Siam Summer

The beach at Koh Samet, Thailand

The soft sand squishes in between my toes
As the crashing waves taunt me to jump in.
The salty breeze on the seas gently blows
Massaging my heart to slow its pumpin’.
Right now, no place begs for my attention
And I have taken care of all my work.
The whispered name that this beach chair mentions,
Talks of taking advantage of its perk.
The waiter brings me a fruit filled smoothie
As I lean back to face the shining sun.
The scene has been taken from a movie
As I know my vacation has begun.
It took awhile for summer to start,
And now that it has my stress will depart.

Beach Living – Siam Summer

Somebody had the time to set up some rock castles during the time when no tourists were allowed on the island

Not that things have been really stressful or frantic ever since school wrapped up for the year, and we have been forced to go on summer vacation, but the short voyage over to Koh Samet, things have slowed down considerably and I have been forced to slow down to meet the demand as well. It has been basically nothing more than beach living. It is the perfect way to enjoy summer, sit under an umbrella, order smoothies, read a good book, and when things get a little too warm, go cool off in the clear water.

The beach next door, a little more rustic but still as inviting as all of the other beaches I have seen on the island

In fact, I have not ventured very much further from my resort room than down to the beach by the reception area. I did take a fifteen minute stroll to the other side of the island for dinner one evening, and I did rent a kayak to paddle out to other beaches nearby, but I have constantly be coming back to the idea of relaxation.

The sun setting through the clouds, a short fifteen minute hike from the resort I am staying at

I think it is important that this happens in everybody’s life. Too often we are told that we need to be constantly at work, and with the creation of emails, text messaging and the internet, it is even harder to get away from this responsibility. Our jobs now believe that because these leashes have been created for us that they can tug on them any time that they want to, but they need to know for the sake of sanity of humankind, it is important that they let us run out and be free.

a quiet restaurant waiting for the crowds that will soon arrive this coming long holiday weekend

Some times that means running for adventure and capturing what is out there to offer, but at other times, it is just as important to unwind from the stress and do nothing for a couple of days. Koh Samet is the perfect place to do the unwinding, and considering it has not amped up yet with its recent reopening, it is even more calm than it probably usually is. There are not crowds of tourists jostling for a spot on the beach. There are no large lines waiting for a table at the best restaurants. And there is nobody competing to outdo other people on their vacation. It is just a moment of pure relaxation, and I am glad to have been able to experience it for a time this summer.

The Opening of the National Parks – Siam Summer

The statue of a gigantic mermaid that greets you when you first arrive to Koh Samet

It is another sign that Thailand is returning back to a normal kind of life. Today was the one day we had been waiting for all summer long, the day when they reopened the national parks. Yes, there are a lot of cool towns and fun places to go in the big cities, but the magic of Thailand really comes to life when visiting the national parks. We have had a couple on our list to visit this summer, and the first one was the island of of Koh Samet. It is an island resort with pristine beaches and beautiful hikes through rain forests that is only a three hour drive from Bangkok, and a quick twenty minute speedboat ride from the dock in Rayong.

Squeezing into a song tol

But we did not find ourselves in Bangkok this morning. We had been staying in Rayong for the past few days, waiting for this island to open up. The beach resort we were staying at was nice, but it was tucked in a corner of town that not many people visit, and there were only a couple of restaurants to enjoy in the area. The sun rarely popped out from amongst the clouds, and the time there was spent waiting for the next part of our trip. We were told that we would be able to catch a shuttle from the resort to the pier and from there we could take a ferry over to the island.  We were so excited about the opening of this island that we had our bags out in front of the resort awaiting our shuttle.

Well, it turned out not to be like a shuttle like you would find in most parts of the world. It is what is called a song tol, which literally translates to two bench. They are very common in all of Thailand. Basically, somebody took a pickup truck, bolted two benches in the back of it, put a cover over those benches, and then started taxiing people around in it. Some are safer than others, but all of them are a treat to ride in. The one we took to the pier could not close its tail gate, so we packed in tight to make it to our next leg of the journey, hoping that we would not lose any luggage on the way.

The speed boat that took us from Rayong to Koh Samet

This involved taking some type of boat over the short distance of ocean to the island. There are two different types of boats you can book to get over there. The first is the ferry. It runs about once an hour, takes an hour to make the short distance, packs people in tightly, but is significantly cheaper than the other option. This is a speed boat. It is a lot quicker, but will jostle you around a little bit more as it takes you over the choppy seas. It did cost four hundred baht per person for a round trip, but that breaks down to about $12 American money. It was worth the price, and all we have to do is call ahead two hours in advance to let them know when we are ready to return.

