Ko Samui (เกาะสมุย), (pronounced gaw (vowel like ou in cough) sà mui) is an island located in the Chumphon Archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand, some 700 km south of Bangkok and about 80 km from the eastern coastline of Southern Thailand.
What to see:
Ko Samui is a fairly big island. The most popular and commercialised beaches are Chaweng and Lamai, while the northern beaches and their adjacent villages of Mae Nam, Bophut, Bang Rak (Big Buddha) and Choeng Mon are more peaceful choices, and the west coast beaches are still (comparatively) quiet.
The major reason why people come to Samui is 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 decent. However the beaches of Phuket and Ko Chang have clearer water and are generally better for swimming. Development has been thwarted slightly because of the island’s regulation governing building heights.
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 2).
- Chaweng Beach is 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, Italian pizzerias, Irish pubs, and even go-go bars. Samui’s night life is becoming legendary but unfortunately not always attracting the best standard of tourist. Chaweng’s once ‘hippie’-only backpackers have given way to a lot of “lager louts”. Chaweng is the place for a rowdy reckless party scene.
- Lamai Beach Like Chaweng, Lamai has been transformed from a ‘hippy’ hangout into a fun, party place packed out with bars and night life. The beach is still in better condition than Chaweng and the place doesn’t get quite so crowded, although some are shallow and have rocks. At the southern end of Lamai, there are some odd-looking rock formations. If it’s a quiet relaxing location you are after, then Lamai won’t be the ideal place for you. Lamai is in southeast Samui, about ten km south of Chaweng.
- Mae Nam Beach This quiet beach, located in the north of the island is decent enough for swimming and sunbathing, especially for families with children, due to the shallow water.
- Bophut Beach situated 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.
- Choengmon Beach is in northeast Samui just 10 minutes from Chaweng. Unlike the latter it is a perfect place for relaxing.
- Big Buddha Beach Located 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 many restaurants, shops, and bars.
- Nathon – The island’s major seafront settlement where shops, restaurants, and tour agencies are concentrated.
- Namtok Hin Lat – This waterfall is easily accessible by car. Some of the numerous tiny levels have large basins for swimmers.
- Namtok Na Mueang – A local road leads to the Na Mueang 1 Waterfall. 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.
- Ban Lipa Yai – This village grows high-quality fruits, including rambutan, durian, mangosteen, and the famed langsat.
- Old House – This Chinese-style house, aged almost 200 years, represents Samui’s cultural identity. Grandpa Si and Grandma Maen Hancharoen, the present owner, open the house to visitors.
- Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo Ko Samui Located at Ban Harn beach, the aquarium has an amazing collection of tropical fish and other aquatic animals such as turtles and colourful coral. The tiger zoo is home to Bengal tigers and leopards. The Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo are open daily from 09:00-18:00.
- Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) Also known as the Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai), has a 15 m tall statue of the Buddha. It was built in 1972 and is in the north of the island.
- Monkey Shows These shows can be enjoyed 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.
- Bophut Elephant Camp. Funny Day Safari has a 48,000 square meter Elephant Camp,it is just a few minutes away from Fisherman’s Village, visit to enjoy a peaceful nature trail on the back of a magnificent mammal or watch cute Baby Elephants then feed them, learn how Koh Samui Monkeys work, and watch the professional Crocodile show performers. For more information, location map or picture gallery please visit its site.
What to do:
The usual panoply of watersports 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 Ruk.
The south of Thailand has some of the most beautiful beaches and islands in the world, which are surrounded by crystal clear water and stunning coral. For this reasons the number of divers coming to Thailand has steadily increased over the past decade. Even though the best time year of the year to dive in the Ko Samui is between June and August, 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 first-timers.
The sea visibility in some places around Ko Samui is 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 when in season.
- ‘Samran Pinnacles:’ Since the currents in this area are often quite strong, this site is recommended only for experienced divers. Due to the currents, the site is a haven for bringing in larger pelagics such as barracuda and jacks. There are three submerged pinnacles near Sail Rock.
- ‘Ko Kra & Koh Losin:’ These two small islands located to the southeast of Samui, which because of its remoteness, don’t get too many divers. Blacktip sharks, manta rays, and hard-to-find loggerhead turtles can be seen.
- ‘Ko Tan:’ (also Known as Koh Tan, Koh Taen, Koh Kataen, Coral Island and affectionately as No Dog Island. This small island is located on the south-western tip of Samui. This is a perfect place for experiencing the wonders of snokeling. Local experts tell travelers is gthe perfect location for people that don’t wish to travel two plus hours for snorkeling. located only 15 minutes from Samui there are over 14 sites for travelers to visit with an abundance of underwater life including soft and hard corals. There are many longtail boats available to tourists from Thong krut at more than reasonable prices. If you want to go to Ko Tan you can Book through any good travel agent or research the Internet, 0r go to Thong krut directly. At Ko Tan, there are Five restaurants Ao-Ok bay has Three restaurants one at either end of the beach both with accommodation and run by local people with excellent tasting Thai cuisine. the third for this beach is located in the middle and owned by a French gentleman. On the opposite side of the island is a beautiful bay called Ao-Tok where there is 2 restaurants and 2 lots of accommodation serving excellent tasting food. The accommodation is of high standard for the 500THB asking price Ko Tan is surrounded by coral and rock reefs, there are some 10 beaches that can be found around the island. The populations is currently 28 permanent residents and the People are friendly.
Where to Eat:
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 food are salted eggs and rambutan, too.
Dual pricing is regrettably common: some restaurants have two menus, one for tourists and the other for Thai people, at about 1/4 of the foreigner prices. Main courses in a standard, low-key Thai restaurant should be under 100 baht (except some seafood dishes). If prices seem unreasonably steep, head elsewhere. Always check prices and menu first so you don’t have to argue when the bill is delivered.
Information copied from wikitravel