The third largest island in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui is undoubtedly one of the most popular and beautiful places in Thailand. Also known as the Oriental Pearl of Phuket, the island hosts a great number of splendid natural and man-made attractions. There is nothing to stop party-goers or nature lovers, families or friends from having a blast on the island.
Believe it or not, Ko Samui was once little more than an extended coconut plantation. In the late 1800s, it became a fishing village, a safe haven for Chinese and Malay sea traders as they travelled across the gulf. It is rumored that the word “samui” came from the Chinese word “saboey”, which translates to “safe haven”. King Rama V, His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, visited Samui in 1887. It was then that the island was included on the map of the kingdom. Samui is now one of the leading holiday destinations for global travellers with world class accommodation, restaurants, nightlife and shopping to suit almost every taste and budget.
The easiest and fastest way to Koh Samui from Bangkok is to fly Bangkok Airlines, Thai Airways also flies daily from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Samui Airport. In addition, there are direct flights from Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, Krabi, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. The Kho Samui airport is a beautiful open-air terminal that makes for a great first impression. Another option is flying to Surat Thani first before taking the ferry across to Koh Samui. It’s three hours longer than flying directly, but cheaper. If you want to choose the second option but don’t want to fly, get on the overnight train from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Surat Thani. The bus is the cheapest option considering you don’t need a reservation. Just show up at the Sai Tai Mai terminal in Bangkok and you’ll be on your way within the hour. The bus will drop you off directly at the ferry terminal. From there it’s only an hour and a half ride to the island. Here are some experiences you shouldn’t miss;
Ang Thong National Marine Park is one of the largest national parks in Thailand. Ang Thong means ‘Golden Bowl’ in Thai. It was designated as a national park in 1980, and its ecosystems have been well protected since then. It is a beautiful archipelago of 42 islands located to the west of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. Here, you will be able to admire the beautiful natural scenery of the thick jungles, towering limestone mountains, white-sand beaches, and lagoons.
A Big Buddha Statue is located on a small island connected to Samui by a causeway, the temple features a golden, 12 meters high, sitting Buddha. The beach nearby was originally called Bang Rak, but due to the prominence of the temple at its eastern end but it is now more commonly known as Big Buddha Beach. The temple is open to visitors all day, but for those hoping to catch a true cultural experience it’s best to go in the early morning hours. That’s when local people bring their food and other offerings to the temple, and the monks do their morning chanting.
Bo Phut’s Fisherman’s Village was once a thriving fishing community, the fishermen have long moved on but the village retains a rustic charm. Fisherman’s Village Samui is a historical part of Bophut, with rustic-style buildings housing boutique stores, trendy restaurants and a small selection of hotels lining the narrow Beach Road. Every Friday, the entire area becomes the site of the Fisherman’s Village Walking Street market, attracting huge numbers of shoppers from across the island for the amazing variety of wares and the lively atmosphere.
Beaches Koh Samui has no shortage of spectacular white sand beaches and emerald waters. Each beach town in Koh Samui has a different flair and personality with the popular party hubs being Chaweng and Lamai.
Hin-Ta and Hin-Yai also known as Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks, this is probably one of the most photographed tourist attraction in Koh Samui. The reason for such popularity has to do with their genitalia shape, representing a male and a female respectively. Legend has it that Ta and Yai died on the sea when trying to sail to a neighboring province to ask for the hand of a girl for their son. Unable to reach their destination, they turned into rocks as proof of their true intentions to the would-be bride’s family. It is still worth a visit for the amazing view over the sea and Lamai beach.
Na Muang Waterfall is hidden in the center of the island, Na Muang is the tallest and most beautiful waterfall in Koh Samui. It is especially impressive in the rainy season, when the water flow is at its maximum. But it’s still worth visiting during the dry season. On your way up to Na Muang Waterfall pay attention to the spirit houses and spirit trees along the way. Thai people believe spirits live inside old trees, so they tie colorful ribbons around them to warn others not to cut them down. People leave offerings, like drinks and flowers, to keep the spirits happy. Besides relaxing by the waterfalls, you can also drive ATV in the jungle or zipline through the mountain.
Secret Buddha Garden are a creation of an old Samui fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk, who in 1976 began erecting several statues and temples around his family’s verdant land. The statues depict a number of animals, deities and humans in various poses, including one of Khun Nim himself, in a relaxed position sitting on a rock. Each statue has a story to tell, and most Thais will know the meaning and mythology behind these evocative works of art. Also known as Heaven’s Garden, the surrounding areas are cool and peaceful, with a waterfall and stream flowing through, all shaded by thick jungle foliage. The Secret Buddha Gardens are found in Samui’s interior, to the north-west of Lamai Beach.
Want to go island hopping? To the north are Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Koh Nang Yuan. To the south are Koh Taen, Koh Mat Sum and Koh Rap. Koh Phangan is known for its epic Full Moon Parties. Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan are close to each other, and they are both known as the best snorkeling spots near Koh Samui. There you can actually dive with a whale shark. The waters are crystal clear, the corals and the diverse marine life are just mesmerizing. It can get quite busy with tourists who come to see the spectacular environment, but it’s still worth checking out. Take a day trip there and if you’re feeling adventurous, hire a jet ski and ride on over to the islands yourself Unlike other places, Koh Samui doesn’t have many public means of transports. You can choose songthaew or taxi to get to the destinations on the main island. Songthaews are usually very cheap, about 20 baht. Cars are available for rent. Prices can range from 800 to 1500 baht. However, the traffic in Koh Samui is quite complex, so if you are not confident in your driving, you should not try.
The only way to get to other islands, and some beaches that don’t have any connecting roads, is by boat. Longtail boats, motorboats or canoes are always available at the pier to take you to explore the islands in the area. Ko Samui has two distinct seasons; rainy season and dry season (sunny season). The average yearly temperature is about 30 degrees. It can get quite hot. The summer in Thailand starts in late February and lasts until May. And the beaches of Koh Samui can get very crowded. October and November are often raining, making it unfit for swimming. At first glance, Ko Samui seems your average party district. That is until you look closer and explore the true exotic beauty of the island. Whether you choose to hop around the island or stay in, don’t miss the spectacular sunsets. What a way to cap off your day!