Koh Samui, destination of dreams
Nicknamed the Pearl of the China Sea, Koh Samui is part of an archipelago of 80 islands, the most famous of which also includes Koh Phangan and Koh Tao further to the north of Samui. Currently, the local population is 62,500 (including 6,000 foreign residents or expats). It has incredibly warm and friendly people, mostly Buddhist, who live in perfect harmony with a small Muslim community. Tourism and coconut growing and export are the two principal activities on the island. The territory, which covers 228.7 km², has around three million coconut palms, each producing an average of seventy to seventy five coconuts each year. Over the last twenty years, the island has seen considerable growth and many of the small wooden beach huts, so popular with backpackers, have been replaced by hotels or luxury residences. Luckily, local laws regulate and limit the height of the buildings on or close to the beach, so you will not find here the elevated concrete hotel towers that are ubiquitous in Phuket or Pattaya.
The territory is dominated by tropical forests, with a small mountainous terrain offering breathtaking views of the seas, surrounding islands and the mainland in the distance. The best times to discover Koh Samui and its archipelago are between December and March and June and September.
It would be impossible to talk about Koh Samui without mentioning its beaches! They have, after all, made the island so popular with travellers. Its large strips of white sand often bordered by coconut palms and mangroves, depending on location, correspond precisely to the idyllic image that people have in mind they talk about tropical paradises.
Chaweng: located on the north-east coast of the island and seven kilometres long, it is the largest beach and certainly the most popular and lively. Its fine white sand and clear waters give it an air of Eden that lives up to its reputation. It is also where the largest concentration of hotels and accommodation can be found, from simple bungalows to the opulent 5-star resorts you might expect, catering for every budget. Along Chaweng’s lengthy Beach Road you will find a great many restaurants and stalls that will offer you cuisine from around the world, as well as a large outdoor mall offering a multitude of brand shops, spas, a large food court as well as a cinema complex.
In the evening, you are be spoiled for choice. Romantic dinner on the beach, massage parlours, discotheques, bars and pubs, cabarets, shops of all kinds and crazy beach clubs…
Fisherman’s Village: located north of Chaweng, this traditional and rustic place is, as its name suggests, an old fishing village. The beach is much smaller than that of Chaweng but very pretty, with a great view of Koh Phangan Island a few kilometres away to the north. Made up of beautiful wooden houses along the waterfront, now mostly converted into restaurants or shops, Fisherman’s has a relaxing and friendly atmosphere. It’s highly prized by the French-speaking community that has made it one of the island’s major tourist attractions. This village is renowned for its excellent restaurants with varied cuisines, with some served directly on the beach. When it comes to the choices of hotels, you will be able to find both well-designed and very affordable resorts as well as luxury hotels.
Lamai : The second largest resort on the island,located south of Chaweng, is a quiet place despite ongoing development. The long beach of Lamai is also a delight for swimmers with its shallow waters and multitude of rocks and corals that are not far out from the edge. It has an excellent hotel infrastructure with a wide range of prices. In the evening you’ll find shops, grocery stores, great restaurants, bars and massage parlours in abundance along the main street which runs parallel to the beach. On Saturday evenings there is free Thai boxing held outdoors in the centre, while a bustling night market is held every Sunday night providing an unbelievable selection of low-cost stands (souvenirs, clothing, accessories, products computer and craft, watches, glasses, costume jewellery as well as a huge selection of street food and drink).
Four other beaches complete the picture. These are :
Maenam : Located on the northwest coast of Koh Samui, the place is rather wild and is a very nice place to swim. It is also one of the points of departure for the other islands of the archipelago.
In the North-East of the island is the magnificent beach of Choeng Mon. The place is calm and the water is very clear. Some of the finest hotels are located there. The bay is renowned for the presence of Big Buddha, a favourite attraction for travellers.
Bang Rak: Located south of Bophut, the beach is very pretty with a beautiful view of the famous statue of Big Buddha and lined with excellent bars and hotels.
Bang Por: Located in the northwest of the island, this area has a beautiful beach with water plenty deep enough to swim in, and is dotted with lovely private villas and luxury resorts. The neighbourhood of Bang Por is becoming more and more sought after by those who wish to find a haven from the noise and more touristy areas, while being nestled in a preserved and natural place. Many new businesses are starting to emerge making this area the next place to be on the island. But, above all, beautiful sunsets await you there.
