Me and Chairman Mao
  Koh Samui
What to do after a three-week vacation in Vietnam, full of walking, sweating, sightseeing, and traveling? Why, take a break, of course! A vacation within in a vacation, if you will. Very Shakespearean, play-within-a-play, don't you think? Of course, in Shakespeare the play-within-a-play usually illuminates something within the play itself, so maybe the comparison doesn't quite apply. (Imagine that.) I mean, really, what does taking a vacation in the middle of a vacations illuminate about us? That we're just that lazy, or that we really love us some vacation? Maybe a bit of both. With a lot more of one, but I'll let you decide which.

(Ah, English major humor. Good stuff.)

Anyway, after leaving Vietnam, we met up with six of our friends in Bangkok and headed straight for Koh Samui, an island off the east coast of Thailand in the creatively named Gulf of Thailand for 8 days of sitting around on the beach. (When I vacation, I really vacation, apparently.) Because--and trust me on this--if you want to go sit around on the beach somewhere, you should go to Thailand. The food is good, the beer is cheap, the beaches are amazing, and the water is warm. And, if you happen to be a single male aged forty or above who is out-of-shape, average-to-below-average looking, and is loosing his hair in a very ungraceful manner--that is, you have a comb-over or a pony tail just to show you can grow your hair somewhere, even if it's not on the top of your head---the hookers are plentiful. So really, what's not to like?

But--and trust me again--you have to really like to sit on the beach, because, really, there's not much else to do. I mean, at this point the island exists basically for its beaches, so there are all sorts of beach-based activities, but there's not really much else to do. (Except one side-trip--ah, the side-trip!--which I will get to next time.) I mean, I think there's a big Buddha statue or something up on some hill somewhere--possibly on Big Buddha beach, but that's just a (very good) guess--but that's it. Needless to say, I didn't see it. I mean, after living in Asia for almost two years, seeing one more Buddha, and a stunt-Buddha at that (it's like 10 or 15 years old and was basically just put there to impress tourists, as far as I know) was not high on my to-do list. Not as high as reading the book The Beach, which is about a secret beach in Thailand, while sitting on a (non-secret) beach in Thailand in a somewhat ironic manner. For the second time. Seriously.

Whatever. Here are some pictures from Samui, for any of you who might be interested in going. If you simply want to be jealous of me, that's fine as well. These first few are from Chaweng, the main town in Samui. As you might guess from these pictures, there's not much of a reason to go to Chaweng, apart from travel agencies, crappy hotels, some low-level shopping, some okay restaurants (serving the same quality food as the ones on the beach, except they're not on the beach and are three times the price), and some random bars and nightclubs full of annoying 20 year olds and hookers. So really, we didn't go to Chaweng much at all. And once was just to go to Starbucks. Laugh if you will, but a) I'm from Seattle, and b) when it's humid and 90 at 10 in the morning, a Frappuccino is damn tasty.

Here, then, is Chaweng's main drag:

Scooters are big here, making it .... wait for it .. exactly like everywhere else in Asia. But with better beaches:

The bar we sat at for a few hours because, unless you want to have something tailor-made, like a suit or whatever; buy some cheap, crappy knockoff clothes (much worse quality than the stuff in China, for the record); or a get very special "health" massage, there's not much else to do in Chaweng:

This was what my drink came in at the nice restaurant we went to in Chaweng. (Note that there are nice and classy restaurants on Samui, but just not in Chaweng.) While I drank this, we were all quite amused by the goings-on at the "Pink Lady Massage Parlor" across the street, where the preferred massage uniform seemed to be a tank-top and mini-skirt. I was going to make a joke about how many people were "coming and going," but really, it's just too easy. I mean, pretty much everyone who went into the place was coming and going, I assume. Ha-ha-ha:

Of course, none of that is the reason we went to Samui. Thank God, by the way. This is the reason we went to Samui:

The view from my lounge chair! The water was pretty amazing. It was very calm and shallow, so you could walk about probably two hundred feet before you had to even worry about swimming:

Lounging around doing nothing all morning works up quite an appetite! And a thirst, apparently. So around eleven or so every day, we would walk down the beach to our favorite beach-front restaurant (I swear, it was only a coincidence that it happened to be the closest to us ... or at least it was probably a coincidence) to have a few Singhas, eat some curry, and then wash it down with a few more Singhas. Here's the view from our table:

At which point, it was back to the beach:

Until dinner time, when it was back to "restaurant row." So many choices! Who said vacation was easy?

After finding a restaurant, it was time to drink, eat, drink, and watch the sunset. From our table. On the beach. In Thailand:

Even at night, the view was pretty good. Of course, at this point, it was time to go back to our rooms to get some rest, since we had a hard day of drinking (coffee), eating, drinking, eating, drinking, drinking, eating, and drinking (in that order, natch) ahead of us:

Previously, on my vacation:
- Tay Ninh: The Cao Dai Temple.
- The Cu Chi Tunnels.
- The Mekong Delta
Saigon: the Random.
Saigon: Reunification Hall.
- Saigon: the War Museum.

- Saigon: the Streets
- Hoi An: The River.
- Hoi An: My Son.

- Hoi An: the People
- Hoi An: the Streets
- Hue: Zoom, Zoom
- Hue: the River
- Hue: the Imperial Tombs
- Hue: the Imperial Palace
- Hue: the Streets
- Halong Bay: the Videos
- Halong Bay
- Hanoi: the Random
- Hanoi: Water Puppets
- Hanoi: the "Hilton."
- Hanoi: the People
- Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom
- Hanoi: the Streets.
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Tay Ninh: The Cao Dai Temple
The Cu Chi Tunnels.
The Mekong Delta.
Saigon: the Random.
Saigon: Reunification Hall
Saigon: the War Museum.
Saigon: the Streets
Hoi An: the River.
Hoi An: My Son.
Hoi An: the People.

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