|Bang Po||Bo Phut|
|Koh Tao||Laem Set|
Bangkok Airways operates several flights each day between Bangkok and Ko Samui, which is by far the easiest way to get to the island. Flights take just 1 hr. 20 mins. For bookings, call 66 (0) 2229 3456 (Bangkok) or 66 (0) 7742 2512 8 (Ko Samui).
Trains leave from Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok to Surat Thani every day, from where it is necessary to take a bus to Don Sak and then a ferry across to the islands. For more information, contact 66 (0) 2223 7010.
Buses from Bangkok leave frequently for Ko Samui, but the fare does not include the ticket for the ferry. Journey time is around 14 hours. Call 66 (0) 2435 1199 for information about airconditioned buses, and 66 (0) 2435 5557 8 for information about regular buses.
(to Ko Samui) Both passenger and car ferries run from Don Sak Pier, taking about 1 hr. 30 mins. to complete the crossing. An express boat leaves Surat Thani every morning and takes 2 hrs. 30 mins. There are also overnight boats-one leaving from Surat Thani at 21.00 and arriving at 04.00, and the other leaving Ban Don Pier at 23.00 and arriving at Ko Samui at 05.00.
(to Ko Pha-ngan) Direct boats from Don Sak Pier to Ko Pha-ngan leave several times a day and take 2 hrs. 30 mins., while regular ferries from Na Thon on Ko Samui take just an hour. (to Ko Tao) Daily boats between Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Tao take about 2 hours., while those from Ko Samui (which also stop at Ko Pha-ngan) take 3 hours. An alternative port of departure for Ko Tao is from Chumphon on the mainland, from where the journey also takes about 3 hours.
Getting around is relatively easy – all roads seem to lead back to the same place. You won’t find any highways on Samui.
Instead, there is one main road which goes around the island. Approximately 50 Kms long this road connects the main beaches to the town center, airport and vehicular ferry. Side roads feed off the main road to towns and villages.
Most travelers who have enough time can appreciate exploring the many interesting sites. The best mode of transport, although somewhat dangerous, is moped.
If the weather is nice, a moped allows you can see a lot more. Renting one is cheap about Bth. 250-300 and fuel is inexpensive. A tour around the island will take you approximately 3 – 4 hours (or more) depending on how many stops you make along the way.
Samui is an explorer’s dream. It is just big enough to offer a wealth of diversity of landscape, vistas, flora and fauna, and yet small enough to seek adventure in its many out-of-the-way places, while hardly ever losing sight of sea. Below are some ways in which you can do this.
For many reasons, the least suitable for exploring, but the safest and easiest way to get from point A to B if you don’t know where B is! Drivers of public (red) taxis have operated uncontrolled for years. Regrettably they have been the source of many complaints. These have included rudeness, overcharging, and occasionally worse. Efforts are now being made to address all these problems. In the meantime however: obtain a copy of our TAKS “Getting the Most from Samui” guide booklet when you arrive. Use the instructions and the chart inside to ensure that you pay fair rates and avoid confrontation.
If you rent a Jeep
Available from many family-owned agencies and some large companies whose names you will recognize, the rental of a 4 wheel drive vehicle will allow you a lot of freedom. It will serve as your basic transport, but you can also use it to circumnavigate the entire main ring road of the island (about 1 hour) and more. You can visit many hillside natural and man-made attractions which are easily accessible from the ring road. You can stop at them all, going at your own pace. If you are especially adventurous and have experience in off-road driving, you may head up unto the mountains. (Rented dirt bikes are another option for those who want to go off-road.)
There, if you can negotiate the ruts and sometimes seemingly impossibly steep inclines, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding islands, as well as flora and fauna that is overwhelmingly beautiful. If Samui is paradise, its mountains are its Shangrilah.
Some of these vehicles come with insurance, but the coverage is limited. You had better ask for the details.
Many of those who remain down on earth, seem to opt for motor bikes to get around town, go to the beach and go out for the evening; making these inexpensive rentals the most popular option by far. They are fast, fun and easy to park. But BEWARE. Many local drivers have not received proper instruction in traffic safety, and tourists are often riding these bikes for the first times in their lives. Many SERIOUS ACCIDENTS happen.
People are killed, and the statistics are alarming. However a prudent person need not panic. These accidents are almost always due to a serious lapse in judgement. Remember that while Samui may be a paradise you are still a mortal. Upon your arrival, see the TAKS Guide Booket for the safe driving tips you will need.
Situated about 20 km. west of Samui, this archipelago of 42 islands fits everyone’s image of a tropical paradise, with huge, limestone rocks covered in virgin rainforest rising out of the aquamarine waters. Most people go here on a day trip from Ko Samui, which is easy to organize.
