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Koh Samui Thailand
(general area)

Koh Samui is what most people say it is. A laid back, great mid sized island, with plenty of good beaches, a wide range of decent accommodations for every budget and plenty to do. But it is not really a back packer destination any more, as it once was. An it has its share of areas to avoid. The backpacking "donor" now goes to neighboring Koh Pha Ngan (with its full moon parties and police / drugs notoriety), or Koh Tao (Turtle Island), or even Chumphon on the mainland.

Also, to the north west, you have the likes of mainland Hua Hin and Cha-Am. The traditional seaside resort towns for weekend and vacationing Thais. Hua Hin is Thailand's oldest beach resort with safe year round swimming, and supports no fewer than 5 golf courses (plus great seafood). Cha-Am has more of a party atmosphere, being a favorite with Thai students.

But this page is about Samui and its neighbors.

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Bangkok Airways PlaneSamui AirportKoh Samui is definitely a worthwhile travel destination. If only for the remarkable flight (with Bangkok Airways' marvelous twin prop planes), the nicest airport in the world), the absolutely best coconuts anywhere (from the south of the island), some of the greatest beaches going, and the superb night restaurants that set themselves out every night along Chaweng's central beach area.

You will find an excellent map of Koh Samui Here to help guide you around the island. And here we will summarize some of the most common tourist areas in Samui. If you arriving by ferry, you can find the Timetables Here. If you want to know what Samui is like right now, they have a Webcam Here. You will find bank ATM machines both in Chaweng and in the island's main / administrative town and port, Na Thon. Not withstanding our own sister reservations site of course, Travel Solutions on Chaweng Beach Koh Samui have one of the very best travel agents sites going, and can arrange your flights. Or check out Koh Samui .Org for just about everything to do with Samui. A worthwhile hotel to visit, away from the mass tourism areas is Big John Samui Beach Resort.

Chaweng (Resort Hotel's) BeachChaweng Beach is Samui's longest (6 kilometer) and most visited beach / bay. It is logistically divided into 3 areas - south, central and north. Most of the mid to upper range range accommodation is located in the south and north. Central Chaweng is the town area where there are many shops, bars (including a few girl go-go bars), clubs and street-front restaurants. It gets extremely busy and hot, as very little of the sea breeze is able to get past the dense lines of buildings. However, take a walk down most of the little alleys on the Eastern side of the road, and you will find the beach.

Chaweng Central StreetIf you like sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in mostly mediocre western "cuisine" (or paying top dollar for seafood) restaurants with other sweaty tourists, before heading off for a drinking and dancing session. You will love the central street area. But walk down to & along the beach, and you will find 20 or more beach-front restaurants that set up every evening. Here you can relax to live music, after having carefully scrutinized each restaurant's open fish counter (fresh fish have fresh eyes) and having listened to what specials they might each be offering that day. This has to be one of Samui's greatest joys.

Maret Lamai Beach before stormView From Headland near Coral CoveLamai can be described as a slightly smaller and cheaper version of Chaweng. But due to the closer proximity of the bars to the hotels / beaches, it is also a little harder to escape the "action". There are some exceptions to this, especially around the Hin Yay and Hin Ta (grandfather and grandmother rocks - somewhat shaped like genitalia), at peaceful Maret Lamai to the south. There are also, unfortunately, a small number of muggings / burglaries around the central Lamai beach area - so be careful. If you have your own transport or don't mind public songthaews (open minibuses), there are some really superb and inexpensive restaurants with stunning views on the road between Chaweng and Lamai.

Laem Set further down the eastern coast has a comparatively unspectacular beach. But it does have far fewer hotels (this much greater tranquility) plus a lagoon which is ideal for children. Ao Bang Tao, Ao Thong Krut, and Ao Phang Phangka are the last real remaining backpacker areas of the southern tip of Samui with smaller beaches and mostly very basic accommodations.

Ao Taling Ngam ViewLe Meriden's swimming poolAo Taling Ngam is the setting for Samui's most luxurious hotel, Le Royal Meridien Baan Taling Ngam, with views across to the ferry port of Thong Yang. It is rated as one of the top two hotels in the whole of Thailand, and has (probably) the world's most famous / photographed swimming pool. However, the local beaches can have litter problems when the currents are right / wrong.

