Koh Samui travel guide Koh Samui is Thailand’s third largest island, located on the east in the Gulf of Thailand. A popular holiday destination, Koh Samui has temples, beaches, mountains and a vibrant nightlife centred on Chaweng and Lamai beach. The beauty of marine life in surrounding islands like Koh Tao, Koh Nang Yuan and the Ang Thong archipelago continue to attract divers and snorkellers from around the world. Nearby, Koh Phangan is the island that plays host to the legendary Full Moon parties. When to go? Thailand’s average temperature is 30°C year round with very high humidity, but the best time of getting to Koh Samui and its surrounding islands is from November to March when the weather is mainly dry and temperatures are mild. May to October is the monsoon season when hotel prices are lowest but many resorts, tours, ferry routes and diving sites are closed. Getting there By air Samui Airport is the main gateway to the island and one of the best ways of getting to Koh Samui. Located on the north eastern tip close to Bo Phut beach, it is a privately-owned airport operated by Bangkok Airways. Airlines like Thai Airways, Bangkok Air, Firefly and AirAsia have regional routes to cities like Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. By boat Getting to Koh Samui is easy by boat from Surat Thani 80km away in mainland Thailand. Four piers in Surat Thani (Ao Ban Don, Tha Thong, Donsak and Khanom) arrive at either Na Thon, Mae Nam and Big Buddha on the western coast of Koh Samui. Journey times depend on the type of boat, ranging between 1-6 hours. Getting around By tuk tuk Tuk tuks are famously Thai and are the most common form of Koh Samui transport. They are great fun for a quick ride and can be hailed from anywhere on the island. The price should always be decided before you set off. By songthaew Songthaews are pick-up trucks with long benches at the back which act as public buses. Fares cost from 40 baht depending on the distance. There are no designated stops and drivers will pick- up and drop-off as requested. By motorbike Riding a motorbike is relatively easy and a great way to explore Koh Samui independently. They can be rented from guesthouses and rental shops in major towns, but be sure to wear a helmet, check the vehicle and have insurance cover. Be aware that wearing a helmet is required by law. © 2011 AsiaRooms.com. All rights reserved. By car Driving a car is a convenient way to get around Koh Samui. There are car rental companies in the airport and town centre, with rates starting at around 2000B per day for a jeep. By taxi Taxis are a convenient way of getting around the island. yellow and red. However, they are not as ubiquitous as tuk-tuks or songthaews and prices need to be agreed before hopping in. By boat Boats are often the only means of transport to nearby islands like Koh Phangan, Koh Nang Yuan and Koh Tao. There are ferries, high-speed catamarans or longtail boats. Journey times and prices vary depending on the type of boat. Sightseeing Hin Ta Hin Yai rocks The rock formations known as Hin Ta and Hin Yai are popular with tourists who come to look at these unusual rocks. Located south of Lamai Beach, ‘Grandfather and Grandmother Rock’ resemble the shape of the male and female sexual organs and attracts curious on-lookers. Wat Khun Aram The famous Wat Khun Aram is a popular Buddhist temple where mummified monk Luang Por Daeng sits in a meditative pose wearing a pair of sunglasses. Located south of Koh Samui, visitors come to see the monk whose body has been preserved since he died in 1973. Wat Phra Yai (Temple of the Big Buddha) Wat Phra Yai, which means Temple of the Big Buddha, is a popular temple with tourists and devotees alike. Located on the north eastern tip of Koh Samui, staircases lead up to the 12-metre high seated Buddha, which is covered in gold. The temple ground also has shops selling souvenirs, food and drinks. Na Muang Waterfall Na Muang Waterfall is Koh Samui’s most scenic waterfall. Divided into Na Muang I and Na Muang II, the falls are located in the south east of the island and accessible by foot, vehicle or elephant treks. Standing at 18-metres high, Na Muang I is the more accessible of the two. Na Muang II is 80-metres high and can only be reached by a 30-minute hike. Where to eat Food stalls In Koh Samui, you’ll find plenty of food stalls and open-air restaurants serving basic Thai food. These are great places to have a delicious and authentic meal at cheap prices. Usually, a few dishes of meat and vegetables are eaten with a plate of Thai Jasmine rice and a drink. Beachfront areas The beachfront areas around Chaweng and Lamai are all great places to find restaurants, cafés and bars. There are plenty of choices and cuisine, from upmarket American steak houses to authentic Thai food stalls along the night markets. Along Bo Phut beach, the Fisherman’s Village has some great-tasting seafood restaurants. © 2011 AsiaRooms.com. All rights reserved. Shopping Shopping malls Along the Ring Road 4169 between Chaweng and Bo Phut are many shopping malls like Tesco Lotus, HomePro, Big C and Makro. These are excellent places to shop for daily groceries, electronics, toys and stationeries. Nathon Nathon is the administrative capital of Koh Samui, located around the Nathon Pier area where boats to and from mainland Surat Thani, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan dock. Many shops are located along Chonwithee Road selling second-hand books, sarongs, jewellery and souvenirs. Laem Din Market Laem Din Market is a bustling day market selling fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and meat. Located behind Chaweng Beach Road, the traditional market also has a dry section selling cheap clothes. Lamai Market Lamai Market located along the Ring Road is another popular fresh market. It sells everything from vegetables, fruits, meat and fish to dry goods like clothes and toys. There are also food stalls where you can take away tasty and authentic snacks for cheap. Nightlife Chaweng The Koh Samui nightlife is centred around Chaweng, the island’s party central. There are numerous bars, pubs and clubs located