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Ko Samui , often called just Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, about 700 km south of Bangkok and 80 km from the eastern coastline of Southern Thailand.
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Points of Interest in Koh Samui
The major reason people come to Samui is, quite simply, to enjoy the beaches. Even though the two main beaches of Chaweng and Lamai have generally suffered due to mass development over the past decade they are still relatively impressive. Development has been thwarted slightly because of the island’s regulation governing height restriction, although it can be argued that this has caused sprawl.
Other than lying on the beach with a cold beer in hand and ogling at the babes and hunks sauntering past, there isn't all that much to see on the island. A certain pair of rocks on Lamai amuses some visitors, Bang Rak has a large but nondescript Buddha statue, and there are some waterfalls (notably Na Muang) of minor interest.
Beaches and places
- Ban Lipa Yai. This village grows high quality fruits, including rambutan, durian, mangosteen and the famed langsat.
- [Bang Rak]] Beach. Also known as “Big Buddha Beach”, in northeast Samui, Big Buddha offers visitors good swimming and lovely views. The area has developed a lot over the past few years and there are now plenty of restaurants, shops, and bars.
- Bophut Beach. In the north of the island, is a popular starting point for diving tours. The place isn't in any way as developed as Chaweng but there are still plenty of restaurants, shops, and bars.
- Chaweng Beach. The major beach on Ko Samui and one that has developed tremendously since the early 1990s. Just 20 years ago the beach was home to just a sprinkle of wooden bungalows but now the place is swamped with hotels, pizza joints, pubs, and go-go bars. Samui’s nightlife is becoming legendary but unfortunately does not always attract the highest standard of tourist. Chaweng’s once hippie-only backpackers have given way to a lot of lager louts. Chaweng is the place to be if you are one of them.
- Choeng Mon Beach. In the northeast corner of Samui just 10 minutes from Chaweng. Unlike the latter, it is a perfect place for relaxing.
- Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks. These odd-looking rocks at the south end of Lamai Beach bear a striking resemblance to male and female genitalia and they have turned into one of the island’s biggest attractions. For those who would like to hear a legend or two surrounding the rocks, they need only ask a local.
- Hin Lat Waterfall. Easily accessible by car. Some of the numerous tiny levels have a large basin for swimmers.
- Lamai Beach. Like Chaweng, Lamai has been transformed from a hippie hangout into a fun, party place packed out with bars and exciting nightlife. The beach though, is still in better condition than Chaweng and the place doesn’t get quite so crowded. But if it’s a quiet relaxing location you are after, then the tourist downtown, known as Lamai Beach, won’t be the ideal place for you. The quieter northeast end of the beach is lined by both good-quality luxury resorts and low-cost guesthouses and bungalows, which front along the highway towards Chaweng.
- Mae Nam Beach. This quiet beach, in the north of the island, is decent enough for swimming and sunbathing especially for families with children due to the shallow water.
- Na Mueang Waterfall. A local road leads to the Na Mueang 1 Waterfall just off Rte 4169. A walk of about 30 minutes ends up at the more scenic Na Mueang 2 Waterfall. Purple rocks surround the stream of water, which gushes in from an impressive height of around 79 m.
- Old House. This Chinese-style house, almost 200 years old, represents Samui's hints at Samui's distant cultural past. Grandpa Si and Grandma Maen Hancharoen, the present owners, open the house to visitors.
- Secret Buddha Garden. This beautiful garden was made by a 76 year-old Ko Samui fruit farmer in 1976. It is surrounded by lush jungle, rocky hills and is adorned with sculptures depicting both humans, in various poses, as well as various deities. Since the garden is the highest point on the island, there are also some awesome views to be had. Organized tours to the garden last for about 2 hours.
- Monkey Shows. These shows can be observed at the open-air theatre on the main road behind Bophut beach. The entertainment also includes performing elephants. The capturing and training of otherwise wild animals is ethically questionable.
- Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo (In the southeast near Na Thian Beach south of Lamai). Daily, 09:00-18:00. A fun day out for the family. The undersea world of the aquarium has an amazing collection of tropical fish and other vibrant aquatic animals such as turtles and colourful coral. The tiger zoo is home to Bengal tigers and leopards. For those who are daring enough, they can have their photograph taken with the awesome animals.
- Samui Butterfly Garden / Insect Museum (In the southeast near Laem Set, off Rte 4170). There is a huge collection of butterflies, some a quarter of a metre wide. Visit the insect museum nearby to see a variety of rare bugs and a bee house.
