After nine incredible days in Thailand, one of the first pieces of advice I’d give to any rock and metal fans hoping to visit is: do not pass up the chance to hit Samui Rock Cafe. Whilst Thailand is undoubtedly known for being a party destination, what nobody tells you is that the party is often limited to dance, house and dubstep music.
These are three genres I could normally withstand on a night out with a beer in my hand and new-found friends to dance with, but which left me climbing the walls after I’d heard one too many songs with no lyrics and a relentless ‘doof-doof-doof’ beat slamming into my ear drums. Sorry, but they just don’t come close to a bit of Baba O’Riley, All Right Now or Smoke on the Water.
Having spotted the place on Google Maps when I looked up my hotel, the Nora Chaweng, I figured a pilgrimage was definitely necessary. It was with a manic grin on my face that I finally tracked down Koh Samui’s musical haven, where I could recharge my batteries and rekindle my love of all things riff-heavy and lyrically brilliant, just a five minute walk from Chaweng Beach.
Wearing its musical memorabilia firmly on its sleeve (or, more accurately, on its walls), there’s not much chance of mistaking the Samui Rock Cafe for any other run-of-the-mill watering hole. The first thing that greets visitors is the guitar-shaped sign, followed by a larger-than-life metal sculpture overlooking the street. Inside, signed posters and LPs vie for attention alongside other trophies, from backstage gig passes donated by customers, to a brilliantly accurate painting of Paul Weller, a.k.a. the Modfather.
With so much to look at, it’s fair to say that I was spoilt for choice, but thankfully the owner, Dan, was happy to show me around and explain the significance of every single piece in this carefully composed collection, including posters signed by the Clash and the Eagles, a Woodstock contract for the Who and a rare Russian Iron Maiden LP. There’s a personal history to each object, so nothing got here by accident, even down to the autobiography of Slash above the glass cabinet which holds the Grateful Dead figurines.
He only took on ownership of the cafe six months ago, but already Dan’s made it his own, transforming forlorn-looking walls into the perfect backdrop for this living museum of rock, and adding live music every Sunday, as well as a cracking playlist running at all other times, featuring everything from Jimi Hendrix to Slayer. If you’re sick of hearing yet more house music, you’ll be overjoyed to retreat to a place where the guitar solo is king. The cafe proudly attracts a global audience, with locals being joined not just by Brits, but also by Russians (“they love their metal,” says Dan), Germans (“a lot of them are into punk,”) and Americans, amongst others.
What’s more, Dan has made sure there’s a talented Thai chef on hand to whip up local and international favourites for hungry patrons, so you can fuel up as you listen. “Some of our bestsellers are the pulled pork sandwich and the cheeseburger,” he told me, but I couldn’t resist tucking into a Thai curry instead, and it was just as good as I’d hoped – plus, great value at 120 baht. I enjoyed mine with a bottle of Leo, just one of the irresistible Thai beers tasted during my trip.
For me, the Samui Rock Cafe was a breath of fresh air, with the chance to unwind to some of my favourite tunes and be around like-minded rock fans. I know that Dan is clearly very passionate about making the cafe a success, and I feel that his enthusiasm and friendliness is bound to lead to plenty of repeat customers. If you’re ever lucky enough to be in Koh Samui, I urge you to go and pay a visit and enjoy rocking out.
Disclaimer: I visited Thailand as a blog competition winner with Contiki.com, on their Thai Island Hopper East tour. As ever, all views are my own.