General Information of Koh Samui

Ko Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand, approximately 84 kilometers east of Surat Thani Province, or approximately 700 kilometers south of Bangkok. Known as the Coconut Island, Ko Samui is one of the most famous and popular attractions of Thailand. With an area of 247 square kilometers, Ko Samui is the third largest island of Thailand after Phuket and Ko Chang (of Trat Province). The topography of the island is that of a plain with a mountain range in the middle and 7 important streams. In addition, there is a 50-kilometer paved road that encircles the island. Moreover, the area of the island stretches to a group of 48 surrounding islets.

Despite the fast pace of development, Ko Samui has been able to maintain its charm its classical image of a tropical beach resort fringed by coconut trees. Travelers to the island can enjoy a mixed blessing of vibrant day and nightlife along side with tranquility which can easily be found across different parts of Ko Samui as the archipelago is a peaceful home for fishermen and a natural den for seagulls and other rare birds.

Hat Chaweng and Hat Lamai are Ko Samuis most beautiful and most popular beaches. Both have a huge selection of accommodations suitable for every budget. Please note that room rates increase during the high season, from December to July, when Samui sparkles. The nightlife of each beach is different: Hat Chaweng is better for couples, women and families, while single men are drawn to the beer bar culture of Hat Lamai. These resorts, as well as Na Thon (Samui's main town), have communications, exchange and car/motorcycle hire facilities. Other beaches include Hat Choeng Mon, Hat Mae Nam in the north and Hat Na Thon, the island's major seafront settlement where shops, restaurants and tour agencies are concentrated.

Apart from its many lovely beaches and tranquil bays, Ko Samui is also noted for its high quality coconuts that grow densely everywhere. The best time to visit Ko Samui is from February to April when the sea is calm. The Southern dialect and the standard Thai language are spoken while English is widely understood in tourist areas.

How To Go to Koh Samui

Getting to Ko Samui

By airBangkok Airways flies from Bangkok to Ko Samui 13 times daily. The flight takes about one hour and 10 minutes. It also offers daily flights between Phuket and Samui. For more information, call its Bangkok office, 0 2229 3456, 0 2229 3434, Samui office, 0 7742 2512 - 9 or Samui Airport Office 0 7724 5601-8.

By bus
Air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses leave Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal for Surat Thani several times daily. The trip takes about 11 hours. For further information, call 0 2435 1199, 0 2435 1200 (air-con), 0 2434 5557 - 8 (non-air-con).

By car
From Bangkok, take Highway 4 (Buddha Monthon Road) through Phetchaburi and Chumphon Provinces and then drive on to Highways 41 and 401 to Surat Thani Province. From Surat Thani, visitors can take their cars to Ko Samui through a vehicle ferry at Donsak Pier. The trip takes 1.30 hours.

By rail
Several trains leave Bangkok's Hualamphong Station for Surat Thani daily. The trip takes about 12 hours. Train / bus / ferry combination tickets are also available. For more information, call Hualamphong Railway Station, 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020.

From Surat Thani to Ko Samui

1.Express boat
1.1 An express ferry boat of Songserm Travel departs from Tha Thong Pier in Surat Thani at 8.00 a.m. and arrives at Na Thon Pier in Samui at 10.30 a.m. every day. For the return trip, the boat leaves Na Thon Pier at 2.00 p.m. and reaches Tha Thong at 4.30 p.m.

1.2 Express boats of Seatran Express operate three times a day between Ban Don and Ko Samui. Departure times are 7.00 a.m., 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. The trip takes two hours.

2. Ferry Boats of Seatran
Seatran Ferry, which can accommodate 60 cars and 400 passengers, operates several trips per day between Don Sak (Surat Thani) and Ko Samui, from 5.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. The trip takes about 1.30 hours.

3. Night ferryA slow night ferry leaves Ban Don Pier nightly at 11 p.m. and reaches Na Thon Pier at Samui around 5 a.m. (6 hours). For the return trip, the boat leaves Na Thon Pier at 9.00 p.m. and arrives at Ban Don Pier at 4.00 a.m. (7 hours).

Getting around Ko Samui

Samui is an explorer's dream to discover something new. Offering 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, Samui is best seen by taking songthaews (red local bus) which operate around the island. The fare starts at 20 baht, depending on the distance of the destination.

By TaxiFor many reasons, the least suitable for exploring, but the safest and easiest way to get to the destination is to go by taxi. The official taxi service time is until 9.00 p.m. Visitors are recommended to negotiate strongly for the fare and keep in mind that negotiation should always be dome before boarding. Note that the fare at night will be escalated.

By a rented Jeep 
Rented Jeep, 4WD, is available from many family-owned agencies and some well known large companies. The vehicle will serve as the basic means of transportation taking visitors around many hillside natural and man-made attractions which are easily accessible from the ring road. Some of these vehicles come with insurance, but the coverage is limited. Always ask for details first. The minimum price is from 800 baht.

