Koh Samui Hacks
My first stop after Bangkok was Koh Samui and I absolutely loved it! Considering the rain and cold weather in London, I was very much looking forward to 30 degrees on an island, with my feet in the sand.
While in the UK, 2 people recommended me WMC Muay Thai in Lamai and I was not disappointed. It’s worth mentioning that one of these people was one of my instructors in Liverpool Street, London, known as the Lion King from Muay Thai Masters Academy and the other one was Kelly Haynes, professional Muay Thai fighter, recently picked by team GB from Total Dojo in Milton Keynes.
I decided to write this post to share my experience with you and tell you a few places I visited and loved while I was there. (I will do a separate post about training at WMC).
To start, how did I get to Samui? My journey started in Bangkok, Khao San Road. I took an overnight bus to Koh Samui. It was an 18h long journey but it’s doable… Avoid it if you can but if you’re on a budget then this is the best option for you. I paid 700฿ and you shouldn’t pay much more than this. You will find that in Thailand prices fluctuate a lot so do shop around and you will find what you’re looking for. The second best option is an overnight train, where you can get a proper bed and have a more comfortable journey. If money is not a problem then look at flights to Koh Samui, or even Surat Thani, and just get the ferry after.
The bus took us from Khao San Road to Surat Thani and from there you get in another bus to the ferry. All organised by the same company so you don’t have to worry about anything. What they don’t tell you is that there is a bit of waiting around... On my way to Samui I waited for the second bus for about 1h. On my way out of Samui, back to Bangkok, I waited 1h30 for the ferry and 3h for the second bus. (But again, it’s doable! Just make sure you have a book!!).
Usually they stop half way through the main bus journey, from Surat Thani to Bangkok or vice-versa (which is about 10/11h), to get some food. Nothing too fancy but enough to keep you going.
The ferry is about 1h30 ride and you get dropped off in Nathon Pier. Depending on where you are staying, you will most likely need a taxi to take you to your accommodation. There will be taxi drivers right outside of the boat, ready to fish you but don’t fall into their net! Just outside of the pier there are loads of “Tuk Tuk” taxis. These are mini vans with an open back where you can sit. The more people they fit into the van, the less they charge you. Just to give you an idea, the taxi drivers were asking these 4 girls next to me 400฿ each. I told them to check the tuk tuk and they ended up going for 100฿ each. This is also the best way to commute around the island if you need. Haggle the price and you will get a good deal.
If you have experience with motor bikes, go ahead and hire one but be very careful! Koh Samui is known for the amount of road accidents involving motor bikes. Don’t be an idiot and think the road is yours. When in Thailand, drive by Thai rules. Watch out and never trust other drivers. As long as you do this, you will be just fine and you’ll have a blast! I had never been on a motor bike before but because everybody at the camp had one, I asked them to teach me. Next day I rented a motor bike and went on a 30km ride. Loved it!!
Accommodation wise, I got a really good deal. Definitely the best deal out of everybody I met in the island. I was paying 175฿ a night (£3.00) and again, for a person on a budget, staying in Thailand for 3 months, this is important! Now the accommodation made a lot of people laugh and they even nicknamed it “the coffin” … Indeed, I stayed at a capsule (similar to the Japanese ones), but Thai style. A lot more basic and very much DIY. It was lovely though! But this is where being “simple”, and low maintenance, helps. I know of some people that stayed there and didn’t like it (divas!! ah!).
Now the best part about these lovely capsules is that they are right in front of the beach! I could hear the waves at night, wake up early and see the sunrise, right at my doorstep. I decided not to stay at WMC Camp because it was more expensive and further from the beach. Yes instead of a capsule I would have gotten a double room, but still… I prefer to be at the beach.
The capsules were part of Rich Resort, which also has its own pool (could it get any better??). Below the capsules there’s a lovely bar/restaurant. Because I stayed 3 weeks I used the bar quite a lot and all the staff were very nice to me. The ritual after the 7am training session was always the same: swim in the sea, breakfast and attempt to do some work on my laptop. And the occasional swim whenever I felt like a stretch and give my eyes a rest. Not a bad life!!
Places to go, people to see
When I first got to Samui I stayed around the Big Buddha area, very close to the airport. Bangrak beach was insanely quiet and the sea was just unreal. I don’t recall ever seeing such a quiet sea. The best way for me to try to describe it would be – the water looked like a sheet or a blanket. All you could see was a shy and peaceful reflection. This is also a perfect spot to watch the sunset. I did a little time-lapse of it at the time and even though it is not perfect, here is the link if you want to watch it! I would definitely recommend spending a few hours here, watching the sun go down. (Sunsets are one of my favourite things on earth!!) There are also a few bars on the way to the Big Buddha so if you want to make it a bit more special or even make it a date, there are great places, easy to find.
