October 2012
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Ko Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand – Part 1

Ko Samui which is often called just Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand.

Overview of Ko Samui

• Ko Samui is about 700km south of Bangkok and about 80km from the eastern coastline of Southern Thailand.
• Ko Samui Island measures some 25 km at its widest point.
• It is surrounded by about sixty other islands.
• These islands comprise of the Ang Thong Marine National Park (Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park) and include other tourist destinations (Ko Phangan, Ko Tao and Ko Nang Yuan).
• The central part of the island is an almost uninhabitable jungle mountain, Khao Pom, peaking at 635 m.
• The various lowland areas are connected together by a single 51 km road.
• These run mostly along the coast to encircle the bulk of the island.
• The old capital is Nathon which is on the southwest coast of the island.
• It remains the major port for fishing and inter-island transportation.
• Nathon is the seat of the regional government, and the true commercial hub of the Samui locals.
• It has a charming pace, and is small enough to walk everywhere.
• The old Chinese shop houses along the middle street whisper of an exotic history.
• Each of Samui’s primary beaches is nominally considered as a small town.
• This is due to the number of hotels, restaurants and nightlife that have sprung up in recent years.
• Samui is an island of great natural beauty and variety.
• The palm fringed shoreline and coconut and fruit cultivation of the coastal lowlands rise to a central granite massive.
• These are the slopes of which are cloaked in virgin rain-forest.
• At 247km² Samui is the third largest island in Thailand.
• It is also the largest island in an archipelago of over 80 (mostly uninhabited) islands.
• This forms the Ang Thong National Marine Park which is a kayaking and snorkeling paradise.
• At 25km long and 21km wide, Samui is big enough for serious exploration by the adventurous and fit.
• The island was probably first inhabited about 15 centuries ago which were settled by fishermen from the Malay Peninsula and Southern China.
• It appears on Chinese maps dating back to 1687, under the name Pulo Cornam.
• Until the late 20th century, Samui was an isolated self-sufficient community, having little connection with the mainland of Thailand.
• The island was even without roads until the early 1970s.
• It was 15km journey from one side of the island to the other involved a whole-day trek through the mountainous central jungles.
• In the early 1970s the first backpackers traveling on the back of a coconut boat arrived on Ko Samui.
• Things started to change in the early 1990s when tourists started arriving in full boats and since then the place had grown substantially.
• Samui is now the second most popular place as an island destination in Thailand (first is Phuket).
• Ko Samui may not be the country’s most beautiful island but it is still an oasis of natural beauty with its white sandy beaches, dazzling coral, luscious lagoons, picturesque waterfalls, swaying coconut trees and crystal clear water.
• The water at Bophut beach is often murky, especially around December.
• Development on Ko Samui is starting to take its toll and the beaches of Chaweng and Lamai are over-crowded in the high season.

Administration of Ko Samui

• Ko Samui is an Amphoe (district) of Surat Thani Province.
• This is subdivided into 7 subdistricts (tambon).
• The complete island is one municipality (tesaban mueang).
• The district covers the island, as well as the Ang Thong archipelago and some other small islands nearby.
These subdistricts are:
– Ang Thong
– Lipa Noi
– Taling Ngam
– Na Mueang
– Maret
– Bo Phut
– Mae Nam

Beaches of Ko Samui

1. Choeng Mon beach
• Ko Samui is a fairly big island
• The most popular and commercialized beaches are Chaweng and Lamai
• The northern beaches and their adjacent villages of Mae Nam, Bophut, Bang Rak (Big Buddha) and Choeng Mon are better choices
• The west coast beaches are still (comparatively) quiet.

Clockwise from Nathon on the west coast, the main beaches are:
Nathon: Samui’s port and administrative center, but with little to attract the tourist.
Laem Yai: set on the North West tip of the island and is a secluded beach overlooking the islands of Angthong.
Mae Nam: is a quiet and beautiful beach on the northern coast.
Bophut: is known for its Fisherman’s Village, laid-back but growing fast.
Bang Rak: is at the northeastern tip and is the home of the Big Buddha.
Choeng Mon: is a quiet North shore beach.
Chaweng: is the largest and most-developed beach, with a curious mix of luxury hotels and backpacker guesthouse’s and a hopping nightlife.
Lamai: is Samui’s “second” beach south of Chaweng and more enjoyable than Chaweng.
Samui South Coast: the small beaches of Ban Hua Thanon, Na Khai, Laem Set, Bang Kao and Thong Krut are present on this coast.

Places to See
• A certain pair of rocks on Lamai amuses some visitors.
• Bang Rak has a large but a nondescript Buddha statue.
• There are some waterfalls (notably Na Muang) of minor interest.

2. Chaweng Beach
• This beach is the major beach on Ko Samui and one that has developed tremendously since the early 1990s.
• Samui’s nightlife is becoming legendary but unfortunately not always attracting the best standard of tourist.