In Koh Samui, you will never get bored! Day or night, there is always something to do or see. Everything is done here to make your stay as pleasant and relaxing as possible. Between water sports, outdoor activities, tours and excursions across and around the island, shopping, spas, detox and yoga centres, children’s activities….you truly are spoiled for choice.
Koh Samui remains a place where it is extremely good to live with a remarkable quality of life. For those who wish to live differently, far from the western life, it is a dream land. Do not forget that Thailand is the Land of Smiles, a value that seems increasingly rare in many of our western countries.
Koh Samui is also a popular destination because of its diversity of restaurants from around the world. Whatever type of cuisine you are looking for, you will find it on the island and be spoiled for choice: French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Swiss, Belgian and so on. Many of these establishments are run by foreigners who have chosen to live here and often offer mixed cuisine (Thai and western) to cater for all requirements, and offer a quality service in a very pleasant setting. For example : Art of Life, Karma Gastrothèque, Vikasa Life Cafe Organic Restaurant, Pepenero Koh Samui, Salefino Koh Samui, Chez François, Crystal Bay Beach Club, The Boudoir Koh Samui.
For all those looking for high-end dining experiences, the many and varied luxury hotels on the island offer beautiful beachside restaurants. Of course, for all lovers of Thai cuisine, this is the place of your dreams. Between flavours, spices and local know-how, you will delight in the diversity and taste of Thai speciality dishes.
Many more upscale establishments offer Fusion cuisine that blends different cultures gastro influences on one plate. They are a clever but subtle and interesting combination between East and West in a single dish, among them: Phensiri Thai Restaurant, Spices Cafe, Poopie’s Samui Resort, Khaw Glong Too, Supattra Thai Dining, Thai Table…
Finally, there are no better places to discover and savour true Thai cuisine than the local markets. All the spirit of the Kingdom is captured in these, often, highly commercial but customer-led places that are swarming with people. They are an institution and a delight for the taste buds!
Chaweng, Lamai, Bophut, Maenam, Choeng Mon, Bang Rak and Bang Por are places where the most bars, pubs and restaurants can be found, all offering a change of scenery and relaxation wherever you choose to rendezvous.
You can also enjoy a wonderful time sipping your drink, on one of the many beaches of Koh Samui, luxuriating on a bed of one of several Beach Clubs that remain the place to be for travellers who come to have fun, dance and swim with music or live groups always providing an ambient backdrop.
GOING OUT TO PARTY
Chaweng Beach Road is the place to party. Here you will find the greatest concentration of nightclubs, cabarets, pubs, lounge bars, restaurants and massage parlours. Soi Green Mango, in particular, is a very festive side street, where heterosexuals and gays, Farangs (westerners) and Thais, families and couples can get together in a high-energy atmosphere to have fun, dance and drink late into the night.
The Reggae Pub, is a Samui institution, where DJs play traditional and newer songs, mixing Hip Hop, Drum & Bass and Techno. Finally, the Beach Clubs, to be found across the island organise regular evenings in the open air for the pleasure of holidaymakers (Ark Bar, Nikki Beach, Coco Tams, Beach Republic).
Koh Samui has a very wide range of shops of all kinds with both local and more renowned brand names to be found. Starting with the supermarkets Tesco Lotus (Chaweng and Lamai), Big C (Chaweng) and Makro (in both Chaweng and Lamai) where you will find everything you could possibly need with a wide choice of local and imported products (food, household products, clothing, accessories, computer products, telephony, furniture, decoration), and a very large number of restaurants and shops of all kinds.
In recent years, large commercial areas have been established on the island for the enjoyment of holidaymakers and expats: Samui Central Festival, covering more than 200 international and Thai brands, most of them prestigious, in an area of 90,000 m², including high-end boutiques (clothes, perfumes, accessories), but also spas, hairdressing salons as well as a large food court where a wide choice of world cuisine is represented.
Finally, there is Tops Market a gourmet supermarket, where you can find arguably the best quality products on the island), “The Wharf Samui, which extends over 24,000 m² with the presence of a commercial area of approximately 5,000 m², with 120 shops offering a range of local and imported products, but also a choice of restaurants, cafes, massage parlours, tattoo shops and a food court in which to mix Thai and Western kitchen styles, as well as car parking for 400 cars.
Another feature of Koh Samui (and indeed, Thailand in general), is the presence, everywhere of mini marketstores 7/Eleven, Family Mart and Tesco Lotus Express. These are located throughout the island and are open 24 hours a day! Convenient for last-minute shopping and cheap.
