It is amazing how much you can see on Koh Samui in just 5 days
With Koh Phangan behind us we sailed towards Koh Samui and with excitement alighted the ferry at the Raja Ferry Terminal on the west of the island at the Lipa Noi Pier. For information, the Raja Ferry operates the only car ferry between Koh Phangana and Koh Samui. On arrival a coin was flipped and it was decided to tour the island in an anti-clockwise direction.
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island(after Phuket) at 228 square kilometres and immediately the difference between Koh Phangan was most noticeable. The roads are generally much wider and fewer hills. Our destination for the first night on Koh Samui was Lamai Beach. Just a short ride from the ferry. Lamai basically consists of a main road and a myriad of little streets heading towards the beach and a one-way street just before the beach. Miss your turning and you have to make the circuit again! We had chosen the Magic Resort on Booking.com for THB.976.
The Magic Resort consists of separate bungalows leading down to the beach. The room/bungalow was one of their newer ones and well equipped with just 20 meters to Lamai Beach. It is the quintessential Thai beach, crescent shaped, clear blue water and lined with restaurants and palm trees. Still low season it was not crowded and the resort provided sun-bed and towels for an enjoyable beach afternoon.
Lamai town is mostly, but not limited to, the one -way street we had earlier traversed. There was a range of eateries from basic Thai to some more up-market restaurants. However our first priority was for a beer and we try to search for draught rather than the ubiquitous bottled beer. Our first port of call was the Bondi Aussie Bar and we were able to enjoy iced glasses of gold refreshment. We decided to eat in the nearby Night Market, nothing spectacular but fun to sit, eat and watch the antics of the girls in the beer bars. It was still relatively quiet but we did join in the fun at aptly named ‘Sexy Sex X Bar’ which was quite tame but the Mamasan still managed to extract THB.2,000+ from us! Such are the mysterious powers of this particular breed. So much for just 2 beers!
Inclement weather greeted us the next morning and we took shelter in the charming Dara Kitchen where we savoured the unique Deep Fried Samui Buns which we can highly recommend! Duly fortified we headed for the islands only shopping mall, Central Samui as we needed to get out of the rain.
Duly fortified we headed for the island’s only shopping mall, Central Samui as we needed to get out of the rain. There is a good selection of shops and restaurants here but I had recollections of artisan hand-craft shops with rather different goods in them. Sadly these have been replaced by mundane kiosks selling the same souvenirs as Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok. It was however good to keep out of the rain!
As the sun re-appeared we continued north. Our destination this evening was the intriguing Escape Beach Resort at the end of Maenam Beach. Getting to the resort was another mountain adventure! Follow the road to the W Koh Samui then drive down a very steep slope to a sharp left turn! The resort is quite charming and was good value for THB.942. Most of the rooms are actually small bungalows and the architect has managed to cram a lot of units into a relatively small space. The pool is small but the beach is lovely. Having said that, the beach is only about 3 meters wide but walk right and you can enjoy the W beach which curves around the point.
As we were close to Fisherman’s Village that was our destination for the evening. Despite the island being quite quiet, it appeared that everyone was making their way there. Fisherman’s Village is a slightly quirky place. You enter by a failed development but once you hit the street there are restaurants after restaurants lining the beach. Most appear to be upmarket and not the ‘tables in the sand style’. Whilst we perused a few menus we chose the flexibility and price of the Night Market.
Possibly the Night Market with the largest choice of food outside Bangkok, there was literally something for everyone from Austrian to Isan with everything in-between. Most dishes priced at THB.100 the helpings were generous. There is seating and drinks were also reasonably priced. Great atmosphere, superb flavours and excellent value.
The next morning we first drove out to the Big Buddha island. It is quite charming when it is not too busy. We started at the delightful Coffee Sup Samui with its magical location looking out over the bay towards Koh Phangan. Excellent coffee and a lovely breakfast with the added attraction of being directly under the flightpath for Samui airport for exciting views of the underside of landing aircraft. The Big Buddha is quite sublime and offers some wide views over the bay and inland. Beneath the Buddha are some interesting, artisanal shops, if you look closely!
Continuing our circuit heading West, the road mostly follows the coast and there are some photogenic views. Nathon Beach is where the Seatran Ferry Offices are located so we purchased our ticket for the next day. Modern, clean offices and extremely helpful staff. A little further is the fishing village of Nathon Beach where we stopped to see their latest catch. Our next destination was the Hin Lad Waterfall as we had heard of an amazing café there. However we dutifully visited the modest but lovely falls being enjoyed by happy local kids.
