Tuesday 8 January 2019

Ultimate Guide to Koh Samui

InterContinental Koh Samui


Koh Samui has grown up. No longer the backpacker backwater of the turquoise Gulf of Thailand, she’s now a sophisticated destination for a more discerning traveller. The jet set has truly arrived, and Samui spoils for choice when it comes to upscale beds, beers and buffets.

There is still the opportunity, however, to party your nights away like it’s your gap year. Also still apparent is the laidback charm of the Thai people and culture. This world-renowned character, coupled with the celebrated Asian knack for hospitality, makes Koh Samui the island of choice for a good chunk of Thailand’s annual 30 million visitors.

It takes just over an hour by plane to exchange the Bangkok bustle for island life, or the more adventurous can take a 3-hour ferry from the mainland port of Surat Thani. Either way, once you arrive it’s all about the beach.

Samui is blessed with miles of coastline, and while it’s not the unspoilt secret sandy paradise of your dreams, such places are a day-trip away. What Samui has instead is a slick tourist infrastructure to ensure that you’re well fed and watered at whatever price point you desire - from Michelin-worthy feasts to street food surprises.

Whether you make the most of the island’s tourist facilities, use it as a base for a spot of island-hopping or simply laze on the beach all day, Koh Samui is an increasingly hip tropical destination.



Koh Samui caters for whatever level of activity you desire. You can whizz around the island or do absolutely nothing on the beach. Samui is also big enough to offer interesting rewards for the independently roaming explorer along its meandering mountain roads.

10 Must Dos:

Ang Thong National Marine Park. This is the tropical paradise of your holiday reveries. A short boat trip from Samui gets you pristine sand and ridiculously photogenic scenery. Spend a day as a castaway, climbing handsome limestone mountains and exploring hidden lagoons. Truly unforgettable.

Big Buddha. Buddha is a big deal in Asia, and Samui’s biggest Buddha is the 12-metre statue at Phra Yai temple. All are welcome to pay respect, light a candle, burn incense or simply enjoy the ocean view. Deep thinkers can contemplate existence while the planes come in low to land at the nearby airport.

Chaweng Beach. Big, brash and lively, Chaweng Beach is the throbbing heart of Samui. The beautiful beach is globally popular and there’s plenty to entertain the non-recumbent holidaymaker. The nearby road ticks all the shopping and drinking boxes. Not everybody’s version of paradise, but definitely fun, fun, fun.

Bophut Fisherman’s Village. Bophut used to be a throwback to the traditional island ways of life, but now you’re more likely to bump into a barista or mixologist than a grizzled fisherman. This is the hip, modern face of Thai tourism, offering fine dining with fine views, and hits the sweet spot between trad and luxe.

Tamarind Springs Spa. Thai massage is one of the best activities you can do lying down. Massage places proliferate on Samui, but for a premium pampering experience visit this upscale spa. Well-trained staff offer the best in wellness treatments and enjoyably reasonable prices.

Sea Walking. There’s great diving and snorkelling not too far from the island, but for a truly unique underwater experience, try sea walking. Don a special helmet and wander the seafloor as part-astronaut, part-aquatic creature. Odd and fascinating.

Ladyboy Cabaret. Fabulously camp and camply fabulous, these glamorous transgendered ladies are guaranteed to put on an entertaining show that’ll really have you guessing. It ain’t the opera but it is marvellously cheesy fun.

Grandmother and Grandfather Rock. A couple of the massive boulders on Lamai Beach have rather suggestive anatomically-correct shapes. Choose either the male or female rock for a snigger-worthy selfie, safe in the local wisdom that doing so in some way blesses your love life.

9Gems. Miami meets modern Samui at 9Gems. Don your finest jet-set attire and drink, dine and dance the night away at this lounge restaurant. This over-the-top hilltop destination offers high-end cocktails and fusion feasts.

Lamai Sunday Market. Thais love shopping and eating, and Samui’s best way to do both is to take a lazy stroll through the Sunday market in Lamai. Stock up on souvenirs or just graze the street food stalls.



