Koh Samui. Thailand.
Koh Samui is a small island off the South East coast of Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand measuring approximately 20 miles by 30 miles. It is approximately 700 km South of Bangkok. The main industries are fishing, coconut production and now tourism. It is surrounded by approximately 60 smaller islands which can be reached by various ferries and smaller boats.
The capital town is called Nathon which is on the West coast and is one of the main ports of arrival from the Thai Mainland. The first settlers to the islands were fishermen and they first arrived around about 1500 years ago.
Traditionally the eldest son inherited the coconut plantations which meant that they were quite fortunate from a financial point of view however it left the other siblings to inherit the areas nearer the seaside. However today with tourism there is a complete reversal in riches for the siblings who inherited the land nearest the sea as these areas have been bought by hotels and others to build big resort hotels and bungalows.
It used to be a back packers paradise and to a certain extent it still is. However there are now five star hotels dotted around the island. Many young people backpack to Koh Samui. They tend to go to the smaller island of koh Phangan for the moon party where lots of open air parties take place on the beach that happen on the night of the full moon.
The fastest way is to take a plane by Bangkok airways from Bangkok taking roughly one hour. Bangkok airways were exclusively the only airline to operate to this island. Bangkok airways built the unique airport on Koh Samui which is open air and is known as a boutique airport and it has just recently been expanded and upgraded.
By train and Ferry.
You can take a train roughly 10 hours from Bangkok to Surathani and then a bus to the port to catch a ferry from Dansak to Nathon which takes approximately 3-4 hours or 6-8 hours overnight if travelling at night. A first class sleeper bed on the express train from Bangkok costs approximately £25.
You can take a bus from Bangkok to Koh Samui which takes approximately 12 hours and is the cheapest option. There are various types of bus offering comfort in the VIP buses which are better than the A/C buses and certainly much more comfortable than on the basic buses. The journey is the same as above to Surathani then to the port at Dansak to catch the ferry to Koh Samui.
On arrival at Nathon there are plenty of people waiting at the harbour side offering you rooms in their bungalows for very reasonable prices.
The main tourist resorts are;
Chaweng bay which is the busiest of all the resorts with a variety of accommodation to match any budget. It has a 7 mile beach which has white sand and is very nice. It can get very crowded on the beach especially in the high season. This is more westernised of all the resorts and is typically where the younger elements hang out in the bars and restaurants. There are beach sellers who walk the beach trying to sell you all sorts of things from pineapples, cakes, drinks, trinkets and other nik- naks. They are very pleasant and gracious as are all the people of Thailand please don't be rude or nasty to them they are only trying to make a living either just say no or avoid eye contact and they will leave you alone. There is an inland lake with various water activities available
Lamai is the next town south along the coast from Chaweng which is a bit quieter than Chaweng and has nice beaches too. Various water activities are available from the beach.
Chong mon is a small resort north of Chaweng and has a beautiful beach in a bay.
The next bay north of Chong Mon is Tongsai bay which is an exclusively owned bay totally cut off from Chong Mon which I shall write about in a separate review.
To the North is the resort of Bophut from where you can catch ferries to the other islands or boat tours around the island. Bophut is spread out along the coast and does not appear to have much of a heart to it. The small hotels and larger hotels tend to keep their clientele inside the hotels.
Everywhere you go in Koh Samui there are Buddhist temples scattered here and there.
There are lots of Wats (temples) and Chedi's (not from sci-fi fame) around the island and the following are very beautiful to visit.
Bophut at big Buddha beach there is a temple complex with a massive Buddha over 12 meters high which can be seen for miles around. It is built on top of a hill and you can walk up the fifty odd stairs to reach it which has fantastic views over the bay and out to sea.
Near by on the 1471 road from Big Buddha beach to Chon Mon there is also another temple complex called Wat Plai Laem which is still being added to. It is absolutely beautiful, lots of colour and gold leaf abounds and there is one temple that is built on what appears to be a lotus leaf on a fish filled lake. There is a crematorium and another big Buddha with 18 arms.
In the south of the island is Wat Kunaram which has a mummified priest swathed in orange cloth. The priests name is Loung Por Ruam who died in 1973 and his body has not decomposed. It is still intact and he is sitting in the lotus position. He is wearing hideous black sunglasses though.
Other things to do and see in Koh Samui.
Mountain trekking on foot or by 4x4, jungle trekking on elephants. 4x4 trips safaris, water sports including diving, scuba diving, sailing water skiing, water bikes, sailing, beaches, eating, shopping, Thai Boxing, Thai dancing shows. Snake farms ( which was off my agenda) General sight seeing. A word of warning though if you are touring the island be careful in the mountains as some of the roads are impassable due to them unmade roads and unless you have a 4x4 you will not even be able to negotiate some of the very steep inclines. The mountain areas afford breath taking views across the island to the other islands off shore.
There are plenty of spa opportunities (some expensive) and massage is available on the beach which is very cheap. There are also some very unsavoury massage parlours which you may not want to see and should be avoided. There are lots of bars and restaurants that cater for all tastes.
Cost of living is extremely low and in some of the shops you are able to bargain as they usually ask for more than the item is worth. For you folks who like to see a bit of homeland there is a massive Tesco lotus supermarket. The usual burger kings, Mcdonalds, starbucks etc etc. But why when Thai food is absolutely delicious.
One little gem of note is a place in the north of the island called Fisherman's village, which comes alive in the evening. There are little shops and lots of various restaurants dotted throughout the village. The food is absolutely fantastic and also very cheap. What more could you want sitting beside the sea with the water lapping against the shore, the moon shimmering across the bay the restaurant lit by candle light whilst eating pineapple fried rice and gargantuan prawns in garlic and the obligatory cocktails and wine.
Koh Samui is my kind of place its laid back and beautiful.