Where celebirites always appear!Is surprisingly mysterious. Legend has it the word is derived from a combination of two Chinese terms, though no one is quite sure. The fame of this island, however, is assured. An exotic destination that has for decades now been synonymous with a tropical paradise, the island is scored with world-class five-star resorts and has international flights from many of Thailand’s neighbouring countries. Although the coastline of the 247 sq km island is firmly tourist territory, coconut plantations fill the centre, with a range of wildlife inhabiting the interior, the most visible being monkeys. Even though the island’s weather, like that of the rest of the country, is seasonal, Koh Samui is open for business year round: even during the rainy season, a downpour lasts no more than an hour before the glorious sun breaks through. December to February is the busiest time of the year to visit, while March and April are filled with festivals, though the weather tends to be rather hot. However, it is always advisable to check the weather conditions before planning a trip.
Hopping from beach to beach is a lot of fun in Samui and can be done by renting a car or a motorcycle: indeed the entire island can be navigated in under an hour. The roads can be narrow, but they are generally in a good condition and have great views of the coast line.
is the most famous and vibrant beach in Koh Samui and, at 5 kms, one of the biggest. In the morning, the white sand is peaceful with early birds jogging or taking a pre-breakfast dip, though swimmers should be warned that during February and March the tide can be dangerous and swimmers are not advised to swim too far out. When night falls on the beach, the bars and restaurants come alive and paint the beach with lights from candles and colourful neon lights. It’s quite an experience to book a table with your loved one at a beach restaurant and look at the silver sea.
Lamai Beach is the island’s second favourite beach. Crammed with tourists out for a tan, pink lit bars and exotic paintings from local and foreign artists are all indigenous to this part of the island. Maenam, a quiet town near Bo Phut, is the location of the island’s main river and is populated by the local Thai community, so the restaurants in this area predominantly serve local Thai fare at reasonable prices. Bangrak Beach is where most ferries leave to take passengers to the neighbouring islands, and also serves as a base from which fishermen sell their catch to the local seafood restaurants. Eating here ensures that the seafood is fresh, and has great views over to Koh Pa Ngan. Not far from Bangrak Beach is Choeng Mon Beach, which is widely considered one of the most romantic beaches on Samui and is lined up with romantic eateries.
is not as spectacular in terms of white powdery sand as the beaches mentioned previously but the beach is quite clean and secluded and has attracted a number of luxury resorts. The island’s Fisherman’s Village is just around the corner. Most of the wood buildings formerly inhabited by the local fisherman have changed to be shop houses and restaurants. The atmosphere is nice for a walk both for before and after dinner as there are a lot of souvenir shops as well as stylish restaurants. The village has kept many of the less reputable girlie bars at bay, making it a pleasant place for couples.
Lipa Noi Beach
is almost totally private and is not yet crammed with tourists. The white sand beach with reclining coconut trees is picture perfect and just waiting to be discovered. Nathon in the southwest is the main port for the ferry from the mainland. The beach is rather rocky and muddy but there are a lot of shops and restaurants around. Taling Ngam Beach is rather quiet but the sea is pleasantly turquoise and there is a view of the famous Five Islands out to sea. Samui is a centre for water sports, diving, snorkelling and sea canoeing adventures. Hopping to the neighbouring islands is easy as boats set off from the main beaches everyday.
The Five Islands
sit along the south western coast of Koh Samui. They comprise of Koh Thalu, Koh Din, Koh Cheta Mun, Koh Mae Thap and Koh Malaeng Pong. They are truly hidden gems with untouched beaches, spectacular limestone cliffs and the charms of local fishing communities. The boat trip to discover the Five Islands can be arranged at The Five Islands Restaurant (www.thefiveislands.com).
Ang Thong National Marine Park
is a marine national park in the Gulf of Thailand and can be seen from Koh Samui. It’s well known for its richness of flora, fauna, green forest and emerald inland sea. It’s a perfect place for snorkelling and kayaking. This unspoilt Eden was one of the backdrops for the hit film The Beach. The other islands one can look around are Koh Pa Ngan, Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan which are all snorkelling and diving paradises.