Thai hospitality is famed worldwide and for good reason. The laidback local attitude gels well with your highest holiday expectations, whether you plump for a one-star shack or a five-star suite. Here are some of the best places to drop your suitcases.

10 Luxury and Boutique Hotels

Sareeraya Villas & Suites
Oriental chic is abundant at Sareeraya, from the waters lapping the palm tree-shaded sunlounges, past the infinity pool to the suites within. It’s on the popular Chaweng Beach but at the quiet end, so you can flip a coin between crazy or lazy and get the best of both worlds.
Melati Beach Resort and Spa
This private luxury resort fuses traditional tropical design elements with modern touches, giving it a character that’s locally focused but globally aware. Use this exclusive beach hideaway to get away from it all or emerge from your suite to visit nearby Choeng Mon Beach.
Amari Koh Samui
A recent refurbishment has upped the eye-pleasing design of this busy Chaweng hotel. The place is bursting with amenities so is a good choice for families. Located conveniently near the action although with enough going on that you need never leave the resort.
Chaweng Regent Beach Resort
A good location at the quiet end of Chaweng Beach means that all the sights and sounds are a short stroll away, but the resort – one of the longest-standing upmarket ones on the island -- still retains some tranquillity in its tropical gardens.
Banyan Tree Samui
Exclusivity abounds at this resort built into the hillside near Lamai Beach. The privacy is provided by the cove which encloses the property, cocooning the residents in peaceful luxury. Fine dining here fuses the flavours of South East Asia.
Centara Grand Beach Samui
Colonial architecture makes this a good spot to indulge your Grahame Greene fantasies while sipping gin under the palm tree fronds. Tennis and fitness areas are for the more active guests, three bars are for the more passive, and the restaurant choices span several continents should wish to stay resort-bound.
Six Senses Samui
Well away from the downtown hustle on the island’s quiet northern tip, this intimate resort caters for the more well-heeled guest who appreciates style. They add yoga, pilates and reiki to their spa menu and boast one of the island’s best restaurants in Dining on the Rocks.
Intercontinental Samui
On the peaceful (although some would say isolated) western side of Samui sits the Intercontinental, spreading itself along a strip of golden sand. Its western aspect makes it an ideal spot for sunset watchers. While it is well-removed from the more touristy areas, there’s a shuttle service for escapees.
Four Seasons Resort Samui
This stunning property overlooks the ocean on the north of the island. As befits the brand, all rooms are of the highest standard and are hidden in the deep cover of the leafy hillside. Plenty of activities are thrown in to keep you entertained in the away-from-it-all location.
Sala Samui
This trendy resort sits on the pretty Choeng Mon Beach and has a reputation for excellent and attentive service. The nearby road has a couple of restaurants and shops but otherwise the resort has all you need. The two pools get a bit of welcome shade in the hot afternoons.
Southern Thai food turns everything up to 11. It’s fiery and spicy but sweet and mild, sometimes all in the same mouthful. It’s difficult to go wrong food-wise on Samui, whether you’re braving the expensive luxury prices or being brave and getting fed in the street with the locals.
10 Top Dining Experiences
Barracuda. Bophut’s Barracuda does modern Mediterranean using local produce - and plenty of fish. The interior is an attractive mix of burnished wood, concrete and metal giving it a modern vibe while still referencing Bophut’s fishing heritage.

Dining on the Rocks. The design of this place is stunning, with nine weathered teak terraces jutting from the cliffs of north Samui into the blue beyond. But it’s no mere photo op - the menu is an experimental mix of Asian and modern which regularly hits the Best Restaurant lists.

Stacked. Instagram-worthy fare is plentiful in this contemporary Chaweng kitchen. They’re most famous, though, for their burgers and there’s even a monster burger challenge featuring four patties that’s free if you can get it all down in 20 minutes: or 1,000 THB otherwise.

