A couple of months ago, my husband and I left our kids behind for a week and headed on a Thailand holiday. Together with six other couples, we stayed at a luxurious eight bedroom home on the beach in Koh Samui. We were absolutely spoilt. We had a large staff who cooked, cleaned and chauffeured us all over the island. I feel very lucky to have stayed in this home and had the experiences that we did.
However, would I return? Notwithstanding the phenomenal accommodation, food and service that we experienced, is Koh Samui an island that would beckon me on another Thailand holiday. Probably not.
Koh Samui has amazing amenities.
Don’t get me wrong. We had a marvellous time. We went jet skiing with a guide in the Andaman Sea and took an ATV tour in the hills and jungle surrounding us. For a couple of days, we took the ferry across to Koh Phangan where we explored the beautiful beaches and delicious restaurants scattered throughout. Back on Koh Samui, we shopped and found some cool boutiques offering stylish clothes. It sounds pretty wonderful, right?
If you are looking for an easy destination for your Thailand holiday, then look no further. Koh Samui has been developed into the ultimate tourist destination. There are hotels and restaurants everywhere for every price point. We found some terrific bars and nightlife for those who want to party. There is a large tourist infrastructure to transport you around the island and to entertain you.
There is no authenticity.
What is lacking is authenticity. In many ways, you could close your eyes and believe that you are in any major beach destination in the world. Of course, there is mostly Thai food (and incredible food at that) and Thai people who live there. However, beyond that, the development of the island has been crafted to meet the needs of the tourist on their Thailand holiday.
As you drive around the island, it is hard to see any evidence of traditional Thai living. The beaches are filled with hotels and homes owned by foreigners. Where we stayed, the roads nearby were stacked with massage parlours, restaurants and tour shops and very little reference to what a traditional Thai family might want or need. We found that this was the case most everywhere we went on the island.
However, not everyone wants authenticity. Sometimes, people just want to have an easy vacation filled with sun, beaches, great food and nightlife. This is exactly what you will get on your Thailand holiday in Koh Samui. In that regard, here are 7 recommendations for your time in Koh Samui.
1. Stay at Upni Duniya on Your Thailand Holiday
Upni Duniya is one of the most beautiful houses that I have ever stayed at. It has 9 gorgeous suites, outdoor showers, a large pool, hot tub, and a fitness room, all steps from the beach. We had a full staff to meet our needs that included a chef who made exceptional meals offered from an extensive menu. Cocktails and chilled coconuts were only a “please and thank you” a way. The location was excellent. We were 15 minutes from the airport; 15 minutes from the Night Market and Fisherman’s Village; and mere minutes away to massage parlours. You might choose to never leave this house and that would be completely understandable.
2. Jet Ski at Samui Pier Resort
Samui Pier Resort is a five minute walk from Upni Duniya. We took a two hour private jet skiing tour in the Andaman Sea which was a blast. It was a great way to see other parts of Koh Samui on our Thailand holiday.
3. ATV Tour through Samui X-Treme ATV Adventure
We went into the hills and jungle of Koh Samui for a half day ATV tour with Samui X-Treme ATV Adventure. The company offers free pick up from your hotel. From Upni Duniya, it was a 40 minute drive away.
This tour is not for the faint of heart. You spend a lot of time climbing up and descending steep slopes in the hills of Koh Samui. There are some fantastic view points along the way. Most of the trip is in the jungle and it was nice to spend some time in nature.
4. Beach Hopping on Koh Phangan on your Thailand Holiday
From our accommodation, we were literally 20 steps to the pier that offered an inexpensive ferry ride to Koh Phangan. Koh Phangan is a large island 45 minutes away from Koh Samui. Out of our seven day Thailand holiday, we did two day trips to Koh Phangan. We loved it there. This is an island that has beautiful untouched beaches everywhere. Luxurious yet inexpensive hotels were tucked tastefully behind palm trees and jungle but mere steps to the beach. On one trip, we hired a car and driver (who wait for the ferries to arrive) and they took us to different parts of the island. I will write a blog about our experiences at another time. However, suffice to say, this island offered a blend of authentic Thai living and more natural undeveloped surroundings with an established yet simple tourist infrastructure. I would happily return there.
5. Massage, Massage, Massage
Getting an inexpensive massage on a Thailand holiday is as easy as getting your next delicious meal! Every day, we chose a new massage parlour down the street from our accommodation. For $11 USD, we had wonderful hour long massages that quickly led to late afternoon naps. Truly decadent and affordable way to spend each afternoon!
6. The Night Market
Around 15 minutes away from Upni Duniya is the Fisherman’s Village night market. On Fridays, the roads close to traffic and shopping and food stalls are set up in the street. On either side, brick and mortar stores remain open and dozens of restaurants celebrate their menus.
We had a lot of fun walking the streets, inspecting crafts and goods, and negotiating for deals. There were standard Thai offerings, but also a number of talented artists showing off their creations. Give yourself lots of time…this a large market and it is worthwhile to wander the streets and enjoy it.
7. Fire Show
Not far from Fisherman’s Village and along Bophut beach is Coco Tam, a beach bar that offers a nightly fire show from 9:30 pm. This is a cool bar with a huge beach presence that offers cushions and tables right in the sand. Every night, there is a free fire show on the beach, your table being inches or feet from the show depending on your preference. The drinks are fantastic and the show is extraordinary. We added it to our night market experience. We landed there after shopping and it was the perfect end to our evening on our Thailand holiday.
If you have dreamed of a Thailand holiday where you walked on deserted beaches with jungle life steps away from your small boutique hotel, then Koh Samui is not the right destination for you. It is a tourist driven location in Thailand that will disappoint if you are seeking an authentic Thailand holiday.
On the other hand, if you are looking for an easy escape to a beautiful island filled with hotels, beaches, restaurants and tourist attractions, then Koh Samui is the perfect Thailand holiday for you.
There are many, many islands in Thailand that offer a range of seclusion to intense night life to family oriented beaches. It is well worthwhile to spend a bit of time identifying what is important to you. I have now been to Phuket and other mainland cities in Thailand. I can honestly say that excellent service, delicious food and unconditional kindness of the Thai people are everywhere. This is a beautiful country that is waiting for you to discover it.
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