- Laem Sor Pagoda Ko Samui. This chedi (pagoda) at Laem Sor temple is one of the most important shrines on Ko Samui. The structure with its yellow tiles which gives off a golden aura is quite impressive.
- Wat Khunaram Ko Samui (In the island's southeast corner off Rte 4169). This temple is the island’s most famous temple for its mummified monk on display. The mummy sits upright in a glass casket and devotees offer it flowers and incense. The mummy is in fact the body of a very revered former abbot of the temple who was also a meditation master who was able to predict his own death.
- Wat Phra Yai (Also known as Big Buddha Temple) (In the island's northeast). Has a 15 m tall statue of the Buddha. It was built in 1972.
About Koh Samui
Samui's weather patterns are a little different from the rest of Thailand. In Apr-Sep, when most of the country has its monsoon, Samui stays fairly dry, but from Oct-Dec, it's wet in Samui and drier elsewhere.
The usual panoply of water sports are available, including plenty of dive shops, but most diving is done either in the nearby Ang Thong National Marine Park or Ko Tao as the visibility around Samui's sandy beaches tends to be poor. You can book diving day trips at dive shops, most of which are based in Chaweng. The dive boats tend to leave from the pier at Bophut and Bang Rak.
Without a doubt the south of Thailand is home to some of the finest and most beautiful beaches and islands in the world, surrounded by crystal clear water and stunning coral. And that is the main reason why the number of divers coming to Thailand has escalated over the past decade or so. Even though the best time year of the year to dive in the Ko Samui is between Jun-Aug, it is still perfectly possible to dive virtually all year round. As Thailand is considered one of the safest destinations for diving and snorkelling in the world, it is perfect for novices. Under sea visibility in some places around Ko Samui is very good (distances of up to 10–30 m). One can enjoy splendid sights of underwater mountains, coral gardens, undersea rock formations, hard and soft coral, and whale sharks in season.
Samui is well known for its coconuts, which are available everywhere and quite tasty. Being an island, seafood is generally a good choice although in high season demand often exceeds local supply. The larger beaches have a number of international restaurants as well (often run by Thai-farang couples) with Bophut having a particularly good reputation. Southern Thai food in general is renowned for its spiciness. Much of the cuisine has its origins in Malay, Indonesian, and Indian food. Favourite dishes from the south include Indian-style Muslim curry (massaman), rice noodles in fish curry sauce (khanom jeen) and chicken birayani. Popular local foods are salted eggs and rambutan.
Dual pricing is common: some restaurants have two menus, one for tourists and the other for Thai people, at about a quarter of the tourist prices. Main courses in a standard, low-key Thai restaurant should be under 100 baht (except some seafood dishes), so if prices seem unreasonably steep, head elsewhere. Always check prices and menu first so you don't have to argue when the bill is served.
There are innumerable options for a drink, ranging from the loud and brash tourist pubs and girlie bars of Chaweng to the candle-lit romantic bars of Bophut. Figure on 80 baht for a local beer (Singha, Tiger, Chang, Leo) and up to twice as much for an import. Wine is especially expensive and usually costs over 2,000 baht per bottle.
Chaweng Beach is famous for its beer bars staffed by pretty hostesses. Buy them a 'girlie drink' and you'll be in entertaining company. Beer bars can be found all over Chaweng. The bars offer pool, Connect4, and other popular bar games. Since the nightlife on Chaweng can devolve into serious debauchery at times, the local law enforcers are strict in regards to closing times. The official closing time in "entertainment zones" is 01:00 (in practice usually somewhere between 01:00 and 02:00, depending on the location).
At karaoke places customers can either choose a private room or sing in the main lounge for everyone to hear. There are Thai songs and international songs. There may be pretty hostesses available to sit for a pleasant chat. These joints are especially popular with Asian tourists.
Chaweng Beach is packed out with nightclubs playing mostly commercial pop and electronic music and serving exotic cocktails.
There is a distillery that brews 5 flavors of rum on one of the side roads on the South Coast of the island, which offers tours during the sugar cane season and free samples any time. The flavors are natural (sugar cane), lemon, orange, pineapple, and coconut. Natural and coconut are actually quite tasty, lemon has a very strong pleasant citrus flavor, and you won't miss anything if you don't try the other two. They also have a delicious mixer to serve with consisting of lime juice, cinnamon, and other spices. Worth heading to if you're in the area or just for the novelty of sampling authentic Thai rum. Very friendly staff.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Ko Samui on Wikivoyage.