3. Lamai Beach
• Like Chaweng, Lamai has transformed from a ‘hippy’ hangout into a fun, party place packed out with bars and exciting nightlife.
• The beach though, is still in better condition than Chaweng.
• At the southern end of Lamai, there are some odd-looking rock formations.

4. Maenam Beach
• This is a quiet beach.
• It is located in the north of the island.
• It is decent enough for swimming and sunbathing
• This is especially for families with children due to the shallow water.

5. Bophut Beach
• This beach is situated in the north of the island.
• It is a popular starting point for diving tours.
• The place isn’t in any way as developed as Chaweng.
• There are still plenty of restaurants, shops and bars.

6. Choengmon Beach
• It is in the North-East of Samui just 10 minutes from Chaweng.
• It is a perfect place for relaxing.

7. Big Buddha Beach
• It is located in the north-east of Samui.
• Big Buddha offers visitors good swimming and lovely views.
• The area has developed a lot over the past few years.
• There are now plenty of restaurants, shops and bars.

8. Na Thon
The island’s major seafront settlement where shops, restaurants and tour agencies are concentrated.

Best time to visit / climate

• Samui’s weather patterns are a little different from the rest of Thailand.
• In April through September, when most of the country has its monsoon, Samui stays fairly dry, but from October to December.
• The driest season is from January to March.

Location on Google Maps

View Larger Map

Or click and paste the URL below on your browser:

How to get there?

1. By Plane
• Ko Samui Airport (USM) is a private airport originally built by Bangkok Airways.
• They have near-hourly departures to/from Bangkok and tickets are expensive by Thai standards, with advance bookings costing 3000-4500 baht one-way, while a walk-in booking may be twice as much.
• There are also daily flights to/from Phuket for 2000-3000 baht, Pattaya, Singapore and Hong Kong; two daily flights from Chiang Mai.
• A feature of the International Departure Gate is a courtesy corner which provides food and drinks for all passengers in a cosy sitting area.
• Awaiting boarding becomes rather comfortable with food, drinks and wifi provided.
• In addition to Bangkok Air, Ko Samui is served by two flights a day from Bangkok with Thai Airways as well as by Berjaya Air and Firefly from Subang airport and Penang International Airport in Malaysia.
• Ground transportation from the airport is readily available.
• A seat in a minibus for the 20-minute ride to Chaweng costs 120 baht/person; a faster taxi will cost 300-500 baht.
• A cheaper but less convenient option is to fly to Surat Thani by Thai Airways and low cost airlines by Air Asia and Nok Air (Depart from Donmuang Airport )and connect by road and then ferry.
• Or fly to Nakhonsithammarat by Nok Air then take bus and catamaran boat by Lompayah.

2. By Boat
• From Surat Thani train station and Surat Thani Airport (URT), there are combined bus/ferry services to Ko Samui cost 200-300 baht – some entail a 60 minute bus ride to Donsak pier followed by a 90 minute ferry crossing, others a 30 minute bus ride but the ferry takes extra time.
• Tickets are sold by numerous agents that meet each train and airport.
• It should cost certainly less than 300 baht even if bought this way.
• Raja Ferry Port operates services between Donsak pier and Lipa Noi pier on the western side of Samui.
• It includes a free air conditioned deck and several comfortable seats.
• This ferry also transports cars, so can be used should you decide to come with your own transport.
• There are fewer options for transportation there, and songthaew/taxi drivers may be more reluctant to bargain.
• Songthaew transfer from the pier at Lipa Noi on Samui to either Chaweng or Lamai will cost 100 baht per person.
• Taxis will be more expensive, with initial asking prices of up to 500 baht.
• Numerous ferry services are direct from mainland Surat Thani including an express boat.
• Lomprayah offers a combined bus/high speed catamaran ferry service from Bangkok to Ko Samui which takes about 11 hours and costs around 1250 baht.
• The bus pauses in Hua Hin and then stops at Chumphon, where it connects with the ferry, which calls at Ko Nang Yuan, Ko Tao and Ko Pha Ngan on its way to Ko Samui.
• While the route may be more scenic and the ferry itself is comparable to Seatran, the entire way to Samui will take more time, and will cost more too.

Some Travel Books about Thailand

Lonely Planet Discover Thailand Thailand PhotoMazing Thailand

Places to stay (hotels / restaurants along with website / contact numbers)

Hotels at wikitravel.org
Hotels at krabi- kosamui.org
Hotels at kosamui.com

Blogs / Sites about Thailand – Ko Samui

Blogs at wikipedia.org
Blogs at krabi- kosamui.com
Blogs at kosamui.org
Blogs and reviews at lonelyplanet.com

Images and photos of Thailand – Ko Samui

Images at google.com
Images at krabi- kosamui.com
Images at krabi- kosamui.org
Images at tripadvisor.in

Videos of Ko Smaui

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