Koh Samui - once a traveler's best kept secrets; today top 10 vacation destinations among tourists.
In the beginning, visitors were attracted to the lure of the blue seas, white sandy tropical beach shaded by tall palms and coconut trees.
Next their fascination turned to romancing the nightlife of beachfront dining, beer bars and dance clubs.
Today, this “island of coconut trees” boast of the finest health and wellness spa resorts.
Time passes; Koh Samui evolves. Yet this island remains a top draw vacation destination.
Few vacation destinations offer the best of both worlds: the feeling of being whisked away from the maddening world, yet when you want to, you can rejoin the frenzy of activities.
Small wonder it’s on every travel operator’s recommended list of top 10 vacation destinations.
Chaweng, east coast of Samui, is the centre of gravity.
It’s easy to appreciate why……
In the 70’s, backpackers discovered this part of the beach. Most came, then they returned no sooner than they had left. To make their homes in Koh Samui.
If you are new here, you should visit Chaweng first. It’s your INITIATION into the enchantment of Koh Samui.
Firstly, Chaweng has the longest and most developed beach.
Secondly, it is also the most developed town with dozens of hotels, bungalows and resorts along its fine sandy beach. You can find anything from 5-star luxury resorts to a handful of budget bungalows that remain from Samui’s days as a backpacker’s haven.
Thirdly, it is now home to some of the best known chefs from all over the world dishing out the most excellent range of cuisines to appeal to every discerning palate.
It will do no justice to make recommendations on the best restaurants. They are all excellent in Chaweng.
However, I am a fan of local fare COOKED by Thai people for TOURIST. So I will allow myself this one recommendation - Ninja Crepes, a 24-hour place in Chaweng serving your usual Thai specialties.
This place is an institution, very ordinary décor but sensational inexpensive food. It never disappoints and is popular with Europeans. A little tip here: go before 6pm if you want to beat the queue.
Alongside the multitude of bars and restaurants, the entire length of the Chaweng is taken up with stores selling goods of every description - copy stuff are quite rampant here and surprisingly pretty good.
My recommendation about bargaining- ask for 50% off or else walk away. It used to be 30% but they have since marked up knowing very well how much you will be bargaining.
Trend Fashion is my recommendation if you are looking for a tailor. They offer both casual styles and formal wear for men and women. Very good fabrics with the latest designs at very reasonable price. Their service is impeccable.
There’s a new face shopping centre at the centre of Chaweng beach - Khun Chaweng Shopping Centre. I am told it was opened in mid 2006. You will find a number of boutiques and upmarket brand name shops here.
Chaweng is truly the place to party. There is a huge range of venues - from relaxed lounge bars to full-scale dance clubs. A must for any top 10 vacation destination.
Soi Green Mango is most popular night spot - truly multicultural experience is the most politically apt way to describe. It’s characterized by an ‘anything-goes’ ambience, go-go bars and pubs, and lady boys.
For the sophisticated revelers, Q Bar, Embassy and Unique Bar are recent upscale establishments in Oct 2006.
I recommend you get your essentials at Tesco Supermarket. It’s your one-stop place for groceries.
Personally, I prefer staying away from Chaweng. I go for value-for-money accommodations which you can find in Bophut, Big Buddha Beach and in Maenam.
For between 800 and 1700 Baht, you can get very good air-con accommodations.
These places are generally more peaceful and is only within 15 to 25 mins of Chaweng. Taxi cost 300 Baht to Chaweng.
Taxi is easily available while you are in Chaweng . But in other parts, especially when it is late in the evening, you may have to wait very long.
Here's one taxi person by the name of Mr. Rose that I have grown to trust. It started when I was staying in Bophut and was heading for Fisherman Village nearby. He charged me only 100 baht compared to all others who charged me 200 baht. Again all taxis charged me 300 baht to Chaweng but he charged me only 200 baht.
And anytime when I was in need of a taxi, I called him. So in case you are new to Samui, and need someone reliable to take you around, you can call him at (+66)857966529. You can mention Singaporean friend recommends his taxi service.
