It was twenty years ago that Koh Samui started making headlines as a traveler paradise and
proceeded to develop from there to what it is now. Once the budget travelers first stop,
Koh Samui, like much of modern Thailand has become an exotic retreat for people to whom
budget is not the main concern. This means that although there remain some traditional styled,
reasonably priced thatched bungalows, palatial villas and ultra modern resorts with all mod-cons
are taking over as the island’s main provision for tourists. That said, Samui still holds some
gorgeous scenery of unrivalled beauty.
The Samui Archipelago consists of 80 beautiful islands, although the main source of tourist
development is evident on only 3 of them. Out of this group, Koh Tao is the least developed
followed by Koh Pha-Ngan, followed by Koh Samui. However, this comes as no surprise as at
247 square kilometers, Koh Samui is Thailand’s third biggest island and also one of the most
accessible due to its international airport. However, generally the island has maintained much
of its famed natural beauty thanks to tight policy regarding building height and litter control.
Nathon The gateway to paradise - by boat, Nathon's allure lies on its traditional and Chinese
Most of the government offices are located here, as Nathon is the
Sloping hill tops and rocky shores characterize the sleepy town of Lamai. Home to the natural wonders,
Hin Ta & Hin Ya rocks, Lamai houses many residents and is known for its laid back atmosphere..
Known for its vibrant night life juxtaposed with the longest stretch of white sand on the island,
by far the most popular beach. As the heart of Koh Samui, getting around is easy and
shopping a breeze.
Accommodation ranges from inexpensive beach front bungalows to upscale
A melting pot of culture & cuisine, Bophut has an enormous array of places to stay from cheap little
to fancy suites. Set in the middle of Bophut is Fisherman's Village, a quaint lane full of little
trinkets to delectable goodies.
Serene and secluded, Maenam offers a different kind of vacation for honeymooners and families
alike. A charming beach and a beautiful sunset makes Maenam a splendid choice for your stay
on Koh Samui.
Tucked away and extremely private, Choengmon is a perfect destination for honeymooners.
With a luxurious accommodation range and a tranquil atmosphere, Choengmon is a charming nook
just a few minutes from the airport.
Koh Samui's little secret is far from the developing trend of the island. Taling Ngam is home to many
local villages and rubber tapping farms. With lush vegetation an unparalleled views of surrounding ilses,
Taling Ngam is a beautiful area unbeknown to most.
As one of the most popular Thai islands, Koh Samui sees large numbers of tourists especially between
December and February and July and August. Samui also has a long high season – 10 months with only
October and November being the low. The rest of the year the island is rarely quiet. At peaks of the
season, un-reserved accommodation can be hard to find. This can be said of the smaller less developed
beaches; as well as the busy, commercial ones.
The Big Buddha
As well as Big Buddha - Samui’s top tourist attraction, Hin Ta and Hin Yai the famous phallic shaped rock formations just south of Lamai on the east coast really have to be seen to be believed! As do the natural coral beds of Laem Sed and Tong Takien. The island’s top two waterfalls: Hin Lad and Na Muang (the latter comprising two separate falls) are a must. As well as a 150 year old teak house at Ban Thale containing beautiful wood sculptures.
Heaven’s Garden is an unusual art gallery set high in the rolling hills of the islands forested interior – definitely worth visiting with a personal collection of works, some tiny some enormous – all in a beautiful “secret” garden. Be sure to wear good shoes!
Although now home to over 40,000 year round inhabitants, Samui was first attractive to settlers for what was until fairly recently the island’s main money maker for locals; coconuts. And this is reflected in the food and even the culture of the local people. Although you really need to get into the villages to find real island culture as many of the tourist based businesses are now foreign owned or operated. Be sure to try a fresh coconut or a shake while you’re there.
Most of the Thai residents of Samui are Buddhist and the temples on the island are big tourist attractions – most notably Big Buddha temple with a 12 metre high Buddha on top of the modern temple.
Samui is famed for its wild nightlife and although recent new laws limiting late closing are being more, it’s still possible to find a later than allowed drink with very little effort.
Chaweng Soi Green Mango – Samui’s main entertainment street at the north end of Chaweng Beach Road is a mecca for revelers and caters to various tastes with commercial dance music, Thai pop and hip hop competing for customer’s attentions. Stand in the middle of the street and you’ll be bombarded with it all! Throw into the mix an assortment of girly/go go bars where the staff will happily thrash you at pool, table football and connect four, ladyboy shows and fast food – You can’t fail to have an interesting evening! Any night of the week is heaving with up for it party people at various levels of sobriety, especially by midnight when this one small street is absolutely rammed area at the one end with the Soi naming Green Mango Club tends to get busiest earliest along with the Sweet Soul Cafe' just a few steps away. Unless it’s burned down (again!), The Reggae Pub near Chaweng Lake plays surprisingly little reggae apart from their live bands but is well worth a visit and the whole Chaweng Beach Road area especially leading to Soi Green Mango is awash with bars and eateries from Aussie to Swiss, Brit to Brazillian – you can eat in any nationality and then trundle up to the Mango to see what’s what!
Lamai Beach a little further south is another hive of entertainment action but with a slighty more subdued scene. It’s still full of bars and clubs and a stroll around main bars and shopping area here is a good night out.
Most of the other areas also have their own little scene going on – just not on the scale of Chaweng and Lamai. Bo Phut for example has more of a cool, chilled, cafe' bistro scene. The Fisherman’s Village there takes you along the beach where several great, chilled bars and restaurants. We really like the Balinese styled The Coffee and Starfish a sort of Arabian nights feel bar/restaurant right by the sea.
Bangkok Airways have regular flights to Samui – they also own the airport (which is styled much like a resort itself) so It’s wise to book early as once the flights are full, that’s it. At the moment no other airline flies to the island.
Ferries arrive from Surat Thani dock regularly and take 2.5 hours from the mainland (or 1.5 hours by speed boat), arriving on the less developed west coast at the main port town of Na Thon. Taxis are in the form of songthaews (translated literally it means “two rows”) a staple of Thai local transport – a roofed pick up truck with a bench seat down each side and a pile of plastic stools to place down the middle for additional seating if/when it gets full. While sharing is the norm, it is possible to hire one to yourself for a specific journey. As with most things in Thailand, a bit of friendly negotiation before getting inside may well save you a few Baht. As these vehicles cruise along tourist areas they constantly toot their horns to let you know they are there and ready for business even if you’re walking in the opposite direction to their set route! It’s never a problem if you just miss one – there will be another along in seconds.