Koh Samui – Thailand
Koh Samui (เกาะสมุย) is the second largest island in Thailand. It is located near Surat Thani, in the gulf of Thailand. It is an “Amphur” or district of Surat Thani province. Around Koh Samui you will find many other islands, like Koh Phangan (famous for the full moon party) and Koh Tao (Famous for diving).
Beach in Koh Samui, June 2011.
Traces were found showing that Koh Samui was inhabited 1500 years ago. Until recently, people used to live mainly from agriculture (mostly coconut) and fishing.
Until 1970, the island was mostly isolated from Thailand. With the new roads, ferries and tourism expending, it changed a lot in the last 40 years. Today, Koh Samui is a worldwide famous touristic destination and it is still developing quickly.
How to get there
Many people fly directly to Koh Samui via Bangkok. The airplane tickets are not cheap (maybe 5,000 baht for roundtrip) but it is the fastest way. Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways (since February 2008) fly to Samui airport.
If you want to go by land, you will probably use the ferry at Don Sak. Don Sak has the fastest ferries departures on the main land. (More information about the ferry of Don Sak here)
Lamai Beach in Koh Samui
There are cheap buses from Khao San Road going to Koh Samui. Another inexpensive way is using the train until Surat Thani. Railway might be more expensive and longer than bus in Thailand.
If you do not want to pay too much, and save time, you might want to fly in Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat and from there, go to the ferry in Dan Sak. It takes about 1 hour from these places to reach the ferry in taxi, bus or car. You might use Thai airways or Air Asia for Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Pier at Koh Samui.
I went there with my wife for a trip last month. We had very cheap airplane tickets (320 baht rountrip each) from a sale on AirAsia. We took a taxi from Nakhon Si Tammarat to Don Sak for 1,500 baht. Add about 150 baht for the ferry each. So, we paid around 1,060 baht all included each and we were on the Island. 1 hour on the plane. 1 hour in taxi. 1 hour 30 minutes on the ferry.
Fantastic Pasta with Clams and Tomato sauce, at the Library Resort, Chaweang.
The most popular attractions of Koh Samui are the beaches. And the two most popular are Lamai and Chaweang.
Lamai is more natural, attracts more backpackers and you will find more bars with ladies.
This picture was taken on Lamai
Chaweang is a 7 km long beach in Koh Samui. It has big resorts and a walking street. You still can rent bungalows on Chaweang or 5 star resorts. It is more developed then Lamai and attracts more people. There can be a lot of people there, especially on high season (November to February). But there are others beaches in Samui and many resorts are built in order to have an easy and fast access to them.
One of the beautiful resort on Chaweang, called THE LIBRARY (http://www.thelibrary.co.th/)
When we were there last month, it was not crowded. We could easily rent a nice room for 1,000 baht with air conditioning, cable TV, bathtub, a beautiful and large room that we got on agoda. Because it was the rainy season, you have a lot of specials. Did it rain? Maybe 1 time on 4 days, one evening. Other than that, it was fine on day time.
Walking Street at Chaweang, after some rain.
If you go in Samui for the beach, you will find something similar than Koh Chang. The beaches are clean, the landscape is beautiful (Koh Samui is not flat, full of mountains).
Because the island is quite big (similar to Phuket, or Koh Chang) you might need some transportation. You can rent a motorcycle for about 200 baht per day. That is very convenient. If you use taxis, be aware that they are VERY expensive in Koh Samui. Some tourists got caught paying 1,000 baht for short trips of 2 or 3 km because they didn’t ask the price first. Songtaew (kind of pickup of minibus) are also available. They drive around the island and you can take them for 60 to 80 baht normally.
Picture taken on Chaweang beach.
Today, there are tons of activities for tourists and you won’t have any problem to access ATM or change some currencies. Some of the activities include:
• scuba diving (normally at Koh Tao)
• go Kart or ATV
• santiburi Golf Course
• mini Golf
• shooting sport
• boat or sailing cruise
• bungy jump
• rock climbing
And much more.
The big Buddha (Wat Phra Yai) is a popular temple, both for locals and tourists. The Buddha is more than 12 meters tall. There is a small market around where you can buy souvenirs and handicrafts.
The Big Buddha in Samui. Rain was coming…
We were not impressed by the zoo and aquarium. The admission of 750 baht per person may keep you busy for 2 or 3 hours. The sea lion show was actually very good, but the tiger show lasted 15 minutes, the aquarium was old and there isn’t much to say. Click here for our pictures and description of the Samui Aquarium and Tiger Show.
Picture taken at the Samui Aquarium.
If you are lucky, you might see the buffalo fighting festival, normally around New Year and Songkran. The buffalo fighting here is harmless and buffalos are decorated for these occasions.
Na Muang is the beautiful waterfall surrounded by coconut trees. It’s about 10 km south of the port and you have to walk a while to get there.
Walking street on Chaweang. A lot of bars and nice restaurants.
During evening, there are a lot of pubs or bars to choose. On Saturday night, there is a “Lady Night boxing” at Lamai Beach that could be a lot of fun. Do not miss it!
Swing Bar at Lamai, own by Thais and 2 friendly Canadians.
View from Swing Bar, on Lamai beach, around 4-5 pm.
If you believe that Samui is too touristic for you, younger people might prefer to go in Koh Tao. That island is less developed and there are nicer sites for snorkeling or diving. It’s very popular with backpackers or younger tourists.
Did we like Samui? Yes. But not more than Koh Chang, for example. I have friends who like Hua Hin, while I don’t find anything special there. I like Koh Phi Phi, while others will find it too touristic. Opinions may vary but it’s nice to change and see something different. I have been so many times to Koh Chang, Koh Samed, Jomtien, Phuket, Koh Samui was refreshing and different.
Here are our pictures:
This post is also available in: French