Colour­ful chaos promised

Thai­land beach town Chaweng be­comes a feast for the senses at dusk

Western Times - - LIFE - ANN RICKARD

IF YOU have ex­pe­ri­enced the seren­ity of Koh Sa­mui, let me now take you to the chaos of Chaweng on the same is­land in Thai­land. The con­trast couldn’t be more dra­matic. At Con­rad Koh Sa­mui at the bottom of the is­land with its iso­lated lo­ca­tion, the re­sort it­self is the en­ter­tain­ment. At Chaweng on the east coast, the en­ter­tain­ment sur­rounds you from early morn­ing on the long and ac­tive beach and blasts you from early evening on the three-kilo­me­tre street that runs par­al­lel to the beach. Seren­ity or chaos? Both have their place – it de­pends on your mood. We like a lit­tle of both. So it was that we found our­selves out on the hot streets of Chaweng in the evening, be­daz­zled and be­wil­dered at the noise, chaos, the fren­zied pulse of the place. We could only cope with it for an hour af­ter the seren­ity of Con­rad the week be­fore. We de­cided spend­ing the day idling on Chaweng’s beach was the way to go in prepa­ra­tion for the pan­de­mo­nium of the night. It’s what ev­ery­one does. All the shops are closed and shut­tered for most of the day and the busy street is un­recog­nis­able as a dead and dreary place at 10 in the morn­ing. The long stretch of beach with its sway­ing palms and clean, warm wa­ter lap­ping the wide ex­panse of sand pro­vides a less fran­tic form of fun and en­ter­tain­ment. Any­thing you want is avail­able on the beach, from a foot scrub to a Thai mas­sage (mod­estly priced at around $15) to a stick of char­grilled chicken or half a lob­ster cooked over the fire. We watched the gently ac­tive beach scene from early morn­ing un­til dusk. Each beach ven­dor pro­vided a feast for the senses as they set up their char­coal fires, squat­ted be­fore them and be­gan grilling corn or fish or chicken. We par­tic­u­larly loved the woman sell­ing whole pineap­ples, cut metic­u­lously into heart shapes to or­der, and served on long sticks. The sweet­est pineap­ple on earth, at around 60 cents for the whole thing. The ven­dor sell­ing beach toys was all but in­vis­i­ble be­neath his colour­ful dis­play as he tramped up and down the beach of­fer­ing the per­fect photo op­por­tu­nity. The women who run the “day spas” on the beach – no more than cov­ered plat­forms with thin mat­tresses for small com­fort – are cheer­ful and call out to you as you walk by. “Foot scrub for you, very cheap.” It’s hard to re­sist. You come back buffed, scrubbed and pol­ished af­ter a few days at Chaweng. Then night time. The street that was so closed and dead dur­ing the day trans­forms to a kaleidoscope of flash­ing signs over bars and night­clubs, of restau­rants pre­sent­ing im­pos­si­bly large dis­plays of fresh fish. Tiny pop-up juice bars de­liver fresh mango smooth­ies or pulpy or­ange juice, and yet other tiny stalls present ex­quis­ite trop­i­cal fruit you sim­ply have to eat right there on the cracked and un­even foot­path. Lady boys in flam­boy­ant out­fits wait pa­tiently for tourists to pho­to­graph them, then de­mand money. Over all this ac­tion comes the con­sis­tent ex­hor­ta­tions from loud speak­ers on vans trawl­ing the street urg­ing ev­ery­one to at­tend the kick-box­ing for the “big­gest ex­cite­ment in the world”.

Read more of Ann’s mus­ings at www.an­nrickard.com

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

If you have the stamina, Chaweng is your place.

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