Maenam in on the North Shore of Koh Samui and has a lot more to offer than initially meets the eye when you are passing through. This sleepy little village is home to some very friendly ex-pat bars, fantastic and very affordable local restaurants and beach front restaurants that serve local and international dishes that are as impressive as the views of neighboring Koh Phangan. Originally a Chinese fishing village Maenam has retained many of its old Chinese shop front buildings.
The 6 kilometer un-spoilt palm fringed beach has soft golden sand and shallow tranquil waters that quickly drop off into deeper cool waters. The beach is generally pretty deserted making it ideal when you want to get away from the islands more populated beaches. Maenam beach is one of the best places to enjoy views of neighboring Koh Phangan especially at sunset.
The East end of the village is home to a beautiful Chinese temple and plays host to the Thursday Walking Street Market where you can explore colourful stalls where vendors sell a myriad of goods such as local fruits and vegetables, locally produced wines, clothes, handicrafts, gems, cocktails, international foods and local foods including fried insects if you have a taste for the exotic. There are plenty of bargains to be found here as you soak up the atmosphere, sounds, tastes and smells of the vibrant weekly market.
The west side of the village has winding roads flanked with restaurants, bars, massage shops, tailors and local stores. On the far side of the beach you will find Wat Na Pralarn temple that looks particularly impressive at sunset. The Lomprayah Ferry runs from here taking passengers to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao a popular diving spot.
Inland Maenam offers endless opportunities for cycling, walking and rambling thanks to a maze of tracks that wind through the jungle past rivers and the waterfall. A new chill out bar has recently opened next to the waterfall in Soi 5 that offers cold drinks, beers and local dishes. Past this bar is the Canopy Adventure where you can enjoy a different view of the jungle as you glide across the canopy on zip lines from platform to platform. Another great way to explore this area is by ATV quad bikes that can be found on Soi 1. Soi 1 also has a very reasonably priced day spa where you can indulge in massage and other spa treatments. Maenam is also home to the world class Santi Buri 18 hole golf course that offers challenging golf and some of the most spectacular views on the island. The golf club is worth a visit even if you don’t play golf thanks to its beautifully positioned club house that serves surprisingly affordable local and international dishes.
The ring road of Maenam has more than a handful of convenience stores, two fuel stations, bike and car repair shops, furniture shops, hardware stores, banks, travel agents and local markets. There is a doctor’s surgery opposite the post office to the east of the ring road.
Maenam is 8 kilometers from Tesco Lotus, 7 kilometers from the airport and 10 Kilometers from Chaweng beach.
Bang Po is on the North West coast of Koh Samui. This calm and tranquil village is completely devoid of noisy nightlife making it the ideal location when you want to get away from it all. The white palm fringed sandy beach is 4 kilometers long and affords spectacular views of Koh Phangan. The waters here are calm and shallow with a handful of coral reefs if you fancy a spot of snorkeling. There is a lovely health spa in the village and Bang Po is home to one of Samui’s oldest seafood restaurants and has a handful of local restaurants and convenience stores. The beach is littered with fabulous local ocean- view restaurants and is ideal for an evening stroll. Further local and international restaurants as well as bars can be found in Maenam around 4 kilometers east of Bang Po.
Bang Po is 12 kilometers from Tesco Lotus, 14 Kilometers from the airport and 16 kilometers from Chaweng Beach.
Bangkrak is a bustling linear village on the north east coast of Koh Samui. Its proximity to the airport makes it a popular destination for those who do not want to spend time in the more remote areas of the island. The main piers that serve the surrounding islands are in Bangrak and that makes it a convenient place to stay if you want to spend time diving, snorkeling and exploring the surrounding islands.
The beach at Bangrak is three kilometers long and although narrow it is very clean and here the ocean is shallow. The beach offers fabulous views of neighboring Koh Phangan and on clear days Koh Tao beyond. Bangrak is also the jump off point to the famous full moon parties that take place one a month in Koh Phangan.
Bangrak has an abundance of western style beach bars, family bars and sports bars. A popular area with local expats Bangrak has more than its fair share of affordable Thai and Western Restaurants as a very affordable local produce market.
