As Thailand’s third-largest island, Koh Samui isn’t exactly off the radar. But the 95-square-mile tropical gem in the southern Gulf of Thailand, whose white sand beaches, abundant coral reefs and seas of palm trees were once a backpackers’ secret, has emerged as the stylish luxury alternative to crowded Phuket.
Samui (Koh means Island in Thai) sits snugly in the Gulf of Siam close enough to the other island gems like Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao to make it a good hopping off point for divers and island lovers. Just 84 Km. east of Surat Thani, the provincial capital on the mainland, and under an hour from Bangkok by air, it is an island of towering palms and soft sandy beaches.
Some visitors are content to laze away their days on the beach but there is plenty of action for those who enjoy diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, paragliding, off-road driving and beach volleyball.
The loop-road that encircles the island is just 50 Km., and it runs past sleepy villages, coconut plantations, and superb beaches. There are tempting attractions like world class spas, a butterfly garden, a snake show, and a monkey training centre to distract one away from the beaches if needs be.
Beaches: Hat Chaweng, Hat Lamai and Hat Maenam
Hat Chaweng is the island’s longest and most beautiful beach, a 6 km. strip of powder-soft sand backed by accommodation ranging from 5* resorts to bamboo bungalows. Day time it is laid back. Night time it pulses with rhythm.
Hat Lamai is great for surfers who can relax at one of the many herbal spas behind the beach where massages and mud facials are popular are a hard day’s work riding the waves
Hai Maenam, Bophut and Bang Rak are ideal for those who want to get away from it all, the latter being known as Big Buddha Beach because of the huge Buddha statue at the eastern end of the beach.
On the south and west coasts are some isolated beaches for those in search of tranquillity but none are as perfect as those on the east coast described above.
Sports: Diving, Snorkelling, Sea Kayaking, Windsurfing & Paragliding
Diving and snorkelling are equally popular due to the clarity of the waters and the abundance of marine life. Over a dozen dive companies operate on the island and it is possible to learn to dive on holiday. With a sea-kayak the less adventurous can explore the shoreline in complete safety. To get away from the beach for a day or two, there are 4WD vehicles available for hire.
Shopping and Entertainment
Plenty of shops behing Hat Chaweng beach selling art, carved wooden goods, and beachwear, and in the capital Hat Chaweng on the west coast the same type of goods can be purchased plus one can sit and watch the port goings-on from a street café – let’s face it, most people’s favourite holiday pastime.
Local restaurants have kept pace, luring international chefs who are transforming Koh Samui into an eating destination as well. Newcomers include H-Bistro at the Hansar Samui resort, where the French-Mediterranean and Thai menu was conceived by a former private chef to the Jordanian royal family, and Orgasmic by Chef Wally, which serves innovative cocktails and dishes like cocoa butter Hokkaido scallops and freshly caught white snapper with pecan-celery mash.
The local scene goes into full swing at the weekly Sunday Sessions under the soaring thatched roofs at loungey Beach Republic, whose brunch, seafood barbecue and sunset D.J.’s are quickly becoming famous.