The view from the back of our speed boat

The views weren’t great on the speed boat, and I was with a couple of people that get seasick easily, but we were able to make it over with everybody’s stomach intact. It was pretty comfortable, and the excitement of making it to this national treasure that had been untouched for the last four months had the anticipation building up within us. It would only be a short time until we found ourselves doing some beach living.

The view of the beach from the hotel we are staying at

When we arrived, there was one more quick song tol ride to our hotel, and then it was time to relax with soft sand, clear water and gorgeous skies. It was a little bit of an adventure to get to the resort, but it was well worth it. It is even nicer knowing that we are going to get to enjoy this island before the tourists start pouring into all of the hotel rooms here. It is Wednesday, and most people won’t be able to get out of their busy jobs from Bangkok until Friday. It is also a long holiday weekend coming up, and it will just add to the crowds. And even though there are a few people on the island right now, it is not enough to make it feel crowded. It will be a great stop for our longer road trip through this part of Thailand.

The Moments Between Storms – Siam Summer

I now know why they call it the rainy season. There had been the occasional storm that came through our neighborhood that would cool things off and water the trees, but it would only last a couple of hours at most, and we could go back to our lives afterwards. Ever since I have made it to the coast, the rain has come a little more consistently and has stuck around a little bit longer. One nice things about it is I am no longer complaining about the heat, but I am also stuck inside waiting for things to change so I can go back to enjoying life. I had spent too much of the last couple of months doing that, and I did not want to continue this routine into my vacation.

But that is essentially what life is about. We continue with our routine while sitting at the edge of what could happen, waiting for that moment when things calm down and we can grab a little something from our existence.It might be a world wide pandemic that causes us to hide in our houses, but if we are honest with ourselves, there are a lot of those storms that keep us in our homes. It might be that work has kept us too busy, or the maintenance of our possessions prevents us from venturing out into the world. Sometimes it is something so simple as being so accustomed to the little world that we have made for ourselves that we do not want to see what else there is out there for us. But eventually we tire of those things are have to go out for a change or scenery and create a new memory.

Luckily for us, the rain did stop in the afternoon, and we were able to get some pool time before joining our friends for dinner. Now Rayong is not known for its big restaurants and fancy beaches. In fact, it has been barely surviving as a resort town only booming when it gets the overflow from Koh Samet. Add on to the fact that the island has been closed since March and Covid has kept people in their homes, it has not been kind to the establishments out here. A walk down the beach will highlight the many resorts and restaurants that have gone under during the crisis and the rainy season is allowing the jungle to take back what originally was its possession.

There are a few places that were able to weather the storm. One of these was Ken’s. This open aired seaside bar is owned by no other than Ken. He is a friendly guy that hangs out by the shore and points out his establishment to people who happen to walk by. I know that this is a technique that is every large city in the world as restaurants try to compete with each other, but with Ken it feels natural and he makes you want to come back and enjoy a meal there.

And this is what we did. The food was good, but nothing to write home about. It was the atmosphere that kept us there and will have us coming back for more. Ken and his staff coming set up a couple of tables on the beach right next to the surf so we could let its gentle cadence entertain us during our meal. Because it was that sweet spot in between the closing of Thailand, and the opening of it back up to tourists, we were able to have the beach virtually to ourselves. It was the perfect way to enjoy an evening meal.

And it was right when we were packing up to go home for the evening that the rains started to return. It was only a drizzle until we found the shelter of our patio and that was when the rains really started to come down. We had found that perfect time to enjoy the moment, and took full advantage of it while we could.

 

A Walk on the Beach – Siam Summer

kids playing on the beach in-between rain storms

We moved on from Pattaya to Rayong. It is the city just on the other side of Koh Samet and this is the eventual goal of our travels, but it is considered a national park and will not open until July 1st. We thought we would explore this town as we wait for the island to open up, and there are enough little resorts right on the beach that will allow for us to have some fun before we hop on a ferry and travel across the span of water that hinders our path.

palm trees blowing in the wind at the edge of Bandera by the Sea resort

We thought we would have a nice day hanging out on the beach, and relaxing by the pool after our two hour trip between the cities, but this is when the truth of the rainy season came and reared its ugly head. I have heard that a lot of these outdoor activities are hindered because of the rain, and I thought that meant that the rain would come for an hour, dump down on us, and then move away to allow the sun to come back. That is the way it has been for us so far as we have lived in Thailand, but the rain was a little different yesterday.