Haad Bang Po. Every island needs a secret spot that serves the best authentic local dishes. Haad Bang Po is a rough and ready bamboo and sand joint where a granny and granddaughter team whip up fiery southern Thai classics - although they’ll tone down the heat for the less brave. Tricky to find – head west of Maenam Beach - but worth it.
Café 69. The fun and funky (or is it kitsch and tacky? The jury’s out) décor of this Bophut restaurant gives an indication of the kind of dishes it serves. Thai staples are playfully remixed so curry gets a mango twist and crab is paired with papaya.

Street Food. Granny’s out there nightly, cooking right on the street, using secret recipes given to her by her granny. Street food is fast, fresh and even if you don’t speak a word of Thai, just point and smile. Dive in; it might just be the best meal of your trip!

Casa Lapin x Samui. This hip Fisherman’s Village coffee spot also serves and all-day café menu featuring seafood recently plucked from the right-next-door ocean as well as some local southern Thai specialities. It has detox smoothies for the health-conscious and cocktails for the less-conscious.

The Boudoir. Head to Maenam for this silky den of fine French cuisine. Sink into deep purple and gold pillows and peruse the menu of Francophile favourites such as foie gras, escargots and decent cheeses. The house wine is a decent drop too.

Casa Italia. More of a café vibe than a restaurant, but it does serve what many think is the best Italian food on the island. The pizzas and pastas are delicious but the top prize goes to the gelato. Find it on the ring road near Bophut.

Som Restaurant. There’s nothing fancy about this place, just decent seafood and Thai dishes served by the beach between Maenam and Nathon. It’s more of an old school, friendly and family-run Samui experience, and something you should definitely try. Fresh fish and strong cocktails are recommended.

Whether you’re a beery boozer, a champagne sipper or just fancy a bottle of local firewater, Samui has it all. Within a few yards on most beaches you can grab anything from a detox smoothie to a strong and sweet Thai coffee to a shot of local moonshine.
10 best views, coffees, micro-breweries and hi-so haunts
Casa Lapin x Samui. The modern face of Samui tourism doesn’t get any prettier than this offshoot of the hip Bangkok coffee house. Attention to detail is key, from the locally-sourced beans to their seafront location in the cool Bophut village.
The Bee’s Knees. Craft beer, including some excellent local brews, is all the rage in Bangkok, and the trend has finally hit Samui. The island’s first brew pub, The Bee’s Knees near Chaweng Lake, is worth a trip just to hit up the owner for tips on both brewing and Samui’s secret spots.
Starfish and Coffee. This easy to spot fusion of Thai and Arabian design stands out in the heart of the Fisherman’s Village. It’s more reasonably priced than the decor suggests and the more romantic guests - or those who simply enjoy eating with the sand between their toes - can dine on the beach.
Chaweng Beach. Wandering along the beach and stopping off at an appealing shack for a cool beverage can be a holiday highlight. Grab a cheap Chang or Singha beer at any of these bars, where more often than not a cheeky bartender will entertain you with his repertoire of Western slang.

Think & Retro Cafe. A throwback to Samui’s backpacker past, Think is a recycled shipping container shack full of scavenged furniture that spills onto the beach of Lipa Noi. Stop by for a coffee, a cocktail or some sustenance from their Thai/western menu. Funky, fun and sunset-friendly.

Nikki Beach. Possibly the place with the highest champagne consumption on Samui, Nikki Beach Koh Samui is a member of the worldwide group of glamorous bars. For the VIP treatment, and prices to match, ask your chauffeur to head to Lipa Noi beach.

Green Mango. A Samui legend, the Green Mango is the Chaweng nucleus around which the party scene revolves. It’s big, dumb fun and you’d be advised to get one of the giant speciality cocktails served in a bucket to get yourself in the correct headspace.

Solo. A more sensible alternative to the backpacker shenanigans of nearby Green Mango, Solo brings in a respectable roster of international DJs. Turn up early evening for a cocktail or after 10pm for a clubbier vibe.

Mix. On a small road near Chaweng Stadium and Solo Bar is Samui’s gay area. A handful of small bars line the street, with Mix offering a laid-back vibe with decent music and a pool table. If you don’t like the music, just check out the other bars nearby.