To the east of the village you will find the Big Buddha temple that is easily one of the most recognizable landmarks on Samui with its 12 meter high Buddha that has been sitting, majestically, on a tall platform overlooking Koh Samui since 1972. This, one of the islands most visited temples, is on a small island, reached by a causeway, on the north east shore of the island. The Buddha can be seen from several kilometers away as well as by plane on arrival to the island. The Buddha alone makes the temple worth a visit as do the views from the platform it sits on. The grounds of the temple are home to a bustling market that offers a myriad of shopping opportunities. On the large end of the scale you can buy giant wooden elephants and nuts and bolts aliens in the market from several stores that have shipping facilities. Other stalls have a range of Buddhas and Buddha masks that make excellent souvenirs as well as home decorations. There is an art gallery with hand painted, unique and reproduction art works, local handicraft shops, handmade shoe and handbag shops, and a couple of dozen shops selling cool cotton summer clothes and a wide variety of T-shirts as well as children’s’ attire. The OTOP - One Tambon One Product shop has an excellent range of herbs, spa products, honey, natural latex, ginseng, tea and fruit pastes. If you are not in the mood for shopping then head to the Dr Fish shop and spend half an hour having the dead skin removed from your feet by tiny, hungry, fish, or, perhaps, go and put 5baht into a fortune telling slot machine. There is one machine for every day of the week. It is a good idea to pick the one that represents the day you were born. The machine will work its magic and give you a number that corresponds to one of the fortunes you can read underneath the machine. If you would prefer a more personal reading then head on over to the English speaking fortune teller who has a shop next to the large car parking area.
Bangrak is two kilometers from the airport, four kilometers from Chaweng and six kilometers from Chaweng
Ban Tai is a pretty little village west of Maenam. Although there is very little to be seen as you pass through on the ring road if you head towards the beach you will find some lovely secluded bars, massage outlets and restaurants. Ban Tai is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon on the beach away from the crowds and beach hawkers.
The beach at Ban Tai is pristine, the ocean is clean and the water is shallow enough for small children to safely play. The views of neighboring Koh Phangan are uninterrupted and the palm trees offer shade from the hot summer sun. To find the best beach head out of Maenam past petrol station on the left hand side and then turn right when you get to 7-11, where you will see a sign that says public beach. At the end of that road you will find the beach. If you are driving a car it is wise to park up here as small road that runs the length of the beach does not have car parking facilities. The best part of the beach can be found at the end of the dirt road where you will find a small and basic resort. From here you can continue on foot along the beach and if you go past the rocks you will find a secluded bay that is generally deserted. The beach is flanked by un-spoilt jungle and a stone wall beyond which is a small track that leads you up into the forest to a peculiar tunnel that seems to lead into the wilderness beyond.
There is not much in the way of shopping in Ban Tai although there are a couple of convenience stores. There is nothing at all in the way of nightlife but it is the ideal spot to enjoy a cold beer or cocktail as the sun goes down in any one of the beach front bars/restaurants and the shady lanes make an excellent choice for a leisurely afternoon stroll.
Ban Tai is thirteen miles from the airport, twelve miles from Tesco Lotus and fourteen miles from Chaweng beach.
Bophut, located on the north shore, has a reputation as one of the most charming and romantic villages on the island. Bophut started life as a small Chinese fishing community from where it derived the name of the Fisherman’s Village. Many of the old Chinese wooden buildings have been preserved to this day although the Chinese Fishermen are long gone. The village has a distinctly Mediterranean feel that came about when it became home to a French community but these days it is a melting pot for all creeds and cultures that each add something unique to this fabulous beach front spot. Part of Bophut’s charm is that it is away from the ringroad and its associated hustle and bustle. Bophut has plenty of bars but no Chaweng style go- go bars that would detract from its charm.
The beach is 3 kilometers long and an ideal place to soak up the sun and views of neighboring Koh Phangan. The ocean here is fairly shallow but perhaps not quite as clear as in other parts of the island, however it is still very swimmable. There is a small reef that is suitable for snorkeling and you will find plenty of jet skis and kayaks to the west of the beach. During the evening there are endless opportunities for beach dining as the beach front restaurants set up tables with romantic candles next to the gentle lapping waves.
