For those of you who are tired of the city and want escape to the beach for a break, or for those still searching for your very own piece of paradise, sit back and enjoy the ride, as we take you on our secret Samui Guide…
1. What does it mean?
What does this mysterious name ‘Koh-Samui’ mean?
Although the coconut tree is often considered the symbol of Samui, the words ‘Koh-Samui’ are actually derived from the Chinese words “saboey”, which means “safe haven”, and “Koh” which is the Thai word for “island”.
Going back in history, it was originally discovered hundreds of years ago by Chinese and Malay sea traders, who were drawn to the island’s natural beauty, abundance of fresh fish and fruit, and its many sheltered bays.
Since then Samui has come a long, long way…
It now features some of the finest 5-star resorts and exclusive properties, with both celebrities and backpackers flocking from around the world to indulge in its intoxicating charms and hidden retreats.
*Top tip: If you want to sound like a local, try pronouncing the name with a phonetic spelling as it sounds: ‘Ko-Sa-moo-ee’
2. Where is Koh Samui located?
You may be wondering ‘where is this tiny tropical island?’
Koh-Samui lies sheltered in the Southern Gulf of Thailand, roughly 700 km south of Bangkok, and just an hour to reach by plane.
However, if you prefer to experience more Thai culture, try an overnight sleeper train. Soak-up some Thai countryside and take a rest at the same time.
With an international airport and a mass of ferry connections, traveling to the island is easy. Bangkok Airways offer a direct 1 hour flight to the island daily. If saving money is your priority, there are 4 low-cost airlines also flying from Bangkok to Surat Thani: (the nearest city on the mainland) Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile and Lion Air are the 4 budget options available, with some flights cheaper than buses or trains from Bangkok, however these flights are non-direct, with a 1 hour bus ride from Surat Thani to the pier and a 1& 1/2 hour enjoyable ferry ride to the emerald island.
The upper bunks are for those of who enjoy their privacy and air-conditioning! Lower bunks are less expensive, less private but less cool.
*Top tip: If you’re planning to visit Koh-Tao or Koh-Phangnan also for diving, try traveling from Bangkok to Chumphon, and then take a speedboat to the smaller islands first, and finish on Samui last.
3. Which areas to visit on Koh Samui?
Koh Samui is the 2nd largest island in Thailand. Going back in history, it was originally discovered hundreds of years ago by Chinese and Malay sea traders, who were drawn to the island’s natural beauty, abundance of fresh fish and fruit, and its many sheltered bays.
Its beauty is in its simplicity, with one big 50 km road circling the island, it only and takes about an hour and so to drive around from start to finish.
There are so many villages & towns on the island that it’s hard to know where to visit first! The secret to a successful Samui trip is,knowing where to stay.
Here is our top choice of areas to stay... (Clockwise round the island.)
Bophut & Fisherman’s Village:
Fisherman’s village was originally a traditional old Thai fishing village.
Recently however, it has reinvented itself as a hip and trendy part of the island, with some popular new project developments and the charming new shopping market at the end of the main street: www.thewharfsamui.com
This area is perfect for families or couples, who prefer a bit of peace and quiet. Although the sand may not be as soft as Chaweng beach, it makes up for it with its charming culture, old wooden houses, arts & crafts and clothes shops.
Bangrak & Big Buddha:
Next we have Bangrak, most famous for its fresh fish markets and ferry piers. There are boats that take holiday-makers to go to Koh Tao island for trips, and partygoers to Koh-Phagnan island for the monthly famous full-moon parties! This area has also undergone a alteration, with the development of exclusive new projects overlooking the striking Bangrak bay.
This place is a popular place for expats, with many local pubs and bars. If you like a late night beer, game of pool, or more, this place is place for you. Around the corner is the Big Buddha, a quieter and more family focused area. Initially, this place was first famous for the local fisherman on the island, as it was the safest spot to shelter during tropical storms.
Plai Laem & Choeng Mon:
Plai Laem is more like a hidden little sanctuary on Samui island.
A bit more peaceful which many tourists would prefer,also being a popular new investment hub. Around the corner is the famous Choeng Mon bay, great place to spend with family especially with the new water-park being built in the nearby jungle. This area has all you need for a fun-filled family trip on the island!
Chaweng & Chaweng Noi:
Then we have Chaweng which simply has so many things to see and do that it get’s hard to list them all.
With the softest sand, busiest bars, biggest clubs and the cheapest cocktail buckets this place has it all. Some of the eminent hangouts of this crazy beach which one must visit include the Ark Bar and Soi Green Mango.
Chaweng Noi by contrast, is an idyllic piece of paradise just around the corner.
Quieter and cleaner than the main Chaweng area, featuring some award-wining new luxury condos & villas with spectacular sea-views and sunsets.
Lamai & Hua Thanon:
For those, who enjoy deep waters with a wide-range of water-sports, beach bars and restaurants, Lamai beach is popular choice also bein a tourist destination.
