Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Wild Times On Samui - Lamai Beach 1994

After one night in Bangkok with my friends in 1994, we made our way to Koh Samui by bus.  After a long night speeding south down the Thai highways, we caught a ferry to paradise.  We arrived the next morning...  ready for some wild times on Samui.

Wild Times on Samui - Lamai Beach 1994
Lamai, Lamai, Lamai

We arrived to Samui in brilliant daylight.  The beaches seemed as white as ever, bordering the abundance of palm trees that covered the island back then.  We jumped into a songthaew and were in Lamai within half an hour.  Worz led us up the hill to Varinda Bungalows, and I began to realise I'd spent my previous six weeks in Thailand in relative hardship.

The bungalows at Varinda were 'sturdy and well built'.  There was mosquito netting on the windows, my bungalow had a fan, and even, an en-suite toilet and shower!  It was quite a contrast to the simple thatched hut I'd stayed in at Haad Rin last time.  Never mind the mosquito netting, my shack at Bird Bungalows hadn't even had windows.

So here I was, paradise revisited and upgraded; sitting on my veranda, looking out into a tropical garden.  The Varinda hill top was filled with the colourful flowers of bougainvillea and hibiscus; tropical birds would sing as they came to perch on some nearby branch.

There were fighting cockerels and dogs for pets.  In the years to come the dog-mad Varinda family would breed dogs - they even imported a Husky at one time.  Not that it lived long.  Even in an air-conditioned pooch parlour below the restaurant, it never survived the heat. 

The garden at Varinda Bungalows, Lamai Hill
Below Varinda, a bit of a descent brought you out to Lamai beach or to the edge of Lamai town.  Up on the hill, we had the perfect positioning: we were out of the way, but close enough to Lamai's sweeping coral beach  - and Wild West bar scene - when we felt like it. 

We'd arrived into a wild, tropical paradise, all for 100 baht - £2.50 - a night!

After catching up with 'Newmarket on the Hill' in the Varinda restaurant, it was time to crash out in our wooden bungalows.  Emma never recovered from that first afternoon session, and I wandered down into Lamai on my own, with instructions from the boys on where to find them.

Somehow, I ended up on the beach instead of
the main road, and I had to tread through the deep, unforgiving sand before cutting into town.  Not that I minded: it was a dazzling pleasure to be back on Lamai beach - looking up at a starry, starry sky, silhouetted by palms!

I made my way to the Rising Sun, which at the time stood out of town, on a deserted piece of Lamai's high road.  It was years before development enveloped the Rising Sun, although now it stands in the centre of Lamai.  I said hello to
Rising Sun bar owner, Long John, looking for my brother's friends who I'd flown to Thailand with the previous week.

With no sign of them, I returned to the crossroads and up to the Monkey Bar, which was one of our regular haunts for years.  Twenty years later, two of the Thai girls we met there are still in our close circles.  Gai visits every year.  Her cousin, Nin, became a Newmarket matriarch after marrying Worz and having his two kids.

Lamai high street in the mid '90s
Starry Lamai Night

I found my friends having dinner in the Starry Hut, a favourite restaurant where the speciality was shark Thai curry.  From there we did the Lamai rounds: from the Monkey Bar to the Rising Sun, and on to the Bauhaus, to watch premier league football.  You can take the boys out of Newmarket…

More of the clan had arrived.  Nick and his Philipina wife Jenny had flown in from Hong Kong;  the Furze brothers had arrived with my soon-to-be best friend, Lee;  my brother, Tim, was arriving for New Year, and it was starting to look like a Newmarket reunion.  Another five were coming in January.  And I thought I was escaping from home?

But it made for good company.  

By this time the Sang Thip was flowing; everyone had lost interest in the football, so instead we took a night time walk on the beach.  We ended up horizontal on a huge flat rock outside Bungalow Bill's, all of us in a line, staring at the sky and debating the stars.  You don't see stars like that at home.

Orion's Belt seemed smaller from here.  The North Star was still apparent, but lower on the horizon.  We started talking about shooting stars... and I thought I glimpsed one.  Must be the Thai whiskey, was I imagining it?  Only when I watched another four fall out of the sky above me, did I believe what I was seeing - a meteor shower!

A swathe of stars alive in the sky, and the Geminids meteor shower falling down upon us.  Even the most cynical ones amongst us couldn't help but feel the Samui magic…

Me and Gop at Varinda Bungalows 1994
Varinda Heaven
  
Up at Varinda I got to know the workings of another Thai family.  Papa Tuey sat in his hammock all day, like the king of his jungle that he was.  I always got a friendly greeting from him, an occasional, "How are you" - and even, "Good party?"  

Noi was in charge of the treehouse restaurant, speaking the most english and grinning the widest smile.  Pi Aat would occasionally pass by the restaurant, inbetween cooking and praying for Noi's heart condition.  Bau & Gop were brother and sister, and the two to whom I'd got closest.  

I first noticed Bau as he took the little boy to school on early mornings.  Later he'd fade into the background, to retire to the stone veranda overlooking the Lamai headland, and gently strum his guitar.  Gop just used to screw her face up at me to start with, unable to decipher my English.  

I soon learnt to slow everything down for her, and before long she was giving me beautiful smiles and touching my hand as she passed.  Eventually, she'd come to sit with me and play with my hair, Thai style, like old friends.

I had slipped into this world of relaxation - tempered with hard partying - without even trying.  Once again, I was at one with my beautiful world.  Occasionally, torrential downpours would burst out of the sky, and on early mornings I'd wake, delighted by the rain, to sit on my balcony and lap it all up.

There, I'd enjoy the early morning company of
croaking frogs, fan-tailed birds, squirrels and geckos; and I felt perfectly at home.  I was back in the world of tropical fantasies, where calamari and lemon shakes were a daily part of life.  

Where I was the girl I wanted to be; where my dreams, like alchemy, had been turned by my own will to reality...

Mia's Diaries 1994/95

Thai Whiskey and Temples: Bangkok Bound 1994

The enchantment - and debauchery - on Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan, continued in equal measure.  More Wild Times Diaries 1994/95 coming soon!