The Duke Pub and Restaurant. For some people, the perfect holiday is to eat what you normally eat, but near the beach. The Duke is the perfect spot, right on Chaweng’s main drag, for sipping a cool Guinness while perusing the extensive pub grub menu and kicking back to the in-house band. Sports are shown on the big screen in a separate part of the pub.

Koh Samui is all about beaches. It won the geographic lottery with its riches of lush mountains, endless sand and not-far-off island wonders. Although by no stretch could it be described as an unspoilt paradise, there are enough secluded hideaways either in a resort’s private stretch of sand or just a boat trip away.
10 Top beaches
Chaweng Beach. The island’s main beach evolves as it snakes along the eastern coast. Rocky and quiet at its northern genesis, it reaches its teeming peak in its central area. The crowds thin out as you head south to the cove of Chaweng Noi.

Chaweng Noi. At the southern end of Chaweng and separated by a small headland, this quieter kilometre of sand hosts just six resorts but a plethora of vendors offering drinks, food or a massage right on the beach.

Lamai Beach. Smaller and less crowded than Chaweng, Lamai Beach is a fine alternative. Swimming is best in the main part, but as you wander south you’ll meet the giant boulders along the shore, including the saucy Grandmother and Grandfather rocks shaped like, well, you can surely guess.

Bophut. Bophut is more about food and drink that sun worship. As a functioning ferry terminal, the beach’s eastern end, by Fisherman’s Village, is not really for swimmers. Instead try the west, which has the usual beach vendors plus the great fun/huge annoyance of jet skis.

Maenam Beach. It’s amazing how quickly one becomes a sand snob on an island. While this 5km stretch of beach is one of the better places for swimming, the sand is a little coarser than the fine powder of Chaweng. Think of it as a free foot scrub.

Bang Rak Beach. For many the only reason to visit Bang Rak Beach is to catch a boat to Koh Phangan. As such, amenities reflect that, including that most ubiquitous tropical trope, a reggae shack called Bob Marley Bar.

Lipa Noi. Down on the south west of the island, Lipa Noi lacks the commercialism of the bigger beaches and is all the better for it. Drag your lounger into the shadow of a palm tree and start furiously relaxing.

Choeng Mon. A delightful curved bay wrapped around the fairly shallow waters which make for pretty good swimming. The usual resorts and vendors make sure you won’t go thirsty, and there’s a few of those noisy jet skis available for you to buzz around on.

Ang Thong National Park. While there’s plenty of physical activity to be done in Ang Thong, the island of Ko Wua Talap has a couple of secluded beaches where you can catch your breath and a few rays of sunshine. They’re connected via a rope-lined trail offering a 30-minute trek through the jungle.

Koh Phangan. Only an hour by boat, nearby island Koh Phangan has some stunning beaches. Main beach and full moon party site Hat Rin isn’t stunning, but is a good starting point from which to grab a longtail boat to the gems along the coast, some of which are only accessible by sea.

Samui is good for little boutiques and small malls but lacks the smorgasbord of the Bangkok shopping experience. There are some interesting trinkets to be found however, and the real pleasure is a lazy stroll through any of the colourful night markets.

Medium malls, small boutiques and walking streets
Tailored suits. Chaweng is the best spot to be pestered incessantly by the touts offering bespoke suits made impossibly fast. While many of the shops are churning out identikit rags, there are some good tailors around. Tip: the good shops don’t employ touts.

Bookstores. Reading a book on a beach holiday is one of life’s top pleasures. If you’ve ploughed through the ones in your suitcase, grab something new from Bookazine in Chaweng or something pre-thumbed from Island Books in Lamai.

Chaweng Walking Street. If you keep losing your expensive sunglasses, swing by Chaweng for some five dollar fake Ray Bans and a fifty dollar Louis Vuitton bag to put them in. You may not want half the stuff on offer, but haggling can be fun nevertheless.

Lamai Sunday Market. … or in fact any of the main beaches’ Walking Street markets. Once a week the road is closed to vehicles and a temporary hive of commercial activity pops up. These are great places to grab souvenirs and try any or all of the multitude of snack options for sale.

