The night promises all the drama of a tropical storm as palm trees bow to the tumultuous weather gods holding court on the island of Koh Samui. Serene skies make way for the approaching monsoon season as the rain pounds sideways as everyone takes cover and prepares for the impending deluge. There was a time not that long ago when boutique accommodation, fine dining and day spas weren’t on Koh Samui’s tourist trail, and the island was famed for its fishing communities and coconuts. Now its staggering beauty fringed by aquamarine is a drawcard for loved-up couples and families.
There’s plenty of civilised ways to get soaked on Koh Samui, like the glorious Crystal Bay whose name derived from its insanely pretty waters. Join the bevvy of bikini-clad pretties emerging from the sea swanning into Crystal Bach Beach Club perched on the water’s edge for plenty of raw and green options. Choeng Mon, near the Big Buddha on the north-western tip of the island, is popular for the sophisticated while the soft sands of Bophut Beach give the calves a workout leaving you completely justified to flop until you need refreshment from the nearby Fisherman’s Bay.
Forget the trashy full moon parties and instead, explore Koh Phangan’s gorgeous beaches in virtual seclusion just 20 minutes away by ferry. Hire a taxi from the ferry terminal or grab a map and hire a boat or bike to explore at whim. Two stand-out beaches are Bottle Beach in the remote northern end adorned with powdery white and turquoise hues and if time and energy permits, climb the steep track for envy-inducing Instagram views. From Bottle Beach, walk or take a longboat to Thong Nai Pan Beach, which has two heavenly sandy bays lined with rustic eateries. There are plenty of water lapping bungalows which is just as well since you’re not going to want to leave. Lingering on the island demands a gorge on Parisian fare at the candle-lit L’Alcove and then an overnight stay in one of the garden bungalows.
Safari Boat offer tours and private charters of Koh Phangan, Koh Nang Yuan (believed to be the most beautiful of them all) and Angthong Marine Park, featuring an archipelago of 42 islands, including monkey island which has no monkeys but claims its name from its gorilla shape. Snorkel through schools of sea bass and pilot fish, take an invigorating 500-metre climb to Emerald Lake,which incidentally is definitely worth the hike and has fairly safe manmade stairs and handrails. Lunch and a dip, snorkel or sea kayaking are well deserved through spectacular outcrops through hidden caves and along limestone cliffs.
Have you eaten on Koh Samui yet?
It would be unheard of to visit Koh Samui without sampling local favourites like papaya salad, pad thai noodles, nam prik kapi (a sauce of chilli, garlic, shallots, lime juice and fermented fish paste served with fresh condiments), the fragrant massaman curry, sour curry kaeng som made with fermented fish paste, green curry, Thai fish soup, kalamae (coconut and caramel treats coated in sesame seed) and of course coconut in its many forms.
The area of Lamai Beach has been claimed by many French expats and visitors so you can be sure the island’s French cheese shop, butchery and bakeries like La Fabrique are the real deal; and an alternative to the local spicy cuisine. The Belgian owned Villa Chocolate serves coffee and handmade chocolates and sweets ideally savoured to the tunes and twirls of the enchanting ballet school on the premises.
There’s no shortage of locally family-run restaurants Thai favourites but the Sunday night markets in Lamai has some of the best street food. Given the high turnover the food is fresh, especially barbequed meat and seafood, and anything served on a stick like marinated pork, corn, fish balls, garlic bread, sausages and satays. Perfect for eating while exploring the markets for trash and treasure.
Learn how to make your favourite dishes like pad thai, green curry chicken and green papaya salad at Island Organics Samui by using ingredients picked fresh from her organic garden she cultivated from the ground up. Even if you’re no connoisseur it’s worth spending time with owners Cameron Hanson, a renowned photographer, and his gorgeous wife Lat on tours through her abundant garden which she impressively transformed from a barren plot. By end of the lesson, you’ll happily provide an eating history at the local greeting, “Khun yang mi di kin” meaning “Have you eaten yet?”
Where can I stay on Koh Samui?
Following the island’s lead, the Outrigger Koh Samui’s colonial style is unique to the island and if Graham Greene was still alive, I could picture him penning a novel here just as he wrote the Quiet American in Hanoi’s Hotel Metropole. The suites decorated in soft blues and greens with four poster beds and wood panelling are luxurious in their furnishings and size. The enormous suites are versatile enough for a multitude of sleeping configurations and feature claw foot baths, plantation shutters, timber detailing, balconies and the kind of grandeur that may compel you to use a posh voice to order G&T’s while gazing out over Lamai Beach. The Outrigger is located in Lamai, an area known for its French expat community, and there are several French bakeries and a cheese shop nearby which could be the makings of a decadent beach picnic.
Na Muang Waterfalls
You might just win parent of the year with a trip to the Na Muang Waterfalls. There are two waterfalls with Na Muang No. 1 flowing to an easily accessible pool and Na Muang No. 2 is about a 30 minute further hike uphill (flimsy footwear is not recommended.) The park includes a zipline, waterslide, swimming, an elephant trek and also the opportunity to feed a Bengal cub. Brace yourself for, “Can we keep him?”
A visit to the mummified monk at the Wat Khunaram Temple certainly is a testament to healthy living. Born as Dang Pivasilo (1894-1973) it’s believed his healthy lifestyle attributed to not only a long life but the remarkable preservation of his body, apart from his eyes, which explains why he’s wearing cool sunglasses. While here, make a donation and receive a blessing from a monk for a fortuitous life.
Just as the island prides itself on its pristine condition, it naturally attracts couples attune to keeping their bodies aligned and healthy. The insane views of Jungle Club, Gecko Bar and June’s Art Café are just a few hotspots dishing up organic freshness as does Vikasa along with yoga for the bendy. Day spas are plentiful, and Tamarind Springs is conveniently close to the Outrigger offerings all kinds of heavenly treatments amongst lush vegetation.
Almost every turn and bend on the island offers spectacular sea views especially since no building is taller than a palm tree. Unlike many other Asian tourist destinations, Koh Samui isn’t over developed and there is little chance it ever will be either. It’s no secret Bangkok Airways own the airport and limit the number of tourists arriving to the island; unless you arrive by ferry from the mainland or are fortunate enough to have access to a private boat or plane. As a result, the traffic isn’t too crazy, at least by Asian standards, and it’s relatively easy to hire a car or scooter. Just follow the ring road which circumnavigates the island and follow random turns leading down to hidden bays and beaches.
For more information go to Koh Samui
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