Koh Samui has never appealed to me.
I’ve flown in twice and headed straight from the airport to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan or Koh Tao. Once, I had the misfortune of spending an afternoon at Chaweng on a day trip from Koh Phangan for the purpose of buying an airfare to Kuala Lumpur (on a now defunct airline that didn’t have online booking facilities).
It was an afwul experience. Coming from the peace and quiet of Northeastern Koh Phangan right into the thick of Chaweng beach – tailor shops, fake hand bags, wall-to-wall Russian package tourists, ripoff taxi rides and not even a glimpse of the beach… I was not impressed. Horrified would be a more apt term.
That was about five years ago.
So, why go to Koh Samui now?
The opportunity arose for us to spend some time staying with Lee’s friend, Steve, who lives on Koh Samui. Considering my previous experience on Samui I told Lee we should go, hang out with his friend and take advantage of a few nights free accommodation but expect not to like it.
Turns out, we did like it. So much so, we stayed for ten days.
Having an expat with local knowledge makes a huge difference when staying somewhere like Samui. We knew where to find the best restaurants, buy nappies and had a great place to stay. No thinking was required. Steve hired a car for us through a friend – 1000B a day for a zippy, brand new Mazda 2. He showed us the best spots to park at Chaweng and where to swim.
Chaweng Beach – Not as bad as I once thought
Chaweng beach itself is actually beautiful despite the beachfront surrounding area being completely overdeveloped. The sand, whilst not the finest grain, is lovely and golden. The sea is bath-tub warm and perfectly clear. Perfect for sitting and marinating in the salt water. There’s very little shade and it gets hot quickly so we found ourselves tripping down there early on in the morning before it got too hot.
We have, unfortunately, discovered that our boy who once loved the water and lived swimming now hates the water. God only knows why!!! We’ve had tantrums and tears trying to get him to go in the water and stay in for more than a few minutes. We even traded insults with a German budgie-smuggler who found the crying overly disturbing. I don’t get those who chastise parents of young children for their behaviour. Don’t you think if I could stop him screaming that I would?
Driving Around the Island
Samui is big for an island but it’s actually pretty small. It’s about 60kms around the ring road that circles the island. We drove it in roughly two hours making a few stops along the way. Our friend, Steve, has a building company on Samui so we stopped off to look at a few of his projects.
A drive around the island is a must for any visit to Samui. There’s a lot more to this island than Chaweng and it’s beach resorts. Some beautiful homes and incredible vista.
We found an amazing restaurant!
Well… we didn’t find it, we were shown it. This is where having local knowledge comes in handy. We ate there almost every day. Delicious Som Tam (spicy green papaya salad), sweet curry chicken and basket upon basket of sticky rice. I don’t know if I can go back to eating normal rice again. Will definitely need to buy some of the steaming baskets to make sticky rice at home.
Living on Samui
Life on Samui would be pretty sweet. It’s easy to get around, has good amenities and plenty to do (or nothing to do depending on what you like). You can get a great big house with a pool for US$1200 a month. I can see how long-term residents could go a bit mental here. You can feel the “island” mentality of the locals and expats living here. It’s a “do what you feel at a relaxed pace” kind of place. This can be a good thing but can also wear pretty thin after a while.
We loved having a bit of extra space to spread out in. We found it really handy having a Tesco Lotus (supermarket, cheap food court and shopping centre) just up the road. Reuben was thoroughly entertained sitting in the trolley with a toy car attached. We like eating breakfast at home and it was great to have access to a fridge to stock up on milk, yoghurt, fruit and croissants.
Reuben has enjoyed spending time with Steve’s dogs- Charlie and Jack (or as he know calls them Chachee and Chack). He has taken to climbing into the dogs’ cage out on the patio. According to my psychologist sister, when young children tuck themselves into a small space like this they are looking for a way to make their world smaller. He’s trying to control his environment and say ” Hey parents, this world is far too big and overwhelming”. Or… maybe he just wants to be a dog!
After such a long time in one spot, we’re ready to get out and explore some more. We’re heading to Koh Phangan for a week for a more relaxed beach experience. Here’s hoping Reuben starts enjoying swimming again because there’s nothing else to do on Koh Phangan!