Ko Samui,  Southeast Asia,  Thailand

Ko Samui, Thailand: Amazing Jungle Adventures

We spent our first day on the ship cruising the Gulf of Thailand heading for our first port of Ko Samui, Thailand. Some people detest sea days, but I love them! Cruise itineraries are jam-packed for me. The sea days give me a chance to kick back and absorb the essence of travel and the rejuvenation that it brings me.

A Bit About Ko Samui

Located off the east coast, at 88.3 square miles,  Ko Samui is the second largest island in Thailand. It is often thought of as a resort destination.

It appeared on Chinese maps as early as 1687. The first inhabitants were fishermen from the Malay Peninsula. The “modernization” of the land is fairly recent. Up until the early 1970s, the island was without roads or other conveniences. Having access to roads, plumbing, and electricity allowed the population to grow. It resulted in a stable and prosperous economy. Today the main revenue on the island is luxury tourism along with the exports of coconuts and rubber.
With an average year-round temperature of 82F, set amongst the jungle and mountainous terrain are resorts with gorgeous beaches.

Our Time in Ko Samui

Having done pre-trip research, I learned that the port was a pretty good distance from the main area of town. So we opted for an organized excursion. We went to the port by a 4-wheel drive open-air jeep. Before we knew it, we were flying through jungle areas and having the time of our lives!

When we reached the town, we were so surprised at the amount of traffic. But more surprising was the tangled web of electric wires hanging overhead. We even saw a shopkeeper on a ladder. It plugged in an extension cord to the transformer to bring electricity into his store! Toto, we weren’t in Kansas anymore!

Ko Samui
We Were Picked up by a 4-Wheel Drive Jeep
Ko Samui
The Tangled Web of Electric Wires

The Jungle Safari and Elephant Trek

After driving for about 20 minutes, our first stop was at the magnificent Namuang waterfall! The area we stopped at was in a jungle environment. It was set up as a tourist stop complete with snack concessions, bathrooms, and souvenir stalls. Or so we thought…..

This area was more of a stretch-your-legs rest stop. Aside from a brief explanation of the services available, we were on our own to explore. With the tranquil sound of the waterfall in the background, the area was quiet and peaceful. We learned that a climb to the top of the waterfall was a must. Once you reached the summit, you would be rewarded with stunning views of the island. It was a steep, rough climb but oh, so worth it!

So what we thought was just a rest stop, turned out to be an adventurous waterfall climb. We were thankful that we had worn good hiking shoes or the climb would have been much more difficult. We spent about two and a half hours at this location. It was the perfect amount of time to ascend and descend the cliffs of the waterfall.

Visiting an  Elephant Sanctuary

These mighty creatures are amazing! Although there is a difference between the elephants we saw in the wild in South Africa. The Asian elephants are very incredible. Their sheer size is overwhelming. Many places offer elephant rides and while this sounded like a cool activity. We learned how detrimental this was to the health and safety of these magnificent creatures. An elephant’s back is not made to carry the weight of people much less the heavy saddles. It can lead to spinal injuries. We also learned that the training for rides is often cruel and painful to the animals.

At the sanctuary, we were able to get up close and personal with the elephants and got the opportunity to feed them. We learned how they were trained to work picking coconuts and moving downed trees and saw a demonstration of such. We also had the opportunity to watch monkeys perform their duties of coconut picking. As monkeys climb the coconut palms to drop the fruit down, elephants use their trucks to knock down the coconuts.

A Lesson in Thai Cooking

The last experience in this awesome adventure was a jungle lesson in Thai cooking. I found it pretty amazing how a full meal could be cooked with few utensils and modern conveniences. We watched a demonstration of the preparation of Pad Thai and Thai fried rice. I had never eaten Thai food and found it quite delicious. I didn’t realize that Thai food was often spicy.

Important to Thai dining is the practice of Chuuk. Mixing the flavors and textures of different dishes with the rice from one’s plate. The food is pushed by the fork, held in the left hand, into the spoon held in the right hand, which is then brought to the mouth. Knives are not present at the table.

Common spices used are garlic, galangal, coriander/cilantro, lemongrass, shallots, pepper, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, fish sauce, and chilies. Palm sugar is very used in dishes that need sweetening. Lime and tamarind are also used for underlying sour notes. Only fresh, not dried ingredients are used in authentic cooking.

Although historically, Thai food was eaten with the hands, we did get the benefit of a fork and spoon to eat. I love to cook and experiment with different ingredients. This was quite a unique experience for me. I have adopted the use of common Thai ingredients in my home cooking.

Ko Samui
Our Cooking Demonstration was Really Cool!

Final Impressions

The adventure in Ko Samui was about nine hours. A long day but definitely a great day! Surrounded by the beautiful natural jungles all day, the experience was awesome. The day stands out in my mind as a favorite!

The tour that we took was careful to not take harm the natural resources. The included activities took the health and safety of the animals into account. This meant a lot to us.

We were beginning to learn that the region of SE Asia is everything we had been told it was: beautiful peaceful and green.

Until next time friends, remember “To Travel is to Live!”

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thai_cuisine
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ko_Samui

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