Have you ever at some point, dreamt of being stranded on a tropical island, then Ko Samui must surely be on top of that list. The island epitomises that dream with its magnificent picture postcard beauty.
Loads of palm-fringed beaches and quiet coves dot the coast, and the forested hills of the interior are teeming with coconut plantations. This superb locale lies 650 kilometres (400 miles) south of Bangkok on the Gulf Coast of Thailand. It is also the region's third largest island.
Every year, millions of holidaymakers descend upon this island. It has a modern airport, luxury hotels and resorts, fine restaurants and plenty of water sports waiting to spoil your every whim. Hire a motorbike or jeep and travel the looping ring road around the island to gain access to the beaches and other interesting places.
For more extreme activities, there are plenty of party opportunities too. Should you not be swimming or tanning on the beaches, there are loads of other areas where lots of attractions and entertainment are held to keep you busy.
Other fun activities on Ko Samui are visits to the aquarium, the zoo, the butterfly garden and the snake farms. If you wish to experience something altogether uniquely different, then perhaps you may like to watch a buffalo fight.
On New Year's day as well as during the Songkran festival in mid-April you can witness some friendly head-wrestling bouts in which two male water buffaloes are pitted against one another. This amazing spectacle can be seen at various venues around the island. One such event takes place just outside the town of Na Thon and two others, in stadiums at Ban Saket and Ban Makham.
You'll find a lot of signs advertising these events should you be here during these fun times. Buffalo fighting, in which the winning buffalo owner gets to take home stacks of cash in prize money, is a fairly harmless event on the island.
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Apart from flying directly to the island, the most obvious way to get there is by boat from Surat Thani a town located on the south-east coast of Thailand. Though some boat services here fluctuate from time to time, one of the longest standing ferry services is the night boat which leaves from the Ban Don Pier in Surat Thani itself.
The only real downside using this ferry is that the boat leaves at 11:00 pm and the journey takes some six hours to reach the pier at Na Thon on Samui. You can purchase your tickets at the pier on the day of departure.
If you want to get there even quicker, you can take the Express Boat from the Pak Nam Tapi Pier located on the east side of Surat town. This trip to the main port of Na Thon on Samui takes two and a half hours. Then there are also two ferry services operating from the town of Don Sak, which is located 42 miles or 70 kilometres east of Surat.
One is the Seatran vehicle ferry which runs every hour to the main pier at Na Thon and the other is the Raja vehicle ferry which runs every hour to the Lipa Noi Pier, eight kilometres further south of Na Thon.
If you are coming from Bangkok and want to make use of public transport, then it's probably best to take either the train or a plane, though overnight buses are also available. You can purchase a train, bus and boat package at a reasonable rate from a local tour agency or even better still, from the State Railway itself.
I suggest you make a few inquiries before taking the first offer that comes your way. Of course, the quickest and most comfortable way to get to Ko Samui is by air. Bangkok Airways operate twenty daily flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport.
There are a number of transport options you can make use of once you reach the island. Firstly, should you be arriving by boat, you can simply hop on one of the songthaew taxis that congregate in the car park between the two piers at Na Thon. Please don't be too alarmed should you be unfamiliar as to how they operate. You'll find that they are easy to use and rather fun to travel in.
During the day, songthaew taxis offer a set price and cover a scheduled itinerary along the main paved route towards all the most popular beaches on the north and east coast. Unlike the songthaews in Pattaya, where prices remain the same day and night, here the songthaews operate more like ordinary taxis at night. That is to say, prices can be substantially more. If you need to use one at night, always negotiate a price in advance and tell the driver exactly where you want to go.
Na Thon is the principal town on the island and also the main dropping off zone for boats. However, there is not much in the way of beach here, so most visitors will almost immediately drift off towards the north or west coast where the best beaches are.
layout at Na Thon is fairly simple, and though there is a greater
concentration of amenities here than elsewhere, you could use the ATM
machines, supermarkets or tour companies if you so wish before moving
on. Na Thon town is considered more of a service station than a final resting place.
Blue skies, white sand and crystal clear waters are the main ingredients why many tourists are attracted to this island. If you're looking for a bit of action, then you'd better head on down to one or other of the two main beach areas around Chaweng and Lamai that stretch along a fair portion of the east coast. If you're looking for a much quieter spot to rest your weary feet, head north to Big Buddha Beach or the sandy coves of Maenam, Bophut and Choeng Mon.
Chaweng Beach is the popular choice as no other like it can match its sheer beauty of broad sweeping shores, strips of soft silky white sand, all sandwiched between the transparent blue sea and a line of gently swaying palm trees.
At night the island's main beach town comes alive with throngs of tourists flocking long lines of fake Armani Tailor Shops and their insistent touts and stalls selling just about every other fake stuff imaginable. Then there are also the multitudes of western and local restaurants, massage parlours and the usual lady beer bars.
Lamai Beach, on the other hand, is a fabulous place to chill out, albeit a tad less developed. Nevertheless, it's a lovely palm fringed beach of quieter standing. But that I'm afraid is where the similarity ends. Beyond the borders of the beach, it's an entirely different entity.
It's where streams of western expats and budget backpackers come by the bucket load to revel in the riotous nightlife. It's a concentrated chaotic kaleidoscope of pure mayhem. It's a farang toy-town of bars, nightclubs, sexy Thai girls and restaurants serving western food.
The buildings on Ko Samui island are limited to the tallest palms, so you won't find any high-rise buildings such as those found in Phuket.
Should you be wanting a more peaceful setting, then the northern section of the island is perhaps your best bet. This area is mostly unspoilt with the only major development at Maenam Beach. Other beautiful bays around these parts include Hat Bophut Bay, where families often gather to enjoy the quiet comforts
The majestic bay of Big Buddha Beach, named after the enormous statue that silently gazes down on sun-worshippers, is perhaps well worth a visit as is the extreme northeastern cape where the small sandy bay of Hat Choeng Mon overlooking Ko Phangan Island, is located. One of the only other beaches of note on the island is Ao Phangka located on the southwestern shore.
Ang Thong National Marine Park is part of an archipelago of 41 majestic islands located 31 kilometres (19 miles) north-west of Ko Samui. The park can be reached by boat from Na Thon on Ko Samui. Day long package tours take you to Ko Wha Talab, where the park's headquarters are, or to Ko Mae Ko where you will find a clear pea green saltwater lake. Open daily from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm.
Spectacular scenery, crystal clear waters, stunning beaches, eerie caves, and still lagoons are just some of the amazing wonders you'll find here. These islands are teeming with abundant wildlife such as macaques and otters as well as being a sanctuary for several species of bird.
Because a one day trip might not give you enough time to explore all the marvellous attractions here, it's possible to rent a bungalow at Ko Mae Ko, should you wish to stay for more than a day.
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