Thailand’s third largest island Samui is among the country’s most popular tourist destinations. A mere 25 km across at its widest, Koh Samui packs in a lot: tropical forests, eco-tourism, temples, pristine beaches, waterfalls, luxury resorts, spas, restaurants, cabarets, watersports.This island getaway also attracts the rich and the famous, in droves. What also draws them to Samui is the perfect climate, a hospitable population and spectacular food.
Located off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus, Koh Samui is the main island in the Samui archipelago. At its centre is an uninhabitable mountain jungle, the various lowland areas around it connected by a single road, that circumnavigates the island. The island’s capital Nathon, on the west coast is the main commercial centre. Historically speaking, the island was probably first settled centuries ago by fishermen from Malaysia and Southern China. It also appears on Ming Dynasty maps dating back to 1687, under the name Pulo Cornam. Until the late 20th century, Samui was an isolated self- sufficient community, having little connection with the mainland of Thailand.
Today it is a perfect resort island catering to discerning travellers from all over with a product that is sophisticated and laid-back, ideal for planning memorable weddings. Whatever one may demand of the island, it meets the brief perfectly making dreams come true.
Famous for its beautiful beaches, Samui is all about luxuriating under the sun. Of the beaches, Chaweng Beach is the most popular, a long strip of sand lined with restaurants, resorts, shops and resorts. Close by is Lamai that ranks just behind Chaweng in popularity. Choeng Mon Bay on Koh Samui’s northern coast is home to the island’s largest single collection of top class resorts.
The island is rich in natural resources, but visitors come mainly for its white sandy beaches, as well as the numerous tropical island adventure opportunities it offers. Accommodations in all price ranges still exist but high-end hotels and resorts – by design chic, hip, and sophisticated – are slowly edging the traditional places out, making the island a destination for those who enjoys travelling in luxury and style.
There’s a lot more to Samui than just getting a tan on the beaches, eating at Fisherman’s Village, hanging out in the Chaweng or Lamai bars, or going island hopping. Activities can range from typical island sightseeing to more exciting and extreme adventures – just ask tour operator nearby, or in, your hotel.
People don’t really go to Samui for sightseeing, but if you are interested, there’s much to see beyond the white sandy beaches. Foremost perhaps is the Hinta-Hinyai (Grandfather and Grandmother Rock), a whimsical aberration of nature that never fails to elicit a smile from visitors; the Big Buddha of course, and the Fisherman’s Village in Bophut. There are the usual museums, temples, Thai night markets, animal zoos and farms of course, and for those staying longer – the nearby islands and islets
Visitors are spoiled for choice as far as dining out goes in Samui. In Chaweng, They range from the dependable and affordable such as Captain Kirk and Gringo’s Cantina to the pricey Chez Andy; Olivio and the restaurants of Centara Grand Beach Resort (don’t miss Zico’s Brazilian) and Amari Palm Reef in North Chaweng, which ranges from moderately priced to pricey. But definitely the in place to dine in style these days is Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village where you gaze out on nostalgic wooden houses and quaint local shops reminding one of days gone by in Samui while enjoying the best of Thai, French, Italian, Indian, Mexican and seafood.
There are also several pubs and a couple of bakeries offering standard European-Style snacks and typical British and Australian pub food here. A Samui restaurant that gets people forever talking is Dining On the Rocks at Six Senses Hideaway, an impressive and a pretty unforgettable sensual and truly luxurious experience. Some say it’s over-rated, but it depends on you. Four Seasons Samui also boasts restaurants that set the bar higher such as the flagship Lan Tania (Thai and Italian) and Pla Pla.
Try also H-Bistro of Hansar Samui Resort , and yes, the award-winning Zazen Restaurant. Other seriously fashionable dining and wining haunts: Beach Republic in Lamai and Nikki Beach. From jet setters parting for the weekend to the local sexy sunbather, Nikki Beach Koh Samui calls itself “the ultimate beachclub and the sexiest place on earth” with good reason. You can spend the day sipping champagne on a signature day bed while ordering a la carte from a cuisine that can be rightfully termed global. Of course, this list is hardly complete – there will probably be other great restaurants for stylish dining near your resort, and if you fancy experiencing those on the other end of the price spectrum, there would be many too.
Because Samui is surrounded by about 60 other islands (the so-called the Ang Thong Marine National Park) as well as other tourist destinations such as Koh Phangan – famous for its Full Moon parties; and Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan (great springboard for diving adventures) – you must plan an extra dayortwotomakeyourtripcomplete. Andforthatlocaltouch, don’t miss the old Samui capital of Nathon, on the southwest coast of the island. It is a charming place with a houses and landmarks that as one writer say, “whisper of an exotic history”.
Samui’s weather is relatively dry the whole year round. When it does rain, it usually doesn’t last long just about 20 to 60 minutes, except during the rainy season – usually from June to October. Thus anytime of the year is a good time to visit.
Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways fly from Bangkok to Samui for a total of 23 direct flights a day.
Trains leave Bangkok in the evening and arrive in Suratthani early the next morning daily. At the Suratthani Train Station are buses, which go to the ferry pier to Samui (20 minutes).
Many bus companies provide service from Bangkok to Samui. They generally leave Bangkok in the evening and arrive in Suratthani early next morning. From Surat, a ferryboat takes you to the island.