Samui Wining & Dining
Is there a line between work and play?


In order for tourists to enjoy the wonderful island of Samui, there needs to be a fair few people working behind the scenes to make it all happen. Resorts and hotels which can’t ever close, restaurants open seven days a week, entertainment every night and bars that don’t close until the early hours of the morning.


Working on Samui is tricky, because you have a very distinct high season and a very distinct low season. High season runs roughly from the middle of November to the middle of February, but this varies depending on who you speak to. There’ll be a few months of craziness followed by a very distinct lull. Hotels and resorts might have longer high seasons compared to smaller tour companies, for example. Some places might even take on extra staff around the high season just to cope with the influx of tourists eager to explore this small island.


We’ve spoken to a few small bar owners on the island and they often say the same thing. It’s all too easy to join their patrons having a few drinks, and before they know it, they’ve been drinking all night. If you have a bar manager and staff that work alongside you, sitting at the end of the bar with a pint of beer discussing the latest football defeat is okay, but if you’re a ‘one man shop’, it’s different. Or is it…


We spoke to one bar owner in Bangrak, who laughed and said that drinking with his bar patrons is the highlight of his evenings. We must point out that this is a small, personalised bar and whenever you go there, it’s more like visiting a mate than going to a bar for a night out.


The owner of a bar in Maenam, used to open the bar at 6:00 pm and drink with his patrons until 2:00 am. Luckily he was able to handle this with little effect on the service or the atmosphere. The crowd that frequented his bar were usually lively, and enjoyed the fact that he could relax with them and, again, it felt more like being round someone’s house than in a bar.


Restaurants are a little different. They don’t usually stay open until early morning, and often close before midnight, which gives the owners and the staff at least a chance at a semi-normal day. The staff in a restaurant don’t usually mix with the patrons during their shifts, but often will choose to go out after their shifts and relax a little. But it is all too easy to finish work and then head to your local bar to relax. Before you know it, it’s closing time and you know you’ve got to be up early for your shift again tomorrow.


With bigger hotels and resorts, the separation is very distinct. Rules of employment state very clearly that drinking on the job is forbidden. But that doesn’t stop staff from taking time to speak to their guests and make them feel at home. It just means they can’t dance on the tables at night time after enjoying happy hour. I’m wondering how the staff working in night clubs feel? Having to work while everyone around them is partying wildly and having a great time. We all know there’s nothing worse than being the only sober one in a group of ‘merry’ friends who’ve enjoyed one or two (or five) alcoholic beverages. Staff at Ark Bar are always rushed off their feet anyway so don’t have time to even think about joining the party, let alone dance on the tables. They do however always manage a smile which is nice. The bar staff at Green Mango might be seen dancing around behind the bar but I doubt they’re allowed to drink while on shift.


Then there is the whole concept of ‘Thai time’. Something which can only be viewed as ‘flexible lateness’. You must have come across it? You make an appointment for 10:00 am and the person breezes in at 10:37 am, no apologies, sits down and starts the meeting. You wait patiently for an apology or an explanation but one doesn’t appear. This is ‘Thai time’. But this can work to your advantage. If you were out sampling the ‘buy one, get one free’ offers at a new mojito bar last night and you had an early 9:00 am meeting, you could decide to work on ‘Thai time’ and arrive at 9:30 am which would allow you an extra half hour in bed, or an extra half hour to allow the pain killers to work on your thumping head.


Maybe it’s the constant sunshine or the readily available cocktails, but the line between work and play can easily be blurred when living on an island. It seems as if the rules here are different from the ‘real’ world, but on the whole, nobody really minds.


 Colleen Setchell


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