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Koh Samui: Escape to beach heaven

No trip to Thailand is complete without a visit to a local wat — Big Buddha, the most famous attraction in Samui, awaits

Looking for an alternative beach paradise to Phuket? A short hop to Koh Samui could be your ticket to a perfect beach vacation

No trip to Thailand is complete without a visit to a local wat — Big Buddha, the most famous attraction in Samui, awaits
No trip to Thailand is complete without a visit to a local wat — Big Buddha, the most famous attraction in Samui, awaits

For the well-seasoned traveller looking for beach vacations, Phuket and Krabi in western Thailand are always good choices. But, over time, their appeal may wane.

A less frequented beach, on the eastern side of Thailand, may provide a respite from Phuket’s or Krabi’s maddening crowds. Its name? Koh Samui.

Like its cousins in western Thailand, the island offers a variety of activities from scuba diving in marina parks to rock climbing. However, Koh Samui is less crowded with cooler and drier weather.


Charming trolleys ferry passengers from the planes to the terminals at Samui Airport
Charming trolleys ferry passengers from the planes to the terminals at Samui Airport

Charming Samui Airport

Like going to Phuket, the one-hour and 45 -minute flight from Singapore to Koh Samui is a breeze, with direct flights operated by Bangkok Airways and SilkAir.

One of Thailand’s “boutique” airlines, Bangkok Air offers free lounge access for most economy class passengers. Be sure to try their signature banana sticky rice treat at the lounge, which is popular among frequent fliers.

At first blush, Koh Samui’s airport, may seem small. But what it lacks in size, it makes up in charm.

The building is stylishly built with tropical orchids accentuating its high conical ceilings. The prominence of hardwood timbres also gives the airport a nice warm, welcoming feel — your vacation has begun.


Chillin’ in Chaweng

Koh Samui has fewer tourists and its weather is cooler and drier
Koh Samui has fewer tourists and its weather is cooler and drier

The longest and most famous beach in Samui, Chaweng beach is as straight as a ruler, stretching about a kilometre on the eastern coast. Its fine sand is alabaster white and the water is nice and blue.

Chaweng has everything you’ll need for a laid back vacation. Resorts catering to different budgets line the beach along with bars and restaurants.

Best of all, you don’t have to cross any street to access the beaches. They are located just in front of the hotels’ property line.

The Ozo Chaweng Samui, for instance, a four-star hotel minutes from the airport, has a modern stylish design and a large refreshing pool in the centre. But who needs the pool when a wonderful white sand beach is one step away?

After sunset, the Chaweng strip comes to life.

Since the beach is straight, it’s easy to stroll up and down the strip and not get lost as restaurants start serving dinner and the bars begin to wake from their daylight slumber. But don’t expect to see the sun set — you’ll only see that on the western shores of Samui.

There is also a bit of a wild side to Chaweng at the Soi Green Mango district, where scantily-clad girls and cabarets spice up the nightlife in a number of bars and clubs.


Fridays at Fisherman’s Village

Koh Samui’s street snacks are must-try
Koh Samui’s street snacks are must-try

Located on the northern side of the island, a short drive away, is the town of Bophut, which carries the Chinese-Thai atmosphere of its original settlers.

Like Chaweng, Bophut has many hotels along its stretch but the latter’s focus is more on families and children [Read: no raunchy bars]. Apparently, Bophut has great sunset views from its beach but the water is murkier than at Chaweng.

Every Friday at Bophut Beach, the Fisherman’s Village closes its streets and transforms into a big night market selling local food and trinkets. There are also a good number of western restaurants and bars around, adding to the village’s vibrant atmosphere. Definitely a must see in Samui.


Peace and quiet

No vacation is complete in Southeast Asia without visiting a local wat or temple.

So take a break from the blazing sun and visit Samui’s most famous destination: Big Buddha shrine at Wat Phra Yai on the northern tip, where a 12m tall golden Buddha sits atop a small hill overlooking the island.

The area is peaceful and quiet and you’ll be able to enjoy the vista and look into the bay.

When you’re there, be sure to admire the sculptural objects of devotion and tap the numerous large brass bells. Then, visit the little quaint town and market below the hill, where you can buy charms and souvenirs.


Cheeky Samuians

Over by Lamai, a rocky beach about 6 km from Chaweng, lie two interesting rock formations called Hin Ta and Hin Yai, or Grandpa and Grandma rocks.

A local folklore tells of an old, loving couple who lost their lives when their boat capsized in the sea nearby. Their bodies were found at this beach. Miraculously, the boulders by the shore formed in the shape of a male phallus, representing Hin Ta, and female genitalia, representing Hin Yai.

I’ve seen my share of pareidolias such as cracks in caves which looked like Jesus Christ (if you look really hard) and rocks that resembled Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

But Hin Ta and Hin Yai left almost nothing to the imagination. Well, at least to me.

Now, I don’t know if these rocks formed naturally or were made a long time ago but one thing’s for sure, the locals sure made a great tourist attraction out of this.


By Frank Young

Weekender thanks the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Bangkok Airways and OZO Chaweng Samui for making this trip possible. 

For more information on Bangkok Airways, visit www.bangkokair.com/eng.
For information on OZO hotels and reservation, visit www.ozohotels.com/chaweng-samui.