Central Festival. A middle-of-the-road shopping experience just off the middle of Chaweng’s busiest road. Good for local brands and air-con, there’s also plenty of places to eat or grab a coffee. Imported brands will be similar prices to back home but sale bargains can be found.

The Wharf. Bophut boasts this half-mall, half-marketplace hybrid which avoids the usual brands and instead focuses more on small boutique retailers. Expect beachwear, bags and small trinkets, plus some deliciously aromatic spa products to take home.

Chandra Boutique. This boutique features floaty island wear that’s stylish enough to wear back home - think Bali prints and wispy dresses in fabrics sourced from South East Asia. Chandra also stocks plenty of bags and accessories in its two Chaweng stores to complete the look.

Jim Thompson. If it can be made from silk, they have it. Men’s and women’s clothing is stylish with a nod to the traditional and there are some fine kaleidoscopic prints for the more daring. The wide range of accessories in the Central Festival store make it the perfect place to pick up gifts for those back home.

Zazen Boutique. Tucked inside the Zazen Boutique Resort and Spa, the small boutique is a treasure trove of Asian knick-knacks. Their gorgeous collection of Chinese tea sets, small Naga sculptures and antique rice bowls can be stuffed in your luggage or safely shipped overseas.

Bowtiful Samui. Bowtiful’s beautiful handmade jewellery is inspired by the hill tribes of northern Thailand. Expect lots of silver, stones, beads and gems, plus hippy-chic bags and other accessories in their Lamai shop. Some of the brightly coloured bags are actually made by the Hmong tribe in the northern Thai mountains.

Tearing yourself from the sunlounger may be the last thing on your mind. If so, skip this section. For the more adventurous, Samui offers a range of ways to pass the day, from the serenity of golf to the sheer terror of a bungy jump. Add in the underwater stuff and there’ll not be a spare moment.
Adventures above and below the water
Ziplining. The ziplines at Canopy Adventures cut above lush jungle and even a waterfall. There’s about two kilometres of high-speed dangling to do, with multiple rest stations and a trustworthy team in charge of your safety. Experience isn’t necessary, but a head for heights most definitely is.
Golf. There’s 27 holes for you on Samui, with 9 at the Royal Samui Golf and Country Club and a full 18 at Santiburi Samui Country Club. Both courses are on the mountain slopes and offer sensational views while you play. Also you can learn why the Santiburi course is nicknamed ‘The Beast.’
Sea Walking. If a lack of swimming or diving ability has limited your underwater adventures, or you simply want to try something unique, then Sea Walking Samui is for you. Donning headgear that resembles an old computer monitor allows you to wander the ocean floor at your leisure.

Diving. While the waters around Samui are not perfect for diving, nearby island Koh Tao is a world famous diving spot. Several five-star PADI operators such as The Dive Academy will take you to the stunning sites of Sail Rock and Chumpon Pinnacle. The clincher: March through June is whale shark season!
Ang Thong National Park. Apart from its short rainy season closure in November and December, day trippers can hike, kayak or snorkel in parts of the park. There’s also some limited diving among coral gardens but nothing that compares to the sites around Koh Tao.
Samui Bungy Jump. A professional operation at Chaweng Lake that can get you prepped, harnessed up and freefalling within 10 minutes of arrival. There are great views from the top if you can tear your mind away from the imminent terror, and you can hire a GoPro to see how scared you look on the way down.

Samui Football Golf. A weird hybrid sport, born on Samui, the brainchild of Liverpudlian proprietor, Tom. It’s basically a small golf course in Choeng Mon which you get around on by kicking a football. Crazy fun, if you’ve got a spare 1.5 hours on your feet, er, hands.

Island hopping. The island’s seemingly infinite number of tour operators are determined to get you off your sunlounger and onto one of their excursions - well-organised boat trips to the neighbouring dive and snorkel spots like Koh Tao, and Koh Nanyuang.