There are some fabulous beach bars to the west of the village, some offering local and international dishes. Bophut has a spectacular variety of restaurants to enjoy. The Happy Elephant is a well established and imposing restaurant in the heart of the village that is popular among visitors and residents of the island that serves both authentic Thai and International dishes. The village has two fabulous Italian restaurants, a German restaurant, an Indian, fabulous sea food restaurants, a handful of Thai restaurants, a pizza restaurant, a Mexican, a wonderful crepe bar and arguably the best steak restaurant on the island, The Shack.
There are plenty of friendly bars in the village as well as a popular sports bar with big screen TVs and a bustling Irish Pub. Shopping opportunities are endless here. Bophut has some wonderful boutique style shops selling artifacts, footwear and clothing, lots of market style shops where you can pick up bargains and souvenirs, some chic dress shops and plenty of handicraft outlets. The large temple towards the ring road often plays host to colourful local markets where you can take in the true atmosphere of Thailand and shop and eat with the locals. Bophut has a handful of convenience stores and several banks and ATM’s. Just outside the village on the ring road is a large local market that sells an impressive variety of local produce. Opposite the temple is an interesting art gallery where local artists display their talents. The ring road part of the village has less old charm than the heart of the village but is worth visiting for more shopping opportunities and dining in a large Thai style restaurant opposite the traffic lights where incredibly low priced local dishes can be enjoyed.
On Friday nights this romantic village transforms into the bustling walking street market that seems to go on for miles and miles. Over one hundred vendors descend on the village to offer a myriad of goods, drinks and mouthwatering snacks. Live performers turn the village into a unique street party for all to enjoy. Friday Walking Street is certainly not to be missed.
Bophut is 4 kilometers from the airport, 3.5 kilometers from Tesco Lotus and 6 kilometers from Chaweng.
Chaweng is known as the most popular area of Koh Samui. It has the longest beach and by far the biggest selection of entertainment, this, the party capital of the island is home to literally hundreds of hotels, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and shopping outlets. Chaweng, located on the east side of the island, is divided into three main areas, North, Central and South. The north end has shallow waters, luxury resorts and boutique spas. The central area is where you will find all of the action and the south is considerably quieter and home to more exclusive hotels and restaurants.
Chaweng beach is 7 kilometers long and most crowed at its centre. The beach is predominantly accessed via hotels as there is no direct access to speak of. Hundreds of hawkers roam the beach displaying their wares of local fruit, snacks, ice cream, cold drinks, jewelry, henna tattoos, local artifacts and souvenirs. This is a unique sun lounge shopping experience like no other. There is a coral reef here and both shallow and deeper areas of water, the shallow areas being towards the north. There are endless jet-ski operators in this area and dozens of massage ladies along the beach ready to help you relax to the sound of the waves. The view of the sweeping bay here is particularly impressive at night as restaurants set up romantic beach dining from one end of the beach to the other.
The selection of bars in Chaweng is vast. Here you can find quiet bars to the north where you can enjoy a cold drink and watch the world go by, central Chaweng offers lively sports bars where you can watch world sports events screened live, there are hundreds of go- go bars, ladyboy cabaret shows, Irish Bars, German Bars, Scandinavian Bars, live music venues, DJ bars and, to the south, you will find more family orientated bars. Green Mango Soi is home to popular music bars and nightclubs who regularly employ international DJ’s and live bands and Soi Ragge on the other side of the lake also has more than a handful of late night entertainment options and is home to the Reggae Pub, the longest established nightclub on the island that features live bands, international DJ’s and spectacular lake views.
If you think you are spoilt for choice in terms of entertainment in Chaweng the choice of dining opportunities will leaving you wanting for nothing. There is something for every taste and budget in Chaweng and from every corner of the globe. As well a fantastic Thai and seafood restaurants Chaweng is home to cheap eats and street vendors, Mexicans, Indian, Mediterranean and French restaurants, Japanese, Italians, BBQ restaurants, mid range international restaurants and high end fine dining venues that would rival the most famous restaurants in the world. Chaweng is also home to all the well known fast food outlets and chic ice cream parlors and coffee shops. There are plenty of bakeries and convenience stores as well as TOPs supermarket in the beach road and Big C, Macro and Tesco on the ring road.
