This is the post I’ve been waiting for a long time, the post about the Thai islands. Oh boy, what was it fun to write this one. Looking through my photos of Thailand and wondering myself back at that white beach… In this post I’ll give you my tips on Eat, Sleep and Do in the Samui Archipelago, a group of islands south of Bangkok. The archipelago consists of 80 islands of which only six are inhabited. In this post I will talk about the three well-known islands: Ko Tao, Ko Phangan and Ko Samui. If you have any tips on these islands, let me know in the comments!
To start with the best: the tiny island of Ko Tao, the most beautiful island of the Samui Archipelago. The atmosphere of this island is simply relaxed. No mass tourism, but just here and there casual back- and flashpackers alternated with some locals. For me it was love at first sight. Ko Tao is truly amazing. One charming bay after the other and all filled with white sand and clear blue water. We didn’t do anything else than just swim, snorkel and watching the sunset on the beach. Ko Tao is also the place to learn more about diving. At almost every streetcorner there is a diving school, diving shop and a GoPro-shop.
Eat: I love Italian food and on Ko Tao there are suprisingly many Italian restaurants. A good choice is Porto Bello near Sairee Beach. Pizzas, pastas, mozzarella and more. Yum… And for dessert you can buy a delicious banana pancake at one of the many street food carts.
Sleep: on Ko Tao you have many diving resorts, most of them are located at the Mae Haad Pier. We chose a hotel little bit further away: Pinnacle Resort. An idyllic hotel high up into the mountains and near the small beach of June Juea. Straight out of your room or bungalow you’ve got a splendid panoramic view over the Gulf of Thailand.
Do: make sure you pay a visit to the neighbouring island Ko Nang Yuan (entrance fee: 100 Baht, plastic not allowed). This island consists of three islands that are connected to each other with a beach. I consider Ko Nang Yuan thé best snorkel spot in Thailand. The water is indescribable clear and the fish are right up on the surface. And don’t forget to climb up to the viewpoint of the island. It’s here and there pretty steep, but definitely worth it. At the top you’ve got a panoramic view over the other parts of the island.
Ko Phangan is one of the popular islands of Thailand. This island is known for its Full Moon party at the Haat Rin beach. Obviously this party is organised at full moon which usually takes place at the beginning of each month. But in the meantime there are also other parties, like the Half Moon party and the Black Moon party. But Ko Phangan has also more to offer. For example, you could go to Chaloklum beach which used to be a tiny fishing-village. If you visit it nowadays you’ll still see the fishing boats.
Eat: in the area of Thong Nai Pan you can go to the Beach Club or The Stonehouse. Both organize extensive beach barbecues with steak, fish, vegetables and potatoes.
Sleep: Ko Phangan has many hotels, resorts and bungalows. We chose a hotel with a view, the romantic Panviman Resort. This hotel is located on a cliff and gives a stunning view over the Thong Nai Pan bay. The fun part of this area is that it’s a perfect mix of travellers, backpackers and locals.
Do: rent a scooter or get a taxi and go to Ko Ma. A tiny peninsula that is connected to the main land by a small strip of sand. Depending on the tide, you could either walk or take a boat to this island.
Ko Samui is the largest island of the archipelago and I have to say my least favorite island. I just didn’t click with this island. Maybe I was spoiled by the previous islands. I was used to small bays, white sand, now and then a beach bar and a calm atmosphere. Ko Samui was exactly the opposite. Large beaches filled with exclusive resorts and noisy beach clubs (i.e. Chaweng and Lamai beach). Streets full with flashy neon signs, ‘sexy bars’, shops with tailor-made suits and elderly single English men. And everywhere street dogs. In my eyes Ko Samui is the same as Bangkok, only smaller.
What’s also striking about Ko Samui are the temples. For instance the Wat Khunaram, where you could see the mummified monk. Probably you will ask yourself the question, why should I do this? Well in Thailand this monk is sacred. In 1973 this man died during a meditation session. To honor him they mummified him in a lotus pose and put him in a glass box. Today it’s a pilgrimage for many Thai buddhists. Other interesting temples are the Wat Phra Yai, dominated by a 12 meter high sitting buddha, and the Wat Plai Laem, dominated by a Chinese goddess of mercy with 18 arms. These temples aren’t the most authentic ones in Thailand. They are fairly modern temples with flashy colors and a commercial atmosphere.
Eat: on Ko Samui you could choose any dish and any kitchen you want. My advice: go for an Indian or Moroccan restaurant. Spicy and tasty food ánd also easy for vegetarians. Take for example the Kasbah Marrakech restaurant near Lamai beach. The mystical interior with the Arabic lamps and windows really reminds you of Morocco.
Sleep: on Ko Samui we chose a non-standard hotel. We chose Varinda Garden Bungalows. This accomodation consists of jungle bungalows, alternated by tiny bridges and green arbors with shell curtains. Along the way you will see inspirational quotes like ‘Always stay up and never let life bring you down’ and ‘You’re going places‘. Cats and dogs play with each other on the courtyard and the receptionist preforms some yoga exercises at night. As you can see, not your typical hotel, but hey… why not?
Do: be sure to visit the Ang Thong National Marine Park. Once a heaven for pirate junks, then a Thai navy base, but now a nature protected area. The National Park consist of 40 small jungle islands and is home to dolphins, wild pigs and pythons. A visit will take you along the limestone rock formations, hidden lagoons and perfect white beaches. Highlights are the emerald Talai Nai lagune and the 400 meter high viewpoint at Ko Wua Talap beach. An exhausting climb, but an absolute must-visit.
The Samui Archipelago, a true paradise. The island of Ko Tao and the Ang Thong National Marine Park are simply amazing. But there are also some less amazing features, like the island of Ko Samui. But still, if you’re searching for a quick island get-away from Bangkok, I would recommend these islands. White sand, small bays, beach barbecues and plenty of snorkling opportunities.
Have you ever been to the Samui Archipelago?