Trip to Koh Samui, Thailand - May 2007

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A short summary
Nikki and Gard on Chaweng beachThis is the second part of the Thailand trip report from May 2007. Please step back to the first part concerning our stay in Bangkok. When we went to Thailand we decided to split it into two: one city vacation (Bangkok) and one beach and relaxation trip. For the beach destination we decided to go to Samui again to see how it has changed since our last trip there back in 1998. So this part will focus on our stay at Samui in Thailand from May 15th – May 22nd 2007. Please get in touch on if you have any questions or comments. All pictures are taken by Nikki and Gard with our Canon Powershot S1 IS camera. Click here to see more pictures from Samui and click here to read a review of Kandaburi, the hotel we stayed at.


Planning the trip
Welcome to SamuiIn the months leading up to the trip we searched the net for good deals on tickets to Thailand. In the end we found a ticket at the Norwegian online travel agency and the ticket was just about 6000 kroner (about 1200 USD) per person which is quite a good price for a round trip to Thailand from Norway. We also decided that we wanted to check out Samui again to see how that had changed in the nearly 10 years since we were there last. To find hotels I decided to send out requests to various hotels where I asked them if they could give us a good deal as I would write a review to post on this page. We ended up booking a room at Kandaburi in Samui. We bought the plane tickets from Bangkok to Samui kinda late so I'm not sure we got the best price. It cost 7800 THB per person for a round trip (about 235 USD).

Map of Thailand

Map of Thailand. Map provided by


The trip begins / arriving at Samui
Airport bus at Samui airportOn Tuesday May 15th we checked out of the hotel in Bangkok to go to the airport. The taxi to the Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi Airport cost 350 Baht (about 11 USD) and we checked in to fly Bangkok Airways to Samui. Bangkok Airways has lots of flights to Samui each day so getting a ticket should not be a big problem. After we had checked in we waited in Bangkok Airways boutique lounge where it was possible to get a light snack, some soft drinks and there were even a few PC’s with internet connection. The terminals at Samui airportThe flight to Samui took just over an hour and it is fascinating to land at this island as the airport is tiny. In the middle of all the coconut palms there is a runway and the terminals are not more than a couple of open air “huts”. We were taking from the aircraft to the terminal with small “buses” and we just picked up the suitcases there. We paid 600 Baht (about 18 USD) for a minibus into Chaweng beach for 4 adults and two kids. It is not very far to Chaweng but when you have suitcases and two kids it is not like it is tempting to walk :-). The reception at Kandaburi hotel was great: we got a cool soft drink, a cooled down wet cloth to cool down our faces while the paperwork was done. You can read more about the Kandaburi hotel here.


Note: At this time Bangkok Airways was the only airline operating to Samui. But I think that you can also fly Thai Airways to Samui now.


Around the island in a jeep – Funny tours
Our ride for the day during the Funny ToursWe decided that we couldn’t just relax by the pool and on the beach every day so we agreed to take a tour together around the island. So one morning we got up early to join a tour with the company Funny Tours at 9 am. We booked in through the travel center at the Kandaburi hotel and we had to pay 1500 Baht per adult (about 45 USD) and 1250 Baht for the each of the kids. When they came to pick us up they arrived in an open 4X4 jeep and at first we thought they were just picking us up to drive us to a place where we would join a larger group. But I guess we should have read that brochure better as the jeep was our transportation for the rest of the day :-)


Grandpa rock at SamuiWe started out by driving south to Lamai beach and our first stop was at the beach where you can see the Grandpa and Grandma rocks (also known as Hin Ta and Hin Ya). These are rock formations that...well, if you use just a bit of imagination they look like the male and female genitals. That allows for quite a lot of fun of course when you have a digital camera and a childish mind :-) But I don't think I want to post all the pictures we took at this place :-)


The mummified monk at SamuiAfter a few minutes on the beach we continued further south to check out the mummified monk that is on display at Wat Khunaram. The monk was Loung Pordaeng and when he died more than 20 years ago his body did not decompose. So he is still sitting in a meditating position to this day. It felt a bit morbid to look at this mummified monk but it seems like it is not just a tourist attraction but also a shrine for locals. I have talked about contrasts in Thailand before and in this place it was manifested in a pair of sunglasses put on the monks face.