Chaweng has dozens of tour operators and dive shops if you fancy getting out and about around the island or going sub aqua. The Bungee jump can be found at the end of Soi Reggae and is the perfect place to face your fears. If you encounter the odd rainy day, Tesco has an indoor bowling alley and a cinema that shows Thai an international movies. If you fancy some pampering then Chaweng will not disappoint, you will find plenty of spas, beauty parlors and massage rooms where you can indulge in Thai, oil, head, foot and back massage. Most of the big hotels have world class spa facilities. You will also find dozens of tailor’s shops where you can have tailor made outfits made to measure at a fraction of the price you would find back home.
Shopping opportunities are endless in Chaweng, you will find hundreds of local stores where you can pick up bargains, clothes, luggage, handbags, sunglasses, local arts and crafts, souvenirs and just about everything else you can think of, there are also plenty of international brand outlets. If you want to take your Thai dining experiences home with you there are a couple of Thai cooking schools in this area. If you want to practice cooking while you are here then head to the Laem Din market in central Chaweng where local produce is sold in abundance.
Chaweng is home to a Thai boxing stadium where you can enjoy watching Thailand’s number one sport and if you want to take part there is a Muay Thai boxing school on the ring road as well as a well appointed gym. If you have the misfortune of becoming unwell during your visit Chaweng has three private international hospitals, Samui International in North Chaweng, Thai international on the road that links the ring road to the lake-road and Bangkok Samui on the ring road in South Chaweng.
South Chaweng is home to Crystal bay, a secluded and pretty beach with excellent snorkeling and a handful of pretty resorts and restaurants. Chaweng has plenty of bike and car hire outlets, a post office, money exchanges and banks. Chaweng is 2 kilometers from the airport.
Choeng Mon is one of Samui’s best kept secrets that can be found on the furthest north east point of the island. Even though this area is quiet there are still lots of shops, restaurants and bars to enjoy.
The beach at Choeng Mon has fine white sand and a clear blue ocean. Less hectic than other beaches this is a part of the island where you really feel like you are getting away from it all without going too far away. The beach is home to a handful of massage ladies who will give you the ultimate in relaxation while you listen to the sound of the waves gently lapping in the bay.
From the beach you can see the small island of Koh Fan Yai that can be reached by kayaks that are easy to hire from vendors around the beach. In low tide the island can be reached by foot. The beach itself is broken up into several small bays so it is easy to find an isolated spot if you want to chill out and get away from it all.
Some private villas have popped up in this area and the beach also fronts a few luxury resorts and hotels that offer five star dining experiences.
Although there is no actual town in Choeng Mon the road has plenty to offer in terms of local and international restaurants and there are a couple of bars but nothing that you would call nightlife, however, its proximity to Chaweng means that action is not far away. There are several convenience stores in Choeng Mon as well as souvenir shops, tailors, massage shops and health spas.
One great feature of Choeng Mon is the islands only Football Golf. Football Golf is basically golf with footballs, bigger holes and no clubs. It is a fun holiday activity that can be enjoyed by any number of players and is here thanks to Tom Roberts. Tom’s idea sprang from playing football as a child on the beach back in the UK. To make the game more interesting, he, and his friends, used to dig holes on the beach and test their skills by trying to get a hole in one. Unbeknown to Tom, Football Golf was already being played in Sweden, a fact he only discovered whilst surfing the net, once his course had been completed. Within weeks Tom had Swedish players enjoying the paradise version of the game and football/ golf officially took off in Koh Samui. The course is beautiful and, thankfully, in this heat, is protected by a canopy of trees and coconut palms. Of the 18 holes one is a par 2, seven are par 3, seven are par 4, and three are par 5. You will encounter bunkers, bamboo hedges, hills and piles of coconuts on your way round and all need to be negotiated! There are hardly any rules to learn, basically you just have to get the ball in the hole and to keep it fair. The most you record that you went over par is 7!
Choeng Mon is five kilometers from the airport, eight kilometers from Tesco and six kilometers from Chaweng beach.
Hua Thanon is a Muslim village on the south east coast of Koh Samui home to one of Samui’s last remaining Thai fishing fleets. The village has a quaint atmosphere, is very photogenic and gives you an idea of what island life was like pre tourism. As well as the colourfully painted fishing boats you will find a handful of outstanding fresh seafood restaurants and a local daily market.
