Koh Samui Mini Guide

Koh Samui lies in the Gulf of Thailand and is Thailands second largest island after Phuket. The island appeals to many types of travellers from budget backpackers who stay in simple beach bungalows to honeymooners and couples staying in the luxury resorts and everyone in between. Samui has beautiful palm fringed beaches all around its coast, and the interor of the island is mountainous with dense jungles and coconut groves.

Koh Samui has a very relaxed atmosphere and is a great place to visit if you need some much needed rest and relaxation, but with the option for some exploring or partying if you were in the mood for it.

We visited Koh Samui many years ago on our honeymoon, we booked a two week trip and revisited Bangkok, then went onto Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Siem Reap in Cambodia before ending our honeymoon in Koh Samui where we spent 4 nights. Koh Samui was the ultimate place to relax, we booked a luxury resort for our stay and spent most days sunbathing by the beach and pool and relaxing. We did decide to hire a scooter and zip around the island on two of the days and went into the nearby town of Lamai in the evenings to eat and look around the night markets.

We spent one day exploring the island with a couple we met at the resort which funnily enough my husband knew the guy from when he was in the army (such a small world), and we had such a great time conveying on our scooters around the island and discovering a few places. I’m so glad we visiting Koh Samui and honestly would recommend the island especially if your planning a honeymoon, it really is so well catered towards honeymooners.

Sights & Activities

Secret Buddha Garden

The Secret Buddha Garden is a hidden way in the middle of the island up in the hills, and surrounded by greenery. The gardens began back in 1976 when a local fruit farmer started putting up small statues and temples around his families land. There is a variety of statues from Buddhas and animals and a small waterfall and stream running through the gardens, and gorgeous views over the surrounding area. There is a small entrance fee which is about ยฃ2 per person, when we visited it was lovely and quiet and very tranquil.

The roads going up to the garden can be quite rough and bumpy so I would suggest if your hiring a scooter only drive up there if your a confident driver and wear a helmet! Alternatively there are 4×4 tours that run all around the island and some of the tours stop off at the garden. This little hidden gem is an absolute must do when in Samui.

Wat Khunaram

Wat Khunaram is one of the islands most unusual sights and probably one of the most unique temples in all of Thailand. Its a small temple but has a mummified monk in a glass case. The monk who was called Luong Pordaeng died in 1973 while seated in meditation, the monk which has been sat in the same spot for 30 years shows little to no sign of decay, its probably one of the most unusual sights I’ve seen at a temple, and what makes it more weird is that they have put a pair of sunglasses over the eyes.

It may some unusual to westerners to have a mummified body on display, but Thai buddhists do not fear death and see the ending of life as the natural order and an opportunity to be reborn. There is no entrance fee into the temple, we drove to it on our rented scooter, and while we were there did get a blessing by a local monk. If your not easily spooked or squeamish then this is a truly one of the islands quirkier sights.

Viewpoints

All around Koh Samui are the most gorgeous viewpoints looking over the island, its jungles and coastline. The most popular viewpoints are Lamai Viewpoint, Jungle Club Viewpoint and Lad Koh Viewpoint, however when zipping around the island on a scooter you can discover a whole load of other viewpoints, while driving around we came across a lovely small cafe which had the most stunning views of the island and best of all we were the only ones there! I cant remember for the life of me the name of it, however there were plenty of these little viewpoint stops all over the island and especially when you head inland and  just by Wat Khunaram temple there were several small roads leading to places like this.

Accommodation

Centara Villas Samui

The Centara Villas are situated on the south tip of Koh Samui and only 10 minutes drive to Lamai Beach and 30 minutes to Chaweng Beach. Centara is a Thai hotel chain, we have stayed at other Centaras and when I was a travel agent used to book them regularly for customers, they are a great luxury hotel brand but affordable. Normally my husband and I like to stay in a mixture of accommodation types from budget to sometimes highend, but as it was our honeymoon we opted for a little bit of luxury.

Centara Villas were amazing and a great location set on its own private beach and with a pool area that overlooked the beachfront and ocean. The rooms were beautifully decorated and clean. Staff were so friendly and helpful too, and as the resort wasnt too big with only a 102 villas that blend into the surrounding jungle, the resort had a friendly atmosphere and we got to know many of the other guests. The hotel also has a restaurant and bar area overlooking the beach, and a beautiful spa too.

We opted for the bed and breakfast package and went out for lunch and dinner most days, there were a couple of small local restaurants walking distance away which we went to a few times, but mostly we would drive to nearby Lamai Beach to get some food and browse around some of the night markets.

On our last night my husband surprised me and booked us a dinner on the beach, which was out of this world, Centara Villas set up the most beautiful table with lots of fresh flowers and palm leaves and cooked up the most gorgeous Thai food, and half way through the meal a small band came and serenaded us. It was a magical evening, alhough my husband would argue that when I was sharing my dinner with a stray dog that was wandering the beach – not quite so magical! If your staying at Centara Villas for a special occasion then booking this special dinner is a real treat!

I honestly cant recommend Centara enough if you want luxury at affordable prices and are planning a trip to Thailand check them out, all the Centara properties we have stayed at have always been incredible and all little details well thought out.

Transport & Getting Around

Getting around Koh Samui is pretty easy as the island isnt very big so most journeys tend to be quite short. There are a variety of ways to get about the island with pick up taxis, taxis and tours, there are no tuktuks or formal bus service on the island though. The most popular way for tourists to get around is by hiring a car, scooter or bicycle. Beware the roads in Samui are not the easiest to drive around so only hire a car or scooter if your a confident driver and make sure to wear your seatbelt in the car or a helmet when on a scooter, and triple check your travel insurance and read the small print of any rentals insurance.

Hiring a scooter is really cheap and costs less than ยฃ5 per day, car hire is quite a lot more and can cost up to about ยฃ50 per day, however if there is a few of you it works out much cheaper than booking a tour. If your not a confident driver or dont feel comfortable driving around the island, I would suggest booking onto a tour or hiring a taxi for the day to take you everywhere you would like to go, taxis on the island are cheap enough and wont break the bank.

Top Tips

Although Koh Samui is a beach destination make sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees at the religious sites and temples. Try to get out as much as possible around Koh Samui and explore some of its sights and beaches and try not to just stick to staying in your resort, the island is a beautiful place and even just by going out for a full day of sightseeing you could probably see most of its major sights.

There are still elephants available for tourist rides in Koh Samui, please avoid this at all costs! The elephants have to endure a process called Phajaan also known as the crush, where they take baby elephants and brutally torture them for days and weeks at time to break the elephants spirit, so that they can be controlled by humans. It’s a really traumatic practice and unfortunately until tourists realise what actually happens to make these elephants allow people to ride on them the practise will continue. I personally have ridden on elephants in the past before I knew what they went through, and now personally I would never ride on one again as it’s truly heartbreaking what they must under go.

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