It was a wedding that propelled me to the Thai island of Koh Samui in 2015. Perched off the east coast of the Kra Isthmas, Thailand, with its pristine stretches of sand and warm turquoise waters, I found it a perfect location for tying the knot. Once the wedding festivities subsided, I stayed on a week longer to explore. I found the little island surpassed my expectations, offering an array of experiences that often came by surprise. Having blended the initial pampering sessions and serenity of the ceremonial affairs with spontaneous wilderness explorations, temple tours with a local and a sunset kayaking session, I found Koh Samui to be pretty all-encompassing. I feel it has something for everyone, and here’s why:
- It serves the romantics. My sister’s wedding couldn’t have been more beautiful and unique. The affair took place at Sareeraya Villas and Suites in Chaweng, in front of one of many beachside resorts. Thai drummers led the bridal party to a canopy on the beach that housed the ceremony, backed by the ocean. After the “I do’s”, an elephant joined for photographs. Fire dancers wrapped the evening. Though Chaweng is the busiest area, the beachfront set-up caters for peace and relaxation. Wooden huts line the sand, where Thai massages and the likes of facials or manicures are a-plenty. Several small restaurants are dotted in between. The sunsets along this slip are gorgeous. You can enjoy them with a Mai Tai, watching as the dusk gives way to balmy evenings, the lulling sound of waves ever-present.
(Above: A perfect backdrop for tying the knot.)
- It excites the socialites. Along that same main strip, an opposing world exists: one for those who fancy a bit of nightlife. After-all, Koh Samui’s nightlife is world-renown, owing to its beach bars, discos and the infamous full-moon party. If you’re lively after dusk, then you will enjoy Chaweng’s diversity, from sophisticated restaurants to Thai dancing and transgender cabaret shows.
I happened to arrive in Chaweng on the week of Thailand’s Water Festival (Songkran), the celebration of Buddhist New Year that permits a national week-long water fight.
- It pleases the R & R’s (rest and relaxation goers.) Being a tropical island, relaxation is inevitable. I enjoyed daily massages and swims in the ocean whilst staying at Chaweng. Chaweng Beach is approximately 7km long, so gentle days can easily be spent walking its soft sands. One evening we hired kayaks, and slowly explored the shoreline.
(Above: Chaweng Beach.)
After the week of the wedding, a friend and I relocated to the north, where we stayed at the first-class Prana Resort, Nandana. A sharply seclusive and quiet location in comparison, the luxury of this beachside resort was a treat, with its rooftop restaurant and private spa. Sunbathing with a book was broken up with dips in the pool and relaxing sessions in the spa.
(Above: Prana Resort, Nandana.)
- It caters for the adventurous. I discovered this to be true through a couple of spontaneous outings. One was an impromptu visit to Samui Go-Kart. Set amidst one of the island’s coconut groves, people of all ages can enjoy this opportunity to let loose and put pedal to the floor. Second was Namuang Waterfall, a “secret waterfall” by word of recommendation. We had a driver drop us at the supposed location, an elephant park, where this mysterious waterfall apparently lay 20 minutes beyond. Walking through the jungle (cobra sighting included), we arrived at the foot of the most magical waterfall I’ve seen. Crossing small drawbridges along the way, we climbed up the waterfall, stopping at a great pool where we swam beneath its downpour. To top it off, we had a go on the Namuang waterslide, which shoots you down so quickly that you lose your breath.
- It pleases the shoppers. Near to our resort in Nandana was the Fisherman’s Market, which comes to life every Friday at Fishermans Village, Bophut. I thoroughly enjoyed perusing the diverse range of jewellery, handbags, clothing and souvenirs, all on offer at very low prices. Though many dubious goods can be found, there are exceptions, and the lively atmosphere makes for a good experience. Quality, authentic Thai dishes can be bought from the stalls as well.
Second to this, Chaweng is great for bazaar-like shops selling DVDs and electronics, beachwear, clothes and souvenirs.
- It feeds the culture-hungry. A drive around the North-East part of the island bought us some unique sites. Big Buddha temple is a golden shrine perched majestically on the headland. Golden Pagoda sits just around the corner. The area is Godly, showcasing vibrant colours and richly detailed sculptures. For a genuine experience, you can watch Thai boxing nearby. In Chaweng I went along to a transgender cabaret, a famous part of the culture. If you follow local recommendations, you will be able to find the best places for authentic Thai food. (You’ll notice the difference when you do!)
(Below: Golden Pogoda.)
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second biggest island and a cosmopolitan hotspot, thus allowing for the craze and culture of Phuket or Bangkok. Given that it is an island, however, you’ll still experience the seclusion and serenity of palm-fringed beaches and that tropical island feel. Koh Samui attracts budget travellers and wealthy holidaymakers alike, thanks to the fact it’ll enthral all types!