Ko Samui, often called just Samui, is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, about 700 km (430 mi) south of Bangkok and 80 km (50 mi) from the eastern coastline of Southern Thailand.
Ko Samui is all in all a fairly big island, the second biggest in Thailand after Phuket. The most popular and commercialised beaches are Chaweng and Lamai, while the northern beaches and their adjacent villages of Mae Nam, Bophut, Bang Rak (Big Buddha) and Choeng Mon are more peaceful choices, and the west coast beaches are still (comparatively) quiet.
Clockwise from Nathon on the west coast, the main beaches are.
- Nathon — Samui’s port and administrative centre, but with little to attract the tourist
- Laem Yai — set on the northwest tip of the island, a secluded beach overlooking the islands of Ang Thong
- Mae Nam — a quiet and beautiful beach on the northern coast
- Bophut — known for its Fisherman’s Village, laid-back but growing fast
- Bang Rak — at the northeastern tip, home of the Big Buddha
- Choeng Mon — quiet north shore beach
- Chaweng — the largest and most-developed beach, with a curious mix of luxury hotels and backpacker guesthouses and a hopping nightlife
- Lamai — Samui’s “second” beach south of Chaweng, more backpackery than Chaweng, but full of hotel tourists and a vibrant night life too
- Samui South Coast — the small beaches of Ban Hua Thanon, Na Khai, Laem Set, Bang Kao and Thong Krut
- Lipa Noi – an upcoming beach area south of Nathon
The major reason people come to Samui is, quite simply, to enjoy the beaches. Even though the two main beaches of Chaweng and Lamai have generally suffered due to mass development over the past decade they are still relatively impressive. Development has been thwarted slightly because of the island’s regulation governing height restriction, although it can be argued that this has caused sprawl.
Other than lying on the beach with a cold beer in hand and ogling at the babes and hunks sauntering past, there isn’t all that much to see on the island. A certain pair of rocks on Lamai amuses some visitors, Bang Rak has a large but nondescript Buddha statue, and there are some waterfalls (notably Na Muang) of minor interest.