In the last issue, I wrote about the difference between being a tourist and a traveller, and challenged those of you living here or visiting Samui, to be more of a traveller. Well now I am going to ask you to be a tourist in your own town. This probably sounds like a sudden change of heart – but it’s not. You can still be a tourist in your own town, but with the mindset of a traveller. (A recap for those who may not have seen the last issue: Tourists don’t know where they have been, travellers don’t know where they are going. Travellers prefer to discover new things, than partake in package tours.)
So what do I mean by this? Well, let me give you an example: Prior to moving to Samui, I lived near Cape Town in South Africa. The icon of Cape Town is Table Mountain, which was a finalist in the new 7-wonders-of-the-world. Many residents or Cape Town, even those that have lived their entire life in this southern-most city of Africa, have never been to the top of the mountain. There are options for reaching the top, not all require exerting yourself. The aerial cableway, offers a free trip to anyone on their birthday - so why would they never have tried this, and viewed one of the greatest cities in the world from this vantage point?
This same strange phenomenon amongst local residents applies here on Samui. When we are on holiday, we try to cram as many things into a day as possible, knowing we are at a location for a limited time. When we move to a new place, we seem to delay discovering these sights, as we know we will be there a while. Before you know it, years have passed, and the tourists know more about your home than you do!
I come across locals (both expats and Thais) that have never been to the Anthong National Marine Park or hiked to a waterfall. Now granted, there are some ‘attractions’ I would not visit under principle, such as certain animal shows, but there are other attractions on Samui, many of which are free or don’t cost much, that are well worth a visit. How many of you have ever visited the shell museum just outside Nathon? William Thomas owns this treasure trove of sea relics, artefacts and an impressive collection of shells. For only 100 Baht, visitors gain entrance to this fascinating place, and William offers a tour, sharing his vast knowledge of the ocean and marine life. His passion is contagious as he tells you not only about the life of the molluscs, but also how to prepare, cook and eat them!
Some residents have never viewed this island paradise from the sea. Sailing around the island, or to one of the neighbouring islands should be on the top of your ‘to do’ list. Looking back at the island as the breeze fills the sails, carrying you away, and you can only wonder what it must have looked like centuries ago. Anyone putting this off, because they suffer from motion sickness, should not rule out the possibility of a sea adventure. Samui’s waters are calm in comparison to those you may be used to, and a motion sickness tablet works wonders. If you are considering a sailing trip, I highly recommend Samui Ocean Sports and Yacht Charter. (www.sailing-in-samui.com) I recently had the pleasure of a day on Dreamcatcher – a 32 Foot luxury cruising catamaran. Hiring a private sailing vessel may seem like something only the rich and famous do, but if you get a big group together, the cost per head is affordable, so why not live the dream for a day. Owner and skipper, Kunta has been sailing around Samui for over 20 years, and will share some interesting and comical stories.
In the last issue I challenged you to venture off the beaten track, and discover Samui’s secrets. Now I challenge you to pick up a free guide book and map, and do the rounds of the island, both on land and by sea, and be a tourist in your own town. The next time a visitor asks you, ‘What is the Marine Park like?’ or ‘Is Big Buddha worth visiting?’ you don’t have to look embarrassed and admit you have never been there. You will be able to actively promote those attractions worthy of a visit, and which not to waste their time on. The only secret you need to keep, is that some businesses and attractions offer discounts to locals – just show your work permit or local drivers licence.