Exploring the predominantly Muslim fishing village of Hua Thanon
Past the bustling streets of tourist haven Chaweng, and past the increasingly popular beaches of Lamai—near the southeastern corner of Koh Samui—sits Hua Thanon, a predominantly Muslim village and home to the island’s only mosque and last remaining fisherman fleet. Green and gold turrets, a crescent moon symbol, and colourful longboats give glimpses of long-held traditions on an island teeming with modern tourist attractions.
In one corner, partially hidden behind a pharmacy and 7/11, is a local fish market, where travellers can buy fresh produce and the “catch of the day”. A short distance from the market is the great Guan Yu Shrine, a famous Chinese military general erected to celebrate a life of bravery in the 200s CCE. The Samui version is smaller than similar shrines found throughout China, but no less imposing when illuminated at night. Inside, a Chinese Buddhist shrine to both him and many other heroes draws considerable crowds.
The area is mostly quiet, save for the Wednesday night street market where more than 40 vendors line up under the illuminated eye of Guan Yu to offer delicacies such as: crispy pancakes with raisins, honey, and coconut shavings; grilled chicken and pork skewers (hot and just the right amount of spicy); and a variety of soups, stews, fresh fruit, and trinkets. Live music draws the crowd to waters’ edge, where shored longboats wait for a new day asea.
A welcome respite from the more commercialized parts of the island, Hua Thanon draws travellers in search of a quiet excursion or holiday. Overnight visitors book in at the Tiki Tiki Beach Hostel resort, where Holland-born owner Bart and his wife Rose can often be found chatting with guests around the infinity pool or prepping for a live DJ on Mondays and Thursdays. Meanwhile, for expats arriving in search of a quiet place to work, The Content Castle is a house purpose-built for writers with uniquely affordable residencies. Or, pull up a seat at one of the English coffee shops, where espresso and Wi-Fi are in endless supply.
Despite some modern businesses, Hua Thanon remains largely undisturbed. It’s a place where family businesses are passed down through generations—places like Ancient Noodle, an indoor-outdoor Thai restaurant where regulars often stop for a quick Tom Yum in a bag, or a large B20 Thai iced coffee on their way to work. Or there’s the unnamed beauty salon—discernible only from the aqua blue awning—where three or four women sit chatting while waiting for 80 baht blowouts. Here, time moves a little slower, and wide smiles await locals and travellers alike.
By Cici Meis