I recently had to go to Bangkok for a business function. The function was a fantastic experience – a dinner river cruise, with good food, great entertainment, and excellent company. As nice as the evening was, spending a weekend in Bangkok made me realise how lucky I am to live on Samui.
Before, I was a country girl, now I am an island girl, and if I ever had doubts, city life is most definitely not for me. I often hear local Samui folk moaning about the island not having the same facilities, culture and shopping experiences as Bangkok, and they make regular trips to the big city, in spite of the exorbitant airfare. Now I cannot deny that Thailand’s infamous capital has some kind of allure, and if it is shopping you are looking for, from big brands (the real deal and fake) to market stands, then you are not likely to find a better city. But to be honest with you, I find it all a bit much. Entering a centre such as Siam Discovery, I just get completely overwhelmed. Where do you start? The choice is just too much. I can just hear the seasoned shoppers gasping in shock and horror at such a statement.
I would rather calmly browse the quaint boutiques of Fisherman’s Village wearing flip flops and beachwear any day, over being sucked into the crowds of Bangkok’s malls, where one designer shop blends into the next, and all the shopaholic ladies totter along in their high heels, all looking the same. What on earth would I want to do with designer garments on Samui anyway? Deciding which bikini to wear to the beach is already a tough enough choice, why would I want to cram my closet full of endless high heels, accessories, and outfits that I would have little opportunity or need to wear? Why would I want to buy endless pots of potions and makeup, only to go to the beach? Sure we go out on Samui, but give me a beach bar or seaside dining any day over an expensive city venue. The view from our house’s top floor beats the view from any of Bangkok’s sky bars, where the smog obscures any views that there may have been.
Bangkok may have nightclubs and concert venues that host the ‘big bands’, but I would rather go down to Murray’s Bar and listen to local band the ‘Rasta Monkeys’. Hearing this amazing band is on the top of my list of things to do on Samui, when asked by a tourist. Do yourself a favour and check them out if you haven’t before. An added bonus is that you don’t have to pay excessive prices for concert tickets, as entrance is free, and you can get a good table, and listen to good music over a drink, without the crowds.
The thing that gets to me the most about Bangkok is the traffic. Sure the quality of the roads is better, and there seems to be some order and control – the traffic police do a good job of controlling an impossible number of vehicles. Samui’s roads could do with some improvement, and there don’t seem to be any road rules, but at least it doesn’t take two hours to drive 12km! I could not believe the amount of hours a day I spent commuting by taxi or tuk-tuk, at times the vehicle not moving for half and hour. Sitting in the back of a tuk-tuk for that long in traffic congestion, and you end up with a sore throat from all the fumes and pollution. I can see why many people wear masks. It was hot in Bangkok, but I never actually saw the sun. It was either obscured by buildings, or desperately trying to break through the smog. I felt unhealthy after two days in the city, and longed for Samui’s fresh breeze, blowing in from the Gulf of Thailand.
I know that many people will disagree with my views on city life versus island life, and I know of people living here that haven’t been to the beach in a year. That is fine. I can understand the allure of the city; but it is not for me. The next time I get frustrated because I can’t find what I am looking for in the shops of Samui, I will order it from Bangkok and courier it down, while I lie on my beach chair under an umbrella, sipping on a coconut and breathing in the fresh sea air.