Finally, there are the famous local markets which are real Aladdin’s caves of things to buy and at incredible prices! Souvenirs, decorative objects, clothes, sub-brands, toys. Here, do not be afraid to haggle and negotiate prices. It is even expected of you! More and more, we see the emergence of beautiful shops (fixed prices), including in Chaweng and especially Fisherman’s Village, where the French-speaking community is located.
Do you want to rent a boat for a private outing in the archipelago of Koh Samui? Would you like to spend relaxing moments in a luxurious spa? Are you dreaming of a romantic lunch in an upscale resort with stunning sea views? Do you want to take a Thai cooking class in an exotic setting or to practice adventure sports in the heart of the island?
It’s all possible! There is so much to see and do on Koh Samui.
For all those who wish to escape, private boat trips are organised throughout the year (catamaran, speedboat, sailboat ). You will be taken care of by a professional crew providing a remarkable service that will allow you to discover the beauty of the surrounding islands and beautiful sunsets in glorious weather. Watersports are also a speciality of Koh Samui: jet ski, water skiing, scuba diving, kayaking, paddleboarding and kitesurfing are all available to you.
A romantic dinner in one of the many five star hotels on the island is one of the most popular relaxation and enjoyment activities for holidaymakers and expats alike.
A dream place for a particular moment. It is easy to enjoy a drink, languish on a deckchair, while allowing yourself to contemplate in peace. Pure happiness!
If you prefer more physical activities, the quad biking, paintballing, ziplining, tree or rock climbing activities should meet your expectations: an original way to take in the island and its lush nature, whilst being at the heart of the action.
Thai cooking classes are currently experiencing unprecedented interest and success in Koh Samui, attracting a large community of foreigners who are increasingly passionate about local cuisine and want to learn how to make their own dishes. These courses are a real invitation to travel through Thai culture and flavors.
In terms of spas, the island is, of course, at the forefront of this increasingly popular market. A good many luxury hotels and resorts offer upscale treatments in a setting that combines a change of scenery, well-being and excellence. A must!
Finally, if you are looking for calm (meditation, perhaps) or fitness, several detox and yoga centers offer personalised programmes in beautiful settings, away from noise and crowds.
In any event, in terms of activities and relaxation on the island, the list is far from exhaustive!
In terms of medical and health infrastructure, here too, Koh Samui is at the forefront.Indeed, the island has four private hospitals, the best known is the Bangkok Hospital, and a public institution, due to its important tourist activity. They are all very well equipped with medical equipment and materials (MRI, scanner) and offer a remarkable welcome and comfort. Each of them provides many specialities (e.g. pediatrics, ophthalmology, cardiology, urology, emergency and traumatology, neurology, dental care, radiology, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, orthopedics, rehabilitation, internal medicine, hemodialysis).
Their staff are well qualified, attentive and, for the most part, English-speaking, while patients are immediately taken care of and welcomed as you would be in a hotel residence. In the case of specific diseases, a shuttle by medical aircraft is immediately set up for Bangkok so that the patient can be treated as soon as possible.
In terms of schools, again, the island of Koh Samui is well catered for. The growing number of expatriates has indeed led to the developmentof an education infrastructureon the island. Various international schools (PanyaDee School, SCL International School, Lamai International School, International School of Samui, Oonrak Koh Samui School) have opened their doors in the last few years, according to different courses of learning, to promote and preserve teaching of quality.
All of these institutions are currently experiencing unprecedented success in the archipelago. They offer expatriates a wide choice regarding the education they wish to offer to their children in a soothing and professional setting.The various schools offer quality education with teachers from foreign schools, as well as many extra-curricular activities.
Finally, for young parents, English-speaking day nurseries have been created in some areas of the island, run by trained, qualified and competent staff. You will find these establishments in certain districts of the island. Here, children socialise and thrive among other children of the same age, learn singing, music and other activities (Tiny Steps Preschool, Tonkra Nursery Koh Samui, TLC, Little Coconuts).
In conclusion, Koh Samui is pretty unique because it has and offers a multitude of infrastructures (hospitals, supermarkets, schools, nurseries, leisure, luxury hotels, restaurants) and an incredible quality of life in a dream setting. For this reason, more and more expats from around the world are choosing this destination to be their home and no longer simply a place to spend holidays .