Friday, 27 May 2011

Ko Samui, Thailand

Ko Samui is an island of southern Thailand and our first port where we had to use a tender to go ashore. A tender is when the ship anchors off shore and a smaller boat comes out to the ship to bring the passengers ashore. We gathered as usual in one of the lounges at the front of the ship and waited for our group number to be called so we could make our way down to the tender. We boarded the tender for about a 30 minute ride ashore. The weather was amazing with beautiful blue skies.

A view from our tender boat back to the ship. You can see the next tender boat beside the ship taking on passengers.

Once ashore, we were quickly directed to our 4WD as we had chosen the 4WD and Elephant Safari Tour. We didn't really do any 4 wheel driving, we just drove around the island on the normal roads so it really was more of a gimmick than anything else. They weren't the most comfortable vehicles with minimal suspension and the sickly smoky petrol smell that engulfed us in the back. We were up for a bit of an adventure but the novelty of it wore off as the day progressed and the combination of heat and petrol fumes became a bit too much to enjoy. We had three stops - the first to a waterfall with a few local market stalls, the second to rubber plantation where we had a demonstration and the third to the elephant safari park where we watched a monkey show and elephant show, rode an elephant, rode on an oxen cart (wooden wheels - so, so bumpy!) and had a thai cooking demonstration of spicy papaya salad which was delicious.

Our 4WD for the day. One consolation was that it didn't date back to the 2nd world war like some of the others did.

The tour guide gave Lisa a mask to help with the fumes but it just made her hot a feel worse so it didn't stay on for long.

Our tour guide at the first stop which was at a waterfall which wasn't very exciting and doesn't warrant a photo. The map behind is a map of the island of Ko Samui. Our ship was tendered off the north western coast, the waterfall and rubber plantation to the south and the elephant safari park to the north east, so we pretty much travelled around the entire island. You can't see it clearly on the map but there were about 5 or 6 areas marked as water buffalo fighting stadiums which we thought was intriguing but we didn't get to see any fighting.

These are flower soap carvings which were quite amazing. Lisa bought some so we'll show you when we get back if thy haven't melted and survive the journey.

At our second stop was the rubber (latex) plantation. We had a demonstration of collecting the rubber and how they make it into sheets which are exported for further processing.

Our first show at the Elephant Safari Park was the monkeys. Moankeys are used by the Thai people to harvest the coconuts. They go to monkey school when they are young to learn the coconut harvesting school. On the way to the park we passed a ute with a cage back full of coconuts and 3 monkeys sitting on the corners of the cage in the breeze. These monkeys also learnt other important skills, like the slam dunk :)

Although Lisa had all of her 'monkey hair' removed in Vietnam she still got to be part of the show. Lisa was tied up and a monkey is undoing the rope around her wrists. She said the monkey's hands were really soft!

This young elephant could do all kinds of tricks including hula hoop on her trunk, playing the harmonica and standing on her head. She was gorgeous and we felt somewhat guilty that she is spending her life doing these trite tricks for tourists like us who pay to come and see her.

Kieran and Anisa having our elephant ride. The elephants respond to the riders voice.

Lisa rode on the elephant with Jim whose wife couldn't make the tour because she was suffering from gastro. Jim is from Utah and when Lisa learned that she said "oh we want to go to Utah because our church has a temple there in Salt Lake City". Jim replied "oh, our church has a temple there as well" - it didn't click with him that we belonged to the same church.

While we were riding on the elephant the trainers used banana leaves to weave this jewellery for Anisa and Lisa.

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