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Koh Samui: Remembering My First Week on a Thai Island

There are moments in every traveler's life that can never be repeated.

Spending my first week on a beautiful Thai island ranks up there with the best of them.

It was a week of firsts. My first time renting a bungalow. My first experience eating tasty Thai food on beautiful beaches.

Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui
Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui

The first time I lit a lantern to carry my wishes up into the night's sky.

To kick off what would become two-and-a-half months of island hopping, I chose Koh Samui's Chaweng Beach.

I'd paid $14 for a trip to Koh Samui in Bangkok, which involved an overnight bus ride and ferry ticket. The journey was tiring but effortless.

As usual, I didn't have a plan for when I arrived on Chaweng Beach or a list of my must-do activities on Koh Samui, but I was carrying a Lonely Planet Thailand, which pointed me toward bungalows lining a beach access road.

Writing in my bungalow on Koh Samui
Writing a new blog post from my bungalow on Koh Samui (2008)

I took a private one for $15/night and began settling into island life.

The first order of business was food. At the end of the access road was a beach restaurant.

I grabbed a table in the shade, perused the options, and ordered my first spicy Panang curry in Thailand.

To this day, it remains one of the best Thai meals I've ever eaten, and the Panang curry against which I measure all others.

Rotisserie pig
Rotisserie pig

I spent my days walking along the soft, white-sand beaches, people watching and reading “Do Travel Writers Go To Hell” by Thomas Kohnstamm, and later Anthony Kiedis' autobiography, “Scar Tissue.” 

To escape the mid-day sun, I'd sit in my bungalow, my little ASUS netbook propped up on a pillow, and write drafts for future blog posts.

At sunset, I'd return to the beach and inevitably take a seat at whichever beach bar and restaurant looked most popular that night.

Sometimes I'd strike up conversations with those nearby and join them for the night. Other times, I'd be content to read and sip a Singha alone.

Later, I'd walk back to my bungalow through the streets, taking in the sights and smells of all the food on display.


A big part of my excitement about finally reaching Thailand on my trip around the world was the chance to see Alex Garland's inspiration for “The Beach,” a book I'd read in China before arriving, though it was the movie that had inspired me first.

Sea kayaking in Ang Thong National Marine Park is a full-day experience and well worth the effort (and sunburn).

It was another first for me. I'd never been sea kayaking before I signed up for the day trip from Koh Samui.

Everything was included, from the boat transport to the park to our bodybuilder-of-an-Aussie kayak guide who took us around the rocky islands.

We had a buffet-style lunch and beers (ok, those weren't included) on the boat before spending the afternoon hanging out on a beautiful beach inside the park.

Koh Samui may have been an island of firsts for me, but I would go on to visit five more Thai islands before my visas ran out.

Each island, and often each unique beach within the islands, lead me to many more firsts. But I'll save those stories for another day.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

James Shannon

Thursday 27th of March 2014

If you're loving Koh Samui, you'll go crazy over the others that follow this one (Koh Tao and its satellite island, Koh Nang Yuan especially)!


Thursday 27th of March 2014

Agreed. I spent a few nights on Koh Tao, and did an island snorkeling tour. There are some gorgeous spots there!

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