Wednesday 3 November 2010

Koh Samui -- A Small island with BIG plans ...

Everybody on the island seems to know Khun Nok. The pint-sized pocket rocket – otherwise known as Naddapen Toommanon – not only owns two resorts, but manages another villa, is Vice President of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui and was vice president of Koh Samui Skal Club.

All the more remarkable is that she’s not a daughter of Samui, having moved from Bangkok less than 6 years ago. ‘I found it slow to start with,’ she says of island life, ‘but after a while I became slow too,’ she laughs.

Not true. Her energy level seems perpetually in overdrive, even as we enjoy a late afternoon drink around the pool of her Mediterranean-style resort, Villa Nalinnadda, on the southeastern corner of Samui.

So how is Samui fairing post- Red Shirts and post-European volcano? ‘Numbers are down a bit, but we have many more properties now. Bookings tend to come last minute now, so we cannot predict. This year we had Banyan Tree open, and last year Langham Place, November 1 we have W and Conrad later on ...”

Indeed, the corridor from Lamai to Hua Thanon to Laem Set along Samui’s south-eastern shore is the focus of a lot of the new top-end investment.

Laem Set, which just 10 years ago was home to only one fine restaurant and a million or so coconut trees, now has the Centara, X2, Shasa, and Kalimaya among many other fine properties hugging its undulating shores.

‘More and more 5-star, maybe 2 to 3 stars too but they don’t do a lot of PR.’

Talking of public relations, the public was mobilized recently in a show of support against the plan to start drilling for oil in the Gulf of Thailand waters near Samui. ‘We had 30,000 people holding hands in the street to show the government we didn’t agree,’ says Nok with a satisfied grin. ‘The drilling is suspended for now, so we were successful.’

So where is Samui up to in its green ambitions? ‘We are trying to be green; we are not yet, but we are on the way.’

The Samui Tourism committee has been busy of late with other agenda, too. ‘We’re trying to push Samui to have a calendar … planning to have more events to make it more exciting. We already have a week-long jazz festival, last year we had a gay festival, the Samui marathon with 1800 participants, and coming up the first international triathlete event.’

Phew – talk about busy. Even the hyper-kinetic Nok would need a break after all that, jing jing

So, if she did have spare time, where would she go? Stand by for a real insiders tip here, readers:
‘I love to go to Choeng Moen Beach, to Sand Dune Beach, have a cheap massage on the beach, and lunch at Honey Cottage … the owner goes fishing and brings back fresh fish for lunch!’

Off the record, she also enjoys singing karaoke on a Friday night at Fisherman’s Village walking street. But more about that in another blog soon …

Stu Lloyd travelled to Koh Samui with assistance from Bangkok Airways.

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