Elephant show at SamuiWe continued our tour and the next stop on the list was at a crocodile and elephant park. First we saw a short “performance” by elephants and the audience could even sit on the elephants if they wanted to. The elephants were well trained to ask for money after the ride :-) We also got a demonstration on how they have used monkeys in the past in order to get the coconuts down from the palms. Elephant trekking at SamuiThe guys who were showing this to the group kept on saying "come closer" so all the people moved in. But when the monkey dropped the coconut it almost hit one of the kids in our group so be aware! There was also a proper elephant ride on the program but Nikki and I passed on this as we have tried it before back in 2002 when we went to the Krabi area. There were a few monkeys in chains at this place and I’m not sure how well these are treated. I always get a bit depressed of seeing stuff like this.


A sad monkey at SamuiWe moved on and soon we understood why a 4X4 was needed for this tour. We continued further in on the island on steep and bumpy roads. Our next stop of the program was to visit a waterfall. We had to walk about 10 minutes to get there and in a Norwegian context it was not much of a waterfall. But it was a stream with a few small natural pools where it was possible to take a dip. View of Samui from a peakI was tempted to jump into the water too as it was warm but it was quite crowded so we basically just chilled in the shades. After 30 minutes we continued our drive and we went further into the island and further up. We had lunch at a place with a great view and the food was included in the tour but we had to pay for the drinks. The food was OK and included tom kha gai, chicken in green curry etc. But it didn’t seem like they had used the best part of the chicken for making the food as there were lots of bones but hey, that is how you keep the cost down :-)


The Magical Garden that we visited on the Funny ToursWe continued once again and we made a stop at a park called Magical Garden. The place had lots of Buddha like figures hand carved in rock and it was quite cool and quiet as it was at one of the highest points on the island and in the shadows of the surrounding trees. Big Buddha at SamuiWe also made a stop at another great view point before we drove north on the island to the Bophut beach area to see the Big Buddha. This big sitting Buddha is a landmark and you can easily see it from the plane and if you arrive by boat to the north side of the island. We arrived back at the hotel around 4-5 PM and after a long day it was great to just jump into the pool and grab an ice cold Chang beer. It was a long day with lots of driving and lots of stops on the way but at least we did get to see a bit of the island.


Snorkelling around Koh Tao
The boat we used when snorkeling at Koh TaoOne of the fondest memories I have from our Thailand trip in 1998 was when we went on a snorkelling trip to Koh Tao. We took a small boat there and we were very impressed by all the colourful fish in the water, the nice beaches, the clear water etc. Since then we have enjoyed snorkelling whenever we go to warmer destinations and over the years we Nikki on the snorkeling trip to Koh Taohave snorkelled in Mexico, the Maldives, Malaysia etc. Due to this we had to try out the snorkelling at Koh Tao again to see how it had developed. When going to the travel center at the hotel there were a couple of options and we decided to go for a company called Seatran Discovery LINK. We paid 1700 Baht per person (about 50 USD) and we got picked up at 7.30 AM and got transferred to the pier on the Bophut beach. The boat was big and there was both an outside area to sit and an inside area that was freezing due to the air-con. The trip to Koh Tao took about 1 ½ hours with a short stop on Koh Phangan (famous for its full moon party) and we stopped at a place on the north side of the small island. On the way there were refreshment such as water, tea and coffee and there was a small kiosk where it was possible to buy other stuff.


Gard snorkeling at Koh TaoI was a bit surprised when we were informed that we would not get fins when snorkelling and that we had to put down a 1000 Baht deposit if you wanted to loan mask, snorkel and towel. As a person with a bit of previous experience I had brought my own mask and snorkel but I was counting on getting fins from the tour company but this was not a case. If you don’t have fins it gets a bit tricky when you want to dive down. The snorkelling was OK but nothing spectacular in any way. From what I had understood from the brochure we should have gotten 2 hours of snorkelling at this place but because we were behind schedule this was cut down to 1 hour. We had lunch on board the boat and we got served fried chicken, fried vegetables, rice, soup etc and the food was OK.