Detox. For such a party island, Samui is conversely, and perhaps understandably, big on detox. Absolute Sanctuary offers a range of detox treatments, from the doable beginner plan to the hardcore holistic regime. They also offer yoga, reiki and all manners of feel-good treats for mind and soul.
Meditation. While dedicated centres such as Dipabhavan offer structured meditation retreats, those wishing to practice mindfulness can simply pop into any temple on the island. There’s no charge, foreigners of all faiths (or no faith) are welcome, and at Wat Khunaram you can even chill out with the mummified body of a monk.

Samui is not exactly a cultural desert, but the arts tend to focus on the needs of mass tourism rather than anything more varied or esoteric. Think copies, whether it’s bands playing cover versions or artists faking works by grand masters.
Arts, activities and local culture
Cameron Hansen Gallery. Hansen is an award-winning pro shutterbug who’s travelled the world. Samui showcases his superb photographs, especially his work on temples, monks and unbelievable beaches, in Chaweng’s Apsara Gallery as well as his artist residence up in the hills. Well worth booking a visit.
Modern Thai Art Gallery. This Chaweng studio was the first to set up on Koh Samui and deals in original Thai art plus the usual high quality reproductions. Expect lots of Buddha pieces as well as other Thai cultural touchstones. Worldwide shipping available too.

Spirit House Village. Set in Chaweng, this one-stop experience is designed to tick all the Thai traditional boxes in one package. There’s trad architecture, food and dance shows. These experiences can be a little Disneyfied, but the place is certainly beautifully designed and offers a quiet Chaweng sanctuary.

Chaweng Boxing stadium. Who knows how staged the fights are, but those punches and kicks all look real enough. Thai boxing, or Muay Thai, is steeped in tradition, apparent in the respect rituals the boxers perform - with eerie musical accompaniment - before each match.
Tropical Murphy’s. Samui is not the place to hear cutting edge live music. However, if your idea of a grand Saturday night is sinking Guinness in an Irish pub while being entertained by a range of cover bands, then Chaweng’s Tropical Murphy’s offers the perfect craic.

Art-Samui. Kids or the young-at-heart will have fun at this Choeng Mon exhibition of optical illusion paintings. Give somebody your camera to snap you seemingly traversing deep canyons, trekking through thick jungle or throwing a right hook at a burly boxer.

Thai Cooking Class. That incredible street food you just ate isn’t all that difficult to cook yourself. It’s about fresh ingredients and a careful balance of herbs and spices. Island Organics teaches twelve dishes you’ve probably tried during your stay, using produce grown in their back garden in the hills west of the airport.

Lamai Muay Thai Camp. Fancy your chances against a ripped Thai teen who’s been boxing since before he could walk? Or just want a fascinating new way to get fit? Lamai Camp offers group or personal training ranging from the gentle to the brutal, and also has ladies and children’s classes.

Major Cineplex. Mostly blockbusters at this Central Festival Thai cinema chain, and all Thai films come with English subtitles. Dress for the chilly theatre and stand for the King’s anthem before the movie. If you’re lucky you might catch one of their occasional foreign film festivals.

Paris Follies. The most glamorous ladies you spot on Samui will probably be ladyboys. Paris Follies is where these transgendered troupers strut their spectacular stuff in nightly cabarets. Camp Chaweng fun and fairly family-friendly, with free entry offset by pricey drinks.

The Thai paradox is that most citizens of the kingdom are deeply reverential Buddhists who will grab any excuse for a party. The fun is spread throughout the year, and some of the dates are rather fluid, but Samui comes with a no-boredom guarantee.
Songkran. For the motherlode of mad Asian festivals, this giant mid-April water fight is an unforgettable experience. The entire Thai population stops being shy and goes nuts for three days in celebration of Thai New Year. Get ready to get soaked.

