Stickman Readers' Submissions July 3rd, 2023

Ko Samui and Phuket, 2023 Trip Report

Flying from Singapore to Ko Samui via Bangkok I wondered how entry to Thailand would actually work and whether I’d be stuck in queues. Fortunately it turned out to be very simple and I virtually had my own Immigration officer to stamp me in through a transfer door, allowing to me join my flight from Bangkok to Samui. On arrival at the destination my bag was separated from the domestic flyers and I proceeded through Customs at Samui itself.

A shared minibus was 140 baht to Chaweng, or 500 by taxi. I chose the minibus as there was no point in arriving before the hotel check-in time, and it gave a chance to check out others’ accommodation. I had booked a nice resort with friendly staff and a pool adjacent to the beach. There was a wide variety of accommodation in Samui, but if you were intending on entertaining a visitor it would pay to check if the hotel added a surcharge. It seemed that most didn’t if you had booked for two.

He Clinic Bangkok

Hiring a motorscooter for a couple of days was a good way to explore the island, and there were no police hassles like tourists endure at Phuket. It’s a great way to get to the Big Buddha, Lamai, and the strikingly phallic Grandpa and Grandma Rocks. The Fisherman’s Village at Bophut is also a pleasant trip.

There’s a big Central shopping complex in the main tourist destination, Chaweng, with a supermarket and food area, as well as souvenir stalls and larger European stores. The main road runs parallel to the beach but to get to it you usually have to pass through the hotels and resorts in between. There are plenty of eating and drinking establishments offering 99 baht dishes as well as set menu combinations from 299 baht up. Cocktails can be had from 99 baht, Heineken 130 baht and local beers for 60. I’m reluctant to mention names because travellers might just patronize them instead of experimenting with all the restaurants. It’s hard to get a bad meal so don’t be a sheep and just go to the busy places, which often pay for online recommendations anyway.

There are a couple of cabaret style clubs where ladyboys strut their stuff, Divas and Paris Follies. They stand in the street, obliging with photo ops for a donation and trying to sell their shows. Frankly, I don’t find miming to the music of others either talented or entertaining, but each to their own.

CBD Bangkok

The girl bars are mostly located in a soi opposite Lenny’s Hotel and a block away in another soi bounded by the Bondi Aussie Pub on one corner and the Palms Bar and Grill on the other. The seemingly upmarket Hooters is located nearby.

Entering the soi opposite Lenny’s Hotel, on the right you find the popular Henry Africa’s Bar with pool tables and girls waving drinks placards outside. Chang or Leo is 95 baht and a vodka bucket 299 with buy one get one free sometimes. Further along is Sin By Night, a chrome pole club, then the large Green Mango which despite being a fixture for years seemed quite empty.

On the left are Dream Girls (chrome pole dancing), though the ones outside seemed anything but, then Our Bar and Irish Pub, then Hush Bar.

Further on from Green Mango and leading into the next soi were Southern Lights, Dream Bar, Theng Bar, Legends, Legacy Bar, a cute yellow kebab caravan, Saparot Bar, Happy Bar, Alfie Bar, Chantichas, Moby Dick Irish Pub, Herb Land and Seven Nine Eight Six. None of the bars were busy but it was low season.

Speaking of herbs, a large number of expensively fitted out cannabis shops have sprung up everywhere. Most had few or no customers so I can’t see them surviving.

wonderland clinic

Lamai Beach also had a number of girl bars but most of the action, or should I say comparative inaction was in Chaweng.

Ko Samui is a lovely island and change from more crowded destinations. The main street of Chaweng is in need of a makeover but the beaches and resorts are nice. I stuck to the natural attractions but the nightlife at least in low season, seemed tame. Personally I like Samui for a relaxing holiday.

For those departing Ko Samui airport to other destinations, the baggage system is different to anything I’ve encountered before. After checking in and proceeding towards the departure gate you need to stop at a big screen for 5 minutes in case your checked in baggage requires opening for further investigation after x ray. After 5 minutes, if you bags don’t show up, you can proceed to the gates. It’s a minor inconvenience and actually seems sensible.

 

PHUKET RECAP

Having noted my observations on Phuket last year it’s time for an update based on this year’s visit. It’s mainly the prices that have changed, upwards for most things including accommodation. I chose a mid-range hotel with a great three cloverleaf shaped swimming pool. That was about 800 baht per night pre-booked for a couple of weeks.

I took the shared minibus from Phuket Airport to my hotel in Patong for 180 baht. Despite it being outlawed the minibus company still stops at a travel agency half way to Phuket Town, everybody hops off and states which hotel they’ll be dropped off at. The real point is to sell accommodation to those without any. This wastes the time of the rest of the passengers.

There is plenty of choice where to eat, but I still noted queues outside some places while neighbouring eateries were nearly empty. Inevitably the near empty places were great too. I’m convinced that many tourists become slaves to reviews. If only they knew these were often paid for or manipulated.

At Suzy Wong’s, an interesting bar to say the least and saturated with good-lookers, the girls are very pushy when it comes to drinks for both themselves and their colleagues at 250 baht a pop. Worse, once you’ve bought the drinks they suddenly claim they need to go and dance. The most outrageous rip-off attempt was when one of the ladies and her colleague came up with a drink each in one hand and a bill in the other that they were looking to get paid. I left and never returned to Suzy Wong’s. Other bars on both the busy Bangla and in more out of the way places, were far less pushy. Lady drinks at other bars were more like 170 baht. Beer anything from 70 to 99 baht at most times. Cocktails were 100 to 190 baht with some offering buy one get one free happy hour deals. Note that when I inquired whether such two for one deals were on at a bar on Bangla, I was told it wasn’t two for one. It was buy one get one free!

If you’re into live music, the New York Bar on Bangla is fantastic and attracts a good-natured crowd. Get there early enough and you can sit facing the street and watch the world go by.

Normal massage prices have increased. It’s usually 300 baht for a foot massage and 350 to 400 for a Thai massage. Some areas that are more out of the way are about 50 to 100 baht less.

The Thai Police driving licence and helmet checkpoints leave a bad taste with many farang caught in the blatantly discriminatory sting. At various times on Rat-U-Thit Road the police stop any motorscooter with a farang rider. It’s a 1,000 baht fine if you aren’t wearing a helmet, and 1,000 baht fine if you don’t have an international licence on you. Usually you leave the bike and get a taxi to the Police Station to pay the fine, then return for the bike. To be fair, if you are both wearing a helmet and have an international licence, there’s no further hassles. But the obvious unfairness is that the Thai Police only stop foreigners. They totally ignore locals with no helmets and often three or four people riding helmetless on one motor-scooter. Such discrimination is unacceptable and would result in an uproar if it was implemented against Thais in other countries. In the rare event that the authorities read this, please cease this practice.

Getting around Phuket, the local tuktuk and taxi drivers, who for years have extorted very high prices from tourists, are whining about and demanding protection from ride-sharing apps such as Bolt. The irony of the tuktuk mafia claiming ride-sharing is unfair, is obvious. Recently they beat up some of the competition. Let’s hope the Phuket authorities allow new operators to bring prices to a reasonable level.

It also appears that visitors to Phuket have become even more cosmopolitan. The days of predominantly European male visitors is the past. A large number from the Middle East, including those with full face coverings now roam Bangla. China and India have an even greater presence. There’s little more satisfying than seeing resident Indian street vendors whose prices are often unreasonably high being beaten down by Indian tourists whose price expectations are unreasonably low.

But overall, this is Thailand, or at least a very touristy part of it, and what a great place it is too.

 

The author of this article cannot be contacted.

nana plaza