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Enchantment and Debauchery - Wild Samui Times 1994

Christmas 1994: I'd been going full on since arriving in Thailand, but Koh Phangan's Full Moon Party had knocked the partying out of me.  Back on Koh Samui, I spent the week recuperating... before the Wild Samui Times began again!
lamai beach koh samui thailand
Wild Samui Times - Lamai Beach 1994
Wild Lamai Ocean

Lamai Beach in the daytime was as beautiful as ever.  The waves would come crashing down on the undulating white sand, denying me entrance into the sea.  The aqua-blue behind the galloping white horses looked inviting, but I'd been trashed on this beach two years before, and my wariness remained.

On other days, a calm sea would let me enter to swim in the instant depths of Lamai.  The current was strong, the wild ocean responding to the waxing and waning moon in its most powerful cycle around the December solstice.  The highest tides in Thailand were always around this time.

Lamai was lined with palms, and was a tropical vision.  My brother Tim had arrived here in 1990, staying in White Sands' A-frame huts for 75p a night.  He sent a postcard home with an arrow pointing to his thatched hut on the beach.  My fascination with Lamai began there.  I'd dreamed of this utopia for years.

koh samui restaurant
The restaurant at Varinda: the Canadians and Gop
Enchantment on the Hill  

Up at Varinda Bungalows above Lamai, the lazy days were spent in the Thai restaurant.  Typically constructed in wood, raised on stilts, it was decorated with wicker furniture and bric-a-brac.  Open to the elements, there was only a roller blind to pull down in a rainstorm, or to shut up shop at night.

The jungle vista became a green blaze outside the wooden framework of the restaurant.  We could have been in a tree house, looking down all around us to the treetops below; the azure blue of the heavens above us.  The neat ganja joints, laced with opium oil, being passed around the restaurant made the colours especially vibrant.

It was a truly trippy experience.

On some afternoons I'd escape to the thatched pagoda - perched on a rock overlooking the bay - with one of the Germans, Mickey.  We'd listen to Bao gently playing his guitar; singing to us, the wind, and whoever else was listening.  As we sat on the pagoda looking down on Lamai, it was a surreal setting to find ourselves in. 
koh samui viewpoint
Bao at his favourite lookout at Varinda
There were no intruders here.  We were all welcomed and invited to share the Varinda homestead, and to take what we wanted from their laid-back lifestyle.  And so we did: Mickey would later marry Bao's sister, Gop, the sweet, innocent girl who had become my new best friend that season.

Years later, when I met Gop at Varinda again, I hardly recognised her.  She was fresh out of Germany, covered in gold; her hair permed and dyed.  The nouveau Thai riche, a cut above everybody else, denying her roots and her old friends.  Money corrupts innocence (but that's another prophetic Thailand story, for another day)…

Christmas in the Tropics

By the time the Friday arrived I'd recovered from the excesses of the Full Moon Party.  Now, it was the weekend and I was ready to party again!  It was the eve of Christmas Eve, December 23rd 1994.

waterfall and party
Samui day trips and nights out
The Newmarket boys wouldn't join me out that night, saving themselves for Christmas.  I ventured to the Bauhaus alone, ready to mingle.  I found company in my mate Danny's old travelling partner, Wesley - who I heard the original late '80s Thailand stories from - and Lassa, the Danish guy staying at our bungalows.

After a night out on Lamai, Lassa 'the Moonshine Man' gave me a lift back to Varinda.  There we were greeted by a naked Swede called Kent, who was standing on his balcony scratching his manhood.  Kent got dressed and joined us as we sipped Lassa's home-brewed toffee vodka until the sky began to lighten.

At this stage, 'Special Agent' Kent went to bed - we were all living our own fantasies of who we wanted to be at that time - and Lassa and I made our way down the steep descent to Lamai beach for sunrise.  We sat side-by-side on a fallen palm tree, watching the ocean as a blaze of red burned above the horizon.

The silhouetted waves seemed larger than ever now, as they curled over and smashed down into Lamai's coral sands.  We were having Christmas early.  Or at least I was, for Scandinavians celebrated Christmas on December 24th anyway...

Even though I was hanging out with the hard core Lamai boys, it was quite innocent.  They all had their eyes on the delicate young females that graced the Lamai bar scene, meaning I always felt completely safe in their presence.

I was never their prey.  They accepted me as one of them.

nightlife in the 1990s
Late nights / early mornings at Varinda
China White Nights

In the early hours of other mornings, I'd return from late nights out in Lamai to sit with the hard core Scandinavian boys on their balconies.  There, I'd watch them rack up powdery lines of the purest China White.

Until then I'd always thought heroin was brown, but these connoisseurs explained to me the distilling process of their preferred drug, and how China White was the purest form of heroin you could get.