along Chaweng Beach Road, Soi Green Mango and Soi Reggae. Providing options as diverse as reggae pubs to ladyboy cabaret shows, Chaweng is fast becoming one of Thailand’s biggest nightlife areas. Lamai Lamai is another good area to experience Koh Samui’s nightlife. Though not as developed and vibrant as Chaweng, it is still home to plenty of restaurant bars, pubs and clubs – many of which are Australian, Irish and British-themed. There are also plenty of beach side places to chill and relax. Bo Phut Bo Phut and Maenam in the northern part of the island provides for those looking for quieter and romantic nights out. The upmarket Fisherman’s Village is located here, with its trendy boutiques, restaurants and pubs housed in converted Chinese teak houses. Koh Phangan’s Full Moon Party Koh Phangan’s full moon parties have achieved worldwide notoriety for its non-stop fuel of booze, drugs and DJs. Located a 30-minute boat ride north of Koh Samui, the parties happen every month during the full moon when about 20,000 partygoers dance the night away. © 2011 AsiaRooms.com. All rights reserved. Islands & beaches Chaweng Beach Chaweng Beach is Koh Samui’s main tourist belt and top resort. The 5km stretch boasts white sandy beaches, a vibrant nightlife and plenty of opportunities for swimming, snorkelling or simply relaxing on the beach. Located on the north-eastern tip of the island, it stretches south to the scenic Coral Cove. Lamai Beach Lamai Beach is one of Koh Samui’s most popular beach resorts. Situated just south of Chaweng Beach, the white sandy stretch has everything from watersports to romantic dinners by the sea. The area also has massage huts and is a great place for relaxing under the sun. Ang Thong National Marine Park Local tour operators run day trips to Ang Thong National Marine Park, an archipelago of about 40 small islands with picturesque limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons and white-sand beaches. Highlights include Thale Noi, the emerald salt water lake on Koh Mae Ko and the sea gypsy village of Koh Paluay. Hiking and snorkelling are usually included in the tours. Koh Tao Koh Tao, also known as Turtle Island due to its shape, is located north of Koh Samui and is the least developed among the three islands. Koh Tao has excellent diving and snorkelling due to its clear waters. Hin Bai and Shark Island are sites where blue-spotted stingrays, sea snakes and reef sharks are commonly spotted. Koh Nang Yuan Koh Nang Yuan located north east of Koh Tao are three beautiful islands interconnected by sand bars. Dubbed the ‘Three Paradise Islands’, they are separated into North, Middle and South. There is only one resort on the privately-developed islands, but day trips for rock climbing, kayaking and scuba diving are popular options. Koh Phangan A 30-minute boat ride north of Koh Samui is Koh Phangan, with its splendid coral reefs for snorkelling and the world-renowned full moon parties of Hat Rin.The parties see about 20,000 partygoers descend on Hat Rin beach every month to dance the night away. International DJs, UV body paint, fire shows and buckets full of alcohol are common sights at this world-renowned rave party. Many beaches on the east coast like Hat Sadet, Ao Thong Reng and Hat Yao are still relatively undeveloped and are perfect for exploring. Festivals Full Moon Party Koh Phangan’s full moon parties have achieved worldwide notoriety for its non-stop fuel of booze, drugs and DJs. Located a 30-minute boat ride north of Koh Samui, the parties happen every month during the full moon when about 20,000 partygoers dance the night away. Buffalo Fighting Festival Don’t miss Koh Samui’s buffalo fighting shows, a local sport where people bet on dueling water buffaloes who lock horns and butt one another until one animal backs down or runs away. The festival is held during New Year’s Day (Jan) and Songkran (April) at informal buffalo fighting © 2011 AsiaRooms.com. All rights reserved. ‘stadiums’ dotted all around the island. The contest sees the champion buffaloes becoming worth several million baht. Visakha Puja (15 May) Koh Samui’s population are predominantly Buddhist, so Visakha Puja, or Buddha’s Birthday, is a truly significant event. The festival to commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha is celebrated every year in Koh Samui on May 15. The best place to celebrate this is at Wat Phra Yai or Wat Plai Leam. Samui Regatta (May/June) The Samui Regatta is one of Koh Samui’s most popular events. Based on Chaweng Beach, the annual sailing event attracts hundreds of participants from across the globe. During the races, there are golf days, beach clean ups and plenty of beachside partying. Fisherman Village’s Festival (Aug) Fisherman Village is an elegant and well-preserved area in the northern part of Koh Samui. Every year, a live music festival is held in the area near Bo Phut Beach where old wooden Chinese shophouses exude a distinctively Mediterranean feel. Over 5 days there’s plenty of fun, food and music. The area also has many luxury boutiques and stores selling clothes and jewellery. History Koh Samui was traditionally a coconut grove when Chinese immigrants from Hainan Island th settled in the area in the 18 century. Its name is believed to be derived from the Chinese word ‘saboey’, which means safe haven. The island’s main economy revolved around fishing, rubber plantations, coconut and fruit harvesting. Tourism started to develop in the late 70’s but it wasn’t until the 90’s when major hotels and resorts were built along Chaweng Beach. Today, tourism is the main income for the people of Koh Samui. Culture Koh Samui has a distinctively unique culture from the rest of Thailand. Many people from Koh Samui refer to themselves as Chao Samui instead of Thais. Their local habits and customs are quite different from Thais in other regions. Its predominantly Chinese population live alongside Thais and Muslims, making it a culturally-diverse island. Useful info Time zone GMT +7 Population 58,000 Capital Nathon Language Thai Currency Thai baht Dialling code +66 Weather 20-38°C all year round © 2011 AsiaRooms.com. All rights reserved.