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Koh Samui Guide

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Welcome to Samui, Thailand

Introduction

Ko Samui is Thailand's third largest island located in the Gulf of Thailand 700km south of Bangkok and 84km east of the mainland's provincial capital Surat Thani. The island is about 25km long and 21km wide. With soft sand beaches shaded by tall palms, warm turquoise waters, coral lagoons, picturesque waterfalls and vibrant nightlife, Samui has become one of Asia's premier tourist destinations.

Southern Thailand (including Ko Samui) has two tropical seasons. A dry season from January to April and a wet season from May to December. Rainfall can be heavy but usually does not last long. Ko Samui can be visited all year but the most popular time of the year to visit is from November to March when the weather is slightly cooler and the seas are calmer. Temperatures throughout the year range from 28-32C.

Travel to Koh Samui

Thailand Map

Chaweng is located on the east coast and is the most popular and developed beach on the island. Lamai is just south of Chaweng and is Samui's next most popular beach (especially with backpackers). The northern beaches of Mae Nam, Bophut, Bang Rak (Big Buddha) and Choeng Mon are the next most popular area and are more sparsely developed but growing fast. The west coast beaches are less developed and quiet. Samui's port is located on the west coast at Nathon.

Koh Samui Airport (USM) is located in the north east of the island not far from Chaweng and the northern beach areas. The airport is owned and operated by Bangkok Airways which operate flights between Bangkok and Samui. Thai Airways also operates flights between Bangkok and Samui, which take just 1hr 20mins. There are also flights to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Singapore and Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Ferry and bus service operates from Surat Thani railway station and airport. The bus takes 30 minutes to the ferry pier and the ferry (departs every 30mins) takes 90mins to Nathon (Samui's port).

Samui Transport

Taxis are inexpensive and around the same price as a tuk-tuk but safer and airconditioned. Taxis must use the meter so ensure the driver has turned it on before you move off or you will pay more.

Songtaews are small pickups truck taxis with two plank seats in the back. Signal the driver to stop and negotiate the fare to your destination. Press the buzzer when you want to stop. Generally good for short trips, more convenient than a bus and cheaper than a taxi as you will be sharing with others.

Tuk-tuks are little three-wheeled vehicles (a motor bike at the front with a padded seat in a semi-open cabin at the rear). The fare is generally negotiable but they are no cheaper than a metered taxi and there is no air-conditioning. The tuk-tuk drivers have a reputation for trying to swindle tourists by taking you to shops on the way and pressuring you to buy something, informing you an attraction is closed today (when it's open) and generally trying to get money out of you in one way or another.

Motor bike taxis are inexpensive and an exciting ride through the traffic. Negotiate the fare as there is no meter. Passengers must wear a helmet which the driver will supply.

Motorcycles are popular with visitors and can be hired for USD8 per day with fuel. Driving is on the left in Thailand. Be careful, as there are many road accidents in Samui each year.

Bicycles can be hired for USD2 per day.

Language

English is spoken by people in the tourism business. Many staff at hotels, shops, restaurants and museums will speak English.

Samui Beaches

Koh Samui Beach

Beaches are a major attraction for visitors to come to Samui. The best beaches are:

Chaweng Beach, a 6km strip of powder-soft sand, is Samui's most popular beach located on the east coast. It has the island's largest concentration of accommodation, ranging from five-star resorts to simple bungalows. Chaweng is great for watersports and beach activity during the day and is the centre of the island's nightlife in the evening.

Lamai Beach is located on the east coast just south of Chaweng and attracts surfers as the water runs a little deeper than at Chaweng. Behind the beach there are many resorts and spas where visitors treat themselves to a sauna or a relaxing Thai massage.

Maenam, Bophut and Bang Rak Beaches are located along the north coast and are generally more secluded than Chaweng and Lamai.

South and West Beaches are more isolated than other parts of the island. At Laem Set in the south, the sea is too shallow for swimming but the coconut palms leaning over at impossible angles are a great sight.

Samui Attractions

Ang Thong National Marine Park Ko Samui Islands is an archipelago of 42 islands located 20km west of Samui. Most visitors travel here on a day trip from Samui. There is a spectacular viewpoint on Ko Wua Talap looking out over the uninhabited and pristine islands. Trips around the park include a visit to concealed lagoon on Ko Mae Ko and give visitors the opportunity to sea kayak around the huge limestone rock formations covered in virgin rainforest that rise out of the aquamarine waters. The islands are very popular for snorkeling an scuba diving.