Lamai is totally different though and has a lot more live. I will leave my recommendations in terms of places:
Crystal Bay, Silver Beach – A short drive from Lamai Beach you will find Crystal Bay. If you can picture crystal clear water and tiny fishes in a place with no waves. That’s it!! Peaceful place with a few hotels around so if you have that kind of budget, it’s worth looking into it. We went there a couple of times and the second time we stayed for dinner while the afternoon faded into the night. It was beautiful and surprisingly quiet. Just a tip though: do bring your own towel because, unlike most other beaches in Lamai, here you won’t find chairs or towels.
Samui Camp, Lamai – I did a fair bit of research on things to do and see in Samui and I never read anything about it. The beauty of it is that it was a Thai neighbour that told me about it and offered to take me there on his bike. Going against all advice about not taking a ride with strangers, my gut said it was fine so I went, and... WOW!!!! The place was breath-taking and I ended up going there a few other times. I took a couple of the guys up there one afternoon, a group of us went on a Friday night to watch a band play live, and the group kept getting bigger and bigger the days after.
If you read any tourist guide you will find The Rock Bar as a must visit. The idea is similar, but on another level. The view from up there is just unbeatable. Samui Camp also offers bungalows to stay in, if you want a totally zen holiday, away from ALL forms of civilization and human creatures. This is also THE place to watch the sunrise. One of the things I didn’t get to do unfortunately but if you have the chance, stay there during the night or drive up just before the sunrise. Considering the view, I am 100% sure it will be beautiful from up there.
The road to get there is the tricky bit. Definitely not one for inexperienced drivers. (Just park when you hit the coconut road. You're about a 5min walk away).
The Rock Bar, Lamai – Very close to Lamai Beach, you can find The Rock Bar. Basically a bar built on top of rocks, just by the sea. When the tide is up, you have to actually step on the water to access some of the areas. Just to give you an idea, one night I was laying on the floor, looking at the stars in the sky and with every wave I got splashed from underneath the wooden floor. Amazing!!! I’m sure I fell asleep at some point and we almost spent the night there. Do visit it!
Soja Bar, Lamai – Just off the main road, this is the right place if you want to avoid the crowds. It’s a Reggie bar, much like The Rock Bar and Samui Camp, but is does sometimes play a wider variety of music. One of the main reasons I recommend this place is because, unlike the majority of other places that close at 2am, Soja Bar stays open until later. I spent a few nights here and played some table pool and darts. So if what you are looking for is a chilled night, away from the hectic scene, this is it.
Ark Bar, Chaweng – This is another one of those that comes on all tourist guides. I had 2 different experiences here and I guess it depends on what you are into and what type of night you want. The first time I went it was just me and another person (not a dancer by nature). I was quite tired and I’m not usually and dance bunny by any stretch of imagination. So we had a few drinks and talked and that was about it. The second night I went it was completely different and everybody in the group danced in the beach for a good couple of hours. The music was not my favourite but I guess when you feel like it you just go with the flow. We even danced with a few Thai people, and I learned some new sexy moves from a couple of gay Thai guys. THEY WERE INSANE AND SUPER NICE! Such a laugh. Wish I had taken a picture with them!
Soon enough we were half covered in sand but it didn’t matter! Dancing in the sand is great! I believe Wednesdays is their big night but we went on a Thursday and it was just as big and fun. The party stretches over a few bars and along the beach. You will often see people swimming too and usually there are some guys doing tricks with fire. A real visual spectacle for the eyes (check one of the videos here and here).
Hush Bar, Chaweng – On my last night in Samui, a friend from WMC camp took us to Hush Bar, just opposite the Ark Bar. This had more of a club vibe and the music was a lot better. If you want a good night club atmosphere, and you’re into your dancing, I would say definitely visit it.
Shamrock, Lamai – Good old Irish pub! If you fancy more of a rock vibe and some live music, every day of the week, apart from Saturday, Shamrock has a Philippine band playing live. They play anything from Queen, ACDC, U2, whatever you want! They usually have different expats living in the island playing an instrument or singing a particular song but what really makes it special is the guitarist! Little Philippine woman that rocks all night with energy to be jealous of! SHE FUCKING ROCKS AND I WANTED TO BE LIKE HER! If you’re lucky you will even see one of her best tricks – playing and singing a song with a full pint of Guinness on her head.
Anyway, if none of these options tickles your fancy, just grab a couple of drinks and sit on the beach! I loved every second I spent by the sea, looking at the stars in the sky and listening to the waves, slowly hitting the sand. You can walk by the beach, dip your toes in the water or even go for a swim at 4am like I did! And if you are brave or just curious, stay up and watch the sun come around… (here's a cute little time-lapse for you)
Due to training I ended up staying around Lamai area hence why a lot of these suggestions are in Lamai. I am sure Koh Samui has a lot more to see and do but these are the places I can personally recommend. One thing I didn’t get to do was a hike around Lamai. One of the guys at the Camp did and said there were some pretty cool viewpoints. Check it out and if you make it, let me know!
If you do have other suggestions do please share them! I will probably be back to Samui in the next couple of months and I would love to see other places.
I will write a separate post about food, otherwise this is an endless post.
P.S. Check my other pictures on Instagram.