I usually visit Samui mainly because of the Immigration and hence, haven’t made my “things to do in Koh Samui” list. But now I finally took the time and booked a holiday to my neighbouring island. It was about time. My last proper holiday there was some 10-15 years ago. A LOT has changed.
1. Rent a Motorbike and Drive Around
This is what I usually recommend to people visiting the Thailand islands. You get a better feel of the place when you drive around. Get lost, choose random roads and see where they take you. When it’s time to find your way back, use GPS. Or if you are oldfashioned, a map will do the same job.
Step 2: How to rent a motorbike
- If you don’t have any local friends who could recommend a trustworthy motorbike rental shop you can try to read the reviews online, use your hotel’s bike rental or go with your instincts. If you don’t get a good feel, walk to the next shop.
- Price: should be around 150-250b/ day for the basic model with 125cc (this takes 2 people up on the steepest hills). It’s usually cheaper if you rent it for a week/month and so on.
- Check the bike and look confident that you know what you are doing: take photos of the scratches so they wouldn’t blame you later on for causing these. I know, it’s annoying but they do these scams in some places.
- Leave a deposit (can be money or eg. your ID). This varies from one place to another what they prefer. Some places ask for a passport but this is actually not required by law and, in my opinion, I wouldn’t want to give mine. This was, however, the norm until recently and is still very common in many places.
- Pick a helmet and WEAR it! NB. In many rental shops, the helmets are not very good but it’s better than nothing.
- Drive safely and not too fast! Also, keep your International driver’s license with you and a copy of your ID.
NB Check what your insurance covers in case of an accident. The fact that you have an International driver’s license for driving a car might not be enough to get you covered when you are driving a motorbike. Here, in general, it’s good enough for the Police and you don’t need a separate one to drive a motorbike.
2. Wat Plai Laem
A beautiful temple area that I recommend to everyone. In recent years I’ve become a bit lazy when it comes to temples but this time I played the tourist role properly and I’m happy that I did. No entrance fee and I think you need about an hour for this area.
Dress respectively or borrow a sarong to cover yourself. Last time I witnessed a lady wearing stilettos and a tight bodycon dress which had a split in the back almost showing her bum cheeks. I usually refrain from saying anything but this time I just had to. The signs asking you to cover yourself were also in Russian and I saw her walking past them (big font size!) so it just wasn’t possible that she couldn’t have known.
3. Big Buddha
A small touristy village with various shops, cafes and restaurants has grown around this famous sight in the Bang Rak area. The area used to be a children’s burial site before the Buddha statue was erected. There is no entrance fee but perhaps you can donate a few baht eg. to the upkeep of the temple area or buy souvenirs from the monks. It doesn’t take long to walk around the Big Buddha but you can sit around to grab a bite or eat a delicious, cooling ice-cream cone before continuing to your next destination.
4. Local Markets and Food Markets
I always love going to the markets when I’m in a new country. You can see an amazing variety of different products that you didn’t even know existed! If you have a sensitive nose, though, the fish and meat section might be a bit too much for some. The health and safety regulations are quite different from what we are used to in the West but hey, that’s why we travel: to see and experience something different.
One of the best things in Thailand is definitely the delicious and juicy fruits. I’ve never had pineapple and mangos so tasty as in here. Fruits are not just healthy, they are also inexpensive and often sold in convenient snack size.
If you are unsure whether or not you’d like a particular dish you can ask for a sample. Many times they will let you try it. Or you can buy it anyway and in case it wasn’t your flavor of the month, it’s not like you would’ve lost a lot of money.
Oh, one more thing. Please support the local traders and buy fruits and vegetables from them rather than from the supermarkets. If you are making salads or eating veggies, rinse them with bottled water first.
5. Hin Ta Hin Yai
This time, I didn’t go to see these funny rock formations depicting male and female genitals. I did it a long time ago and didn’t see a compelling reason to see them again. Not sure my Mum would’ve been crazy about them either, haha. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most famous sights on Koh Samui so why not pop a visit?
6. Magic Garden
This place is a bit out of the way but in my opinion, worth the visit. Beautiful sculptures in a picturesque, hilly surrounding in the middle of the island. The entrance was 80 baht so it doesn’t blow your bank either. After driving the busy roads it is an oasis of tranquility.
If you are not a big fan of art and sculptures, perhaps it’s not your favourite thing, though. There is a cafe and shop if you want to have some refreshments or buy souvenirs. But, may I suggest, that you have your lunch or coffee in one the awesome lookout places/restaurants that are nearby!?
7. Giant Summit
Or any other nearby restaurant with a spectacular view. My Mum and I were blown away by the vista. I didn’t want to leave. The food is a bit pricier but not too bad considering the view. I’m a little cookie monster and my Mum certainly likes a bit of sweet with her coffee so we settled for a banana cookie trifle to accompany our mochas.
