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.
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.
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!
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.
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.