Ko Samui, one of Thailand’s largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand. The beaches are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen in all my travels. Things have changed tremendously since visiting in 2009 and even more so since my first visit in 1999. Now it is a true tourist destination. Everyone has discovered the secret of Koh Samui from budget travelers to high end luxury travelers. The island has many areas to stay in. We stayed in two different areas, one was away from all the action in Bophut and the other area was right in the action of Chaweng Beach.
Bophut is a beach village located on the northern coast of Ko Samui. We chose to stay here thinking it was a more chilled atmosphere without all the vendors, touts, backpackers and family tourists. That’s exactly what it was – away from everything. Thankfully we were in a luxurious resort called the Zenza Resort to enjoy our days. The beach was swallowed up by the hotel grounds and other hotels and businesses along the shoreline that have built up right to the water. There wasn’t much sand space before the ocean. Boats were parked along the shoreline which made it hard to swim around too. We were just getting over being sick for the past week so sadly we spent most of the days recovering in the room.
On the first day we took a taxi to the nearest hospital to see a doctor about being sick the past week. Going to the local hospital was like walking into a tourist trap. I heard a German guy complaining to the nurse at the front desk that “he doesn’t pay in Germany” but that seemed to fall on deaf ears. He was obviously in a scooter accident because his leg was completely cut up from being dragged in some way. Thinking the prices could never compare to American healthcare went out of the window when I was told it would be $100.00 (USD) admission charge to see a doctor. Since I was so sick I couldn’t say no. I wasn’t happy about spending the money but figured I’d take a gamble and try to get my insurance to pay it later. I was diagnosed with exactly what I thought it was – a sinus infection. The doctor prescribed antibiotics and nasal spray. In the end with all the prescriptions this whole ordeal cost $281.00 (USD). I soon found out that I could have gone into a pharmacy and gotten a consultation and prescription medication for less than $20.00 (USD). Unlike the United States, you don’t need a doctor to write a prescription.
Our taxi driver was kind enough to take us to a store to buy a mosquito racket because ours was confiscated by airport security on the way to Koh Samui. Even though we have been traveling with it through airports for the past 3 months. Koh Samui now has a store similar to Wal-Mart where all of the locals go.
It even had a huge food court inside. The driver gave us a tour of the entire store and food court. I don’t think he remembered we had just come from the hospital and were both sick and miserable. But he was so kind all we could do was smile and go with it. After visiting the hospital and getting antibiotics and nasal spray our spirits were back up and we were almost feeling 100% by the 4 day. Too bad we were leaving two days later.
After spending 5 days on Koh Phan nag we returned to Koh Samui and stayed on the popular touristy Chaweng Beach. Chaweng is the beach on the east coast of Ko Samui. It’s also known for the white sandy beach along the coast. The beach is beautiful and there is a lot of action on and around the beach.
Vendors are walking the beach selling dresses, fruit, blankets, sunglasses, wind chimes, hats and bikinis. The water is warm, clear and blue which makes swimming and getting in a pleasure.
There were all kinds of water activities to pay and enjoy. Jet skis, banana boat rides and an entire area sectioned off with a trampoline and water slide. Shopping and restaurants were right outside the hotel’s door. The town is really built up but the prices are still negotiable in the stores and the restaurants range from upscale to budget. I liked this area better because there are lots of restaurants, spas and shopping within walking distance to the hotel.
Songkran (the Thai New Year’s) was happening during our stay on Koh Samui. Songkran is a festival celebrating the traditional Thai New Year, held in April and marked by the throwing and sprinkling of water.
Many restaurants and shops are closed during Songkran because of the wet festivities. We went out and celebrated with the locals on the first day of Songkran. Locals lined the streets with water pistols, buckets, large water guns and baby powder. Anyone walking, driving or riding a motorbike gets doused with water and shot at with water pistols until they pass by.
Whether you are participating or not, everyone gets wet that day. This was a highlight of the trip. Walking down the streets armed with water pistols (compliments of the hotel) getting soaking wet.
People put water in large barrels and use buckets to pour the water on other people. Sometimes the water would be ice cold or have a huge ice chunk floating in the barrel. The weather is so hot and humid it feels great to be completely wet outside. Most of the stores close on the first day of Songkran. The first day is when most of the water festivities proceed, the holiday last three days total.