The beach at Hua Thanon has golden sands and generally the ocean is calm and reasonably shallow and generally pretty deserted a perfect spot to simply get away from it all.
Hua Thanon is home to the only Mosque on the island that can be found at the back of the village. Life here is very traditional with no nightlife to speak of. The village land is lined with traditional Chinese houses that have shop fronts where you will find local goods and produce, a barber’s shop, a bike repair shop and curiosity style shops. The daily market is a great place to pick up some seafood and all of the fresh produce you need to cook up a feast at home. There are a couple of five star resorts here if you fancy a spot of fine dining or a top class health spa experience.
Hua Thanon is only stone’s throw from Hin Tai and Hin Yai the Grandfather and Grandmother stones that sit on a small beach ideal for a photo opportunity. Here you will also find a handicraft market with lots of stalls selling local goods, carving, shells and coconut toffee. Beyond Hin Tai and Hin Yai is the bustling town of Lamai where you will find banks, shops, bars, clubs and restaurants as well as a branch of Tesco Lotus and an abundance of convenience stores.
Hua Thanon is fourteen kilometers from the airport, four kilometers from Tesco Lotus and sixteen kilometers from Chaweng Beach.
The interior of Koh Samui is mountainous, almost uninhabited and has virtually impenetrable jungle as well as thousands of coconut trees. The island peaks at 635m with the lower levels being connected by 51km ring road. There are a couple of usable roads that go over the mountain from Maenam to Nathon, Maenam to Lamai and when it is in a good state of repair Bang Po to Hin Tai and Hin Yai. There are some incredible viewpoints in the islands interior if you feel like taking a white knuckle 4x4 drive or the fairly strenuous walk that can also be done by mountain bike. One attraction that is worth a visit in the islands interior is The Magic Garden also known as Secret Buddha Garden where you will find a fascinating collection of statues mad by a local fruit farmer called Khun Nim Thongsuk. Nim started to build the garden in 1976 at an incredible 77 years of age and did the most amazing job of it. This fairy tale garden is utterly unique and full of little surprises. There are a few restaurants in this area that offer reasonably priced local dishes as well as breathtaking panoramic views.
Laem Set is a pretty little village in the un-spoilt south of Koh Samui. Away from night life and the hustle and bustle of the more popular areas of the island this area is the perfect getaway retreat.
The deserted beaches are picture perfect and over look the islands of Koh Taen and Koh Matsum. Although for most of the year the water here is too shallow to swim in, the colours in the ocean are breathtaking and the clear waters are calm all year round. Between October and April when the water is a little deeper it is possible to swim one hundred meters out to the reef where you can enjoy some snorkeling. It is recommended to wear booties even at this time of the year as the ocean floor is covered with coral that can be quite sharp in places. The beaches are palm fringed and have huge boulders that create fabulous almost private bays for some peace and solitude.
There are a couple of five star resorts in Laem Set and a world class spa. If you enjoy practicing yoga and healing arts then this area will be particularly appealing. There is nothing in the way of nightlife in Laem Set, but if you are after an evening of entertainment it is only twenty minutes away by car in nearby Lamai that has bars, restaurants, nightclubs and a myriad of shopping opportunities.
Close to Laem Set you will find the Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo where you can visit an incredible array of marine life and creatures of the deep and have your photograph taken with giant turtles and Royal Bengal Tigers and young leopards. Another attraction nearby is the butterfly farm, an enclosed tropical park that is home to hundreds of butterflies. The butterfly farm also has an incredible display of moths and insects and a hillside observatory with breathtaking ocean views.
Koh Taen is only a short boat ride away. This small and un-spoilt island offers hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking and is well worth a visit. The island has one village with a population of only thirty people who earn their living from fishing. There is one Buddhist temple on the island that is home to some fifty year old whale shark bones. Another interesting feature of the island is the mangrove forest where you will find trees that branch out over the water where fish hop about in the mud, Komodo monitor lizards, a relative of the Komodo dragons can also be spotted in this area.
Laem Set is nineteen kilometers from the airport, nine miles from Tesco Lotus and sixteen miles from Chaweng Beach.
