Koh Samui, Dec. 2017: Exploring
I am currently sitting in my kitchen, a week after returning from Koh Samui and still daydreaming about all the incredible experiences, warm people and delicious food I had during those ten days. During this trip, I made some memories which I know will be engraved in my mind forever, and I want to share with you some of my favorite parts, along with tips and recommendations.
Firstly, I just want to specify that my family and I were staying with my aunt and uncle, who recently moved to Koh Samui, so I unfortunately don't have any hotel recommendations. However, this does mean that I was able to experience a few things that tourists don't always know about. I think this will mostly show in the food-related post which will (obviously) follow this one.
The first thing I want to talk about is the different areas we explored. I think just walking around and discovering various places is definitely the best way to get to know any new place! My aunt and uncle's house is situated in the northern part of the island, so we mostly stayed in that area. It's where most of the attractions are, although the south is beautiful in an entirely different way.
The first area we discovered is a very tourist-oriented one: Fisherman's Village in Bophut. The "village" consists of a long pedestrian street filled with shops, cafés, restaurants and bars. It's also right next to a very nice beach on which you can find various stands offering activities such as jetskiing or flyboarding. At night, you can have a cocktail on the beach while enjoying some of the famous fire shows. It's definitely a pretty animated and fun area!
The next area is also one of the main neighborhoods for tourists as well as locals to shop, eat, and party. It's called Chaweng and is also situated in the north of Koh Samui. Its main street is always packed with people, vehicles advertising for various parties and events, shops of all kinds, bars and restaurants. A few of the activities I will mention later in the post are found there. It has a good atmosphere but it's definitely a party place, so if you are looking for some peace and quiet, this is probably not the place to go.
Finally, I want to talk about Ko Phluai. We hadn't planned on going there, but decided to make a stop to go to a specific shop, and ended up spending the entire afternoon walking along the main street. It definitely has a more local feel to it and is not as animated as the other areas I described. The prices are also a lot lower when buying any clothes or souvenirs there. We also found a beautiful Chinese Buddhist temple hidden at the end of a small street. I truly recommend Ko Phluai if you feel like exploring a less touristy place!
As the main purpose of this vacation was to spend some time with family, and we had already been to Koh Samui a few years before and visited lots of places, we honestly didn't do that much regarding culture. We did, however, visit the Big Buddha, situated in the north of the island. This statue is truly impressive because of its height. In front of the statue is a small temple in which a Buddhist monk will say a prayer for you and give you a bracelet, symbolizing protection. That's definitely a big tourist attraction, but it is something that exists within the Buddhist spirituality and I still thought it was a cool experience!
We then headed towards the Wat Plai Laem temples, which consist of various stunning statues and temples, constructed right on top of the water. The constructions are of astonishing beauty, not as tall as the Big Buddha but still highly impressive. They also have a Buddha footprint, which, although I won't pretend like I know anything about it, is of great importance within the religion. Another cool touch is that visitors are able to feed the carps and catfish while walking around the temples.
Lastly, although this isn't exactly a highly cultural activity, I want to mention Art Samui, a 3D museum in Bophut which allows you to incorporate yourself into the paintings and installations. They have lots of rooms with different themes and purposes. It's a fun activity to do on a rainy day and makes for funny pictures!
If you are keen on shopping, you should definitely visit the Central Festival mall in Chaweng. It's got tons of different stores, local brands, such as Jim Thompson, the famous silk and fabric brand, or more international ones like Adidas. It's also filled with restaurants and cafés.
A more original activity is the indoor skydiving experience at Easyfly, also situated in Chaweng. It consists of a 15min preparation (how to position yourself, understand the various hand-gestured instructions, etc) and two "flights" of 1min each. It costs 1800 THB per adult (approximately 55 CHF or USD) and 1500 THB for children under 1m40, which is a pretty reasonable price. It was a crazy feeling and a great experience that I can't wait to repeat!
While we were in Koh Samui, the weather wasn't that good - it was warm but we always had rain showers during the day. So when we saw the forecast for an entirely sunny afternoon, we immediately booked a boat trip to Koh Phangan, the island closest to the northern coast of Samui. I honestly forgot to write down the company through which we rented the catamaran, but there are lots and lots of similar services offered by different companies in Samui. As I said, we rented a catamaran, which came with a captain and a few crew members, who were all incredibly nice and helpful. The boat ride was about an hour long until we got to Leela Beach in Koh Phangan. Unfortunately, we were not able to explore the island as we only had an hour or two until we had to go back. However, Leela Beach is very pleasant. We spent some time in the water (we had planned to snorkel but the water was not clear enough to see anything) and then just chilled and walked around. Along the beach are several hotels and bungalows, and swings to sit on (actually, there were swings pretty much everywhere we went, don't ask me why, but I thought it was really fun).
Lastly, this is an activity that won't be for everyone, but which I still wanted to mention and give my personal recommendation for. As Koh Samui is often considered a party island - or at least some parts of it - there are many, many tattoo parlors open late at night and welcoming spontaneous clients. However, tourists tend to overlook the research recommended before picking a parlor or a tattoo artist, which can lead to very bad experiences. A few of my family members, including myself, decided to get tattoos. It was a spontaneous decision, however we still waited a day or two to sleep on it and have time to search for the appropriate place to get them done. We settled on Samui Ink, a parlor in Chaweng, which offers both machine tattoos and traditional bamboo tattoos. It has a great reputation and was able to take us in 40min after we had first come into the shop. They took the time to draw different variations of the tattoo we wanted, so that each of us could pick their favorite. Then, the four of us were taken care of by three different artists, who were very meticulous. They gave us instructions similar to the ones we had received when getting tattooed in Switzerland and France, for the proper care of our new tattoos. Since they were small ones, they only cost us 1000 THB (30 CHF or USD) per person. This is a parlor I would definitely trust and recommend, they were very professional.
If you are in Koh Samui for a party-type vacation, the place to be is most definitely Chaweng. We didn't go out that much, we mostly spent evenings at home with our family, but we did spend a very fun evening at the Ark Bar, which had been recommended to us by multiple people previously. The bar is situated right next to the beach; it has two covered bars, one on the beach, and a pool. It's definitely the most famous tourist party place, at least in the northern part of Koh Samui. The drinks are ridiculously cheap compared to Occidental prices, there are fire shows, singers, dancers and entertainers. If you don't feel like having a full-on, crazy night out, Chaweng is overflowing with other places you can go - among others, I spotted a few Irish bars and even an ice bar.
This is it for my "exploring" recommendations concerning Koh Samui. I hope this can be helpful to someone when planning their next vacation! If you want to see more photos from my trip, you can check out my Instagram. If you want any other info or have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me through the contact page, and if you enjoyed this post, please click the little heart at the top of the article - you can also share it on Facebook, Tumblr or Pinterest from there!