Koh Samui | Thailand | Couchsurfing with Alex

I ONLY PLANNED TO SPEND A FEW DAYS on Koh Samui to a shoot a wedding, but a few days turned into a week, and it became one of those experiences that left me saying, “this is why I travel.”

I’ve couchsurfed all over the world, but couchsurfing in Europe in 2005 will always stand out, because it was my first big trip. It’s like falling in love for the first time. Though I am still in awe of each place I go, there’s nothing like one’s first taste of the road, and for me, couchsurfing was a big part of that. In Lusanne Switzerland, my host Jerome greeted me with swiss chocolate, pizza, and hookah, and my own room overlooking Lake Geneva. I met my friend Sophie in Lyon, France when I surfed her couch, and had a magical weekend in the countryside with her and her friends. (We’ve since seen each other two more times). I had a free boat tour and private scuba diving excursion while couchsurfing in Australia with Meg. I met Alison, who took me on a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. The list goes on. Couchsurfing is not only a way to experience culture and meet new people, it is, for many people, a way of life, a philosophy, a value system.

Every once in a while (actually more often than not), I meet hosts that go above and beyond, and Alex was just one of those guys. I was immediately comfortable in his home and his presence; it was as though we had met before. Alex moved to Koh Saumi from Russia after a friend encouraged him to pack up his bags and live on the beach. He works as a translator, and since he works mostly from home, we had a lot of time to explore the island on his motorbike and widdle away hours at his favorite beach spots. We spent our evenings down the street at a new pool bar called lucky lips (haha) where we got to know the local ladies (oh yea), and I frequently kicked Alex’s ass in pool.

Our mornings were lazy, but eventually, we’d cruise into town to find the best coffee on the island. We also put away a lot of pad thai and Tom Kha Gai soup at Alex’s favorite food joints. “This is the best soup I’ve found on the island, and I’ve had a lot of soup.” Tom Kai Gai is a traditional soup that I’d had many times but not like this.This was, as Alex affectionately called it, magic soup. It was a freaking pimped out party for your tastebuds. Where does one find this soup? A German sports bar of all places, owned by a German/Thai couple whose daughter prepares the soup. It doesn’t have an online presence yet, so you’re just going to have to ask around for directions to Baden Sports Bar.

During one of our post-swim motorbike adventures into the hills, Alex and I stumbled upon this hidden cafe with spectacular views. We enjoyed a coconut shake while we talked about life and looked down into the valley. It was at that point Alex said, “Yep, life here is pretty sweet, Erica.” And that’s all he really needed to say. “I’m coming back,” I told him.

I went to Koh Samui expecting something similar to the over-developed touristy, (but beautiful) Phuket. But I was lucky, thanks to Alex, I got to experience an underbelly of Koh Samui that few travelers do. Thank you Alex! See you next year…

alex + the magic soup

view from the hidden cafe…

post-coconut shake bliss

alex putty lips at lucky lips

the beach

morning coffee

my attempt at this didn’t go as well, so i’m not including the pictures!

and so begins one of the most epic sunsets i’ve witnessed…

from darkness to light.

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