When Singapore’s weather is so hot, why would I choose a holiday in Koh Samui, which is just as hot? My reason is simple. You won’t have difficulty in adjusting to the temperature when you are back. Let’s be honest. Don’t you ever once comment, ‘Wah Singapore so hot. XXX country is so cooling (or cold.’ Or ‘Wah I don’t want to come back so soon. It is so cold and shiok here!’ Admit it please, because I do. And every time I come back from cold holidays, my skin acts up with dryness and itchiness. Tell me about it. So my logic is: cold to cold and hot to hot. Actually, I left the plan of coming untouched for a few years until recently, I took the opportunity of a long weekend to fulfill my wish.
I have been for beach holidays to places like Phuket and Krabi, but not Koh Samui. And I heard it is quite a nice, sunny island on the southern part of Thailand. So excited. No. I’m not a real beach bum. I just love travelling. This post will cover the basics for a trip to Koh Samui: Airlines to fly with, Airport, Hotels & Accommodation, Chaweng beach, Chaweng street, delicious restaurants and shopping. Airlines flying direct from Singapore to Koh Samui are Bangkok Airways and Silk Air. I flew with the latter. The flying time is less than 2 hours and before you know it, the plane has touched down.
What to expect upon arrival at Samui Airport?
• Small tropical looking airport on low ground
• No loading bridge when you get off the plane
• The passenger tram at the taxiway will pick you up from the plane
• Immigration process and baggage collection are swift (during off-peak season)
• Only 1 baggage belt just near the immigration counter
• Booking counters for transfers and sales of calling cards at the entrance of airport
• Turn left from the entrance for your pre-booked transfers or shared shuttle services
• A Courtesy Corner at boarding gates for passengers to enjoy for free while waiting for their flight
They have a lot to improve on the airport infrastructure in order to cater for future high volume of visitors from all over the world, including the Thais from other parts of the country. So let’s just bear with it and enjoy whatever they have right now. The next time you visit Koh Samui, maybe you’ll be surprised.
Where to stay
Our home for the next 2 nights is just a 15 minutes drive from Samui Airport. Ozo Chaweng Samui is strategically in the centre of Chaweng street. You will be spoilt by the choices of F&B outlets, small fashion and souvenir shops, convenience stores, pharmacies and even a big shopping complex, Central Festival. It is just walking distance from the hotel. Not to forget that there are other hotels along the streets too.
Imagine how crowded the street is during peak season when it’s filled with tourists from all over the world. We flew in early and reached the hotel before their usual check-in time at 2pm. Luckily we got a room before the time and so we got to start the exploration early. Meanwhile, let me show you my room.
Have a good slumber on this comfy bed with the beautiful wall art of Thailand’s long-tailed boats in the background. It is a form of coastal transport that takes tourists from island to island. It is also a way of earning a living for the locals. Although their lifestyle is quite carefree – that’s my opinion, but one still has to survive on daily means.
Wake up to this picturesque greenery from your balcony. Make your day a bright and sunny one to begin. And let’s not forget this cozy and compact corner of the room. If you want to keep out of the sun, just sit back and relax on the two-seater rattan sofa, spend your day with TV programmes or some quiet moments with your loved ones.
You might want get a bottle or two of beers or wine to add some atmosphere to the room. And I love the trendy rattan sofa – I’m going to get one when I’m back home.
Before you embrace the sun, get yourself hydrated with the complimentary drinking water available in your room; apply your sunscreen or suntan lotion and put on your shades. And then you’re ready for the most natural way to get Vitamin D. Don’t ever attempt to go without any of the aforementioned or face the consequences after that.
At any time in the day till 7pm, get a cool splash or sun kiss by the pool. If you need a thirst quencher, their pool and beach bars serve beverages from soft drinks, smoothies to alcohol and even a variety of food you crave for a bite. And don’t forget their Happy Hour’s at 4pm. Grab a drink or two when in need.