Arriving at Koh Nangyuan just outside Koh TaoFrom Koh Tao we went to the small islands of Koh Nangyuan and here we were set ashore and we had a couple of hours free time there. There is a 100 Baht entry fee on the island and this was included in the snorkelling trip package. But if you want to rent a chair and parasol you have to pay for that of course. On this island it was not allowed to bring fins for snorkelling The beach at Koh Nangyuan outside Koh Taobut it was possible to snorkel right of the beach even if this wasn’t extremely good. But this island is picturesque with its bright white coral beaches and jungle tops. I think you can even spend the night here if you want to as there were some small houses built on the one side of the beach. We were called back to the boat at about 2 PM but as the boat also acted as a regular ferry and had to make another stop at Koh Phangan we were not home until 5.30 PM. So to summarize it I guess I would say that the tour cost a bit, the info in the brochure was misleading, not a lot of time for snorkelling and the snorkelling itself was not that impressive.


Note: If you are going on a snorkelling trip I would recommend a t-shirt made for water sports, your own mask and snorkel, something to cover the head as you will get fried and lots of high sun factor sun cream on the back of your legs.


Same same but different
Chaweng beach at nightOver the years I have spoken to a lot of people and they have all said things like “Samui has changed so much and it is not worth going to these days”. But I didn’t feel that it had changed that much when we got there. The beach road going along Chaweng beach has now been tarred more or less properly compared to the last time we were there. Back then the road was basically a big mud hole every time rained. But apart from that the beach road remains and it is lined with restaurants, shops, bars etc. Of course bigger chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks have also moved in so there is something for everybody.


Reproducing art at a shop in SamuiThe shopping is mostly small shops selling various things. If you are looking for cheap art they can reproduce most paintings in no time. We ended up buying a couple of abstract oil paintings and they were just rolled up in a container for us. When we got back home we got them framed and they are now hanging in our living room :-) Getting around on Chaweng beach is pretty easy. You can basically walk to most places but if you are going from one end to the other you can also hike with one of the pickup taxis that drive back and forth. The prices varies according to how far you are going and I think we had to pay about 100 Baht per person to get from our hotel on the very north end of the beach to “downtown”


Relaxing by the pool and on the beach
The hotel pool at duskBut our main target and purpose of the trip to Samui was first of all to chill out and relax :-) So on some days we didn’t do much apart from relaxing by the pool or playing a bit in the water on the beach. On Norway’s constitution day (May 17th ) we just relaxed Chaweng beach outside our hotel Kandaburiby the pool and I was surprised that there was 2 full pages in the Bangkok Post about this. The beach was a bit disappointing at first as it was quite shallow outside the hotel and the sand felt a bit muddy once I got into the water. But once we walked a bit further out the water and sand was lovely and great for splashing around. Be careful as there are some areas with dead corals and it is not a good idea to walk on these barefoot.


Eating out on Samui
Gnocchi at Prego SamuiWe wanted to eat, drink and be merry so we went out to new places every night. The first place we tried out was the Italian restaurant Prego located right across the road from Amari Palm Reef Resort. This was a stylish place with cool décor. The menu was focused on Italian food so we had gnocchi, caprese salad, bruscetta, risotto alla Milanese, tiramisu - the works in other words. And on this side we had some good Italian wine :-) I’m not sure how much we paid but if you are into this kind of cuisine it is well worth trying out :-)


Traditional Thai dancing at Kandaburi SamuiWe also tried eating at our hotel Kandaburi one night as they had a barbeque buffet night with Thai dancing. So we paid 750 Baht per person (23 USD) and we had the choice of lots of various seafood such as barracuda, kingfisher, prawns, squid and an excellent salad. Another night we went to Budsaba Restaurant located at Muang Kulaypan Hotel. Masaman curry at KantaraThere were no one else there and the restaurant tables were just small open air wooden huts. This was a bit too rustic for us as it was a bit tricky to sit and with a few big beetles crawling around :-) Due to this we moved on to Kantara at the Blue Lagoon hotel. Here we had a meal consisting of masaman curry, chicken in hot basil (that was a bit on the boring side), tom kha gai etc. All in all a good meal and we paid 3000 Baht (90 USD) for 4 adults and 2 kids. After dinner we just walked back to our hotel on the beach in the dark. It is great being able to walk home barefoot on the sand.


