We all met at 7:30 outside Glenn and Julie's room and stormed their bed with balloons, coffee and muffins, before leaving for the harbor where a charter boat would become our home for most of the day.
The owner was French and talked profusely. He'd came to Thailand six years ago by way of California, Tahiti and the Caribbean, bought an old 19 meter sailboat and started running day-trip charters. He'd seen Koh Samui turn from a pristine road-less island peopled by fishermen to the tropical amusement park it is today. Now the native Samui, who own all the land and live lavishly from rents alone cohabit with migrant workers from Isan whom they universally despise. He seemed quite sick of the place and planned to sell everything as soon as possible before moving to the North to open a dog shelter.
We sailed for a couple hours along the coast before dropping anchor and going for a swim. Usually the waters around Koh Samui are great for snorkeling, but record-high rain in the preceding months had silted all shallow waters and visibility was down to thirty centimeters. After a couple of pathetically lame attempts at reverse half-salto dives I got out, rinsed, and toweled myself dry, just in time to catch the first drops of a warm tropical drizzle that would accompany us intermittently for the rest of the day.
Neither the silt nor the weather could put me off my tranquil good mood. Less than forty hours earlier I'd fell face first into thirty centimeters of snow and sludge while walking back from work, so maybe I wasn't too hard to please at the time, but we were all together, on the ocean without a care in the world, and way too happy to let a few drops of rain get in the way of our enjoyment.
After a lavish Thai lunch lubricated with French wine and Thai beer we headed back to port. As it came in sight we were hit by one of these short but violent rainstorms the tropics are well-known for, which had us running to get all the gear lying on the deck safely inside before it was blown off the ship. I rushed through the cabin, closing all hatches and portholes shut and screwed watertight before the rain's onslaught. Then we huddled inside waiting for the weather to clear. (It had been a while since I'd last done that…) A few minutes later, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started, leaving the boat looking like a mischievous god had just upended a colossal bucket of water over it just for kicks. We came into port fifteen minutes later in dry, windless conditions, and got back to our hotel.
After a quick power nap, we went to a New Year's party in a nearby hotel. It had the worst live band I've seen in a really long time: two guitarists, one of them singing, with cheesy backing tracks. Both guitars were out of tune. The lead guitarist played everything slightly off-tempo and had awful dynamic, constantly near-missing random notes which came out barely audible. The buffet was nice though. A tub of lobster thermidor, conveniently located three feet from our table, was refilled every twenty minutes with five whole lobsters, always gone in seconds.
As soon as 8:30 the dinner started to wane off, so we moved to the beach to light fourteen floating lanterns, which joined the many others floating past and lighting up the sky. Thais seem to love setting stuff on fire and blowing up things. On major holidays everyone buys fireworks and lights them on the street. I have fond memories of watching the King's Birthday celebrations from a 12th story hotel room in Bangkok. There were no huge choreographed fireworks, but the whole city was literally sparkling through the entire night.
On this night at Lamai Beach this meant a more or less constant barrage of fireworks fired from all over the beach. Safety regulations were either nonexistent or completely ignored. Many rockets were shot horizontally in the general direction of the sea. A quite big one failed and blew up on the ground twenty meters from us, seemingly doing no serious harm.
As we moved to a club down the beach playing hip modern hits with a sprinkling of the cheesiest house remixes ever (Scott McKenzie's San Francisco and the theme from Titanic were on heavy rotation), the lights and the fires and the sea came together to form the most amazing decor I've ever seen at a night club (Even beating the previous champion, a rooftop club just off the Las Vegas strip.) As the countdown reached midnight we just gaped at the sky with our mouths hanging open, for the first time experiencing a fireworks finale from the inside. Best. New Year's Eve. Ever.