Because Shrewsbury starts its school year so much earlier than schools in the UK it means that all the new teachers have only a very short summer holiday in the year that they start. In actual fact I didn’t get a break at all as it was all go packing up and sorting out the house and then it has been straight here for induction then the start of term. So the school gives everyone a long weekend in the third week of Sept and very welcome it is too!!
Kevin booked us a weekend break on the Island of Koh Samui, which has a reputation for being less touristy than Krabbe or Phuket. It was only a short 45mins flight from Bangkok and flights are so regular that it is more like a bus service really. Bangkok Airways were fantastic, they have a lounge for all travellers with drinks and snacks freely available. Then they fed us a proper three course meal when we were in the air!
We stayed in the Banana Fan Sea Resort which was direclty on the white sandy beach. We had a marvellous time resting and relaxing with a Thai massage on the beach for only £6 (bargain) on the first day.
We did the ‘tourist’ thing and went on a full day Safari Tour of the interior of the island. The first stop was the temple (Wat) Plai Laem which is new, being finished only in 2004. This Wat has a colourful giant ‘Happy Buddha’ who represents wealth and prosperity and so is a popular one to pray to… Next door is a huge statue of Guanyin a Chinese goddess of Mercy and Compassion who has 18 arms. She has so many arms because she is said to protect children, women, the sick and the poor (and of course, there are lots of them who need her protection.) In another legend she was the daughter of a king who was at war and she was forbidden from fighting (being a girl) so she prayed to be able to assist and the gods granted her the extra arms so that she could help in the battle (which her father then won unsurprisingly!) Either way in a religion which depicts males over females in much of its culture and iconography I was please to see a strong and powerful woman being revered. She is known locally as the ‘Lady Buddha’ although technically only men can attain Buddha-hood.
We then visited a Big Buddha which was golden and sat serenely surveying the landscape around him. I was delighted to see the steps which are adorned with colourful dragons for protection. We have been warned that if we encounter a monk here that we are to shown respect by stepping aside and under no circumstances whatsoever are women allowed to touch a monk! I kept away from them when they were receiving offerings from the villagers. I did however love the golden statue of a priest for its depth of expression and the cute little golden monkey making it’s own offering to his Master. It wasn’t a baking hot day (to our immense relief) but this meant that the photos don’t look too bright as it was quite cloudy.
After that we had a white-knuckle ride in a 4 wheel truck up some very rutted and steep mountain tracks in the interior of the island. It was quite a bone shaker experience but the waterfall we visited was very calming and Kevin was even brave enough to have a dip in the rock pool.
After lunch we were given a demonstration of rubber collection which took me straight back to my GCSE Geography days. I remember learning about how rubber is collected but never thought that I would actually see it.
The highlight of the day has to be TaLim’s Magical Garden. Ta means ‘Grandfather’ so this translates as Grandfather’s Lim’s magical Garden. Buddhists believe that you should do good things in this life to help you with future re-births so Ta Lim created a garden on the hillside. After his death it was opened to the public and it is a place of peace, beauty and mystery in the shade of the trees. Delightful. All topped off with the creamiest coconut ice cream ever!
It was nice to have the opportunity to see more of this country’s wonderful and varied culture and to share some of the images with you. We still can’t believe how fortunate we are to have this opportunity to experience another land and another people. And we got to have breakfast on the beach… what more could you ask.