By MotorcycleA more flexible way to get around the island, rented motorcycle costs approximately 200 baht / day. Beware, as roads other than the main roads on Ko Samui are quite rough in some parts.

Getting to nearby Islands from Samui

1. Ko Pha-ngan
1.1 Na Thon Pier (Ko Samui) -- Thong Sala Pier (Ko Pha-ngan)

Songserm Travel Co. operates ferry boats and express boats between Na Thon Pier on Ko Samui and Thong Sala Pier on Ko Pha-ngan, four times a day. The trip takes about 45 minutes for express boats, and one hour for ordinary ferry boats.

1.2 Bo Phut (Ko Samui) -- Hat Rin (Ko Pha-ngan)
There is a ferry boat leaving Bo Phut for Ko Pha-ngan twice daily at 9.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. The return trips depart Hat Rin on Ko Pha-ngan at 10.30 a.m. and 3.30 p.m.

2. Ang Thong Islands
Visitors can hire a boat on Ko Samui to Ang Thong. The charge depends on the boat size and number of passengers. The trip takes 1.30 hours. It is also possible to join a full-day excursion organized by tour operators in Ko Samui.

3. Ko Tao
Boat services for Ko Tao are available at Na Thon Pier of Ko Samui.

Activities in Koh Samui

Elephant Trekking

Several companies around the island run elephant ride operations and many can be booked through travel agents, often in combination with all day tours of the interior. Over fifty elephants call Samui home and all work in the tourist industry. A typical 'trek' lasts between 15 minutes and half an hour and is an excellent way to see the island's jungle clad interior. Some companies take visitors up into the hills for magnificent views over the island, others go through waterfalls, where riders run the risk of receiving a cooling shower. Chaweng Elephant Trekking (Tel. 077 231 210), Living Thailand (Tel. 077 418 680) and Island Safari Co (Tel. 077 230 567) are all recommended. NB: Some companies keep gibbons and other endangered species as pets to entertain visitors - as well as being cruel, this is illegal in Thailand and should not be encouraged.

Bungy Jump
Not for the fainthearted! Samui bungy jump is located next to the reggae pub, which is handy for those needing some dutch courage before hand! The 50 metre jump is held over a large specially designed plunge pool. The brave (or insane!) among you can choose between individual jumps, tandem jumps, and even submersion jumps where you get dunked in the pool! Samui Bungy offers a free pick up service from your hotel. Soi Reggae, Chaweng Beach. Telephone: 07 741-425-2

Canopy Adventures
Koh Samui now proudly boasts its own three screen cinema in the Tesco lotus complex. Showing both Western and Thai movies, the cinema is modern and is proving a big hit with the locals. Reasonably priced and with comfortable and spacious seating, the cinema is the same as any in the west. The only notable difference is everyone standing during the national anthem which plays before each feature. As with all Asian cinemas the air conditioning is set at freezing so remember to bring a jumper! Tesco Lotus Complex, Route 4169, Chaweng beach. Telephone: 07 742-729-9

Elephant Trekking
Several companies around the island run elephant ride operations and many can be booked through travel agents, often in combination with all day tours of the interior. Over fifty elephants call Samui home and all work in the tourist industry. A typical 'trek' lasts between 15 minutes and half an hour and is an excellent way to see the island's jungle clad interior. Some companies take visitors up into the hills for magnificent views over the island, others go through waterfalls, where riders run the risk of receiving a cooling shower. Chaweng Elephant Trekking (Tel. 077 231 210), Living Thailand (Tel. 077 418 680) and Island Safari Co (Tel. 077 230 567) are all recommended. NB: Some companies keep gibbons and other endangered species as pets to entertain visitors - as well as being cruel, this is illegal in Thailand and should not be encouraged.

Football Golf
For a fun day out have a game of Football Golf in Choeng Mon beach. The first of its kind in Asia the course is well designed and well shaded. After a relaxing stroll around the 18 hole course enjoy a free drink supplied by the owner. Open every day from 9.30am till 6.30pm. Choeng Mon, Next to the Imperial Boathouse Hotel. Telephone: 09 771-749-8

Go-Karts
If your competitive spirit rears its head while you're on Koh Samui then why not go Go-karting for the day? Suitable for both beginners and more experienced riders the course is fun and fast. Samui Go-Kart provides everything from instructions to helmets, all you have to do is jump in and go. The course is open from 9am to 9pm every day and located just west of Bophut of the main ring road. Route 4169, Bophut beach. Telephone: 07 742-509-7

Horse Riding
Why not explore Samui's beautiful scenery from a different angle? Instead of watching the Samui scenery whiz by from the back of a motorbike, slow down and really enjoy the view on horseback. Ride on Ranch offers several different guided tours around Samui's beaches and jungles. The European standard horses are calm and well trained and all equipment is provided. For package deals and more information, telephone: 09 972-424-1. Route 4169, near Tesco Lotus, Chaweng.

