Koh Samui, a pearl among Thailand’s beaches
When I think of Thailand’s beaches I have in mind Koh Samui and Koh Lanta, the two islands that for different reasons truly conquered me, but today’s leading subject is Koh Samui.
Koh Samui is a popular island in the South of the country, loved by international backpackers since the 70’s and you can actually see and feel it strolling around the foreign managed waterfront.
The island offers a neverending series of white sandy beaches and more or less trendy bays.
Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach along the east coast are the two most fashionable because the sea is undoubtedly most beautiful than elsewhere, but this involves a being harassed by street vendors on the seashore and businesses such as restaurant chains, supermarkets, nightclubs, Mc Donald’s etc. This is not the Thailand I was excited and speechless about!
After a short reconnaissance I have in fact preferred to move to Bo Phut, the old fishing village located further north. Here there are still traditional buildings in teak and bamboo, small restaurants by the sea and human-size resorts. Almost all the restaurants and bars are however managed by Western and obviously both style and prices are affected.
The archipelago around instead is just breathtaking! Even if it can only be visited with huge noisy motorboats or ferries for 200 passengers. Too bad, I would have liked to rent a small fishing boat…
What to do in Koh Samui
The tourist offer in Koh Samui is very diverse and you will have plenty of choice:
- an elephant-back trekking in the jungle, which is actually something I really do not like. I can’t stand to see chains around their paws nor the scars on their forehead, produced by that sort of small hammer used by Burmese tamers. On the other hand, I can understand the desire to try it once
- a catamaran trip to both dive and snorkel or to simply enjoy the sea breeze and the lapping
- a big game fishing trip, which I did’n tried because departure is at dawn and waking up that early for this kind of activity is not my cup of tea
- a visit to the butterfly garden and/or the zoo, which I skipped cause of my clear problem with animals kept in cages
- the many waterfalls scattered in the jungle, ideal to enjoy the shade and have fun
And then there are of course many Buddhist temples:
- my favorite one is the Laem Sor Pagoda, a shiny small temple on a rock overlooking the sea. Amazing!
- the Wat Phra Phutthabat, known for the four carved footprints of the Buddha and for the breathtaking views over the whole island
- the highly popular “Big Buddha” temple in Koh Fan, a small island connected to Koh Samui via a dirt path
- the Wat Kunaram, a sort of tourist-pilgrimage site due to the mummy of a monk died in the 80s while meditating. The mummy is preserved under a glass case in the sitting musing position and were made to wear sunglasses… I didn’t like it, but it seems I’m an exception
For all these tours I suggest you rent a scooter.
And the islands nearby:
- Ko Phangan, well known for its beautiful heavenly beaches, but especially for the Full Moon Party that entertains and shakes thousands of young people coming from everywhere and fills the pockets of the local travel agencies. I have been to Koh Samui two weeks before the party and the “ticket” to the party was offered to me countless times both on the beach and in town, so do not worry, the jamboree will come to you wether you are looking forward to it or not 😉
- Koh Tao, thanks to its long reef, is the perfect spot for those who love to dive, but also for those who love unrestrained laziness by the sea. The bay that most suits me, as you might imagine, it is also the wildest and more quiet, Hin Wong. It is located on the east coast and the road to reach it is really not an easy one and dusty beyond imagination, but this means that here there are always a few tourists and those few are like myself… abandoned in a hammock in the shade with a good book and a fruit cocktail at hand.
The Mu Ko Ang Thong archipelago:
The marine park northwest of the island consists of numerous small islands of karstic rock that made me fall in love. These are true limestone mountains ranging from 10 to 500 meters above sea level.
- Wua Talap is the seat of the national park and offers a great beach, crystal clear water, a very, but very tiring hike up to the top where you have a breathtaking view of the archipelago. I honestly do not recommend it to anyone with joint problems or suffering from vertigo. Given the steep climb most people hike thanks to the strength of their arms by holding the ropes attached to the cliff. As for the downhill part, well, most people simply crawl down (and so did I!). If you are planning to go up, do not forget your sneakers! Also, do not miss the island caves Bua Bok, studded with stalagmites and stalactites
- Mae Ko with the amazing salty lake Thale Nai connected to the sea by means of culverts
- Samsao, Thaiphlao and Wua Kantang, with white beaches and amazing reefs are tiny camping paradises (don’t forget to pack your silk sleeping bag and a frontal torchlight as those on site are really not clean/comfy/good enough)
Where to stay in Koh Samui
I recommend The Waterfront (45€ the beach bungalow with queen size bed).
The bungalows are lovely, elegant, clean and on the beach, but unfortunately I found it was “too British”, meaning that the couple who owns and runs it really does everything (maybe too much?) to have British people feeling at home and it’s something I do praise when in England, but not in Thailand where I expect something exotic and Thai! Anyway, breakfast is great and services such us frozen towels on the beach and laundry (45 THB per Kg in 2013) are excellent.
How to get to Koh Samui
By plane, landing in the most beautiful, chic and green airport ever! Even shuttles leading from the cozy waiting area to airplanes are beautiful and make you feel the holiday mood from the first step on the ground.
I always flew there from Bangkok on Bangkok Airways, founder of this jewel like airport, spending about 50/60 € for the return flight.
P.S. Ladies (and maybe even Gentlemen), do not miss the airport bathroom! One of the pearls of Koh Samui…
Have a nice trip!