the northern tip of the beach with people exploring tide pools

It blew in from the sea and dumped on us during our drive, making what is usually an hour and a half drive into an almost two and a half hour affair. The threatening clouds, and the rumble of thunder never really left us for the rest of the day either. It really prevented us from enjoying what the water had to offer, but we would not be ushered inside to hide from what could happen.

an abandoned beach because of the impending storm

Instead we explored the beach by walking up and down it. Though we never got in the water, it was still a fun way to enjoy the afternoon. There was nobody on the beach, and it felt like it was made just for us. The absence of the sun made the stroll the perfect time to enjoy the sea breeze and cooler weather. We were also look into the various resorts along the beach to see if we made the right choice in ours and see if there were any other restaurants we might want to go to while we were in town.

a field with cows grazing

There were the usual things you would expect to see on a beach, and I will write about them more this week as we explore them, but there were a couple of surprises as well. There was the field with cows in them that you can find all over Thailand. This is a pretty typical site. The fields are found in really random places as well. There is one of these fields off of Ramkhamheang, a busy road in Bangkok, that seems really out of place among the big named grocery stores and auto shops, but it is a leftover remain of a time that could soon be forgotten.

an abandoned boat a ways from the sandy beach

There are always these relics all over Thailand. Most of the time they are houses that have been abandoned and they are just waiting for somebody to come in and clear away the weeds and give it a fresh coat of paint. It is a different story when you see an abandoned boat high up the beach that is a long ways away from any place that has seen a drop of seawater. It makes you ponder the story of how it ended up in this place, and whether it is being used as a decoration for some resort, but then I did not see any building near it to indicate that this was the case.

It was a little disappointing to not enjoy all of the amenities that the resort had to offer because of the weather, but there was enough around to entertain us and it made even the simple thing like a walk along the beach a great experience. I just hope that the weather breaks a little so I can enjoy the other aspects of this city, or maybe it is for the best because it just waiting to break for when I make it over to the island.

 

A Little Road Trip – Siam Summer

Locals enjoying some fishing on a small beach in Pattaya, Thailand.

Summer has always been a time to travel a little and see friends, family and a little bit more of the world. Things are a little different this summer. People are stuck in their part of the world and because of that, the world has once again grown. We are not able to be the same small world community that we used to be by hopping on a plane and traveling to the various points in the world. We are now forced to explore the little corners of the world in which we live. Luckily, I have found myself in Thailand. First off, I have not explored much of this country and I am excited to see what it has to offer. Secondly, they have done a pretty good job of getting the Corona Virus situation under control and things are starting to open up again. The bars are still closed and the national parks start opening on the first of July, but the rest of the country has returned to back to a semblance of normal. Yes, there are more people wearing masks than normal, but it is a country that is trying hard to keep things under control so they can be prepared during the height of their tourist season and not let the economy slip anymore than it needs to.

The view from my hotel room at the Birds and Bees in Pattaya, Bangkok.

Considering it is summer and I have not traveled outside of Bangkok since the pandemic gridlocked the world, I thought this would be the perfect time to see more of this country I have found myself living in. There was only one thing that an American facing this situation can think of, road trip. There are many towns, islands and cities within driving range of the big city, and the roads are not hard to travel on as soon as you get out of the city center. Even though I do own a car, I thought it best to travel by hiring a driver this time out, and we made our way to the first city on our list, Pattaya.

The small beach on the edge of the Birds and Bees in Pattaya, Thailand

This city is one of the bigger tourist destinations because it is close to Bangkok, boasts some nice beaches, and has different levels of experiences depending on what you are looking for. We went thinking this would be a great place to meet up with other people we are traveling with, and get in some beach living before we make it to our final destination on this trip, Koh Samet. It would have been the first place we went to, but this island is a national park, and we had to wait until the first of next month before we could enjoy this spot.

The view of the Birds and Bees from the beach

Despite this, we were able to find a nice resort on the quiet side of town, Birds and Bees. It is a great hotel with comfortable villas looking out over a small beach with a pool and great restaurant attached to it. Our plans have not been anything more than hanging out at the pool while we are here, and enjoying some good food before moving on to our next destination, but it is nice to get out of the city and travel again. It reminds me why we made the jump overseas in the first place, and even though the first day was a little overcast, I have been able to unwind a bit and enjoy this summer. It just shows me that travel has changed for now, and if we are going to participate in this rewarding activity we need to think about learning more about our local terrain instead of exploring the various parts of the world. I’m sure that no matter where you are, there are those little corners that you have always meant to explore. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of it.