Friday, April 6, 2012

Ko Samui, Thailand

Executive summary by Darmansjah

WHY GO? From Ocean Views, daily massages and personal butlers, to holistic aura-cleaning and detox yoga retreats; from partying like there’s no tomorrow during the infamous Full Moon Parties to diving into a sea of marine treasures – Ko Samui aims to please.

WHEN TO GO, The best time to visit the Ko Samui is during the hot, dry season from February to april. From May to October, during the southwest monsoon, it can rain intermittently; and from October to January, during the northeast monsoon, there can be strong winds.

HOW TO GO, Silk Air ( flies direct from Singapore’s Changi International Airport to Samui International Airport three times a week. Bangkok Airways ( flies to Ko Samui from both Singapore and Hongkong.

SEE; Best For Wildlife. The Namuang Safari Park is where you can cuddle a leopard, feed a baby tiger, shake hands with a monkey, hitch a ride on an elephant and get up close and personal with some crocodiles (66 0 77 424 098;; 25/11 Moo 2, Namuang).

BEST FOR NATURE  The Ang Tong National Marine Park stretches across the cerulean sea like a shattered  emerald necklace. Book a day trip out to snorkel and kayak around this stunning archipelago of 42 or so islets.

BEST FOR MONKS While there is not much architecture to appreciate at Wat Khunaram, locals and tourist flock here to catch sight of the island’s most famous mummified monk. Dead for over two decades, Luang Phaw Daeng’s corpse has been preserved in a glass box, sitting in a meditative pose and sporting a pair of sunglasses.

BEST FOR ANATOMY Known as Hin Ta and Hin Yai to the locals, the Grandfather and Grandmother rocks, found at the end of Lamai beach, are genitalia-shaped rock formations that will not only provide a few laughs but also a good lesson in anatomy.

BEST FOR VIEWS Located on a small rocky islet at the northern tip of Samui, the Wat Phra Yai, or Temple of the Big Buddha, boasts a 15m high Buddha. Climb up the stairs to the viewing platform and be rewarded with superb vistas of the northern coast of Ko Samui, and of Ko Phangan.


Just past the Grandfather and Grandmother rocks, Sabeinglae Restaurant is a rustic seafood shack known for its Samui cuisine. Dishes to order include the coconut milk curry with octopus and tamarind king prawns (66 0 77 233 082; 438/82 Moo 1, T.Maret).

With a beautiful beach-side location, Jum Hom Restaurant is a lovely place for a meal during good weather. Ask for an alfresco table right on the beach and proceed to order up some Southern Thai Food – the spicy yellow curry here is not for the faint-hearted (66 0 77 236 458; 7/3 Moo 6, Bangpor Beach, Maenam).

Tarau Samui Seafood is a colourful Thai-Style seafood restaurant set over a cliff and offering fantastic views overlooking the famous Chaweng beach. Served up fresh daily, the seafood here is just as memorable (66 0 77 960 634; 210/9 Moo 4 Maret).

The culinary jewel in the Conrad Ko Samui’s crown, Jahn is helmed by Chef Joe Diaz. Though a newbie to Asia, he deftly creates contemporary renditions of Thai and pan-Asian cuisine. The Wagyu beef masaman served with lemongrass rice is divine (66 0 77 915 888;; 49/8-9 Moo 4, Hillcrest Rd)

The equivalent of a grocery store. Lamai Day Market is a hive of activity, selling food and necessities. Visit the covered area to pick up fresh fruit or to see vendors shredding coconuts to make coconut milk (dishes from US$1).

GETTING AROUND While Samui is quite large, the ring road that circles the island is the only main road there is, simplifying orientation as everything branches off from it. Tuk tuks are available. Renting a motorcycle costs about US$6.50-US$10 a day, though do remember to put helmet, or a fine from the traffic police should you get caught can cost you ten times that amount.

SLEEP Polished terracotta and rounded archways give the entrance to L’Hacienda a Spanish mission motif. Similar décor permeates the eight adorable rooms, which sport loads of personal touches like pebbled bathroom walls and translucent bamboo lamps (66 0 77 245 943;; 98/2 Moo 1 Tambon Bophut; rooms from US$45).

Boasting 145 air-conditioned rooms spread across low-rise buildings and cottages in Thai-village style, Chaweng Regent Beach Resort is located right on Chaweng Beach and along a busiest road lined with entertainment spots, restaurants and shopping centers (66 0 77 230 391;; 155/4 Chaweng Beach; rooms from US$130).

Nora Buri Resort & Spa comprises 144 rooms, spanning across six room categories to cater to a range of budgets. All rooms are spacious and most afford a seaview (66 0 77 913 555;; 111, Moo 5, Chaweng Beach, Bophut; rooms from US$195).

Tropical Retreat Nestled near Lamai’s tropical forest interior, where lush coconut groves gently slope into a valley of huge granite boulders, Tamarind Spring Forest Spa’s relative seclusion and proximity to nature makes anyone feel at ease. Experience its unique cave steam room and unique massages, and you might not ever want to leave (66 0 77 424 221;; 205/7 Thong Takian).

Par For Course Landscaped into the undulating mountains, the Santiburi Samui Country Club’s sprawling 18-hole golf course features steep uphill and downhill slopes and winding fairways that cut into the coconut forest, cliffs and mountains creeks, making golfing here unique, challenging and a tad distracting (6 0 77 421 700;; 12/15 Moo 4, Baan Donsai, Tambol Mae Nam).

Sail Rock Diving Just an hour speedboat drive away from the island, Sail Rock is a large pinnacle that features a massive rock chimney with a vertical swim-through, abundant corals and large pelagic like barracudas and kingfishes Live & Let Dive is a reputable Finnish-owned and managed dive operator on Ko Samui that heads out to Sail Rock five times a week (66 0 77 458 490;; dive trip from US$ 145).

Find Out More, Lonely Planet’s Thailand travel guide (US$26.99) has a section on Ko Samui Encounter Guide (US$12.99) for more a extensive read about the island. For practical details, visit

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