In Bophut, I would recommend “Bangrak Samui Beach Resort” and a little further down towards Big Buddha Beach, “Samui Mermaid Resort”.
Maenam, in the north-east, still thrives on family-owned beachfront huts and bungalows of the late 70’s.
It remains the most serene part of the island and offers a great respite for the mind and body. In Maenam, Moon Bungalow is my favourite.
These parts of Samui are really good to stay. There’s a serenely mystical feel about this place. The beaches here, though not as fully developed as Chaweng, offers the advantage of privacy compared to Chaweng.
You ought to spend one night dining at Fisherman Village in Bophut. It is easily the most charming village.
The resorts, cuisine and the architecture give a distinctly Mediterranean feel to the village. Very popular with the French and Italians.
A kilometer away from Fisherman Village is “Bandara Resort and Spa” and “Anantara Resort and Spa”.
Spend an evening after dinner at the piano lounge at “Bandara Resort and Spa”. Enjoy the enchanting garden view and stunning fireworks in the sky.
And over at Anantara Resort and Spa, do pick up their signature music CD, “Anantara Collections” and “Anantara Spa: Timeless Sounds of Anantara” at their souvenir shop.
It’s challenging to recommend spas. Just like the restaurants there, they are all excellent by my standards. I am quite easy to please.Santiburi Spa at “Santiburi Resort and Spa” in Maenam is great but pricey. So is Bandara and Anantara.
I like Peace Tropical Spa opposite Anantara Resort and Spa.
True to its name, a tropical peace envelops you. The staff offered me a herbal drink to begin with, assisted me to select the massage that suits me. Then the little walk through tropical garden to your private room. The massage is deeply relaxing. At the end of it all, they offered you some fruits.
Reasonable. Good value for money.
Oh yes.....while you are in this area, you can’t miss the signposted “The Blue Samui” seafood restaurant opposite Anantara Resort & Spa.
It’s a new seafood establishment. Go for it! I especially enjoyed the barbeque prawns, the steamed clams (goes very well with their sweet and sour sauce) and crap meat.
I travel to Samui at least three times a year and I certainly can’t do without access to the internet. Neither can I do without my laptop with me.
So what I do is go to any internet café and connect my laptop to their broadband instead of using their PC. And in some resorts, I use the wireless network free. All I do is buy myself a coffee.
I am not trying to appear savvy but just to illustrate the point how much Koh Samui has evolved to being among top 10 vacation destinations.
Since 2000, the island averages a million visitors a year. The demographics of the island have changed. At any given time, the population of Koh Samui is predominantly foreign.
Chaweng and Lamai, traditionally, have been and still are the centre of tourist attractions. But other parts of the island such as Bophut, Big Buddha beach and Maenam are drawing tourist and investments.
Samui Properties have generated a growing interest in recent years.
Already, well-known movie and sports celebrities such as David Beckham have bought land in Maenam according to a report in the Samui Express, the island’s newspaper.
Sven Goran Eriksson, the Manchester City manager, was reported to have spend 425,000 pounds on a luxury villa in Laem Set, south of Samui!
Koh Samui has come up tops in several categories: Top 10 vacation destinations, top 10 couples vacations in the world, top Asian spas and resorts, top 10 finest beaches in the world, top vacation homes, finest international cuisines, most beautiful sunset.
Some things never change though.....thank goodness.
The coral reefs off Laem Set and Tong Takien.
Hin Lat and Na Muang waterfalls.
Phallic rock formations at the northern end of Lamai Beach.
The Mummified Monk of Wat Kunaram.
And as always, immaculate Thai hospitality that begins with extending the “Wai”.
Koh Samui occupies an area of only 247 square kilometers. One wonders, how Thailand's third largest island could offer so much as a vacation destination.
Well, you can easily get round the island on a 50km circuit by the “Ring Road” in just 45 minutes. Nevertheless, you will need months to really explore and enjoy your stay in the island.
In less than two decades, the island of Koh Samui went from a “best-kept-secret” to a backpacker “must-see” to an internationally known cuisine, health and spa resort vacation destination.
I have no doubts Samui will remain among the top 10 vacation destinations for a long time to come.