Na Muang Waterfall
is about 10 kms from Nathon. There are two waterfalls, Na Muang One is easy to reach, whereas Na Muang Two can only be reached by a brisk 30 minute trek uphill. The latter, however, is worth it being the most scenic waterfall on the island. The Grandfather and Grandmother rocks (Hinta and Hinyai) located on the southern end of Lamai Beach can be reached by vehicle. Here nature has carved the rocks into apparent phallic symbols. Animal attractions are dotted around the island and include a crocodile farm, monkey theatre, elephant trekking, a snake farm, an aquarium and a butterfly garden.
Eat and Play
(possibly a variation on the theme of the word caramel) is a sticky brown sweet made from flour and coconut sugar. The taste is distinguished from other recipes in Thailand due to the quality of the coconuts on the islands. The best place to try and to buy galamare is at Hinta and Hin Yai at Lamai because it’s made here. Some come in pyramid-shaped packages while others are cut in big chunks for a big bite.
is known as the best drinking venue on the island with an extensive choice of cocktails made from premium liquor such as 42 Below Vodka, Tanqueray Gin, and Gray Goose Vodka. The restaurant is idyllically located on the cliff overlooking Gulf of Thailand. When the sun touches the horizon, the sea here becomes ablaze. Food is spectacular, stylish and extremely tasty, created by Chef Stefano who likes to surprise the guests with his secret complimentary dishes, which change from time to time. It’s a definitely a place for a couple or a big group of friends, where you can enjoy everything from the Thai favourite, Som tam with soft shell crab, Lamp to scallop with oyster sauce rounded off with chocolate fondant.
is a beachside restaurant at Bandara Beach Resort and Spa serving lunch and dinner. Set on a quiet spot on Bo Phut Beach, it’s quite relaxing just to watch the bustle of the area from the serene location. The highlights include stuffed chicken and shitake mushrooms with creamed spinach, Tuna risotto (a surprise combination between Japanese style tuna and rich Italian risotto). Tiramisu with a passion fruit sauce is for the sweet toothed and a strawberry sunset cocktail is great company while watching the sunset. For a picky love birds, a private table can be arranged on the beach for a romantic meal.
Baan Taling Ngam’s Promenade
Tel: +66 (0) 7742 9100) is a lunch venue that is perfect for those looking for an upscale dining venue during the day. Grilled snow fish goes well with Surat Thani Express cocktails, sipped with a view of the Five Islands and the mainland. Those that wish to stay longer can watch sunset at Lom Talay, the resort’s evening restaurant.
(Tel: +66 (0) 7724 6008) is true to its name with local spice-fused dishes. The restaurant is nicely designed, stuffed with southern Thai art and handmade Batik clothes. Samui Spice seafood is hot, spicy and filled with ginger, basil and chilli. For those who can’t take the heat, milder favorites such as Masaman chicken curry are available. The recommended top up is the Samui Spice cocktail.
Red Snapper Bar & Grill Restaurant
(Tel: +66 (0) 7742 2389-90) located on bustling Chaweng Beach and demarked from the rest by its stylishness. As is obvious in the name, the grill is the centrepiece and Grilled Whole White Snapper is the restaurant’s most popular dish. Here fresh snapper is wrapped in a banana leaf with spices and grilled. When opened the aroma of the spices (lemongrass and bergamot leaves) fills the air, and is accompanied by the delicious Thai style seafood dip. Co-stars here include char-grilled pork ribs, tenderloin beefsteak, seared Tasmanian salmon, accompanied by choices of soup and even a salad bar.
is one of those venues that have made the transition from being simply a great bar to an ultimate night time destination. An arm of the hugely successful Bangkok operation, Q Bar boasts international DJs and is flocked to by Koh Samui’s elite along with a host of tourists. Partly exclusive because it is located on the top of a hill, the bar is generally open on two levels: on one floor the main nightclub, and on the second floor a chill out zone with chandeliers and comfy sofas and a view of Chaweng Beach. The drinks list is set according to the mood of the music; deep funky cocktails, groovy house cocktails, drum & bass cocktails, Asian breaks cocktails or even hip hop cocktails. Absolute Q Bar is a must try, it’s refreshing for a kick off and could follow with Q-tini and a classic Mojito. Following this, the drinks depend upon the beats of the night.