Picture a paradise. For most Koh Samui, Thailand, it’s a place fringed with swaying palms, white sandy beaches, and azure waters. Such is the postcard from Koh Samui, the loveliest of all Chumphon Archipelago islands. Discovered by accident, it’s been a haven for fervent backpackers and splurging vacationers for about five decades now, and it’s still every bit as breezy and sun-kissed as it was before the first wave of tourists stranded on its shores in the early 1990s.
Since then, Koh Samui became a promised land for summer birds. To adventurers, it offers lush nature in all its plenitudes. Romantics adore it for being secluded, yet diverse. To those in pursuit of serenity, the second-largest island of Thailand promises virgin lagoons. It’s everything you imagine a tropical bliss should look like, and so, so much more.
Koh Samui’s magic is to be experienced, not described. If eager to find your own place under the sun, don’t hesitate, but book. Here’s what awaits you.
Angthong National Marine Park
While Koh Samui translates to “haven”, the Angthong means “golden bowl”. It’s a stunning archipelago of around 40 islands, all scattered around like precious stones. Though cruising is considered a main attraction, the park has many other activities to offer.
First, the Angthong National Marine Park is one of the greatest snorkeling places in the whole world. Coral reefs, blue waters, and marine life all promise an under-the-sea experience that’s utterly mesmerizing, while beaches are mostly deserted and empty. Rent a boat, drop anchors in the open sea, spend an afternoon scuba-diving and then find your own secluded strand to watch a sunset from.
Many choose kayaking instead, but that’s only one of the alternative options. You can make your one-day trip an expedition of sorts, and commit your time to exploring. The park spreads across more than 100 square kilometers of sea and land alike, and is abundant with caves, jungles, mangroves, mountains, and waterfalls as well.
Do some rock climbing or take a hiking trip – whatever you choose, you’ll have the pleasure of meeting dolphins and whales, pythons and iguanas, otters, and monkeys. Feast your eyes and rest your spirit, since that’s what tropical paradises are all about.
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Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village
If you tend to travel hungry and discover great authentic cousins, then look no further than Fisherman’s Village. It’s situated in Bophut, Koh Samui’s northern shore, and it boils with life. Every Friday, the village hosts a Walking Street market, whichis the island’s attraction number one, at least when it comes to gourmand delights.
Though nightlife on Koh Samui is a remarkable sight, this pedestrian-only area offers an alternative worthy of exploring. Many years ago, the Fisherman’s Village was a flourishing fishing community, and it’s still rich with possibilities. In comparison to the rest of the island, shopping and accommodation are cheaper in this area, which is why it mostly attracts on-the-budget vacationers.
But what Fisherman Village is truly famous for are its food markets and restaurants. You can sample local recipes right on the spot, or dine with your feet in the sand. While most of them serve Thai seafood, which is considered a specialty on the island, you can order international meals as well.
Take a walk after dinner. This part of the island is left intact, with rustic architecture now creating a unique, utterly charming ambience. Get lost in its many alleyways, for they are great for accidental discoveries, chance encounters, and lucky finds.
The best thing about Koh Samui is that, while it offers everything that your heart desires, it’s surrounded with more opportunities for adventure from all sides. The entire Gulf of Thailand is on the reach of your hand, so make sure to plan a quick excursion to Koh Tao as well.
You’ll have plenty of occasions to enjoy pristine beaches and holiday villas in Koh Samui, but if you’re looking for a diving experience of a lifetime, you’ll certainly find it in Koh Tao’s waters. You’ll discover an entire universe out there, including the wreck of HTMS Sattakut, sculptures of Ocean and Japanese Gardens. Lucky explorers have encountered rare whale sharks under the island’s coral reefs, and you can be one of them.
Apart for snorkelling, Koh Samui vacationers go to Koh Tao for its notorious nightlife as well. The island’s entertainment culture has rapidly grown over the last couple of decades, and it now offers something for everyone’s taste. The shore erupts with pubs, bars, and clubs as soon as the sun goes down, but you can also spend a romantic evening on the beach and watch the resort’s famous fireworks from there.
Big Buddha Beach
Once you’ve savored seafood and enjoyed an idle day on the beach, the time is about right to get familiar with Koh Samui’s rich culture. Around 90% of island’s inhabitants are Buddhists, which makes this destination amazing for soul-searchers and history buffs alike.
The Big Buddha Beach is set on northeast side of the island, and it’s a home to one of the island’s biggest heritage sites. Wat Plai Laem, the Buddhist temple, is visited by tourists daily, just as well as the Big Buddha Temple, located nearby. You’ll see the monumental Guanyin statue and learn that it represents the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, worshiped by both Chinese and Thai people.
Other religious statues, including the laughing Buddha one, complete the profound experience. The lake in front of the complex is how visitors pay their contribution – each is given a bag of fish food to scatter around the surface, thus dismissing the material and embracing the spiritual.
It might delight you to know that there are not one, but two of these paradise-like cascades in Koh Samui, and that’s only if we consider only the most picturesque ones. In fact, the inlands of the island are overgrown with jungles and carved into stones, and scenic waterfalls are everywhere to be found.
The first of two Namuang Waterfalls is considered more family-friendly, since it’s both easier to reach and lovely to enjoy. It falls into a serene little pool, brilliant for relaxing in the shade. The second cascade is a bit higher and requires a steep, slippery climb that’ not advisable for all. If you enjoy rock climbing and jungle adventures, relax by the Namuang 1 first, and then continue to its hidden cousin, the Namuang 2, since it’s one of Koh Samui’s best-kept secrets.
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Halfway between these marvels of nature is the Namuang Safari Park. Though endlessly fun for kids, their elephant rides are something that adults shouldn’t miss neither. After all, how often do you have an opportunity for picnicking in the depths of the jungle and stumbling upon a wildlife safari by chance?
Wherever you turn, Koh Samui justifies its name. Whether you choose to stay in the comfort zone of your beach and bask in the sun, explore its luscious wildlife, go across the island on a spiritual pilgrimage or savor its irresistible cuisine, this undiscovered marvel is truly a haven for all.