Koh Samui and Hong Kong
02.07.2015 - 02.23.2015 70 °F
Our final stop in Thailand was to the island of Koh Samui. Koh Samui is located along the east coast and is the second largest islands in Thailand. Samui is much larger than our tropical paradise of Koh Lanta and has a faster paced, busy feel (relative to Koh Lanta, it’s still Thailand after all). Our plan was to spend a few days enjoying the island before cleansing our souls at a week long yoga retreat on a remote part of the island.
Koh Samui has several beaches around its parameter, each with its own vibe. Some are busy party beaches where thumping techno music can be heard at any hour, while some are quiet and peaceful where all one can hear is the slosh of the ocean and the greetings from local beach vendors. We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to be, so we picked Bophut Beach along the northern coast. In the end it turned out to be a good fit for us. There are quaint restaurants up and down the beach. Fisherman’s Village has classier restaurants and bars but doesn't feel overrun with people. After visiting the rest of the island, we concluded the Bophut was the best place to be.
Our time in Bophut was particularly relaxing; the only time my heart rate went over 60 was when we rented jet skis for an afternoon. We would sit in the sun all day, eat at sandy beach restaurants and sip on fresh fruit smoothies. In the evening we would walk into Fisherman’s Village and find a spot on the beach for a sunset cocktail. Later we’d walk around the village until a cozy little restaurant piqued our interest; always Thai cuisine and generally very affordable. After dinner, we’d sit and listen to live music or poke around the shops before making our way home along the beach; watching as tourists launched floating candle lanterns into the sky above our heads. We made sure to live a decadent life for those few days as we’d both agreed to abstain from drinking and stick to a (mostly) vegan diet for our week of yoga.
Vikasa, our yoga retreat, was located on the south western part of the island. It was built into a rocky cliff; flight after flight of stairs allowed access to various parts of the resort. Our room was located at the bottom of the cliffs with the ocean sloshing around just a few feet below our room. With windows on three sides and a wraparound porch overlooking the sea, this room had one of the best views of our trip. The resort itself was a drive from any other place on the island save for a few restaurants located up the road. This meant that, for that week, we mostly hung around the resort, practiced yoga for a few hours every day and spent the rest of our time reading or going out for the occasional adventure.
Our daily routine started with a half hour of meditation early in the morning followed by an hour and a half of yoga. Then it was up eight flights of stairs to a buffet style vegan breakfast. Some days Shawna and I would head to the gym located across the street to get some much needed exercise. Other days we’d sit around and read, lay in the sun by the pool or make our way into town to explore. We would return to the yoga studio at six for our evening yoga session. After that we would head to the cafe for dinner and reading on bean bag chairs in the lounge until we were tired. We experienced some rain while we were there but it wasn’t really an inconvenience since we planned to meditate, practice yoga and get back to a healthy routine as penance for our gluttonous lifestyle the passed few months. One beautiful sunny day, we skipped yoga and rented a jeep to go tour the island. We started with the obligatory waterfall hike (this was our 138th waterfall hike of the trip). Then we drove the whole perimeter of the island with a final stop at our old stomping ground, Fisherman’s Village. For the most part, our stay on Koh Samui was uneventful, which is exactly what we had hoped for. Our next and final stop was the city of Hong Kong.
When we finally reached Hong Kong, the thought dawned on me that we would be heading home in a few days. We had been traveling for five months at this point and home was a distant memory, it ceased to be a real place. The idea of going home was, simultaneously incredibly exciting, sad and even a little scary. Would the world be different when we got home? Would we be different? Would it be impossible for us to go back to sitting in an office from nine to five after being in a new city every week for the past months?
I’m not sure Shawna would agree, but at this point I was looking forward to getting back to the real world and to moving on with our lives. The trip was an amazing experience but I was ready to leave the life of leisure and get back to being more productive.
Hong Kong turned out to be a great segue back to the western world. Hong Kong is an incredibly diverse city with gourmet food from all over the globe. It has a strong western vibe due, in part, to it’s colonial roots, but still feels like a part of Asia. We had plans to meet up with some of Michelle and Chris’s friends whom they had met during their time in Hong Kong. We hadn’t been in the city for more than half a day when, while wandering around the city’s many side streets, we ran into Clement, a friend of Michelle and Chris’s who we’d met at their wedding. He was very gracious to take time out of his Saturday to show us around for the afternoon. In fact, much of our time there was spent just wandering the many side streets and back alleys of old Hong Kong.
The food was also amazing; some of the best we had on the trip. I haven’t been able to get pork buns off my mind since. Aside from the numerous dining recommendations we received from Michelle, we were also taken to a local Szechuan restaurant by some of Michelle’s friends. Locating this restaurant on our own would have been impossible and exemplifies the advantage of knowing locals in a new city. It was located on the second floor in what appeared to be an office building. Amazing restaurants in Hong Kong can be found on any floor of any building throughout the city. Outdoor escalators take shoppers and diners up and down to the different levels of the city. I finally had my first non-lager ($19!!) beer in months at Yardbird, a trendy chicken only restaurant downtown; which was a welcome change.
Surprisingly, Hong Kong also has amazing hiking within the city limits. We hiked to the top of Victoria peak to find glorious views of the city below and, oddly, a shopping mall with a tram to take us to the bottom. We also hiked Dragon’s Back, taking us along the coast and down to the beach. The shoreline there strongly resembles Northern California.
Despite some hair raising turbulence on the way home, our trip back to the states fairly easy. We landed in the late evening and were greeted by some of our best friends. We stayed up late into the night drinking beers (anything but lager!), telling stories of our travels and getting caught up on everything we had missed the passed 143 days. It was good to be home.