We tried their Pina Colada, cocktails and juices for 2 consecutive days and it’s definitely a refreshing experience under the hot sun. The calamari is decent but not great value for money with a small portion of 6 to 8 big pieces. I prefer bite size in a bigger portion.
If you also like to get wet and sandy, step out to the beach. You will get a fantastic view of Chaweng beach in a U-shape angle. That is the advantage of being strategically located in the centre of Chaweng. If you need some sun protection, buy one from the locals at the beach who can be seen carrying with them nice scarves, hats and even lotions.
There are also activities going on in the sea like jet-skiing, banana boating and parasailing and though it’s a little pricey, worth a try once in a while. But I chose otherwise. Sitting by the beach, watching the world go by, people watching (at bikini babes and hunks) and having the splashing waves on you is quite therapeutic especially on such a restful vacation.
If you find yourself too lazy to walk far from the hotel, they have a restaurant called Stacked. It is just by the hotel entrance. I kept seeing the poster of a huge burger and stacked wedges at the lobbies and reception. Worth a try.
Breakfast plays an important part in our life as it gives us the energy to kick start the day. So before we head out for another day of adventure, have a good breakfast from the buffet spread served at EAT. The mini croissants and pain au chocolat are my favourites and they tasted nice and fluffy. I could have just the two to fill up my tummy. Even the husband agrees. And not forgetting a glass of orange juice for dosage of Vitamin C, you are good to start your day.
What to do during the day
As you can see, this is a straight one-way street. The walking paths are narrow for this reason and expect to walk on the road when it is crowded. Just watch your safety. And because of this one-way street, if drivers need to U-turn, they have a long way round to get back here.
Expect to see a string of restaurants and bars. Some even have live bands at night. So you see how bustling the street can be when the sun goes down. Neon lights are lit up and you will hardly miss any of the businesses going along the street. And you don’t need to worry about getting drunk because you neither need to ride nor drive. Just walk back to the hotel safely. Too much convenience to even waste your time hailing a cab back.
Here we are at Central Festival Samui. At night, there is mini bazaar out here in the open so don’t miss it. There are 4 sections in this complex with Chaweng Port where most of the restaurants are and even a Starbucks, Bird Cage where the fashion zone is located centrally in the complex, Fisherman Village where the big departmental store is for shopaholics, and lastly the Beach Town Market where a public park and a open concept food park is. There was a tattoo convention going on when we arrived at Koh Samui, which was actually the last day of convention. Quite interesting to see a galore of inked hunks and babes.
I think it is also cheaper to get tattoos in Thailand. If you are interested, there are a few tattoo shops along Chaweng Street waiting for you to pop in. Also I have not covered Chaweng Night Market because there was not enough time. It is situated behind the main street facing a river. You will see a blown-up air balloon by the roadside to show you the way in via an alley. I did take a look at the place in the day and got to know the food stalls opened only in the late evening. A very local setting which is almost similar to our hawker centres in Singapore. There are shopping stalls too so get your retail therapy there.
Half Day Eco Tour
I shall just highlight a few places for the Eco Tour that I booked because activities like kayaking makes it difficult to take any photos especially since you need to paddle your way through the mangrove. You won’t want to risk losing or spoiling your camera or phone if ever your boat capsized for your clumsiness.
Wat Plai Laem
We began our touring the morning with a bumpy ride on 4×4 Safari jeep, which is quite rustic but a cool thing to experience. Upon arriving at Wat Plai Laem, be greeted by a majestic statue of 18-arms Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. Another statue to see not far away is the Laughing Buddha. I would advise you to observe the dress code laid down by the temple as this is a sacred place and no skimpy clothes if you want to step in to pray. If not just take photos from the outside like me.
I love looking at the architecture of buildings, like the temples at Wat Plai Laem. I thought how amazing it was that a human can come out with something that makes heads turn. From designing to small details at every part of this work, it takes one’s imagination and creativity to do so to near perfection.
