Early this year, I took a break with the people closest to my heart to Thailand – we decided to explore Koh Samui.
So much happened on this trip – I was pooped on, got lost on an ATV entourage, got stuck in a river stream, discovered an amazing street bar… and the list goes on.
Bottomline is, we had a ball of fun!
So, what is Koh Samui all about? It is a pretty small island, but it’s not all just sand and sun, they have quite a lively night scene and various markets where food and souvenirs are sold. They even have a well-stocked mall with pretty awesome brands and a Dairy Queen for those hot days.
As always, we start off with some useful tips for things-to-know-before-you-go.
You can fly directly to the island for a much higher priced air ticket. Or like us, you can purchase a budget ticket from Air Asia, and fly to Surat Thani instead. The air fare includes fees for the transfers in between, so you won’t need to fork out any money during your trip.
Air Asia Transfer chronology: Surat Thani Airport – 1.5 hours van/bus journey to Donsak Pier – 1.5 hours Raja Ferry boat ride to Lipa Noi (Samui Island) – 30 minutes van ride to your hotel
*reverse the order upon your return
It’s going to take up half a day just to get there (and also on your way back) but the transfers are well organised, the ferry is also surprisingly airy and comfy despite being open air with no air-conditioning. If you are willing to spend some time to travel on a budget, then this wouldn’t be too big of an issue.
SETTING A BUDGET
I wouldn’t call Koh Samui a cheap destination. It’s offerings can range from an average price up to some really expensive stuff. For a length of 5 days there, we budgeted about MYR2,000 per person (excluding flight & hotel) for our transportation, food & shopping.
Upon our arrival (after the whole travelling shebang), we checked into Mercure Samui Chaweng Tana, which is a gorgeous and very comfy hotel, at a super affordable price. The front desk lady (pictured below) was really nice too!
We also recommend getting some bikes to go around because taxis are expensive and tuk tuks are very hard to get. Bike rentals are fairly cheap on a daily rate, and you would probably need a quick crash course if you don’t already know how to ride one.
CHAWENG WALKING STREET | ถนนคนเดินเฉวง
This place was really close to our hotel – a 10 minute walk down the street. Over here you can find loads of local fare, as well as some tiny stalls to shop at.
We ordered some dishes at one of the restaurants and it was pretty damn good. We had som tam (Thai papaya salad), tom yam soup and the larb gaai (minced chicken) – with the local Chang beer. You can not, not have the beer.
Later on, we found an ice-cream stall manned by a French expat who sells really delicious ice-creams that are very thick and creamy, sort of like Italian gelato.
A little further down were a few mobile cocktail bars like this one, which sells almost every sort of popular club drink. It was pretty cheap too, beats drinking at the bar anytime!
CHAWENG NIGHT MARKET
Another good place for a variety of good food – it’s a little further away from our hotel, but we rented bikes so we were able to go the distance. This is about 10 minutes away via bike.
Again, a similar concept of choosing a restaurant (based on their table cloth design/color) and each establishment more or less serves the same Thai fare. We picked one at random and decided to order some individual dishes. I had the stir-fried spicy noodles with seafood and it was pretty darn good. At the same time, you can always wander around the other stalls to order things like grilled octopus tentacles, satay, burgers, fried potatoes and so on.
FISHERMAN’S VILLAGE WALKING STREET, BOPHUT
This is located out of Chaweng and it’s about 30 minutes away via bike – it’s kind of far, but it was so worth it! We pretty much regretted not staying in the Fisherman’s Village area where you can easily find loads of restaurants (local and western), bars and even boutique hotels. It’s really lively and it’s pretty much where the tourists love to hang.
Aside from a variety of food, you get to do most of your shopping here – everything from souvenirs to clothes, street food and even home decor. We visited during the night and the street is bustling with activity and street performances.
And we found a street stall selling grilled oysters with garlic & chillies! I immediately bought a few, and it was so, so good!
BARS WE LOVE: ON STREET BAR SAMUI
This bar is amazing because it’s so hidden, and the owner is such a friendly guy. Chances are, if you happen to be sitting on a different table, by the end of the night, he would have managed to group you with a couple of other patrons by joining the tables an engaging everyone in some sort of drinking game.
It is probably the best place to make new friends, especially for solo travellers and backpackers. Aside from that, his drinks are also pretty phenomenal and most have a lot of fresh fruits thrown into it. He often offers free drinks as well for people who plays some of his board games (the loser usually needs to down a fiery alcoholic drink).
Check out their Facebook page.
BEE’S KNEES BREWERY
We also visited a local brewery for some ale that supposed has some honey properties in it. You also get to see the actual brewery that’s contained inside the shop lot and order a tasting menu to try out some of their beer varieties. There isn’t a lot to choose from though, but their beers are pretty decent.
Their prices are pretty reasonable too, and my favourite beer was the Summer Bee – which was the lightest ale of the lot.
WE HAD FUN: RIDING THE ATV!
So we joined the Samui Quad Motor ATV safari where they literally took us on an hour long adventure in the midst of nature. I regret not having a GoPro or something to capture the ride, but you can expect uneven, muddy and dusty terrains, steep upward and downward slopes, shallow streams that will spatter you with water and mud, getting stuck in between the stream’s rocks and also a view of the village houses and livestock along the way.
Whatever you do, you need to go for this! If you’re adventurous enough, they have a 2-hour long ride which will take you to a waterfall. Your butt will hurt a lot though – I was already hurting after an hour.
The beach is as commercial as a beach can get – but it is still very beautiful. The waters were very choppy when we were there, so it wasn’t much fun playing in the waves (cause you get lotsa salt in your eyes).
Nothing much to do, unless you’re into water sports like jet skiing and such. We just became literal beach bums and whiled away hours sunbathing and reading our books, or even napping. By the way, restaurants by the beach serve really crappy food, so don’t waste your money there.
We found a crepe stall but it wasn’t that great either.
So this wraps up our short trip to Koh Samui. We definitely would come back again, but not via Air Asia’s tedious transfer again. To see more of my other adventures, check this page out.