Saturday, February 19, 2011

Koh Samui: Maenam Beach

Maenam Beach is four kilometers of yellow sand and clear blue water along Koh Samui's north coast, facing Koh Phangan.  My bungalow was at Ban Maenam, or the little town of Maenam, such as it is.  The Chinese influence is seen in the Chinese style temple, and Western influence in the variety of restaurants, includingTex-Mex, British pub grub and even Tommy's Swiss Restaurant--the placemats have an idyllic Alpine scene on one side a map of Switzerland on the other. 

The village is comprised of three main streets and a section of the main ring road that circumnavigates the island, Highway 4169.  A crucial locale is Gai's Pharmacy & Grocery which is really a general store, carrying everything from eyedrops to fresh fruit, bottle openers to breakfast cereal.  It is run by Gai, who speaks great English, knows everything, and posed proudly for me with the faded photograph of her receiving her pharmacist's diploma from King Bhumibol in 1979.

On the second day of my stay, I was unknowingly in for a treat, as Ban Maenam has instituted a "walking street" on Thursdays during the season, from 4 to 11 PM, where merchants display their wares in the streets, and Thais and tourists alike hunt for bargains or a bite to eat.

Couple tee-shirts--they're not just for Koreans!

Stuff for the kids ...

... including helium balloons.  Wait, should a helicopter need helium?

A satisfied customer.

A great memento--I kick myself I didn't get one!
Steamed rice

Fried potatoes--crunchy!

Fried grasshoppers--crunchier!
Surprisingly, there are no tuk-tuks on Koh Samui, those little motorized rickshaws they call pedicabs in China.  They do have "songtaew" the truck taxis with benches in the back, but a lot of people get around on scooters or motorbikes.  This seems to be the number one cause of death and dismemberment on Koh Samui.

Petrol for sale
I met a number of interesting people, including almost no Americans.  Several schoolteachers who live on the island and teach either at the International School or at the local school, with instruction 50-50 English-Thai.  I also met some fellow travelers, including an Austrian optician who spends six weeks every year kiteboarding.  He described to me in great detail, not kiteboarding, but the cleaning procedure he makes the maids go through with his bungalow--a muriatic acid scrub, disinfectant, followed by a bleach treatment for walls, floor ceiling rafters and furniture.  W-- and S--, from somewhere a little bit south of Amsterdam, are retirees who live only five months of the year at home, and are gradually making their way to any and all reknown sights of natural beauty or manmade magnificence.  The pyramids, Victoria Falls, Grand Canyon ... they've been there.  Last year they drove across the Golden Gate Bridge in a specially rented '57 Chevrolet, but got spooked by the attitude and atmosphere in America (this after numerous visits) and fear to go back.  Sadly, despite being a proud American, I found myself unable to object too strenuously.

I met a couple of Canadians who work the manual trades in the tundra during the warm months, and spend four or five months on Koh Samui during the winter; an English teacher from California who muddles through without computers. or air conditioning, with fifty students per class; and an eleven-month-old daughter with his Thai wife; and a really tall Dane who complained about everything, from the cost of plane tickets to the fact his resort was filled with Germans.

The bungalows I stayed at had a group of Germans, too, and I admit it irked me that they took over all the lounge chairs in the courtyard with their towels, but only spent a few hours each day actually using them.  One or two British families arrived with small children, and I caught one decent photo of them playing with some Thai locals:

As you can see, my stretch of beach was thinly populated, with the vendors who traveled up and down its length seeming to equal if not outnumber the sunbathers:

Me?  I got what I came for, so I'm not complaining, a quiet spot on the beach where I could read a book and get a sunburn.


조안나 said...

Looks amazing! Thailand is the one place I've been dying to go since I got to Korea and still haven't been able to make it. Did you get a taste of those crunchier grasshoppers??

Tuttle said...

J-A: I will definitely be going back, in part because it's so cheap. I mentioned a 150 Bt (~$5) Coke, but that was at the airport. Typically you pay 18 Bt. A good meal is 100-200 Bt ($3-6), etc.

That's a No on the grasshopper, though I did eat the Thai version of sundaeguk.