Lipa Noi is a quiet and tranquil town on the west of Koh Samui. Its proximity to the Raja Car Ferry makes is a popular location for those who frequently visit the mainland.
The beach at Lipa Noi is beautiful with fine white sand and the shallow waters that reach up to one hundred meters out and lack of rocks and coral make it one of the most suitable beaches for children on the island. The beach is the perfect place to enjoy the sun setting over Ang Thong National Marine Park.
There are some world class spas and healing centers in this area as well as an abundance of popular fresh seafood restaurants. Lipa Noi is home to the OTOP Shop, One Tambon One Product, a government assisted enterprise that promotes the production of handicrafts from materials that are available locally in every area of Thailand. The Samui branch has an exciting rage of goods, kitchenware, fashion items and household goods made from coconuts.
There is little to do in this area other than sit back and relax and that is what makes it so appealing to those who come back year after year to simply get away from it all and enjoy being in paradise. The area is surrounded by coconut plantations and a taste of a way of life in times gone by. Although this area is very undeveloped it is only a stone’s throw away from Nathon, the islands commercial center where you will find restaurants, markets, shops, banks and government offices as well as a busy pier. Lipa Noi itself has a handful of convenience stores.
Many of the local restaurants, some of which are attached to privately owned resorts, put on low key evening entertainment such as Thai dancing and at the North End of the beach is Nikki Beach famous for its white parties that kick off a few times year.
Lipa Noi is very close to Paradise Park Farm, a children’s haven in the hills where they can meet and interact with many different species of animals and birds. The farm has a small entrance fee that includes the use of a refreshing swimming pool. There is a very decent Thai restaurant here too.
When you really want an island getaway with those picture perfect beaches that everybody dreams about then Lipa Noi will not disappoint. The village is only a few kilometers from Nathon, twenty six kilometers from the airport, sixteen kilometers from Tesco Lotus, although there is a Tesco Metro in Nathon ad twenty three kilometers from Chaweng Beach.
Namunag is located on the west coast of Koh Samui, ten kilometers south of the main commercial town of Nathon. This area is very undeveloped, un-spoilt and famous for its waterfalls and jungle safaris.
This area does not have a beach but there are two notable waterfalls. Na Muang, that means purple waterfall, a name derived from the colour of the rocks, is eighteen meters high and can be reached by car and motor bike. Na Muang two is eighty meters high and can only be reached by a bit of a hike on foot. These are by far the most impressive waterfalls on the island. If you want a shady place to kick back and relax and cool down in crystal clear waters this is certainly the place to head for. Na Muang is also the ideal place to get out and explore the jungle, go elephant trekking and enjoy a picnic.
The Namunag full day eco adventure is one of the most popular activities on the island. The tour starts with an elephant ride among the coconut plantations in the islands jungle interior. After that you will be treated to an elephant show where you will have the opportunity to feed the elephants by hand. From here a 4 x 4 jeep will take you deep into the jungles and the mountains and stop at some of the islands most spectacular view points giving you the opportunity to marvel at the panoramic views. Later on the tour takes you to the waterfalls where you can relax and cool off in the rock pools.
Na Muang is also home to Wat Khunaram that is famous for its mummified monk, an unusual but interesting sight. Monk Luong Por Daeng, after predicting his own death, died in 1973 in a meditation position. Luong Por Daeng, also known as Phra Khru Samathakittkhun was born in 1894 and was a very well respected family man within the local community in Koh Samui. In his early twenties he was ordained as a monk and spent two years in Wat Samret before leaving to marry a local lady from Lamai. Together they had six children, some of whom are alive and still living on the island today. Early into his fifties, when his children were all grown he took the decision to dedicate the rest of his life to Buddhism. He returned to the temple that in 1944 he was ordained, a place he felt most at peace. He later travelled to the nation’s capital of Bangkok to learn more about Buddhism. Local legend has it that when he returned to Koh Samui he lived in a cave where today you will find Tamarind Springs. Later he spent some time in Chaweng and was one of the first Abbots where Wat Pang Bua stands today. Later he returned to his family home near to Wat Kunaram, where the temple school stands. At the age of 79 years and 8 months he called for his students to join him as he felt his death was close by. He instructed his students in his last wishes telling them where his remains were to be scattered should he decompose. He went on to request that should his body not decompose he would like to remain at the temple. For the final seven days of his life he neither drank nor ate but simply meditated in the same position that he sits today.