Hinta and Hinyai (Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks)
A 30 minute drive from the temple, we arrived at our next destination. Hinta stands for Grandfather and Hinyai stands for Grandmother. The rock formation overlooks the sea and it is near Lamai beaches too. The rocks resemble the male and female genitals, which is clear from just one look. And that draws chuckles from visitors obviously. I read online that these rocks can increase fertility. Not sure how true it is.
There are drink stalls and souvenir shops along the narrow road that leads up to the rocks formation. So I decide to try their Coconut Ice Cream. It was popular at one time in Singapore when some kind soul brought it in. It tastes creamy and revitalizing after a rocky walk, though I prefer the sorbet version. It melts so quickly under the sun that I have to go one mouthful after another. But I still need a real thirst quencher seriously.
Namuang Safari Park
Next, we arrived at Namuang Safari Park for animal shows, elephant trekking, lunch and a visit to the waterfall; all in one place. That saves lots of time in travelling.
We got a bit bored with animal shows. Imagine the husband fell asleep half way into the show under the heat. This is amazing. Not until we went for elephant trekking, the focus drifted. There is a complimentary photo taken by the staff during the elephant trekking activity, so worry not if you can’t have a proper shot with the elephant. But if you want a take with your own camera, ask for a price from the elephant handler and they will be happy to do so. I saw many visitors buying bananas for the elephants. So since that is the case, I did not follow suit. The elephants had lots of bananas everyday so no less when nothing from me, though I think it’s because of my stinginess.
After the elephant trekking, I felt extremely thirsty. Luckily, we headed straight for a mini buffet lunch at Elephant Restaurant & Bar. Drinks and fruits are provided so hydrate yourself sufficiently. Satisfied with their simple fare, especially the fried noodles.
Before you go for another adventure, you may need to freshen up first. Visit their ‘Happy Home’, which was the tour guide’s term for toilets. Quirky.
Namuang Waterfall II
Arriving at the highest waterfall in Koh Samui – 80m in height. Didn’t swim there but the youngsters on the same tour went. It must be so cooling and refreshing that they are having so much fun and looking so chilled after. The driver told us that this period isn’t the best as there wasn’t much water flow because it hadn’t been raining. On better days, we see a nicer view of water gushing down from the waterfall. And for your info, please wear track shoes for convenience. My sandals give way at the end of the tour. Lesson learnt.
Sitting on top of this 4×4 Safari jeep is really a thrill. I thought it would be nerve-racking but in fact, sitting on the passenger seats are much scarier because you don’t get to see what kind of route it is going on and so expect a roller coaster ride on this rocky and uneven ground of the forest. To add to the thrill, the naughty driver will swerve at any time or speed up to make you scream or lose your grip on the handle bar. So that is why we were reminded to belt up before we head off.
Coconut House Plantation
It is the first time I ever see loads of coconuts lying around in this tent. This family owns the coconut plantations and makes a living out of it. They have a trained female monkey to harvest the coconuts so that they can gather them and do further processing. Coconut is not just for drinking juice and eating the white flesh (or endosperm), it can be made into other food and cosmetic products that you find in retail shops.
When the coconut sprouts, you will find an edible embryo bud inside. It is white and spongy with subtle sweetness. The husband tried it decades ago and now has the chance to reminisce with the taste once again.
Never leave the place without having a fresh coconut juice on the spot for 20 Baht, which is value for money. We had one that contains so much of refreshing juice that I thought we are never going to finish.
A quick sum up of the Half Day Eco Tour’s itinerary:
✓ Wat PlaiLeam Temple
✓ Hinta and Hinyai (Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks)
✓ Namuang Safari Park – Elephant and Monkey performance, Elephant Trekking, Lunch
✓ Namuang Waterfall II
✓ Rubber Plantation (not in the post)
✓ Coconut Plantation
✓ Kayaking(not in the post)
What to eat in Koh Samui
So how can your day be complete without a good dinner? Be spoilt by the selection of seafood, Western and local Thai food at Chaweng. Because you will see restaurants selling almost the same thing, so the only way is to spot their deals. Especially for seafood, they will package it at different pricing, depending on what they are offering. Generally, what people look for in seafood is freshness, portion size and reasonable price.