Monkey Shows can be enjoyed at the open-air theater on the main road behind Bophut beach. The show demonstrates the monkey's famed ability as coconut collectors which once formed the basis for the island's economy.

Samui Butterfly Garden & Insect Museum is set on a gentle slope in the south-east corner of the island. The garden contains a wide variety of bright and unusual flowers, above which flit hundreds of butterflies, creating a captivating environment beneath meshed nets. The visitor can also enter the insect museum to see a variety of rare insects and a bee house.

Na Muang Waterfall has two levels to this attractive waterfall which tumbles out of the highlands. The first waterfall is about a 20m drop with a refreshing pool beneath it. A walk of about 30 minutes takes visitors to the more scenic second waterfall which gushes from an impressive height of around 79 meters.

Snake Shows are popular with visitors. The fearless handlers play with deadly species such as cobras, and offer visitors the chance to get up close and personal with these unusual creatures.

Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo is located at Ban Harn beach. The aquarium has an amazing collection of tropical fish and other aquatic animals such as turtles and colorful coral. The tiger zoo is home to Bengal tigers and leopards. [open daily from 9am to 6pm].

Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) has a 15 meter tall statue of Buddha. It was built in 1972 and is located in the north of the island at Bang Rak Beach near the airport.

HinTa and Hin Yai, meaning Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks', are located at the southern end of Lamai Bay and are known for their resemblance to male and female sexual organs.

Outdoor Activities available to visitors include: swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, parasailing, jet-skiing, yachting, fishing & deep sea fishing, sea canoeing, bungy jumping, horse riding, elephant trekking, mountain biking & hiking.

Thai Massage & Spa has evolved into a major business in Thailand. A traditional Thai massage starts around 250 baht in one of many massage shops. There are many places to get a massage right up to 5-star hotels/resorts that offer a whole range of spa treatments to guests.

Thai Cooking - Some hotels have their own in-house Thai restaurant offer cooking classes to visitors. The cooking class will teach basic skills sufficient to prepare a Thai meal in your own home or even training to professional standards.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Green Mango Bar is the heart and soul of Koh Samui nightlife. The central super-club is on Soi Green Mango, off the centre of Chaweng Beach Road, and is joined by mega clubs Sweet Soul, Mambo, and a host of bars and nightspots. Chaweng Lake is home to the monthly Black Moon Party, Reggae Pub and Q Bar all within walking distance of Green Mango. Go-go bars, beer bars and beautiful girls is just one side of Samui nightlife that makes Thailand famous. Soi Green Mango is more couples orientated than most night-spots in Thailand, appealing to party goers who like great music, a fun atmosphere, and a vibrant social setting.

Lamai and Bophut each have alternative nightlife options, including restaurants, live music bars and dance clubs.

Samui Accommodation

Ko Samui has a variety of hotels, resorts and quest houses to suit all budgets, ranging from luxurious five-star hotels to simple bungalows. Chaweng Beach has the island's largest concentration of accommodation and is typically the most expensive beach area. The hotels along the northern beaches are less expensive but further away from the shopping and nightlife of Chaweng. However, both areas are close to the airport.

Beyond Koh Samui

Ko Pha Ngan is a mountainous island, just 20km north of Ko Samui, with secluded bays that offer visitors an ideal getaway. Thong Sala, its only town, has a bank, post office, supermarket and shops. Many of its beautiful beaches are only accessible by boat or over rough tracks. The most picturesque beach is Thong Nai Pan, a double bay in the northeast of the island, which has great swimming and snorkeling, as well as the island's most comfortable accommodation. Its most famous beach is Hat Rin, in the southeast of the island, which is the location of the world-famous full moon parties that attract thousands of visitors each month to dance the night away on the beach.

Ko Tao means Turtle Island' and is located 40 km northwest of Ko Pha-ngan and is easily accessible from the mainland at Chumphon which takes 3hrs by boat. The island is very popular among divers and is among one of the best places in Thailand to learn to dive. There are many dive shops at Mae Hat, the island's only town, that can arrange dives for beginners and experienced divers. There is a unique geological cluster of islets just off the northwest coast of Ko Tao, where stunning causeways of sand join the islands and offer visitors the choice of beautiful beaches and amazing snorkeling over coral reefs. For non-divers the island offers a peaceful escape where you can enjoy sandy beaches, great swimming and snorkeling.