Na Muang is nineteen kilometers from the airport, nine kilometers from Tesco Lotus and sixteen kilometers from Chaweng Beach.
Nathon, the commercial capital of Koh Samui, can be found on the West coast of the island. Here you will find the islands main post office, government offices, banks, ATM’s and a telecoms center as well as the Government run beach front hospital and the islands immigration office. Nathon is the main ferry port with car and passenger ferries arriving every hour from the mainland.
There is no real beach to speak of in Nathon but the south part of the village does have a small sandy beach when the tide is out and views of the mainland in the distance. This area is also a popular kiteboarding area when the wind is in the right direction.
There is, surprisingly, quite a lot to do in this little town. To service the ferry traffic several restaurants and bakeries have popped up that serve affordable local dishes as well a delicious cakes, breads, buns and pastries that would not look out of place on the streets of Paris. The shopping opportunities here are endless with dozens of cottage industry type shops selling handicrafts, souvenirs, sarongs, soap carvings and other local goods at a fraction of the price you will find elsewhere on the island. There are also some fabulous kitchen ware shops that rival anything else on the island, art shops, pearl shops and second hand book stores. There are more than a handful of travel agents, internet shops and repair style shops where just about any electrical items can be brought back to life for a few baht. Nathon has a busting local produce market where you can buy exotic fruits, vegetables, tropical flowers, herbs, spices and local delicacies. There is also a Tesco Metro here that has a reasonable selection of western produce.
On the middle road of the commercial centre is a delightful row of old Chinese shop houses that sell an amazing range of goods including handmade shoes, gold and household goods. The beach front road has a good selection of fresh seafood restaurants and the area around the ferry port regularly hosts food fairs and food markets that are more than well worth a visit.
The fishing pier is colourful, exciting and well worth a visit when the fishing boats and squid trawlers dock to sell their catch at the commercial port market.
On the outskirts of Nathon is Hin Lat Waterfall. To get to the top is a bit of a hike but it is not too strenuous and there are plenty of watering holes along the way. The rock pool at the bottom of the waterfall is often deep enough to swim in on a hot day and the area has a handful of local restaurants serving low price dishes. Just beyond the waterfall entrance is a temple set in beautiful botanical garden. Many of the trees and plants have been labeled so you can learn a bit about the local flora and fauna.
Nathon is nineteen kilometers from the airport, eighteen kilometers away from the main Tesco Lotus and twenty one kilometers away from Chaweng Beach.
Plai Laem is on the North East shore of Koh Samui just after the famous Big Buddha Temple. This relatively undeveloped area has fantastic views of Koh Phangan and a handful of five star resorts and spas hidden along its bays.
There is a lovely stretch of beach in Plai Laem. The water is very shallow, so although this beach is not the ideal place to go and have a swim, it is great for a long sunset walk, or for a remote picnic and it is a superb choice for families with small children. The easiest way to get to this less than obviously accessible beach is to drive past Big Buddha heading towards Choeng Mon you will find a turning on your left in between a Family Mart and a 7-11. Go down this road past Pureshores resort and the Silver Bullet Bar. Over a small bridge the road splits into two either side of a large red building that is up for rent. Take the left fork and then take your first left down a little road that goes to nowhere other than the beach and has a small rental resort at the end of it. Park here, go down to the beach and turn right. This long stretch of beach will take you past the home of the Black Moon Party and is a little messy with litter in places but if you keep going you will find some amazing remote coves that are flanked by virgin jungle and offer super views of two little islands and the north shore of Koh Samui. There are no bars or restaurants here, so take a snack and some cold drinks, sit back and relax and enjoy the sound of the lapping of the waves and the birds in the trees because these are the only sounds you will hear, other than the odd plane going over.
Other than the restaurants in the hotels and spas there are only a handful of local restaurants but the food is fresh and very reasonably priced.
There is an interesting and fairly new temple in Plai Laem that features a huge white eighteen arm image of the Guanyin Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. This is an active temple where Buddhists regularly visit to pay homage to Guanyin and other Buddhist images that have been constructed around a large lake that is teaming with fish. Fish food can be brought here for a small donation to the temple if you want to see a feeding frenzy and there are small paddle boats for hire if you want to go out around the lake. Another interesting feature of the temple is a large laughing Buddha statue that has incredible carved teak doors and an elaborate ceremonial hall.