Buddhist holidays. Religious days are sprinkled liberally throughout the Thai calendar. Follow the locals to the numerous temples and make merit. However, be ready for some outlets to not sell alcohol on these days, although your hotel will still be serving.
Full Moon Party. You’ve heard the stories, and now you’re just a short speedboat ride away from one of the world’s most bacchanalian events. Every month hedonists hit the main beach of sister island Koh Phangan for a legendary party. Not for the faint of heart, but unforgettable nonetheless.
Samui Festival. This new arts, culture and sports festival kicks off the year with a bike and run event with a choice of distances from mini-marathon to fun run, and a choice of wheels or feet. Around Nathon’s pier there’s an art street and mini music festival.
Samui Regatta. Pulling in the yacht set since 2002, this is the Gulf of Thailand’s big event. May sees six days of sailing, with races happening daily off Chaweng Beach, plus plenty of onshore parties, concerts and gala events for the landlubbers.
Loy Krathong. This festival occurs throughout the kingdom on the full moon of the 12th Thai lunar month, which means sometime in November. Participants float decorated baskets - krathongs - in lakes or temple ponds to pay respect to water spirits. Try not to use foam krathongs as they’re not environment friendly.
Queen’s Cup Golf. Some of golf’s big stars fly in to compete in the Samui leg of the Asian Tour, which has created a network of world-class greens on the region. Head to Santiburi Samui Country Club in June to see the pros gently slog it out for the big prize money.
Samui Mala. A group of Samui residents have banded together to promote events that focus on clean and green sustainability for this rapidly developing island. Their green market pops up fairly regularly at Elysia Fisherman’s Village and offers locally-grown organic produce plus discussions and family activities.
Samui Swine Classic. February sees the big event in the frisbee calendar - a disc golf tournament where the frisbee has to land in a series of buckets. The course is open year-round but the Swine Classic brings in pros as well as amateurs competing in four skill divisions. A heads-up: these guys can party hard too.
Marathon Man. There’s a school of thought that believes running in the tropics is lunacy. If you graduated from a different, healthier school then go running, but never stop hydrating! Samui’s fitness calendar features races throughout the year, including fun runs, full marathons, midnight runs and the intriguing concept of the neon bikini run.
For the true Samui experience, ditch your timepiece in the in-room safe and forget about clock-watching. Let the sun tell you what time it is: if it’s in the east, do a bit of shopping. If it’s overhead, hide. If it’s in the west, it’s time for a drink!
The Ultimate 24 Hours
Just before dawn the local monks leave their temples and wander the streets barefoot to accept donations of food. Make an offering and receive a roadside blessing for the perfect start to the day.
A post-breakfast trip to the Big Buddha is a great time to marvel at the statue before the heat and crowds get stifling.


A second coffee should see you through til lunch. Wander through the Fisherman’s Village for a few caffeine options, best of which is probably Starfish and Coffee.

12 noon

Still in the Fisherman’s Village, grab some lunch at Café 69 or any of the restaurants in or around The Wharf, perhaps after a short shop to build your appetite.
Don’t be a mad dog or an Englishman. Regardless of which season you visit, only those who appreciate searing heat should be out and about between noon and three. Hide in the air-con Central Festival Mall or nap on the beach.
Time for a sundowner. Is there a better moment than that spent sinking a beer as the sun sinks into the ocean? Head to the Intercontinental at Taling Ngam on the west coast for 180-degree sinking sun photo ops from the five-star Air Bar, and enjoy the DJ spinning a chill sunset soundtrack.
Time to fuel up for the evening’s activities. A meal in your hotel restaurant is always a good bet, especially if your hotel is Six Senses and your restaurant is Dining on the Rocks.
Catch the 9pm cabaret performance at Paris Follies and see if you can make your expensive drink last the duration of the 45-minute show.
The band at Tropical Murphy’s will be well underway, and if there’s a song you’d like to hear, just request it. If the faux-craic is a little generic, go and browse the street market close by.
12 midnight
Green Mango should be heaving by now. If it’s too busy then there’s a bunch of options nearby where you can grab that ill-advised nightcap.


As you wander back to your hotel, remembering to grab a bit of rehydration from 7-Eleven, look out for the carts selling sweet roti desserts. Watching them deftly throw together each sizzling snack is a bit of Thai street theatre.

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