Landscape Photographer's Dream
in Koh Samui, Thailand on 24th February, 2012

It took 14 hours to get from Chiang Mai to Bangkok by train. After arriving I walked through the quiet Sunday evening streets in search of food. There were large groups of rats and stray dogs. There were stray cats with the most bizarre and possessed look in their eyes. It didn't take long to eat and make my way back to my hotel room.

Despite the wildlife, I had a mostly decent Monday in Bangkok. I found a shopping mall in Siam and a few neighbouring shopping streets. Beyond seeing weaponry and dildos on sale in a street market, all was well and normal.

One thing most people don't bother photographing or even mentioning when they holiday in Thailand is the booming middle class. There are a lot of market traders with iPhones and you can be hard pressed to find a seat in Starbucks among all the locals with their iPads lounging about. Tourists seem intent on only photographing the most toothless farmhands they can find.

It's surprising how friendly people can be here. Most people I make eye contact with smile back when I smile at them. Occasionally I'll wonder onto private property looking for a good photo and even the security guards will smile as I wonder past. I had lunch at a place I'd ate at a few times before. When I cleared my bill the waitress gave me a fairly lengthy good bye in Thai. It had been as if she'd been waiting weeks to say it to me. It was really heart warming as she put her hands in a praying position as she said it. If Thailand has unfriendly/rude people then they keep them hidden better than Bin Laden.

That being said, it doesn't take long till something ugly brings it head up. I was walking down one road a woman approached me. She had several small birds in wooden cages which they were squished into. The birds could barely flap their wings and appeared distressed. She said I could buy their release. The idea being that I buy a few of the cages and set the birds free. I found this disgusting. I took upon myself being twice her size to shout her down for committing such cruelty. I wish I would have forced her to open each of the cages.

Tuesday I arrived at the airport for my flight to Koh Samui, an Island in Southern Thailand. I was a bit worried about what the atmosphere would be like. 90% of my fellow passengers were Western European couples between 40-70 years old. I struggled to see anyone on their own. I guess backpackers would take the train and ferry... and probably visit other islands. Collecting my bags after we landed, I noticed most people's bag tags indicated they flew in here straight from Europe via Bangkok. Most people I've met are traveling for months if not years and no more than ~1,000KM at a time between destinations. I was worried that 2-week holidaying couples might not be as interested or forthcoming in chatting with strangers.

I was expecting to be blown away by the Island. Most times I've ever set foot anywhere tropical I've come from somewhere very ordinary, grey and cold. I had only a small sense of contentment here though. This trip might have turned the exotic and tropical into the expected for me.

£12 a night has bought me a room where the windows are stuck open, no hot water, no air conditioning on a bloody hot Island which doesn't cool at night, Thailand's most broken bog and the worst cover band set up outside my guest house. I opted to cancel my last few nights here and try a bit harder at researching a proper guest house on the Island.

But some of the things I love about Thailand haven't abandoned me just yet: there is cheap and cheerful street food just up the road, the landscapes and sunsets are breathtaking, the three couples who did a day trip with me were all lovely and incredibly interesting to chat with and there is basically no pollution here compared to mainland Thailand. I wouldn't fly here straight from Europe for my big yearly holiday but I'm glad I took the time to come and see this part of the world.

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