Things to do, Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui is known as Coconut Island by locals due to the abundance of coconut trees on the island. Just a 45 minute flight from Bangkok this island often features on the itinerary of travellers in search of idyllic beaches and laid back vibe. While some areas around Chaweng Beach are slightly ruined by rowdy tourists, but there are plenty of quieter discoveries to be enjoyed all round the island. Taxis are operated by a central system and prices are high (unlike Bangkok) instead travel by the shared open-air taxi buses (known as songthaew) that drive round the island, expect to pay 100 BHT per person per ride.

To stay

Library Hotel – the only Design Hotel on the island this minimalist and chic book-themed accommodation is luxurious and innovative in equal measure. It has wonderful facilities and great food on site but is best known for its striking ruby red tiled pool.

Banyan Tree – Isolated and extraordinary, Banyan Tree Samui is a once in a lifetime place to stay. Private villas cling to the hillside, each with an infinity pool and jaw-dropping views of the surrounding area. The rainforest spa is a reason alone to visit, set aside at least three hours to immerse yourself completely in the unrivalled facilties and treatments.

To eat

Romantic Bamboo – Found on Lamai beach this unpretentious and charming restaurant offers delicious Italian and Thai food and is a favourite for tourists and locals alike. Customers always comment that the owners are particularly friendly and welcoming.

Drink Gallery – Part of the Library Hotel complex this stylish contemporary eatery and bar offers a range of delicious Asian and continental dishes. Particularly impressive though is the varied and inventive cocktail list which features a range of tasty concoctions. The Bourbon based ‘Suave and Singular’ and ‘Vintage’ were our favourites, perfectly balanced and very easy to drink!

To see

Big Buddha (Wat Phra Yai) – Visible from the plane as you land into Samui this iconic landmark is a popular tourist attraction. Built in 1970s this smiling gold Buddha sits at the top of a temple, he looks very majestic amongst the surrounding run down area. Entry is free but remember to dress modestly.

Wat Plai Laem and Wat Laem Suwannaram – A short distance from the Big Buddha you will find these colourful, newly constructed temples. Marvel at the ornate and decorative buddhas, my favourite was the one we affectionately named Big Baby.

Moulin Rouge show – if you are intrigued about the Lady boy culture but don’t want to support the seedy strip and sex shows, visit Moulin Rouge on Chaweng strip to see a flamboyant cabaret performance celebrating this third gender. Expect big costumes and even bigger egos.

Chaweng Stadium – this is the place to see Muay Thai boxing, the popular but brutal Thai sport. Fights are hosted here every Friday and Saturday night, tickets start at £30 and can be bought through most hotels and hostels.

To do

Fisherman’s Village – this is a must for anyone visiting the island. From 5pm onwards on Fridays this lovely market sells homemade souvenirs and delicious street food. I’d recommend arriving just before dark so you can enjoy sunset by the pier with a Chang beer in hand.

Tour to Ang Thong Marine Park – There are plenty of tours to choose from when staying at Samui. We considered a trip to Koh Tao but were advised this excursion is best for keen divers. Instead we visited the awe-inspiring Marine Park, one hour away by speed boat with Koh Samui Tours. The day out costs £40 per person and includes hotel transfers, snorkelling, kayaking, lunch at a local village and water and snacks throughout the day. For a more upmarket option go with the highly recommended, luxurious 100 Degrees East which will cost you £90 per person for a similar, but more exclusive itinerary.

Maltby Street Market, London

Markets are popping up all over the place; every weekend come rain or shine Londoners take to the streets to spend their hard earned cash on artisan bread, exotic cups of coffee and homemade cakes. Why are these alternative shopping streets becoming so popular? Perhaps it’s the original, one-off produce, it feels special buying from a stallholder with a story, certainly beats screaming at those Tescos self-service machines.

Maltby Street Market is fifteen minutes walk from the famous and crowded Borough Market and is busy with locals rather than hordes of tourists looking for photo opportunities. The result is a much more relaxed and natural environment to explore. The market takes place every Saturday and Sunday beneath the railway arches near Tower Bridge. Artisan food and drink producers line the narrow road to sell their often beautiful handcrafted products. Most of it is for consuming onsite, while wandering, but you can also take away lovely gifts like bottles of delicious olive oil or spicy chorizo jam.

The stallholders will happily chat about their wares, explaining the background and origin of the ingredients. It all looks and smells delicious but I have a few favourites to recommend. Start with a strong flat white from Craft Coffee or if you are after something a little stronger Little Bird Gin serves up wonderful cocktails with their London made gin. For food Monty’s Deli ‘Jewish soul food’ is renowned, try the flavoursome pastrami or salt beef sandwiches, pricey but huge and very yummy. Bad Brownie Company will satisfy a sweet craving, and for a beautiful bunch of flowers stop by and see Jemima in the Woods.

Whatever you do at Maltby Street Market you definitely won’t leave empty handed or feeling hungry.

Boom Burger, Portobello

The burger craze seems to be unstoppable and now West London is muscling in on the action. With the Caribbean population hosting the Notting Hill  carnival every August, it seems fitting to find Boom Burger in Portobello. The place instantly exudes the laid back Caribbean vibe, with reggae music blasting from the speakers and a Jamaican reminiscent red, green and yellow sign. Inside, the place is little more than a takeaway cafe although the food very much proves its value to London’s most famous market street.

As I learnt on my trip to St Lucia and Grenada, rum punch is more popular than water as a refreshing thirst quencher. We were treated to Boom Burger’s version as an aperitif as soon as we sat down. Alongside the punch a deep maroon Sorrel (a Caribbean fruit) drink was less recognisable, I winced at the first sip but soon began to enjoy the acquired sour taste.

Greasy and delightful starters arrived in coloured plastic baskets… Jerk chicken wings coated in a thick aromatic spicy and salty marinade and soft and fragrant fish cakes. Both were delicious, though we particularly enjoyed the tender flavoursome wings – they would make the perfect snack to munch on while wandering round the stalls of the market.

As recommended we tried a Boom burger and a Jerk boom, a chicken variety with an exceptionally sweet mango and pawpaw sauce. Both were delicious and the meat was of noticeably fine quality. The beef was coarsely ground and assembled into a messy patty with sloppy melted cheese and bacon. The chicken was great too – a successful alternative to the classic beef burger, the contrast of the salty chicken and peppery rocket, fruity fried plantain and extra sweet sauce was a marvel.

It can be stressful trying to find a filling and flavoursome snack in a busy marketplace… Portobello sellers and buyers will be grateful for this top notch Caribbean burger shack.

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