They were passionate about it when they talked, and it seemed to have a different effect on them from the skaggy monged-out drug I'd witnessed in the West.  They were even more wide awake and frenetic after a line, but I was never tempted to join them - I already knew people in my home town who had died of heroin overdoses.

As I watched their wide-eyed euphoria turn to instant rage - their last lines of freshly racked up smack blown away in a gust of wind - my resolve was confirmed.  It was a powerful, concise lesson in the ups and downs of heroin addiction.  Maybe it put me off forever.  Or maybe addiction just never was my bag.

Wild West Lamai

koh samui accommodation
A decade later: still hanging out with the Varinda boys
After a few hours sleep, I was roused from my toffee-vodka hangover as I heard a voice say, "Thought you'd turn up!" I dragged myself to my feet to find Richard and Mark, our Canadian buddies from the Full Moon Party, had come over to spend Christmas with us.

That night nine of us - English, Canadians, Germans and Danish - set off for Christmas in Lamai and Chaweng.  After talking our way through sets of Mekhong, at 5am we left the Rock Pub - a Lamai institution - to make the ascent up the hill to Varinda.

That was an early night at the Rock Pub...

'No roof, open till last person leaves in the blaring sun about midday.  Probably best to take your sunnies with you for a night out.  Blaring rock music, people stage diving off bar & tables. 

Whenever trouble broke out & bottles starting flying, which was quite often, the staff would come over & shield our heads, then bring us new tables & chairs if ours had been smashed!! 

Good times with a Guns 'n' Roses & AC/DC sound track.' 
Lamai's Rock Pub in the early 1990's as described by Dean, UK

Lamai was a crazy free-for-all den of drunken debauchery at that time.  When Pablo first came with me in 1996, he described it like arriving into the Wild West - only everyone was driving motorbikes instead of horses!

The Weed Run

On other days, I'd catch up with my brother's friends on the ring road above Lamai. Sweating profusely, the alcohol of the night before escaping from their clammy pores, I'd notice them carrying 7/11 plastic bags on their motorbike handles.

koh samui in the 1990s
Samui ringroad in the early 1990's
The contents inside the bag constituted breakfast: a bottle of chocolate flavoured milk, half a dozen beer 'tinnies' to wash it down - and the odd half kilo of weed hidden at the bottom of the bag.

The theory was that the safest way to transport your contraband was inside your 7/11 shopping bag.  Their other theory was that the safest time to do a run was bang on 6pm, when everyone would be standing to attention for the national anthem.

Back then a kilo of weed could be bought for somewhere between £50-£200, depending on which stage of the 1990's you were in.  Over on Koh Phangan the Thai mamas sold ganja on their restaurant menus as 'Special Fish'.  It used to be one of their main crops on the Haad Rin hillside: they grew so much of it they had to burn the excess.  

ko samui thailand
My brother Tim at Varinda; Lamai from the crossroads
Eventually enough tourists turned up with a desire to purchase the surplus cash crop - but then the police arrived on an early 1990's crackdown.  Thereafter the locals became scared to grow it, let alone admit to selling it.

Hence the code names for ganja in restaurant menus.  More about Koh Phangan's Golden Season 1995 coming soon!

Up Soi Katoey

In the restaurant at Varinda one morning, one of the rough and tough Swedish guys had his head in his hands, moaning to the table.  We thought he was just nursing a hangover, until his moans became louder and more lucid.

"Oh no! 15 yrs! Oh NOOO!", he groaned, in a deep guttural lament.

It took us a while to get him to elucidate, but when he did we were crying with laughter.  Fifteen years in Thailand and he was proud to say he'd never slept with a ladyboy.  Fifteen years in the Land of Smiles and had never been duped yet... until last night.

Drunk enough to believe he was taking home a coy and lovely Thai lady, he'd woken up with a shock to find he had a SheMan in his bed.

A ladyboy with hairy legs.

backpacking in thailand
Me & hometown buddy Neil Neil Orange Peel at Varinda 1994
Later, I had my first conversation with a Thai ladyboy in that Varinda restaurant.  It was the early hours of New Year's Day 1995 and the Newmarket crew had gone to bed, to avoid the random company in the restaurant...

... A gay guitarist from an aging Swedish rock band, a couple of Lamai smack heads, and a pair of ladyboys, regaling their tales and showing me their fake tits...

"Ever since I was a little child, I knew I wanted to be a girl", said the graceful creature with the manly face and the perfect silicone breasts.  Her other line, which I will never forget, was, "I want a man who can toss me around like a lettuce".

That was it.

Ladyboys were destined to become my best friends from there on after.

I was hooked, by all the enchantment and debauchery... by all the Thailand madness... and by the Wild Samui Times!

Wild Times at the Full Moon Party 1994

Thai Whiskey and Temples: Bangkok Bound 1994

This post first appeared on Mia Escobud Koh Phangan Tales, please read the originial post: here

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Enchantment and Debauchery - Wild Samui Times 1994


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