Here is one that I would like to recommend.
Terminal D Restaurant
We had a seafood meal at Terminal D. In the chosen package, we got the freshest whole lobster, a big fish enough for two, flower crabs, tiger prawns, a squid and us. You can choose how you want your seafood be cooked from stir-frying, deep frying, steaming to BBQ. Plus a complimentary fried rice. And because we had beers during their Happy Hours, the total cost for this meal was less than SGD70 for two. No wonder it is full house at dinner time. I even saw diners thanking their staff for the nicest meal when they left. No joke! They also offered Thai, Western food and handmade pizzas. Therefore, I assume that they serve up the same quality of food as they did for seafood.
Our table full of food for us at a glance. For this, it needed 2 tables to contain them. Gluttons in action.
Fried Rice: it allows hungry souls to fill up to the brim for 100% fullness and satisfaction. A decent plate though, that keeps me (at least) wanting for more, forgetting that the mains were seafood. Although not the best among those that I had before, I have a thing for this one dish meal for sure.
Thai Curry Crab: I would not say that this is not good, but they can probably use other types rather than flower crabs. It wasn’t as satisfying as the rest of the dishes but the amount of crab roe found on the shell is more a saving grace. And it wasn’t fleshy either.
My husband and I garnered the same compliments for their Tiger Prawns and Lobster. First of all, we asked for the prawns to be steamed with garlic because we were going to have BBQ lobster and squid. It sure has its way in retaining the prawn taste without being overwhelmed by the garlic and oil used in the process of steaming. I believe in getting the most out of steamed food because the nutrients and taste will not be lost if you have a good control of the time.
Where to splurge
When it comes to vacationing, I have no intention to go for a shopping spree but only sightseeing and photo-taking. That ‘must buy’ thing that one always go for after researching online is not really my cup of tea. But I still look around for interesting stuff that catches my eye.
Condiments/Dried Stocks (*Star Buy*)
Even before I learn cooking, shopping at supermarkets is leisure for me. Because you will find interesting stuff imported from other countries or locally made and how supermarkets differentiate themselves is through what they sell. So I was passing by a local mini mart that sells almost everything under the sun. Went one round and spotted a small section for condiments and dried stocks and so that was when I started picking up my shopping loot.
I was tasked to buy a dozen of the medicated oil in Bangkok previously. Back then, my mum said it was cheaper to buy there. She used to this brand and probably more effective on her. So in Koh Samui, I bought a dozen at 40 Baht each, about SGD1.60. Double checked with my mum and yes, still cheaper than a SGD2.20 bottle in Singapore. Check out their pharmacies which can be found everywhere along the street.
As you walk along the streets of Chaweng, you will find many shops selling almost similar stuff and that didn’t appeal to me especially after asking the price. Bargaining isn’t my strength but my husband’s. So with his help, I manage to buy a nice bikini in one of the shops (right). Another one was bought at a retail shop in Central Festival Samui (left). Both cost less than SGD25 each.
Before you set off…
Here are some of my personal suggestions before I finish off this post:
• 3 days are insufficient. Plan in a minimum of 4 days to relax at beaches, free your mind and go slow with your pace;
• Pack light and buy the essentials there if needed, be it toiletries or apparels;
• For adventure seekers, go for ATV ride and/or island hopping (very commonly known);
• For party animal, book a Half or Full Moon Party and party away your night;
• Have a good and affordable massage before you come back;
• Have their seafood and drink beer.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself and come back all happy and relaxed!
One who speaks her mind, with little boundary; Stella Chen, a Food and Lifestyle Blogger, who uses her novice photography skills to let the pictorial snippets form her tiny kingdom that spins around on food adventures, culinary arts, wanderlust and life.