Colourful chaos promised
Thailand beach town Chaweng becomes a feast for the senses at dusk
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”.
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If you have the stamina, Chaweng is your place.