8. Namuang 1 and 2 Waterfalls (when there is water)
Waterfalls are one of the best sights that nature can offer. Bear in mind, though, that when it gets really hot, there is not much to see. The best time to visit waterfalls in Thailand is during the rainy season and soon after.
I asked the staff if there is anything to see (in mid-March) and she said there isn’t much water. If you happen to be around this area, why not drive to Sweet Sisters Coffee just approximately 5 minutes’ drive away. On Koh Phangan, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to vegetarian/vegan and organic food. This place was as good as the ones on my home island.
What I do ask you, though, is that please, please refrain from the elephant rides or have your picture taken with a tiger that they offer you here at the waterfalls’ visitor centre. Elephants have undergone a vicious “training” to make them docile and the tiger is confined in a small show off room where people take turns patting this graceful animal. Nothing natural or beautiful in that!
9. Thai Massage
Ok, we are on holiday so we need to relax as well. I love Thai massage because it just feels so good! On top of that, you are also getting some stretching done. You don’t even need to do anything. Just lay there and they will do it for you! If you’ve never tried it, have 1 hour first and if you liked it, next time don’t take anything less than 90 minutes. One hour feels quite hasty after you’ve had a massage that lasts 1,5-2 hours.
If you want something gentler, try oil massage and preferably with coconut oil. So nice! If you feel that you’ve been walking the whole day, a foot massage might be your thing!
Ok, some people prefer forgetting everything exercise-related during their holidays and concentrate on the festivities, such as having a beer at every stop. Which is completely fine. My problem is, however, that I gain weight quite easily and I tend to eat and sample local cuisine A LOT. Therefore (and for overall well-being), I try to do sports or yoga during my time off as well.
Koh Samui has some awesome yoga retreats so if you are into yoga, try Samahita, Absolute Sanctuary or Vikasa just to name a few. I have also written a blog post about Fisherman’s Village and they have the Yogarden there which has gotten good reviews. My idea was to try Yogarden and Vikasa but I went to the Sky gym instead because I was running out of time. Next time I will try these out for sure.
11. Fisherman’s Village
I just love this place around Bo Phut beach. So many inviting restaurants, bars and cafes it’s really hard to choose because you’d want to try them all! At least I did (see the connection to the easy weight gain, folks). If you are a shopaholic, try the shopping plaza or go there on Friday night when they have the famous Bo Phut Night Market. I actually wrote a blog post just about Fisherman’s Village so if you are interested, click here.
If you are a foodie, perhaps you want to browse through this post which is about the funkiest Fisherman’s Village restaurants, also written by moi!
12. Beach Hopping
Plenty to choose from, we are on an island after all. I didn’t actually check out all the different beaches because my Mum is not a sun worshipper at all. I visited Choeng Mon with her, though on our morning walk. It was really beautiful and I would recommend checking it out if you are looking for some sun, sand and sea and not too many people!
13. Go Out and Have Fun!
After all, you are on holidays. Chaweng is the number one place for a little booty shaking and my favourites are definitely the beach bars.
The Ark Bar is super popular and almost next door there is Cha Cha Moon which brings superstar dj:s there every year. One of my most memorable trips was sailing from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui with my ex boyfriend’s sailing boat, a few of my good friends aboard, to see Sven Vath spinning records. Talk about a proper night out! Check out their Facebook page to know what’s on.
On the West Coast, there is Nikki Beach, which is a luxury hotel brand known for its chic style and laid-back atmosphere with quality parties. More info can be found here. I still haven’t made it here but I’m counting on it that it will happen. The place looks divine!
There are many local markets to choose from and also the more trendy boutique shops in Chaweng. If you are also traveling to Bangkok, I’d recommend doing most of your shopping there because it is much cheaper. Samui, in general, is more pricey compared to many other Thailand destinations. Because I’ve been living in Thailand and staying in the cheaper destinations (eg. Rayong, Pattaya), the prices here just seem quite high to me. Then again, if you are here only for a few weeks it doesn’t make that big a difference.
15. Perhaps One of the Best Things To Do in Koh Samui – Ang Thong Marine Park
Once again, this time I didn’t visit this must-do spot because I have already done it some years ago. But if you haven’t been there, you need to add it to your bucket list. The views are spectacular and anyway, what’s nicer than spending the day at sea, enjoying the fresh air, soaking in all that sun, kayaking and seeing miracles that mother nature has made for us. The official web page can be found here.
There are various tour organisers offering these trips. Some use speedboats (faster and you get to go straight onshore but they are noisier and there’s less space onboard) whereas others have proper sailing boats (slower but yachts have more character than speedboats and they are more environmentally friendly and less noisy). Compare the prices and book a trip according to your needs.
Ok, I think it’s a wrap now. This was my suggestion for 15 awesome things to do in Koh Samui. What about you, have you been to Koh Samui? What were your favourite places or activities on the island?
Until next time!
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