We had been highly recommended to peruse the coffee at Red Stone Coffee. One of the smallest coffee shops that we have visited but one that left such a lasting memory. With only 2 small tables and a charming, homely interior the espresso was definitely the best on the island and to be offered to try fresh local Durian with my espresso was a first! In fact, the combination was a fascinating mix of 2 strong flavours which surprising, complemented each other. I do highly recommend a visit to the Red Stone Café and hope that you also have such a wonderful experience!
That night we chose to stay at the Am Samui Resort Taling Bgam (THB.1,577 for an upgraded room) directly on the beach under the shadow of the tastefully constructed Intercontinental Hotel. The resort is quite charming with chalets surrounded by tall coconut trees and a lovely garden. The beach is quite lovely but just a shame that the staff did not see the need to clean it for their guests. The restaurant would close at 19:00 so we politely declined preferring the charming atmosphere of the sweet local restaurant Pada, just 200 meters away and probably a quarter of the price.
It was quite amusing sitting in this little, local restaurant with cold beers and excellent food watching the posh mini-vans and golf carts of the Intercontinental swishing past carrying their exclusive guests as we enjoyed excellent Thai food at very reasonable prices.
The West of the island was really growing on us! It is quiet, green and predominantly Thai with majestic coconut trees everywhere. We googled a coffee shop and the Café Botannikka caught our eye. With the co-ordinates installed we followed our navigation. Little did we know that the coffee shop was actually inside the ultra chic Conrad Resort. The valets parked our car for us and we were able to enjoy the incredible view from the resort entrance. The Café was a little disappointing but we enjoyed our surroundings.
Returning to normal life, we followed the coast road south to Thong Krut Pier for a wonderful noodle breakfast where we were talked into a boat excursion to the nearby Ko Mat Sum and Tean Islands. It is just a short long-tail boat ride out to Koh Mat Sum or Mad Sum Paradise. Sadly now a.k.a Pig Island! Whilst there is a rather cute story of how the pigs supposedly arrived, it is purely a tourist attraction which was hardly needed for this island paradise.
There is a ‘landing fee’ of THB.100 but this includes 2 bottle of water Apart from the amusing but rather pungent hogs, the area of the island fulfils every expectation of a tropical island with soft white sand, crystal clear water blue skies and puffy white clouds. I am not a fan of organised boat excursions but I did enjoy this visit and opportunity to take some memorable photos.
The second part of the boat trip was snorkelling off Tean Island. We jumped in to be surrounded by fish that soon disappeared when the captain stopped throwing in bread, what a sad scam. Also beware of the current as we soon found ourselves a long way from the boat despite all attempts to swim back. It was a pleasant boat trip but again sadly over-commercialised for gullible tourists. Back on dry land we completed our loop by returning to Lamai beach for our last night on Samui.
With all our travels in Thailand for the past two turbulent years we have never had the need to book in advance. As we were undecided about where to stay we chose to check out a possible hotel only to find that the room that we were viewing had just been booked online and the alternative was not acceptable.
However this was to our advantage as we then booked a Pool Cottage at rather run down but non-the-less charming Lamai Chalet for THB.885. A resort on the southern end of Lamai, it is a bit scruffy at the time of staying, but full of character with a beach bar directly overlooking the sea. Again the resort provided sun-beds and towels on the beach so we could enjoy a last swim and questionable dinner in a nearby resort.
After 4 enjoyable nights and days full of memorable experiences it was time to conclude our Koh Samui trip and make our way to the Seatran Ferry for the return to Surat Thani. The ferry cost just THB.550 for the car and 1 passenger and we were positively surprised with the quality and cleanliness of the Seatran Ferry, even service a reasonable, freshly made espresso!. It was a lovely crossing over the glass like sea without the awful smoke pollution of the previous two ferries.
To surmise, Koh Samui is a lovely island and I can see what many will go just for a few nights in one of the upscale resorts. The commercial areas are accommodating and if you are looking for a special, island experience make your way to the West and South of the island for a relaxing and original island experience.
This article is a part of our Koh Phangan/Koh Samui Road Trip Nov 2022
Kim Waddoup enjoyed a lifetime in the tourism business and is an active ‘Silver-Ager” living in Thailand. He writes for his age group with high varied articles covering subjects relevant to retirees living in, or visiting Thailand. Any questions or comments on this post? Please do feel free to contact me through our ‘Contact Form’ or directly [email protected]