In June 2012, we visited Thailand, making the most of our time there with a trip between Bangkok and Koh Samui. Having arrived on the island after a lengthy train journey and checked in at the Mantra Samui Resort, we were ready to fill our time with exploration.
Now this was the first time that any of us had visited this paradise island, so in our group we wanted to experience a bit of it all – and we did. From jet skiing to massages to the full moon party in neighbouring Koh Phangan, we made it happen!
A clean and accessible sandy beach that is walking distance to the main stretch of shops, massage parlours and numerous restaurants. The beach itself is home to masseuses that did a fantastic job of relieving my achy legs (from all the swimming) and we were able to negotiate rates for our group. For activity aficionados, there is a wide selection of water sports, from jet skiing to riding banana boats and more. Even the most restless will be catered for. From our accommodation at Mantra Samui Resort, there was a free shuttle several times a day to the beach and nearby Fisherman’s Village.
I’m slightly biased as elephants are my absolute favourite animals. Honestly, I think that they are beautiful creatures and after first riding one at the tender age of 3, I constantly seek them out. With that, an opportunity to see them in Koh Samui was not to be missed. At the Namuang Waterfall, there is a elephant camp which is home to several Asian elephants. Before the trip, you are able to see and feed the elephants with bananas before climbing aboard one to start the trek.
We spent an hour on a jungle tour, stopping occasionally for him to scratch against a tree or eat a few leaves – not that we minded at all. Our elephant had a complete mind of his own, occasionally going off track at which point the minder would check that we were OK, relaxed and seat belted to our chair. It was a fantastic experience and one that I would take part in again however it was saddening to see them in captivity. Our guide answered a lot of my questions about their care and encouraged this but unfortunately time didn’t permit me to contribute anything more than a short visit. With more time I would have loved to volunteer there.
After the elephant trek, the local guide took us to a tiger camp as requested by a couple in our party within Namuang Safari Park. Here, there is a chance to see a tiger, tiger cub and jaguar. The tiger cub was released from his chain for us to feed him.
Holding a tiger cub is no mean feat, especially when hungry. After just a couple of minutes, he began to scratch at my arm – he couldn’t drink fast enough at which point I had to hand him back to the minders. Yet it was a good experience but take care to ‘read’ the behaviour of the animals. The jaguar was pacing for much of the time that we were there so we didn’t go too close. Similarly, the tiger was calm at first but soon started to roar when another group arrived and started to crowd him.
Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan
If parties are your thing then the Full Moon Parties at Koh Phangan are a must. These world renown, monthly parties bring the surrounding islands together with a lively mix of drum and bass, dance, trance, jungle and reggae music. We arranged transport to and from the island by speedboat at a cost of 600baht each return. Entrance to the party is100baht. Unless you desperately want to be a part of the build-up, this is the route that I would recommend. The island isn’t half as nice as its neighbours (largely, I suspect as a result of this party), so to spend the day or night there would have been likely to disappoint. Speedboats run every hour through the night, so you can time your departure to suit. From island to hotel at 4am, it took us exactly 50 minutes. Not bad at all.
When we first arrived it was raining… heavily. We decided to seek out food and even caught time for a nap at our table waiting for the rainfall to slow down. Then, we walked along the beach, stopping for photos and dancing along the way. From dancers to flame throwers, there is something happening in every direction. Prepare yourself for a long night and enjoy.
Beach Republic / Nikki Beach
Both with similar offerings, these chill-out restaurant and beachfront properties are ideal for a more grown up audience. Each offer excellent food menus, beach views and swimming pools. During the day, they are the perfect place to enjoy the sun, music and good company. Both regularly offer events from pool parties to barbeques so be sure to check what’s on. My personal taste meant that I preferred Beach Republic but both are worth a visit.
Island hopping around Angthong National Marine Park
Asia and particularly Thailand is full of islands that are just dying to be explored. In addition to this, there is of course the amazing sea life to also be admired.
I had previously visited Koh Chang on a separate trip but wanted to take a look at other islands with my friends whilst we were on Koh Samui. We arranged to join an excursion that gave us a full day exploring the islands, including an hour of snorkelling and lunch as a fisherman’s village as well as a chance to do sea-kayaking for a fantastic rate equivalent to just £20 per person – amazing value! The full tour is escorted from island to island by speedboat.
The islands that we saw as part of this trip were:
- Koh Wao – the first part of the day is spent snorkelling here in the clear, turquoise water exploring coral reefs and getting a good workout at the same time!
- Mae Koh, home to ravines and rainforests as well as a viewpoint across the sea and down into the famous Emerald Lake (Talay Nai). This is also known as the Blue Lagoon where the film ‘The Beach’ was filmed.
- Koh Paluay – stop off for a buffet lunch at the Fisherman’s village and a chance to wander around the village of the sea-gypsies.
- Song Pee Nong Beach for a guided kayaking tour and chill-out time at the beautiful beach.
During the transfer between islands, there is a chance to see plenty of eye-catching natural wonders along the way, including limestone islands, caves and hidden lagoons. It is simply the most stunning landscape that I have seen to date.
Sunset Reggae Bar
Not to be confused with the Reggae Pub (other side of Chaweng Lake) with the misleading name!
I couldn’t write this post without mentioning this perfect little place which we literally stumbled upon whilst flagging down a taxi – it’s very easy to miss but worth the effort to track it down; we ended up staying for two hours. A small, tree-house styled bar with the perfect host that is a chatty and fun expat.The Sunset Reggae Bar was, hands-down, my absolute favourite bar in Koh Samui. I knew that I would enjoy it when, after perusing the menu, I stated that I preferred milk-based cocktails. No sooner were the words out of my mouth, than the owner told me to “leave it with him”. A few minutes later, he placed a delicious cocktail in front of me which I continued to re-order during the night – I love that type of service.
Upon stepping off the main stretch of road, there are lounging areas on either side, tucked away amongst the green landscape. We picked a seating area directly opposite the bar, a wooden ‘bed’ which comfortably seated all six of us to enjoy the drinks and music in this vibrant bar. The upper-deck has a hammock which I escaped to, cocktail in hand to look out across the lake and absorb the memories – or the alcohol at least. 🙂
Koh Samui has so much to offer to any traveller with an excellent mix of accommodation, activities both on and off land and restaurants to suit all budgets.
Have you visited the island of Koh Samui or can you recommend any others to be explored?