One of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand and located 84 km’s east of the town of Surat Thani in the Gulf of Thailand. Although the island is busy and full of traffic, it’s still possible to find some wonderful secluded location and a true taste of the country.
It’s easy to get there from Bangkok with buses and trains leaving frequently. The overnight sleeper train is very comfortable but if you get cold easily do not take the air conditioned cabin, no matter how hot you are or you’ll freeze and not get any sleep! The buses are not comfortable at all and if you do take one; do not leave anything valuable in your bag for under the bus as things tend to go missing. On the bus always hug your valuables and don’t put them under the seat or overhead. Get off the train at Surat Thani and catch a ferry to Samui. You can also catch a flight from Bangkok or a few other locations in Thailand and even international flights to Samui from Hong Kong, Singapore or Malaysia.
It used to be quite simple to find a cheap bungalow with a fan on Samui but now due to the popularity of the island, it’s not so easy anymore if you want to be around the action. In saying that you can find a simple double room with fan close to Lamai Beach for $10 but you get what you pay for and it’s not the nicest area. A dorm bed can be found for less than $5 and a bungalow for $15 and this is great for the budget traveller but if you’re after a romantic holiday or something more upmarket then you’ll have to pay for it. 5 star resorts start at $130 a night all the way up to super deluxe for $500 a night. Some of the accommodation is so luxurious in Samui that you won’t believe your eyes.
There’s a myriad of things to do on Samui, the most wonderful being immersing yourself in the Thai culture and the area’s natural beauty. The Big Buddha monument, which stands a whopping 15 metres tall, is one of the most popular attractions and a great photo opportunity. The Namuang Waterfall is a lovely walk and great for a refreshing dip.
You can visit the butterfly farm or see the incredible show at the snake farm. There are canopy adventures, every type of watersport, go karting, horse riding, water parks and great classes such as authentic thai cooking and Muy Thai Kickboxing. Relax on the beach (which sometimes isn’t relaxing with all the touts trying to sell you something), or try some yoga, massage or beauty treatments which are very cheap.
Diving and snorkelling are extremely popular activities but the reef around Samui is really only good for training so most people take a trip to Koh Tao or Koh Phangan which can be organised by any dive centre or tourist operation around the island.
There are so many great restaurants to try, from super cheap fried rice and curries to more expensive seafood feasts. If you’re looking for a great night out head to Chaweng for all the clubs and party the night away.
Please be careful of thieves and scammers on the island, they are everywhere and looking for the next unsuspecting victim. Always take care of your belongings, especially in guesthouses where you think everything is safe but people can break in easily. Be sure to check reviews online of places you’re staying at to see if anyone encountered any problems. Bargain for the items you'd like to buy, cut the price they give you in half and that will be about right. Make them wrap your things in front of you so you know you have what you paid for.
Hire a car if you want to really see the island and find those secret hideaways away from the really touristy areas.
(By Kelly Luckman)