The island of Koh Samui is famed for soft, white sand, picture-perfect, turquoise sea and, of course, moonlit beach parties. Lines of coconut palms back these sandy stretches, while the waves of the Gulf of Thailand lap the shores. If there’s such thing as paradise, it’d probably look something like Koh Samui’s coastline. There are quiet, secluded beaches that are almost entirely deserted, and buzzing sandy spots that host nightly parties, so whatever beach vibe you’re after, you’re sure to find it on Koh Samui.
Chaweng is Koh Samui’s most popular beach, and it comes well-stocked with everything you could need – including bars, restaurants, watersports, street food stalls, and even massage parlours. It’s all set on a five-kilometre stretch of powdery, white sand, bordered by picturesque craggy headlands. The water here is good for snorkelling, too – it’s a pretty, light blue, and there’s a reef to explore just off the shore.
Just off the southwest coast of Koh Samui, in the Samui archipelago, you’ll find Koh Matsum. Despite being only a 30-minute longtail boat ride from the fishing port of Thong Krut, this is an island the world has all but forgotten. Koh Matsum’s unspoilt beaches will have you feeling like a castaway, as they’re pretty secluded. The hourglass-fine sand is backed by green forests, and there are colourful coral reefs to snorkel over.
Maenam Walking Street market comes alive at 5pm on Thursday evenings with stalls and live music. Souvenir stands sit next to street food vendors among a riot of colours, sounds, and smells. Wander between the stalls while you sip on a fresh fruit cocktail, and haggle for items like clothing, handmade wooden keepsakes and jewellery. Follow it with a steaming plate of grilled octopus with sticky rice.
If markets aren’t your thing, head to Chaweng Beach Road. There’s a good range of little shops lining the street. Here, you can tick souvenirs, beach essentials, and sportswear off your shopping list. Unique bikini designs and bargain snorkelling equipment are up for grabs, too.
You’ll find The Wharf Samui at the edge of the fisherman’s villlage in Bophut, on the north coast of the island. It offers a completely different shopping experience to the markets and the walking streets most commonly associated with Koh Samui. Mediterranean-style boutiques and local designer shops sit next to teahouses and seafront coffee lounges. There’s also a spa if you fancy some pampering, plus a selection of restaurants.
There aren’t many places that boast sunsets as beautiful as Koh Samui. And the good news is that there are plenty of spots you can visit to just sit back and watch the sky change between hues of purple, pink and orange as the sun sinks into the ocean. Buy a few bottles of beer from a local shop and find a spot on the sand, or grab yourself a beanbag at one of the trendy beach bars and sip on a cocktail.
Chaweng Beach is the unchallenged party centre in Koh Samui. Some say it’s the equivalent of Phuket’s Patong Beach because you’ll find the same collection of bars, clubs, beach parties, and food stalls lining the streets. It’s got all the makings of a good night out on the island.
Coconuts are a staple ingredient in Thailand – the country grows over 800 million of them a year, so it’s no surprise that they appear in the recipes of many Thai dishes. For a sweet treat, try coconut in ice-cream form. It’s made from a mix of coconut milk and palm sugar, and street vendors often serve it straight from a coconut shell.
Tuck into a plate of crispy-fried dough sticks, dipped into delicious pandan custard. This unique, leaf-coloured sauce is made by adding pandan leaves to a coconut custard, and it tastes better than it looks. Thai people love using pandan leaves in their cooking, as it gives the food a unique colour and a sweet, earthy fragrance.
Khao man gai is one of the most popular street foods in Thailand. A mound of jasmine rice is served with steamed chicken, a spicy side sauce and a chicken broth. You’ll find it on street-side stalls and it’s simple, but oh so tasty.
If you think about Thai food, chances are that curries will be one of the first things you come up with. Gaeng moo, a pork curry, is a Koh Samui favourite. The sauce is rich and creamy, and you’ll often find chunks of banana mixed in with the pork for some extra sweetness.
If you fancy a snack to go with your bottle of beer, Samui people will recommend you opt for the Thai version of British pork scratchings. Bplaa likun is a small, anchovy-like fish, fried until crispy and dished up with a lime, ginger and chilli sauce.
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