If you fancy hot and humid island getaways with an exotic flavour, get down to Koh Samui
It’s not difficult to be lured in by Koh Samui’s enticing atmosphere, as we recently found out on a trip to this Thai island. If you want to swap the madness of Bangkok for a tropical island getaway, it’s definitely the place to go.
Koh Samui is the third largest island in Thailand but is sometimes overshadowed by its party island neighbour Koh Phangan.
What to do
If you are in the mood for some cruising I would suggest hiring a motorcycle for the day and putt-putting around the island at your leisure. It costs about 150 Baht per day and there is literally a motorcycle shop at every corner. Just remember to wear a helmet – the roads are crazy in Thailand! Those that are in the mood for a party should head straight to Chaweng Beach. The beaches are packed full of bars and restaurants and there is a general party atmosphere wherever you go. If you’re looking for a vibe, but with a touch of sophistication and relaxation then Bophut beach will definitely appeal to you. The area is popular with families and stress-free backpackers.
Budding and experienced scuba divers should definitely book a few dives here as the prices are very reasonable and there is some excellent diving at Sail Rock and Koh Tao. Check out www.easydivers-thailand.com for more information.
Even the nature lover and outdoors enthusiast will have something to do in Koh Samui as there are various trails throughout the island which can be taken on foot or enjoyed on the back of a horse or elephant. There is kayaking, jeep jungle tours, snorkelling, spas and fishing. Be sure to make a trip to Namuang Waterfall near Ban Thurian.
Where to stay
Try to get some accommodation (and believe me there are loads of hotels!) that is on the beach or very close to it, such as Bophut or Lamai, which are great locations. You can then swim, snorkel and tan to your heart's delight – this is a holiday destination after all! Koh Samui has various choices from bare basic to absolute luxury. We stayed in the New Hut Bungalows at Lamai Beach, which falls into the bare basic category – literally a thatched bungalow with a bed, fan, toilet and shower (a pipe coming out of the wall producing only cold water). But when you open the door and are greeted by the beautiful Lamai Beach, you remember what it is that you are here for. Plus, it’s a bargain at 500 Thai Baht per bungalow per night. The resort staff need a slight attitude readjustment, but the onsite restaurant is fantastic and you can book island tours and other facilities all within a few steps from your bungalow.
If you are looking for something a little more comfortable – say with warm water and air-conditioning, I would highly recommend Lamai Inn 99. The staff are friendly and helpful and the rooms are spacious. Of course, you pay for the increase in comfort – prices range from 900 Baht to 3200 Baht, depending on the type of villa and season.
Where to eat
For breakfast get down to Ninja Crepes at Lamai Beach (Moo 4, Ring Road, North Lamai). Their fresh fruit juices are heavenly and the food is just as good. Their menu is varied and includes almost traditional English breakfasts, pancakes and other more exotic Thai items. If you miss breakfast, they also offer various meals which can be enjoyed throughout the day.
One day we stopped off at Big Rock Restaurant (077-422 474), on the road between Lamai and Chaweng, on our round-island excursion and had a delicious meal. The venue offers unrivalled ocean views while the meals are cheap-as-chips and oh so good.
On several occasions we ate at the New Hut Bungalows' restaurant (Moo 4, Tambon Maret, Lamai Beach), which has fantastic cocktails and a wide menu including decently-priced Asian and Western cuisine. They also have a happy hour where you can enjoy your favourite cocktails for less!
The Swing Bar (Moo 3, Lamai) is certainly a unique experience, and you can lounge on the beach couches outside while sipping one of their yummy cocktails served in provocative glasses. Swing Bar offers free internet and pool tables, and they also host regular parties with DJs playing funky house and electro music.
Be careful when eating out at Chaweng beach, as some restaurants tend to be unnecessarily pricey. You can afford to be picky because reasonably priced eateries literally come a dime a dozen here.
The most common and cheapest way to get to the island is to take a ferry transfer from Surat Thani or Don Sak (about 200 – 400 Baht). If you buy a package from a tour operator the transfer will usually be included in the cost. There are many train-ferry, bus-ferry options available from travel agents in Thailand. Just ensure that you have a rough idea of going rates and how to bargain, or you might get taken for a ride, so to speak.
You can also pick up some low-cost airfares on Bangkok Airways to the island if you book well enough in advance.