There is a fantastic viewpoint on Ko Wua Talap, just above the park headquarters, looking out over the uninhabited, pristine islands. Trips around the park usually include a visit to a delightful concealed lagoon on Ko Mae Ko, as well as the opportunity to paddle a sea kayak around the strange limestone formations.
Just 20 km. north of Ko Samui and a short boat trip away, Ko Pha-ngan is a mountainous island ringed18 by secluded bays that offer ideal getaways. Its only town of any size, Thong Sala, has a bank, post office, supermarket and shops selling beach equipment and souvenirs.
Many of its beautiful beaches are accessible only by boat, though pick-up trucks and motorbikes also ply the island’s rough roads. Its most famous beach is Hat Rin, in the southeast corner of the island, which is the location for the world-famous full moon parties that attract thousands of visitors each month to dance the night away on the beach.
The island’s most picturesque beach is Thong Nai Pan, a double bay in the northeast of the island, which has good swimming and snorkelling, as well as the island’s most comfortable accommodation. A little south of Thong Nai Pan is Than Sadet, the island’s most impressive waterfall, which was once a favourite place of King Chulalongkorn.
‘Tao’ means turtle, and the island is named for its shape west on the mainland. The island is particularly popular among divers, and has a reputation for some of the most exciting dive sites in the entire gulf. Several companies based at Mae Hat, the island’s only town, can arrange dives for beginners and experienced divers. There are many peaceful and idyllic beaches on the island, such as Sai Ri, the island’s longest beach on its west coast, and Chalok Ban Kao and Sai Daeng on the south coast. There is also a unique geological phenomenon at Nang Yuan, a tiny cluster of islets just off the northwest coast of Ko Tao, where stunning causeways of sand join the islands, offering visitors the choice of two seas to swim in.
Situated on Samui’s east coast, this is Samui’s longest and most beautiful beach, a 6 km. strip of powder-soft sand fronted by crystal-clear water. It also has the island’s largest concentration of accommodation, ranging from five-star resorts to simple bamboo bungalows. Chaweng is the centre for watersport activities like windsurfing and jetskiing in the day, and it has a great social scene at night, when the dance halls pulsate to the latest rhythms.
Also on the east coast, just south of Chaweng, Lamai attracts surfers to its playful waters, which run a little deeper than at Chaweng. Behind the beach there are several spas, where visitors can treat themselves to a herbal sauna, a relaxing Thai massage, or even a mud facial.
These are all located along the north coast, and ideal places for those who want to get away from it all. Bang Rak is often called ‘Big Buddha Beach’ because of the huge Buddha image at the eastern end of the beach that looks particularly impressive at sunset.
Even more isolated than the north coast beaches, those on the south and west coasts are not linked by the island’s ring road, though access is easy enough for anyone curious to take a look. At Laem Set in the south, the sea is too shallow for swimming, but the huge, smooth boulders on the beach and coconut palms leaning over at impossible angles give it a special feel.
In the island’s southwest, Taling Ngam Bay may not be quite as perfect as Chaweng, but has a long strip of sand that is often deserted and makes an ideal spot for a beach ramble. At the northern end of the bay, the luxurious Ban Taling Ngam Resort has several swimming pools and villas set on a hill with great views of the beach.
Koh Samui is Thailand’s third largest island at 247 square kilometres, and during the last decade it has become one of Southeast Asia’s premier tourist destinations.
Koh Samui sits snugly in the Gulf of Thailand, surrounded by other island gems like Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Tao, and is located 84 km. east of Surat Thani, the provincial capital on the mainland. With soft-sand beaches shaded by towering palms, delicious fresh seafood and a vibrant nightlife, Samui has a magical formula that seems to cast its spell on everyone.
Many visitors are content to laze the days away on the beach, soaking up the sun and cooling off in the turquoise waters, but for action enthusiasts there are plenty of choices. Diving and snorkelling, windsurfing and paragliding, beach volleyball and off-road driving (and other similar activities).
One of the island’s most appealing features is its loop road, which makes a 50 km. circuit around the island, giving tantalizing glimpses of superb beaches on the north, east and west coasts. It runs past sleepy fishing villages and through seas of coconut palms, passing Samui’s most impressive waterfall and tempting turn-offs into the highlands along the way. Other attractions on or near the road include a butterfly farm, a snake show, a monkey-training centre, and health spas dedicated to pampering the body.
There’s plenty on Samui to keep even the most jaded traveller happy for a week or two, but for anyone spending even a few days here, an opportunity not to be missed is a trip to the emerald islands of the Ang Thong Marine National Park, which offers yet another version of a tropical paradise.