Koh Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, an hour flight from Bangkok. I hadn’t researched the area before arriving and didn’t know it existed until it was recommended by my hostel mate in Bangkok.
24 hours after first landing in Thailand, I touched down at Koh Samui’s airport (some have called it the most beautiful airport in the world even though it’s nothing more than a landing strip… picture flying into Jurassic Park) and booked a cab to my hostel.
After being dropped off at the wrong hostel on a crowded street packed with motorbikes, party vans blasting techno and muy thai fight announcements, food carts, massage parlors and more backpackers than I’d ever seen in one place in my life, I began scanning for a sign that read “Hello Backpackers Hostel.”
I finally found one but it was in front of a tour booking office which didn’t seem right, and as I passed by someone ran out screaming and mooned everyone. This can’t be it… I thought. Eventually I realized that this office building was in fact, tonight’s fate. What on earth did I sign myself up for? Little did I know I’d end up meeting some amazing people and staying on the island for four days.
As soon as I settled in, I headed straight for the beach to catch my first sunset. The nicest beach I’d ever been to until this point has been in Florida, so I was complete awe of the beauty.
I didn’t have my bathing suit but the warm water and salty air left me intoxicated so I ran in with my clothes on.
I didn’t intend for this experience to be a wild party as is the goal for most of the other 20-something backpackers in this country, but I know that’s just the hostel demographic and I’d have to make the most of it to afford this trip.
I was pleasantly surprised to meet my first American, a girl my age with a similar story, along with five other English speaking solo backpackers who weren’t straight out of college. We all made dinner plans and after the first hour I decided I couldn’t leave the next day.
The next three days were a blur of dancing, swimming, dining, more dancing, motor biking, waterfall hiking, laughing and bonding. We all knew how lucky we were to have found each other as the other beds in the dorm rotated nightly with groups of the same northern European college kids on holiday.
The beaches and interior of the island are breathtaking, while the main area of Chaweng is nothing but tourist shops, bars and restaurants. And scooters—you need one to get around. The roads, like Bangkok, are insane. Every bike, car, taxi and pedestrian is out for themselves. No license needed, no rules whatsoever.
The people watching is also unlike any other. Stand on a street corner and you’ll hear at least ten different languages and observe ethnicities, gestures, mannerisms and clothing styles from across the world (although probably 80% European on this island to be accurate). One big melting pot of people coming to party on a remote island in paradise.
When night falls, Chaweng Beach comes alive with lights, music, fire dancers on the sand and lanterns in the sky. We sat around a hookah while locals walked around with monkeys, iguanas and even an eagle trying to make money, while children jump and pull at you, trying to force you to buy their flowered headbands and glow sticks.
By the third night, I began to feel like I was simply vacationing. I left the club alone and began walking back to my hostel when the street began to look unfamiliar. Hundreds of backpackers soon became just a few, the neon lights slowly disappeared and the symphony of techno and dance music was reduced to a soft rumbling bass in the distance. All that remained were a few flickering lights, local shop owners and food cart disposing of the day’s waste in the streets and Thai girls in front of seedy massage shops. The street was pungent with musky egg-sewage smell and I began to feel ill. Nothing looked familiar. I pull out my phone to GPS the hostel address—my screen shattered to pieces from the first night here—but I can’t get a signal and my battery is about to die.
Being lost and unable to communicate with anyone wandering alone through dark streets at 3am is not exactly my idea of finding myself. That was my last night in Koh Samui.
While this island adventure was more about indulgence than growth, I truly enjoyed the company of my new friends. On Saturday, my American friend and I decided to head to our next destination together as we both had plans to visit the island of Koh Tao next. When we all said our goodbyes at the hostel, we joked about how much it reminded us of the Real World finales where the roommates go their separate ways. Our paths crossed for just a few days but we’ll have memories that only we can share forever.
I can replay the stores all I want but no one else will really understand this journey like a fellow backpacker. There will undoubtedly be lonely times ahead but I can’t help but wonder how much of an outsider I’ll feel like once I return home. I’m beginning to believe home is not a geographical location but rather a feeling of belonging when I arrive somewhere I know I’m destined to be at that moment.
I’ve been here less than a week and life will never be the same. I don’t want this feeling to end. Only time will tell what will come of it all, but as of this moment I can’t imagine doing anything else forever.
There’s so much more to dig into here but each day my eyes open a little more and my thoughts and feelings evolve… so I’ll end this now. There’s a new island in front of me waiting to be explored and strangers waiting to become friends.