Na THon beach andferry terminalFurther north on the western side, after Ao Chon Khram's wonderful sweeping bay and some of the better "undiscovered" hotels of Samui, comes Na Thon, the island's administrative canter and main ferry port. If you are coming from the mainland, the chances are you will come through here. If you need to / over extend your visa, the immigration office is here. If the ATM's run out of money on a Sunday morning in Chaweng, this is where you will need to come (but be warned, ATM's in Na Thon offer suffer from the town's frequent power cuts / outages!

Samui MarketNa Thon is undeservedly derided by many tour books and therefore tourists. But it really is well worth spending a day, even an evening here. The shops are hardly western standard, although there is one with air conditioning (you guessed it, when the power is on). But what they lack in presentation, they more than make for this in price and variety. The market area is an absolute must for fruit lovers and self-caterers. The beach front road a worthy place to bide with the locals as to which restaurant to frequent and watch the ferries / sun set. The best barber shop on Samui is here too.

Bophut Beach (Samui Euphoria Hotel)Mae Nam, Bo Phut, Bang Rak and Choeng Mon are the main tourist stays at the north of the island. They are much quieter than nearby Chaweng, so appeal greatly to families and couples looking for mostly mid ranged accommodations from beach-side bungalows to mini-resorts. With views across to Ko Pha Ngan (with frequent slow and fast small ferries), many people will base themselves in this area for snorkeling, diving and day trips over to the other islands / beaches.

The Neighboring Islands / Areas

Koh Pha Ngan is just 20 Km to the north of Samui, but has nowhere near the density of population / tourists as its more popular neighbor. Nor does it have the range (at the medium to top end) of hotel accommodations or basic infrastructure, such as telephones (you may notice all hotels on the island advertise mobile telephone numbers). The eastern side of the island has the nicest beaches, but also the largest number of ravers, especially during each Full Moon Party. The western beaches are much quieter, if nowhere near as nice. Northern beaches / bays tend to be extremely remote. Apart from a few hotels like Panviman Resort (north coast) and Pha Ngam Bayshore Resort (Hat Rim / the ravers beach area), most accommodations are quite basic and without air conditioning. For details of hotels, etc. on Koh Pha Ngan you should visit Thailand 4 Fun who visit the hotels, write their own descriptions and take their own photographs as well.

Koh Tao, or Turtle Island is around a 3 hour boat ride from Koh Pha Ngan and 6 hours from Chumphon (unless you go by express boat, then less than 2 hours). There are phone services at the main setting off point on the island, Ban Mae Hat. But not elsewhere. Many of the more remote hotel accommodations do not offer electricity in rooms, let alone air conditioning. One noticeable exception being the luxurious Koh Nang Yaun resort on a small island of the same name, just off Koh Tao's north western shore. The longest beach on the island is near the western side's "port", and has some shops for necessities and bars. The southern coast escapes the worse of the monsoons, but is being perhaps over developed given the small beach area. The eastern and south eastern sheltered coves and bays play host to a number of remote idyllic bungalow resorts. The whole island is a very popular destination for snorkellers and divers. If you are looking for a hotel there, why not try the Koh Tao Coral Grand Resort.

Chumphon. Where Thailand's main north - south road splits going down into east and west coast branches. This town does offer a superb beach 12 Km away in the form of Thung Wua Laem, with a few low cost mid range hotels, some offering diving trips to the local offshore islands. Also on the coast, 15 Km out of town is Pak Nam. Where the express boat leaves early morning to Ko Tao (under 2 hours) and the slower night time ferry departs. But the town is of little mainstream tourist interest besides that.

Hua Hin is the original Thai seaside resort, with its 1920's Royal Summer Palace. With a 5 km long sandy (with rounded bolders) beach, sea-front food stalls and thatched sun shades, being crowded out by new high-rise luxury resort hotels. This town is more than halfway between it's traditional foundations and full blown destination resort "status". But, for sure, it is still one of the fresh sea food centers of Thailand. But this is probably not enough to make it a competitor, for most people, with the likes of Koh Samui (and it's far superior / less crowded beaches). Some useful Hua Hin web-sites can be found Here and Here.

Cha-Am is a more upbeat, spacious, traditional Thai alternative / neighbor to Hua Hin. The casuarina lined / shaded beach is sandy, but grey however. During the week, there are very few people around. At weekends, with a large influx of weekending Thai families and students. The town definitely comes to life. A good web-site for Cha-Am and surrounding area can be found Here.

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