ALMOST every turn and bend on Koh Samui offers spectacular sea views. But the Thai island has plenty of other attractions. Here’s seven reasons to stay and play on Koh Samui.
As the storm gains momentum, staff race around battening down the hatches at Manathai Koh Samui’s fine dining restaurant, Waterline.
Inspired by the kinds of items you’d find washed ashore, Italian chef Roberto Bellitti creates whimsical dishes with names such as Underwater Carpet – layers of black ink pasta, seafood and fish in cream sauce – and a dish of sardines with Mediterranean flavours called When I Was Little.
The menu is unexpected – much like Manathai, which opened in July and is a pleasant surprise from the usual thatched-bungalow accommodation on Koh Samui.
The welcoming committee of staff who lined up on arrival offering grape juice and a perfumed water blessing sets the scene. Colonial in design, the hotel features enormous suites versatile enough for a multitude of sleeping configurations, claw-foot baths, plantation shutters, timber detailing, balconies and the kind of grandeur that may compel you to use a posh voice to order G&Ts at the beach club overlooking Lamai Beach (especially if you’ve packed the kids off to the kids’ club).
NA MUANG WATERFALLS
You might just win parent of the year with a trip to the Na Muang Waterfalls. There are two waterfalls: Na Muang No.1 flows to an easily accessible pool and Na Muang No.2 is about a 30-minute further hike uphill. The park includes a zip line, waterslide, swimming, an elephant trek and the opportunity to feed a Bengal cub.
A visit to the mummified monk at the Kunaram Temple certainly is a testament to healthy living. Born as Dang Pivasilo (1894-1973), it’s believed his healthy lifestyle attributed to not only a long life, but the remarkable preservation of his body – apart from his eyes, which explains why he’s wearing cool sunglasses. Make a donation and receive a blessing.
ANGTHONG NATIONAL MARINE PARK
One of the best ways to explore the rainbow of colours above and below the sea of the 42-island archipelago in Angthong National Marine Park (angthongmarinepark.com) is by speedboat. Safari Boat’s daily tours include snorkelling, sea kayaking through caves and along cliffs, swimming and lunch. After the 500m steep climb up to Emerald Lake in the humidity, which incidentally is definitely worth the hike, a dip is well-deserved.
Almost every turn and bend on the island offers spectacular sea views, especially since no building is taller than a palm tree. Unlike many other Asian tourist destinations, Koh Samui isn’t over-developed and there is little chance it ever will be. It’s no secret Bangkok Airways own the airport and limit the amount of tourists arriving – unless you arrive by ferry from the mainland or are fortunate enough to have access to a private boat or plane. As a result, the traffic isn’t too crazy, at least by Asian standards, and it’s relatively easy to hire a car or scooter. Just follow the ring road which circumnavigates the island and follow random turns leading down to hidden bays and beaches.
Crystal Bay, just outside of Lamai on the way to Chaweng, has the kind of beach designed to cause a frenzy of jealousy on social media. Rock Salt overlooks the bay and British chef David Lloyd delivers Thai and Western favourites using local produce with a cheeky twist – like Wok Stars, curries, brunches and dry aged beef for his signature salt beef. Koh Samui has many other spots designed to flop, swim or eat for the day or night. Linger at the beach club at Beach Republic and its day spa, whisky and cigar bar Whiscigars, and real-life escape game Escapology. Other places to explore are the French-inspired menu at The Beach, on Bophut Beach, at Eden Beach Bungalows and June Art Cafe, in Bophut, serving predominantly vegetarian food in arty surrounds. The madness of Chaweng is best enjoyed while lounging on a bean bag at The Jungle Club, commanding some of the island’s best views.
HAVE YOU EATEN YET?
It would be unheard of to visit Koh Samui without sampling papaya salad, pad thai noodles, nam prik kapi (a sauce of chilli, garlic, shallots, lime juice and fermented fish paste served with fresh condiments), the fragrant massaman curry, sour curry kaeng som made with fermented fish paste, green curry, Thai fish soup, kalamae (coconut and caramel treats coated in sesame seed) and of course coconut in its many forms.
The area of Lamai Beach has been claimed by many French expats and visitors so you can be sure the island’s French cheese shop, butchers and bakeries such as La Fabrique are the real deal; and an alternative to the local spicy cuisine. The Belgian-owned Villa Chocolate serves coffee and chocolates and sweets savoured to the tunes and twirls of the enchanting ballet school on the premises.
There’s no shortage of family-run restaurants including Manathai’s Pad Thai Restaurant but the Sunday night markets in Lamai has some of the best street food.
Given the high turnover the food is fresh, especially barbecued meat and seafood and anything served on a stick – such as marinated pork, corn, fish balls, garlic bread, sausages and satays. All perfect for eating while exploring the markets for trash and treasure.
Learn how to make your favourite dishes with Lat at Island Organics Samui (islandorganicssamui.com) using ingredients picked fresh from her organic garden. By the end of her lesson, you’ll happily provide an eating history at the local greeting, “Khun yang mi di kin” – “Have you eaten yet?”
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