Once a remote tropical island, with a couple of thatched pavilions as its airport terminal, Koh Samui is now a colossus on the Thai beach scene. The backpackers who first put the island on the international map, have long since been replaced by wheelie pullers. And the bamboo beach shacks they called home have given way to some phenomenal Koh Samui luxury hotels.
For most travellers who have Yonder in their sights, Samui is simply a necessary gateway to the islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. A brief stopover before catching the boat over to one of these true castaway islands. We also subscribe to this mind set. However, this doesn’t mean that Samui has nothing to offer the discerning Yonderer. On the contrary. It has become the setting for some seriously trendy designer hotels which successfully capitalise on Samui’s undoubted natural beauty.
For those on a mission to simply fly, flop and escape the world for a few short days amid the hedonistic tranquillity of a luxury hotel, then Samui is a hot ticket. But forget any nostalgic notion of a chilled Thai beach vibe sitting on the beanbags watching fire jugglers. You’re more likely to find romance of a different sort, with lobsters barbecued on the beach and served up to doting couples in the elegant surroundings of their Koh Samui resorts. And what’s there not to like about that?
Samui is stunning, with a mountainous interior and palm-fringed beaches. And this has brought mass development over recent years, some of which is simply mediocre. That means there are places that attract those who revel in cheap booze and noisy jet skis (could there be any worse combination!?).
Fortunately for you, Yonder is here to steer you away from such indignities. Our few handpicked Koh Samui luxury hotels, all gems, are far removed from the tourist tat and make perfect bolt holes, perhaps before heading off to one of those farther flung island paradises.
And Samui has a couple of other aces up its sleeve. For one, having an airport means that you will be at your hotel within minutes, rather than faffing with transfers and boats to your final destination. Furthermore, you can jet in from Singapore as an alternative to Bangkok.
Samui is an island which has undergone a massive transformation over the last 15 years. It’s gone from being a sleepy tropical island in the shadow of its cousin Phuket on the opposite side of the Thai peninsula to being one of the most sophisticated Thai paradises. This is an island which now has everything from Tescos and Starbucks to its own regatta every May.
Yet somehow, quite miraculously, Samui has not lost its charm. For all of the Western influences that have washed up on its shores, the island has stayed true to its Thai Buddhist heritage. It’s a bit of a tourist trap but Big Buddha – yep, it’s a enormous statue of Buddha – is a landmark worth visiting. There are a few other notable sights on the island, from mummified monks to towering waterfalls, you’ll read about in guide books. But one of our top tips is to head to Grand Mother and Grand Father rocks (also known as Hin Ta and Yin Ya) to see an amusing natural rock formation that has taken on rather, shall we say, idiosyncratic shapes.
As far as beaches go, you’ll be spoilt. Fine white powdery sand comes as standard on many beaches, whilst on others golden grains will slide between your toes. Chaweng beach on the East coast is the most developed with hordes of tourists frying in the sun. Instead, we love the northern and north-eastern beaches.
Despite its Disney-like name, Fisherman’s Village in Bophut is a fantastic place for an evening stroll and offers some great restaurants.
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