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The Drifters: Penniless in Koh Samui.

Summary: Our drifter HARINI SRIRAM while scouting for strip clubs in Thailand with her husband, was almost mugged and survives to tell the tale.

Harini Sriram is always making extravagant travel plans, but she might

need a crash course in finance management and how to save money. And no,

she has not stepped into a strip club ever since her trip to Koh Samui.

You'll see why.

"Come madam, watch ladyboy show, I give you good rate," said the well-intentioned gentleman on the street. There was no naughty wink or creepy smirk; it was as heartfelt as him inviting us to his home for lunch. We (my husband and I) considered it for a moment but decided to let it pass because we were headed to a strip club anyway, and we did not want the evening to become too, well, overwhelming.

It was late evening and the sun-soaked island of Koh Samui in Thailand was just about springing back to life. During the day, the Andaman Sea sparkles in a silvery turquoise hue, and on some nights, the sea is lit by a fiercely bright low-hanging moon. But that evening was all about chasing neon lights--roadside stalls and bars, high-end bistros and fine-dining restaurants, thriving comfortably in the urban-chic environment that is Chaweng Beach Road. Every night, the road sheds its lazy vibe to turn into a wild party street. After gorging on greasy tempuras (heart attack on a plate, if you like) dished out by cheerful hawkers, and swigging down tall glasses of suspicious-looking drinks at a local bar, we ambled over to the nearest strip club. Now, I'm not the kind who'd go scouting for strip clubs in a strange town, but curiosity got the better of me, in this case. So we handed the required cover charge to the stoic bouncers, who ushered us in to said strip club. But when the women started taking off their clothes and flexing their bodies as if they were rubber, around poles, I felt a tinge of sadness, because they looked seriously malnourished. I wanted to give them some food; clearly I'm not the club's target audience.

It was at this point that the woman on stage jumped over to where we were seated, asking if any of us needed a lap dance. We politely refused and were about to leave. She grabbed my hand, looked menacingly into my eyes and simply said, "I cannot let you go until you have paid me." She was beginning to creep me out. The next thing I knew, she pulled out a bunch of notes from my wallet before she disappeared into a cloud of smoke. We decided to let it go, and left for our resort, poorer by a few 100 Baht. It was not the best of days, money-wise at least, because back at our resort, we realized to our horror that all our currency was gone. And no, we hadn't spent it. It's always recommended that you keep your valuables in the locker; we had foolishly left our money in an open suitcase in the room, and were pretty much penniless.

That did not, however, stop us from exploring the gorgeous island on our rented bike, the next day. We rode up little hills, the sun burning our legs. We stumbled upon little hidden gems along the way--a secluded beach here, a lush rainforest there; bathed in waterfalls under a canopy of trees so thick you couldn't see the sky.

That evening, even as we were going around in circles, we walked into what looked like a park, only to discover that it was a rum distillery near a beach that made a special kind of coconut rum. To me, it was also re-affirmation of the fact that holidays are not about checking every box on your to-do list. tips Keep your money, passport and other valuables in the locker in your hotel room. Never walk around carrying too much cash--you can use your international debit/credit card in most cafes, pubs and stores. Sunglasses and a bottle of water is a must because it is extremely hot during the day.

Reproduced From India Today Travel Plus. Copyright 2015. LMIL. All rights reserved.

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Publication:India Today Travel Plus
Date:May 1, 2015
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