddesses, and tigers in the clouds. The temples had a tranquil atmosphere and there were many offerings left for the gods in front of the shrines.
The Big Buddha
Big Buddha was the first temple I went to on the island. Buddha was gold and magnificent, with a grand staircase leading up to it. It had a beautiful view of the ocean once you reached the top. Bells hung around perimeter of the temple and there were a few wooden sticks provided to ring the bells. Each bell had a slightly different sound. In Buddhism, ringing a bell can represent an offering to the gods and goddesses in exchange for good luck and positive karma. The temple had a few monks on site that gave blessing for a small donation, and it was also surrounded by markets.
Where's my next stop? Perhaps South America. Thank you for reading and stay tuned! ;)