There is little in the way of shopping in Plai Leam but it does have a handful of small local market stalls and convenience stores.
Plai Laem is four kilometers away from the airport, seven kilometers away from Tesco Lotus ad six kilometers away from Chaweng beach.
Taling Nam is a quaint and peaceful village in the un-spoilt and un-developed south west of the island. This area is known for its fantastic seafood restaurants, spectacular sunsets and beautiful uninterrupted views of the Five Islands and Ang Thong National Marine Park.
The beach at Taling Nam is straight off a picture postcard; it would be hard to imagine a more photogenic spot. The ocean here is clean and the beaches are almost always deserted.
There is no nightlife to speak of in this area that makes it ideal for those wanting to get away from it all and enjoy the tranquil surroundings of paradise. Despite its lack of nightlife there are some world class restaurants in this area where you can indulge in a spot of fine dining.
There are an abundance of fresh seafood restaurants in this area where you can enjoy the catch of the day in stunning surroundings while you soak up the breathtaking views.
It is possible to take a day trip to The Five Islands that are well known for their amazing silhouettes at nighttime but less well known for being home to hundreds of swifts that make nests on the island out of twigs and spit. Amazingly these nests are ranked as one of the world’s most expensive animal products and are regularly harvested and sent to the Chinese market where they are an integral ingredient of the delicacy of Birds Nest Soup.
Other attractions near Taling Nam include the Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo, the Butterfly Kingdom and Top Cats fishing, home to one of the most beautiful fishing lakes in Thailand. Here you can while away the hours hooking fish such as Tiger Catfish, Giant Siamese Carp, Niger Catfish, Red Tailed Catfish, Aligator Gar, Jullien’s Golden Prize Carp, Giant Mekong Catfish and Arapaima. Quality rods can be brought or hired onsite as well and reels and homemade boilies come in a range of sizes and flavors. There are also guides on hand to give you expert knowledge and instruction.
Taling Nam is twenty six kilometers from the airport, sixteen kilometers from Tesco Lotus and twenty three kilometers from Chaweng.
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island and is located off the East coast of the mainland in the Gulf of Thailand. island is part of Surat Thani province and lies thirty five kilometers north east of Surat Thani town. The island was probably first inhabited about fifteen centuries ago. Samui can be found on Chinese maps back as far as 1687 under the name of Pulo Cornam. Nobody really knows where the name Samui came from, although Koh is the Thai word for island. It has been suggested that the name is an extension of Mui, the name of the native trees or from the Malay word, Saboey, that means safe haven. The islands capital, Nathon, is on the west coast and is the major port for fishing and inter-island transportation. Nathon is the seat of the local government and the commercial hub for the locals.
The island is rich in natural resources and attracts in excess of 1.5 million visitors a year. The main attractions of Koh Samui are its colourful coral reefs, white sandy beaches and untouched mountains. Samui’s beaches are referred to as towns (or villages) these days as hotels and restaurants have sprung up around beaches over the years, the most well known being Chaweng, Lamai and Bophut. Historically the island’s economy has been based around fishing and coconut harvesting, however, that was overtaken over by tourism in the early 1980’s. The island has its own privately owned international airport with daily flights to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Although around 10% of the island has been developed, Koh Samui still has numerous untouched beaches and remote spots to enjoy. The island has world class spa facilities, five star hotels and resorts, from luxurious villa to budget style accommodation, hundreds of local restaurants serving local faire and fresh seafood as well as international standard five star restaurants galore.
Koh Samui has a vast amount of local attractions, superb nightlife and is only a stone’s throw away from neighboring Koh Phangan, world famous for its monthly full moon parties that are on every backpackers ‘must do’ list. Beyond Koh Phangan is another popular island Koh Tao, famous for its diving and to the west is Ang Thong National Marine Park that can be enjoyed by day trips on boats that also offer stunning sunset cruises. The laid back approach to life in general and the friendly locals have made Samui a popular retirement destination as well as a second home in the sun for people from every corner of the globe.