Kiteboarding
The worlds latest aquatic craze has arrived on Samui in style - located at the Samui Orchid Resort in Laem Set, the Koh Samui Kite Centre uses the latest Airrush equipment and offers a full range of kiteboarding courses for all ability levels. The location also benefits from a shallow sandy bay, which is perfect for beginners. November to March when the north easterly to easterly wind blows between 8 to 20 knots is probably the best time to go. Tel. 077 424 017-501.

Mountain Biking
One alternative way to explore Koh Samui is by bicycle. Red Bicycle in Lamai offers guided tours around the island, bike rentals and sales. They stock quality bicycle brands such as Cannondale and provide all equipment from helmets to kneepads. All trips are led by experienced guides fully trained in first aid response. Red Bicycle also insures all rides and riders, which is reassuring as Samui's roads are renown for being some of the most dangerous in Thailand. Route 4169, Lamai beach. Telephone 07 723-213-6

Muay Thai (Thai Boxing)
Thailand's beloved national sport Muay Thai, is taken very seriously throughout the country and Koh Samui is no exception! Although Thai boxing is regarded as the worlds most dangerous martial art it is surprisingly graceful to watch. Chaweng stadium near the Reggae Pub is the biggest on Samui and hosts all the major fights on the island. Fights are usually held twice a week on Monday and Friday nights but during peak season an additional Sunday night fight is often held. Fights start at 9pm and the evening normally lasts around three hours, with as many as ten smaller bouts before the main fight. If you only want to catch the main event then drop in for an hour around 10/10.30pm. The atmosphere in Chaweng Stadium is excellent with a live commentator and traditional Thai music - although some find the noise a bit overpowering! Both Thai and foreign fighters compete in the ring, most are professionals, all are pretty entertaining. Chaweng Stadium charges an entry fee and you can chose between a ringside table or a seat in the surrounding stands. Soi Reggae, Chaweng Beach.

Golf in Koh Samui
From mini-golf to the real thing. The island's first and currently only, professional standard golf course, opened in 2003 offering great golf and a gorgeous location in the hills above Maenam . If you prefer something less challenging, there's always mini-golf...

Koh Samui Diving
Ko Samui offers high-quality diving most of the year, though it's probably best avoided during the monsoon in November and December. It is still possible to take shore-based courses during this time however. The four-day PADI Open Water Course is very competitively priced compared to elsewhere in the world and there's a wide range of schools to choose from. The most famous dive site in the area is Sail Rock, North of Ko Pha Ngan, which has an 18m natural rock chimney swimthrough and is a good place to see whale sharks. Other sites can be found in the North of Anthong Marine National Park and close to the Gulf's diving mecca Ko Tao, which has 21 sites off its shores. A day's diving from Samui should get to two to three sites.

Koh Samui Sailing
Following the success of the Samui Regatta, currently in its second year, the island's sailing scene has come on in leaps and bounds. The surrounding islands in the Ang Thong National Park make an ideal sailing playground and good all-year-round breezes and challenging westerly winds between May and November make great sailing conditions. Several boat companies operate charters...

Samui Quad Bikes and 3D Paintball
Children of all ages can play war at 3D Paintball's huge, sculpted terrain in the hills above Maenam. The same location is also used for bouncing around on quad bikes, though they are strictly for adults only. Alternatively, for a full day out, the management will organise a variety of adventure games deep in the jungle.  So if you like the sound of 'transferring the president', 'capturing the flag', 'village attack' or 'smugglers vs. police' this could be an ideal day out. Standard paintball guns are free - customers only pay for pellets, which are 3 Baht each. There's also a selection of BB Guns for hire, which are moulded to look menacingly like M16s and Kalashnikovs. Free hotel transfer. Maenam, Tel. 01 371 0744

Shooting Gallery
While not everyones cup of tea, if your idea of holiday heaven is letting a few rounds fly then Koh Samui has the place for you! The shooting range has fully trained instructors and a wide range of guns to choose from. They also provide live ammunition. The range is open from 9am to 6pm every day. Reasonably priced too - doesn't Samui just blow you away? Route 4169, Chaweng Beach

Tattoo
There are many tattooists on Samui offering work of varying quality. Although most tend to offer reasonable standards of health and hygiene, its worthwhile making a thorough (sober) assessment of the studio before going under the needle. Thailand's infamous monks tattoos, which supposedly give the recipient magical powers, are available occasionally at Big Buddha temple - though recent reports suggest that they are a number of health risks associated with this practice, so extreme caution should be exercised.

For anyone seeking a Western tattooist, Tattoo Mania in Bophut Fisherman's Village can be recommended. Run by French ex-pat Esther, who completed a four-year apprenticeship with Khun Nong, one of the island's best Thai tattoo artists, Tattoo Mania offers a full range of traditional, tribal and modern designs, all individually tailored to personal specifications after a consultation with Esther. Bophut Fisherman's Village, Tel. 09 868 2558.

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