koh samui travel information guide
"All in all, Samui, like most of Thailand, is a place for all seasons."
The magical island of Koh Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand, 80 Km off the coast of Surat Thani and about 560 Km south of Bangkok.
The island is Thailand's third largest, measuring 21 kilometers at its widest point and 25 kilometers in length. It is one of a group of 80 tropical islands, most of them deserted. A mountain ridge runs across Koh Samui from east to west and most of the interior is forested hills. The rich hues of wild vegetation are seen throughout, interspersed with the contrasting greens of coconut palms and emerald paddy fields.
Before the construction of an airport on the island, Koh Samui was a bohemians' paradise - carefree, exotic with an abundance of white sandy beaches and swaying tropical palms, a veritable paradise on earth. This lack of accessibility, kept Samui basking in the sunshine away from the rest of the world and especially mainstream tourism. Back then you could get a room on the beach for as little as 200 Baht.
The local population, a mere 40,000 people, consists mainly of Buddhist Thais, and is very friendly. Until the recent arrival of tourism, coconut farming and fishing were the main sources of income, and both are still important on the island today. The seafood you enjoy in the many restaurants and hotel dining rooms around the island will most likely have been caught fresh that very day, caught in the rich surrounding waters.
The largest and most popular beaches on Samui are Chaweng, Lamai, Bophut and Maenam. But for those looking for a quieter place to spend their holiday or business trip, there are another 20 or so beaches to choose from.
As for activities, there is something for everyone. Sun worshippers and Watersports enthusiasts will be in heaven on Chaweng beach, whilst culture fans and nature lovers can fill their time visiting temples, trekking in the jungle or learning Thai arts such as cooking and massage.
Koh Samui is a rare gem in the Gulf of Thailand, offering modern amenities and activities, yet conserving the idyllic simplicity of a tropical hideaway. Powdery white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters await you, as do the welcoming Thai people, an embodiment of a rich and tolerant culture every bit as beautiful as the island itself.
Getting there and around
The easiest and fastest way to reach Koh Samui is by air from Bangkok, Phuket or Singapore with Bangkok Airways, the only airline to serve Koh Samui.
On arrival, you will find out why Samui airport ranks as one of the most beautiful in Asia and beyond. Its tropically planted gardens burst forth with flowering glory and greenery all year round, whilst the terminal buildings consist mainly of traditional wooden structures. There is no mistaking that you've just arrived in a tropical paradise.
A 50-kilometre ring road skirts Samui's coastline, giving ready access to all of the beaches and the modest administrative centre of Nathon, with its beachside huddle of houses, shops and restaurants.
The best and safest form of transport is a self-drive air-conditioned vehicle (car or 4 wheel drive jeep); but motorbikes can also be hired (be cautious of traffic hazards and wear a crash helmet). You then have the freedom to explore the island and its treasures at your own pace.
It takes a good hour to drive around the island, not counting the many stops you'll want make at the beautiful beaches or sojourns along the inviting tracks that lead into the island's jungle interior (be aware that all of the rough trails crossing the mountainous interior are strictly 4WD or dirt bike trails).
Sights, scenes and Sports
Against the backdrop of hills, it is the beaches of Koh Samui that make it stand out as one of the most sought after palm-fringed tropical destinations. The most popular spots are Chaweng and Lamai, both situated on the island's east coast, perfectly placed for a spectacular sunrise each new day.
In such an idyllic setting, the temptation is simply to laze peacefully on the beach and soak up the tropical sun, but if you are after more adventure, you will not have to look far. Water sports, such as windsurfing, kayaking, diving and sailing are all available, as is the popular past time of snorkeling the coastal waters and exploring the coral reefs and their habitant marine life.
Other attractions include Koh Samui's beautiful natural sights, such as the picturesque waterfalls of NaMuang and Hin Lat. Both make for an interesting trip into the island's jungle and offer inviting fresh water pools to soak in as you enjoy the splendour of the cascading water. If you are a golfer, Samui can now offer amazing golf opportunities.
Island hopping is another popular past time and boats can be easily hired for trips to Koh Pha Ngan (the nearest and largest island off Samui), and to the smaller islands of Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan, where beautiful bays with colourful coral formations offer the region's best conditions for snorkeling.
A more adventurous full day excursion can be made to the famous Ang Thong Marine Park, a group of 40 islands northwest of Samui. Here you will see spectacular limestone formations, caves, blue lagoons and amazingly beautiful beaches that inspired the novel: The Beach.
Click her to view: Recommended attractions and activities on Koh Samui
Dining and entertainment
Most beach resorts have their own restaurants and there is a vast and varied choice of places to eat, drink and be merry. Fresh seafood and tropical fruits are the natural specialties of Samui, though you will find menus sufficiently varied to cater to all tastes. International favorites, fast food snacks and of course, a huge variety of traditional Thai dishes are available.
A good starting point to help you decide where to enjoy your evening meal is the Samui Dining Guide, a very useful reference containing most of the island's eating options. Local markets and small Thai restaurants should not be ignored though, offering outstanding value for money and some of the best traditional Thai food available. If you see Thai people eating there, then you should be on to a winner. Just remember whether you want it Pet or Mai Pet , Spicy or Not spicy |the choice is yours.
Click her to view: Recommended Dining Venues on Koh Samui
spas and retreats
Only a few years ago, a massage on the beach was considered a fantastic pampering treat by the toursists. And it was, and still is an unexpensive treat. Today, however, Samui boasts of world class spas and retreats, offering luxurious and rejuvenating body and facial treatments, aromatic steam baths, spa cusine and so much more. Samui has turned into a spa paradise of the region.
Click her to view: Recommended Spas and Retreats on Koh Samui
Thailand is a country that can be enjoyed all year round. Koh Samui itself benefits from a wonderful weather about 10 months each year. The high season is from January until May and July through to September, with average temperatures of between 30 and 40 degrees. There are intermittent showers from July to September, but the main wet season is from mid October to mid-end December when temperatures drop to a pleasant 25 to 30 degrees. All in all, Samui, like Thailand, is a place for all seasons.
Click here for more information on: Weather and Climate on Koh Samui