The rain is definitely our third travel mate!
When you make great plans...
Let’s be honest, the only reason we came to Koh Samui is because we were due to go to Koh Tao for scuba diving. Therefore, being in that region we smartly thought: why not visiting the other islands? So our initial plan was to spend 3 nights on Koh Samui, 3 nights on Koh Phangan and to finish by Koh Tao.
In addition to that great plan, we were also supposed to be on Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party! Big rave parties are not necessarily our thing (we are getting old…) but if we were to be there, why not?
... but the storm invites itself to the party
We just forgot to count our third travel mate: the rain! We reunited with it upon leaving the North of Thailand so I guess it had to follow us down to the South too! On the first days it was still shy with a shower from time to time, letting us enjoy the sun too. When the time came for us to move on to the 2nd island: Koh Phangan; it decided to evolve into full tropical storms that lasted for a few days. We therefore decided to stay longer on Koh Samui island. This meant that we had to skip Koh Phangan island, since visiting it during a storm was probably not the best…
As for the Full Moon Party, apparently it still happened but upon hearing the huge storm that started a bit after midnight we really had no regrets not being there!
Getting to Koh Samui
Koh Samui is actually a big island and frequented enough that it has an international airport! Which means many tourists fly there to spend one or two weeks of holidays.
However, if you have more time and you are on a budget, another option is to fly or take the train to Surat Thani and from there take the ferry to Koh Samui. The bus transfer between the airport/train station and the pier is around one hour. You can buy some package tickets that include the train or plane, the transfer to the pier and the ferry, and sometimes even the collective taxi on Koh Samui (or for a little extra).
We got a ferry that also transports cars so it was pretty big and rusty, but comfortable!
The plane usually costs around 20 to 50 USD, the train is around 15 to 25 USD while the ferry to Koh Samui is 10 USD. Add approximately 10 USD for the transfers (to the pier and on Koh Samui). All in all you should be able to get there for less (or much less) than a 100 USD while the ticket to fly to Koh Samui is rarely under 200 USD…
Koh Samui beaches
Because of the rain we didn’t enjoy that much the beaches around the island and we mainly visited the one next to our hotel: Mae Nam beach; and one of the famous ones: Lamai beach. They were very nice, but Koh Tao island had something special awaiting for us.
Mae Nam Beach
We choose to stay in the North, more exactly in Mae Nam, because we read that this was a quiet and relaxed beach. And indeed it was. The village around seems less crowded with tourists even though there are still plenty of guest-houses and restaurants. It is definitely not the party area (this one is apparently around Chaweng Beach but we didn’t go there).
Mae Nam beach was very nice, relatively clean with clear water (when it was not the after-storm). It’s a sand beach so not a place for snorkelling (the visibility wasn’t great) but it is a good spot for a chill sunbath.
It is also a relatively good spot for sunset, although I believe the West coast is better for that.
Lamai Beach is supposed to be one of the most popular beach of Koh Samui, located on the East Coast down South. The beach is larger than Mae Nam and also more wavy. We were not particularly impressed by neither the beach nor the surroundings but we had a nice swim there. If you decide to stay there you will certainly enjoy some beach time.
It is also closer to some (very) touristic areas, so touristic that we decided not to go visit them, so we cannot recommend them particularly but you can visit some waterfalls and unfortunately do some elephant riding there (this is why we didn’t go, this is bad bad bad!), have fun in some shooting ranges and take pictures with some rocks shaped like a penis and a vulva… At least now you know your options!
Koh Samui jungle
One of the highlight of our stay in Koh Samui was definitely crossing the island through its jungle!
The shortcut and the other roads
There is a road simply called “shortcut” that goes from Mae Nam to Lamai. This road crosses the inside of the island rather than following the coast, therefore it is much less crowded, which is weird because it is a very beautiful road! This part of the road is in very good state, just expect some steep slopes there and there. On the way you will have many beautiful viewpoints.
From this road you can decide to take many cross-roads to smaller roads. Although we completely recommend you getting out of the main roads you must know that parts of these smaller roads are in a very bad state. Some of these roads are mainly used by people with quads or cross motorcycles… who probably laughed at us struggling with our little scooter!! You can also choose to do a “jungle safari” which will take you through those jungle roads in a safari-king of truck.
To be honest it wasn’t an easy road and many times I had to go by foot while Silviu would drive the scooter further through the waves of the dirt road. It was tiring but we did have fun!
One of the first waterfalls on our road. And the one that decided us that it was not necessarily worth going to other waterfalls! 🙂 It is still dry season, besides of the rain following us around…
You get there on a rocky road at which end you can park and continue by foot on a little jungle trail. The waterfall itself was nice but not very impressive and the access downwards was closed with a message introducing us with a tourist that died there in February 2018… so not even 3 months ago! Good way to discourage people from trespassing!
Jungle Route 360
We were not sure what to expect when we saw this 360 on the map but assumed it would worth making the road up there. We ended up in a lovely coffee/restaurant area with a nice viewpoint. It was a good spot for a relaxing moment.
Some people were even taking a cooking class there; nice surroundings even though for what we saw it was far from the level of the amazing cooking class we did in Chiang Mai!
Pra Buddha Teepangkorn
The road we were on passed by this temple that was offering a beautiful view over the South of the island. Despite having to pay a “maintenance fee” part of the main platform was pretty damaged. It was still a nice stop and some stands are waiting for you there so we enjoyed drinking a fresh coconut.
Going down towards Lamai there are a few restaurants that offer a great panorama. We decided to have lunch in one of them and opted for Sea View Restaurant. Not the best food but it was good, clearly not the cheapest, but a nice view indeed. For 100 THB more you could use their infinity pool. It was tempting but with a storm coming, it was probably not the best moment.
We left soon after lunch hoping we would be able to get to Lamai before the rain would reach us… Nah… It got us 10 minutes later, on a jungle road with no shelters around. After a few minutes under the rain we finally stopped in front of a closed shop that would offer us shelter. We had to wait there for about half an hour. Good time to read!
Enjoying life when rain is around
One of the reason we extended our stay in Koh Samui is that we were in a nice hotel (Ampha place) that would offer a comfortable shelter form the rain! During the storm breaks we could enjoy the swimming pool or playing petanque.
There are also a few nice restaurants around with a wide range of prices. For cheap and good Thai food we can recommend Jano and Kwankao and for fresh fishes we really enjoyed The Fish (try the fried fish with curry sauce!!).
If the rain stops you can enjoy some markets, especially the Thursday Walking Street in Mae Nam and the Friday market in Bophut, the fishermen village in the vicinity.