Samui Wining & Dining

There’s all sorts on offer on Chaweng Beach, including the good, the bad and the very, very hairy.


“Why do people keep putting monkeys on my head?” I wrote in a recent Facebook status update. What preluded this seemingly nonsensical statement took place one Sunday afternoon on Chaweng Beach, as I was happily sitting with some friends in a quiet bar. On this particular day, however, Samui’s beach vendors were out in full force. But not just any beach vendors - monkey handlers. I’m not entirely sure if there had been a new shipment of the hairy little fellas or what, but there were at least six men with monkeys draped around their necks, circulating the stretch of beach I was sitting on. The concept of their business strategy seemed to be that the handler thrusts the monkey onto you, takes a picture, and then demands you to pay him money for the privilege.

      I’m convinced I have one of those faces that says to people, “I’m too polite to say no to you.” because no matter how many times I said no, they kept coming back, again and again, just plonking their poor - admittedly extremely cute - baby monkeys right on the top of my head. All I could think was, “You can’t just go around putting monkeys on people’s heads!

What if I had an allergy to, or phobia of, monkeys? How does he know?” He, of course wasn’t even remotely concerned with those potential outcomes, and enthusiastically asked me for the umpteenth time, “Ma-am, you want picture?” I of course declined. And declined. And declined. And after realizing that my nos were falling on deaf ears, I resorted to a passive aggressive means of expression, otherwise known as the Facebook status.

        Now, I am not entirely sure if some beach vendors suffer from amnesia, or whether they just ask you again and again, within ten-minute intervals, hoping that you’ll eventually be worn down and succumb, purely for an easy life. Either way, it’s very annoying. “Mai aow” is a Thai phrase you must internalise if you’re to keep your sanity in the face of, what can only be described as, an endless onslaught of exceedingly irritating individuals with more persistence than manners. It means, “No want,” which is probably true of the vast majority of the stuff the average beach vendor will be trying to flog you.

          And then there are the guilt-tripping children with their flower garlands and Connect Four games who aren’t any better at taking on board your polite nos. Take them on at Connect Four and there’s no way you’re going to win. It’s not that they have the game down to a fine art, it’s more than that, they have it down to a precise science - you’ve got no chance whatsoever. Before people inevitably become desensitized to the whole under-age labour concept of these little kids selling you stuff on the beach, some opt to help one out by buying a flower garland. The problem with this undeniably kind gesture, however, is that once you buy something from one vendor, they’ll see it as weakness and all pounce on you. You’ve highlighted yourself as a target, and now there’s no escape. You’ve either got to turn rude, or just move to a different patch of beach - most inevitably resort to the latter

          But it’s not all doom and gloom, and nobody likes a moaner. There are also some beach vendors selling things you actually want to buy. Handmade local jewellery constructed of pretty shells collected from the beach, for example, or knock-off Ray Bans that’ll fool all your friends back home.

          Those guys that walk around with big boards that have all sorts of bits and bobs pinned to them tend to be the most popular of the beach vendors. But it’s still standard protocol with any Thai street vendor to barter down the price, and if you accept their starting quote you’re probably paying too much. Some people enjoy a spot of haggling, while others find it a real pain. Either way, it’s worth trying to get at least a little discount.

          You can find straw-hat vendors on the beach on Samui too. Finally a commodity that makes perfect sense to sell here - you’re on the beach and it’s sunny, naturally you want a hat. So at least logic prevails in this case. Often they’re handmade by the person selling them too, so you’re really supporting the local trade by picking one up. Plus, the fact that they’re so cheap means you can wear the thing for the duration of your trip and not feel bad leaving it behind when you return home. That’s if it doesn’t break before then anyway.


 Christina Wylie


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