Often referred to simply as ‘Samui’ by locals, this tropical island is Thailand’s second biggest – behind Phuket – and is one of the countries most popular tourist destinations.
Situated in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of Surat-Thani province, Samui has seen a huge increase in the number of visitors over the last decade. Annual holidaymakers travelling to Samui almost match that of Phuket, Thailand’s most popular destination, and for that reason there is a great deal of development on the island.
An place full of palm tress and surrounded by tropical waters, the naturally beautiful island of Samui is home to around 12 beaches and several more rocky points and bays.
Located around 700 km from Bangkok, Samui can be reached in around 12 – 15 hours by bus/train and a ferry ride, or by a short 45 min flight from Bangkok.
When arriving by boat the two main piers on the island being located at Nathon and Lipa Noi on the western side of the island, and the piers to take visitors onwards to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are located on the Bo Phut and Big Buddha beach on the north of the island.
Despite the island’s size, getting around Samui is extremely easy. There are many taxi van’s – Song Teaw in Thai – which run round the clock, standard day time fees start around 50 baht a person, however along haggling for a price later at night can get difficult since the drivers often want to wait for minimum number of customers before setting off.
There are also car, 4×4, motorbike and ATV rentals available, and many of the roads of Samui are reasonably well built and the island terrain rather gentle, it’s a great place to hit the road and do some exploring off the beaten path.
Aside from Koh Samui’s beaches, the island is home to 4 waterfalls and many viewpoints, and while these attractions may not make the list as Thailand’s highest or largest, they do offer spectacular views of the island, and make for great places to spend an afternoon enjoy the sites away from the beach.
Samui is also great place to do a little island hopping. Just an hour and half northwest of the island lays the untouched Ang Thong Marine National park, a spectacular group of islands where it’s possible to dive all year round.
Other neighboring islands included Koh Phangan – host to the world famous Full Moon Parties, Koh Tao and Nang Yuan, two small islands also known for being on list of Thailand’s top diving locations.
Almost every type of accommodation imaginable is available on the island. From 5 star establishments, mid range hotels, resorts, to the many backpacker orientated bungalows and guesthouses, there is certainly no shortage of rooms for any one, no matter what your budget.
With the diversity of visitors comes a service industry that caters to everyone’s tastes. From fresh Thai seafood, to street vendors, British pubs to Swiss and French bakeries, Mexican food to Indian restaurants, and even kebabs to burger carts, you name it, its there.
For good or for worse, the tourism boom has also seen the arrival or certain western franchises, which are increasingly making their mark on the islands, food, drink and service industry.
Nightlife on Samui is vibrant, with many beach bars and clubs offering cheap drinks, while several establishments cater to a more upmarket crowd. Most of the island partygoers flock to the busy beach of Chaweng, while others enjoy a more relaxing affair dining on one of Samui’s less busy beaches, or one its many stunning mountain hideaways.
Boasting everything from picturesque beaches, tropical water full of coral, accommodation and cuisine to suit all tastes, as well as all the traditional Thai and watersport activates you’d expect to the find, Samui is perfect destination for any one wanting to experience Thailand’s famous islands.