THE rise of Koh Samui in Thailand’s tourism scene has been nothing short of meteoric.
Given its wide range of offerings to any visitor, ranging from tropical beaches to luxury resorts, it has turned into a tourist magnet.
Yet, Koh Samui holds many secrets close to its chest, allowing the smart traveler to discover its peaceful side away from the tourist traps. This short guide to Koh Samui will aid you in unraveling the calmer side of Samui.
Ban Tai Beach
Unless you choose to stay in one of Samui’s popular luxury resorts that come with their own private beach, most beaches on the island remain massively populated. To those looking for secluded beaches with pristine waters, Samui may disappoint.
Ban Tai, however, is an exception to this. Located very close to the Mae Nam village, Ban Tai beach neighbors the much more popular Bang Po beach. With its tacky bungalows and curvy palm trees – Ban Tai will remind you of Fiji.
To get there, look out for a rocky cape east of Bang Po beach. Tread across it and you’ll come across a little lagoon with turtles and stingrays. Pass the same, climb over a few more rocks, and voila – a two-kilometer stretch of fine sand awaits.
Lesser-known seafood restaurants
Koh Samui’s fresh seafood is an absolute delight and there are no dearth of restaurants to devour the same.
But thanks to its dominant European tourist crowd, almost all restaurants offer “altered” versions of Thai dishes to match the spice intake of tourists.
If you’re spending time at the Bang Po or Bang Tai beach, round your day up with a meal at family-run restaurant Krua Bang Po.
Located in the Mae Nam village, locals in this part of the island swear by the chili crab curry that’s served here. Don’t be fooled by its casual ambiance; the food is great.
Meanwhile, close to Grandfather & Grandmother rocks, Hua Thanon is a Muslim village lined with colorful fishing boats and an area that retains its past glory.
While most restaurants here dish out decent Thai food, head to Hua Thanon Fishing Village for fish steamed with coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaf.
Another local specialty that’s yet to feature in Koh Samui restaurants is the fried banana rolls. They’re quite popular in the southern part of the island, in the markets near Lipa Noi.
Most visitors to Samui head over to the nearby Koh Tao island to snorkel or dive owing to its clear waters. However, fame of diving in Koh Tao has spread far and wide leaving it to suffer at the hands of commercialization.
Snorkel in clear waters
A full-day adventure to Koh Taen and Koh Mudsum islands includes snorkeling in the nearby corals. To get there, head to Thong Krut in the southern side of the island. When you come across a stretch of wooden restaurants with traditional longtail boats docked outside, you’ll know you’re in the right place.
A full-day trip for two will set you back as little as 2,500 baht (US$70) and can be booked on-the-spot from any of the restaurants here.