After hitting the beach, check out these local attractions
Ang Thong National Marine Park
If you can ignore the en masse tourist vibe of speedboats setting out to the beautiful Ang Thong National Marine Park, then this really is a bit of a must-do trip for any visitor to the region. The islands of this archipelago dot the clear waters northwest of Koh Samui, and a snorkel stop at Koh Wao reveals coral reefs and colourful marine life. Once inside the park itself, a hot and sweaty trek upwards takes you to the ultimate reveal, the famed Emerald Lake at Koh Mae Koh (Mother Island). Surrounded by cliffs, and with a white sand sea bed, the saltwater lagoon shines a brilliant green, sparkling like the ‘Emerald City of Oz’, far, far from home. In all there are 42 islands in this protected paradise, and heading past Monkey Island, and onwards to Wua Talap (Sleeping Cow Island), kayaking, swimming, or trekking along a jungle trail are classic tourist pursuits. However, lying under the shade of a tree on the green grass and watching the spider monkeys at play is perhaps as active as some visitors want to get.
Park entrance fee is B300 for adults and B150 for children, but is often built in to the price of most boat tours.
These waterfalls—there are two of them and both are referred to as Na Muang—are pleasant enough for a mini photo-shoot and a cool dip. It’s about a two-minute stroll to the first waterfall, which measures 18 metres high, and just a little further to the second, is much more impressive as the water gushes from a height of 80 metres. Translated as “purple water”, the falls are actually so named because of the colour of the rocks. Locals love to come here for swimming and picnicking. In addition, between Na Muang 1 and 2 is the Na Muang Safari Park, which features elephant rides as well as monkey shows and other entertainment that kids especially will enjoy.
Located at Bophut Beach, Fisherman’s Village is one of Samui’s most-talked about visitor hotspots, yet it is surprisingly cool and touristy—in the best way possible. The shops, bars, and restaurants are open each night, whilst the night market adds to the vibrant atmosphere on Fridays. The drinking holes are trendy yet chilled out joints, and there is a surprisingly mellow vibe with a slight boho edge.
From flyboarding to kite surfing, jet-skiing to scuba diving, Samui is intrinsically all about the fun to be had on the water. Trips to the island in late May also offer visitors the chance to catch sight of some simply stunning yachts at the annual five-day Samui Regatta; showcasing the crème-de-la-crème of Asian sailing beauties, from single hull day cruisers to immense multi-hulls. The next one is scheduled to take place from May 26th to June 2nd.
At the 2017 event—which ran from May 19th to 28th—around 500 sailors descended on Samui, complete with a spectator catamaran reached a few nautical miles from shore, beach parties, and a gala dinner finale for yachties and those with a passion for sailing. 2018 will mark the regatta’s 17th year, and the event has become a competition of international repute, adding to the appeal of the island as a luxe destination for sports tourism. The climate and winds in this part of Thailand make sailing a pleasure and an exhilarating challenge for yachting aficionados and novice sailors alike.
To find out more about this year’s upcoming regatta, visit: www.samuiregatta.com.
Samui’s famous Hin Ta and Hin Yai, commonly referred to as “grandfather and grandmother rocks”, are visually interesting and warrant a peek if you happen to be nearby. The two separate formations resemble—in an artistic sense—the private regions of a man and woman, and have been turned into a folklore tale involving a shipwreck, a marriage proposal, and a symbol of everlasting love.
Located in the Lamai Beach area, Wat Khunaram is famed for its resident ‘Mummified Monk’. Locally born Luong Pho Daeng, who passed away in his late 70s in the early ‘70s, is on show in a glass case at the temple’s Buddhist shrine. In a meditative pose, the monk is so well-preserved that he still has some hair nearly 45 years after his passing. There is something fascinatingly eerie yet spiritually uplifting about this enduring symbol of Buddhist culture, and his retro sunglasses add a Thai quirky touch.
Secret Buddha Garden
A real highlight to any Koh Samui sightseeing tour is the Secret Buddha Garden which is, in reality, more of a small beauty spot than a garden to stroll around. In this private sculpture park set atop, Khao Pom—at 635 metres it’s one of the highest peaks on the island—sculptures of humans and deities in and around a stream and waterfall depict classic Thai stories. The effect is magical, combining a fairytale feel in a jungle setting, found up an off-road drive with amazing views over the whole island along the way. The timeless tranquillity of the garden (which is owned by a fruit-farming family) and the animal stone carvings therein seems to resonate with visitors on some deeper inner level.
By Nadia Willan