One of the funny landmark is the famous ‘Hin Tai Hin Yai’ or ‘Grand Mother and Grandfather’ – giant, granite, rocks naturally shaped like huge genitals.
Snaking around the corner there is the fishing village of Hua Thanon. A charming old village, with traditional wooden thai homes, giving a rustic feel and essence of the place and culture.
Thong Krut & Laem Set:
Lastly we have a place to just destress yourself and get lost in the tranquility on the island.Don’t get stressed if you do, most people do, but that’s part of the fun of discovering new places! Sometimes you get lost but you find something better.Also if you want to try some local southern fresh fish then stop at Tong Krut beach. ‘Gallapakkarang’ is a traditional Thai restaurant in Thong Krut beach, with teak wooden interiors and a palm tree pointing horizontally to sea. As you come to Laem Set, wind down your windows and breathe the fresh air of the jungle and the sea.
From shooting ranges, to safaris and waterfalls, there is ‘ fun for all the family’ on this part of the island.
Welcome to Samui!
Lipa Noi & Nathorn:
The two perfect places to take rest and watch the sun go down.
With deserted golden beaches, serene and peaceful views, Lipa Noi has a more intimate feel - perfect for romantic walks or sunset dips.
To complete your circle of the island, at the end of the day stop off for a sundowner the ‘Sunset restaurant’ on the corner of the Nathorn harbor road, where you can see a spectacle of ferries and ships arriving from the mainland.
This industrial town was once most popular and expensive land on Samui, until tourism arrived to the pristine of beaches of the Northeast of the island.
*Top tip: If you’re planning to property or land in Samui there are still some popular areas that are rising in price, for example: Chaweng Noi, Plai Leam, Bang Por & Ban Makham. Check out some of the current new project developments available.
4. What is there to do on the island?
Almost every activity you can imagine awaits you on this tiny tropical island.
For those of you who like to walk to the wild side, try your hand (or feet) at kite surfing, fly boarding, bungee jumping or even elephant trekking.
Take a day-trip diving off the coast of Koh-Tao or to the Ang Thong National Marine Park: the largest archipelago of over 80 islands. A kayaking paradise!
For people who prefer to pamper themselves, pick a day-spa, and indulge yourself with a traditional Thai massage and coconut body-scrub.
Afterward relax with a romantic dinner above Chaweng Noi bay. Paradise…
*Top tip: For adventurous types, hire a small jeep for 1,000 THB per day, and drive direct up to the waterfalls and other attractions. You may get lost, but you can stay as little or as long as you like, compared to the full day tours.
5. What is the weather like?
Koh-Samui weather is almost always beautiful. Bright blue skies and a cool ocean breeze is the norm on the island.
For those of you who like it hot, April to June is the best time to BBQ yourself, but the ideal temperature to visit the island late December to the end of March for that perfect tropical island weather experience. However, be warned that the Christmas/New Year period is especially popular, with many people booking often months in advance!
October and November months are the rainy season, and also the chance to snap up some bargain hotel rooms, and pre-sales property promotions before developers launch their new projects in the New Year.
Also, don’t forget the difference between high and low tides in the seasons can mean a skinny or 100 meter long beach! For the idyllic picture-postcode beaches, where you can sit safely on a peninsular of sand in 100 meters out at sea, try checking out the island’s beaches in low tides between June – August.
*Top tip: It can rain any time on the island, and when it does, it’s a relaxing respite from the heat. If you see the palm treetops shaking at night and a sudden drop in temperature, reach for your umbrella or run for shelter!
6. What are the building laws on Koh Samui?
One of the secrets to Samui’s success, compared to other islands, is the strict law that no building may be permitted to be taller than a coconut palm!
It is one of the simplest and most beautiful laws on Samui.
It means are there are no unsightly skyscrapers affecting the beauty of the skyline, and the highest buildings are only four stories high, with many projects opting for a low-rise resort-style developments.
An important addition to the various building laws on the island is the prevention of ALL further freehold condominiums being built.
On 30th of May 2014 new zoning and sizing restrictions were introduced for real estate in Koh Samui and nearby islands. (See our recommended real estate legal guide)
These measures are to maintain the island’s natural beauty, however it may push up property prices in the future, as demand starts to outstrip supply.
There are still bargains to be had though, and some favourite new hotspots on the island for developers. i.e: Choen Mon/Plai Laem and Chaweng Noi bay.
*Top tip: Always ask to see copies of developers building permits, and land title deeds. (Chanotes) Buying ‘off-plan’ before construction maybe cheaper, but is not without some risk. To minimize this risk see our dedicated selection of Buyer’s Guides.
*The Top Secret:
With so many tips & tricks and secret spots in Samui it’s hard to end the story. The final secret is simply to close your computer and come see for yourself.
After all, some secrets are simply not worth sharing.
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