The traditional Tom yam Goong at TangoThe following night we ate at a place called Tango not too far from Kantara. Here we had fried red snapper, prawns, yellow curry, tom yam goong, sweet basil and we paid 3200 Baht (about 97 USD) for 4 adults and 2 kids. After the dinner Nikki and I just strolled on the beach and we went to a beach bar where the drinks were 100 Baht per glass. So the prices of alcoholic drinks are quite reasonable compared to back home in Norway (that is actually quite an understatement :-).


A cold Chang beer is wonderful in the hot climate in ThailandNikki and I went out one night to have a meal on our own and we chose to go to a place called Leelavadee located at Baan Chaweng Beach Resort. The entrance to the restaurant was a bit hidden away when coming from the beach road (think going down dark alleys) but the restaurant itself was located right on the beach. But the food itself was good and we had tom yam goong (a favourite soup that should be a part of every Thai meal you have), spring rolls, chicken in curry etc. We paid about 1000 Baht (30 USD) for the meal and it also included Thai dancing. It was a bit hard to have a regular conversation with the music playing but hey, the dancing didn’t last that long.


Starter at Olivio at SamuiOn our last night on Samui we had another great Italian meal. This time at Olivio at Baan Haad Ngam Boutique Resort. It was just a stone throw further north on the beach from our hotel so once again we just walked over there on the beach. It was a pretty nice restaurant and we had good salads, osso bucco (veal shanks), tiramisu etc. The meal was 6000 Baht (180 USD) for 4 adults and 2 kids. Sitting outside enjoying the meal with the sound of the ocean was just wonderful.


Time to go home
On Monday May 21st it was time for Nikki and me to go home. The hotel taxi was 300 Baht for the short drive to the airport. The check in was fast and then we just had to wait at this tiny airport. There is a small duty free shop but I think it is better to shop at e.g. Bangkok airport :-) But we got some complimentary drinks and snacks while we were waiting.


Note: Tip! Remember there is a 200 Baht airport tax per person at the Koh Samui airport.


Walking on Chaweng beach at nightWe were the last ones to enter the Bangkok Airways plane and once we were inside the door closed behind us and the plane started moving before we had even found our seats. Nikki and I were giggling and were cracking jokes that obviously the flight was behind schedule. On our flight we flew right over Koh Tao and we could look down on where we had snorkelled a few days before while we were enjoying some ice cream. We landed in Bangkok in the evening and once again it showed that we were behind schedule as I have never experienced a plane travelling at that speed on the ground - I think the pilot was going for a world record :-)


Palm tree on Chaweng beachComing back to Samui was great fun. The last time we went there in 1998 we stayed at Fair House at the south end of the Chaweng beach. Yes, Chaweng beach has changed a little and it has gotten even more developed. Since we went there the last time we have been to some pretty amazing beach destinations such as Mexico, Malaysia, Maldives etc so our perception has also changed a bit. Samui is still a nice beach destination in the south of Thailand and due to the influx of tourist you can find nice hotels and good restaurants. But this also means that you can’t expect to be alone when you go to Chaweng beach...expect to meet hordes of other tourists. I was very disappointed by the snorkelling we did at Koh Tao as I had great expectations for it. But again I have to say that our perception have changed after travelling to the places mentioned above. But all in all: we did have a great and relaxing stay at Samui. It is still a good option if you are just looking for beach, relaxation and good food.

Some “useful” tips
So what do you need to bring to Thailand? And how do you plan a trip to Thailand? Here are some useful tips:

  • Wondering if it will rain in Thailand? Check out weatherbase to get some weather stats so you know what to expect. The wet season is roughly from May to November but it is warm all year round.

  • Here is a map of Koh Samui and a map of Chaweng beach

  • A good guidebook: yes, you can find a lot of useful info on the internet. But get a good guidebook with a comprehensive street map. Which one to buy is up to you :-)

  • Which forums to ask questions: Try TripAdvisor, Fodor’s, SlowTalk, Frommer’s and Travelers to Go!

  • Are you bringing a laptop? We did and it was great to use this to check out attractions and opening times, maps etc. There are wireless connections where you can buy surf time.

  • Do you wonder how far it is from one place to another in Bangkok? Why not use Google Earth/Google Maps to measure? I find this to be a great tool.

Feel free to move to the next section of this trip report to see more pictures taken at Samui.



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