Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Samui – Thailand: top 1o things to see and do

Located off the coast of Surat Thani, Samui can be reached via a 2-hour ferry. It’s one of Thailand’s most popular island resort destinations, and due to its location on the Gulf of Thailand, it has overtaken Phuket in tourist numbers since the tsunami of 2004. With abundant wildlife, spectacular corals and an intense party scene, Samui has something for every visitor.

Temple of the Big Buddha
Wherever they go in Thailand, most tourists enjoy visiting the areas most well-known temples. Wat Phra Yai, or the Temple of the Big Buddha, is Samui’s most popular sacred site, with its 12 metre Buddha which was built in 1972. The temple is located just off the main island on a smaller island that can be reached via a connecting bridge. Worshipers and visitors alike are expected to take off their shoes as well as to wear long pants and long sleeves.

Partying and nightlife
In addition to the Full Moon parties on a neighbouring island, there are plenty of other nightly parties to found on Samui. The red-light district is at Lamai Beach, with more reputable clubs at Chaweng, where you’ll also find restaurants with live house bands that play well into the night. Big Buddha Beach offers the most relaxed atmosphere and many of the bars and restaurants here are owned and operated by expatriates who schedule events that may appeal to western tastes.

Viewing wildlife
Snake farms, aquariums, tigers and butterflies: there’s a facility that houses almost every size and specimen of wildlife on Samui. There’s a crocodile farm which hosts daily man versus beast wrestling matches. Probably the most extreme event takes place is at the buffalo stadiums, where hordes of spectators watch as gory fights between two angry buffalos take place. Another buffalo centre across town glorifies the hard-working, peaceful side of these animals with daily agricultural exhibitions and cart rides.

Full Moon parties
Many tourists come to Samui exclusively for the high-energy parties held in honour of the full moon on the adjacent island of Pha Ngan. These parties are not for the faint of heart, and those who wish to join in the hedonism have to board a small boat that taxis passengers back and forth between the two islands. Half Moon Parties have also been added to the repertoire. Participants are warned to be careful boarding shuttle boats that are already overloaded with passengers, as overzealous boat operators will seldom turn down another paying passenger.

Eating out
The calibre of cuisine on Samui is as reputable as any major destination in Thailand with the added benefit of the freshest seafood money can buy. Beachfront restaurants offer an amazingly relaxed atmosphere, sometimes right on the sand, where patrons can enjoy some fabulous local food at moderate prices. The most authentic food can be had for almost nothing at the roadside vendors and noodle shops. Meanwhile, tastes of home can be had all over the major tourist areas as well, with a broad spectrum of international cuisine available.

Daytrip south
Samui’s south side stands in stark contrast to the highly developed, northern part of the island. Here, you’ll find secluded beaches, quiet fishing villages that are mostly inhabited by a predominately Muslim population and rowed groves of coconut palms. There is an aquarium that warrants a visit as well as some interesting temples and chedis (pagodas).

It seems like almost every daytrip worth taking on the island of Samui is to one of its many spectacular beaches. The variety of water sports makes Lamai Beach popular for families, while the luxurious accommodation and seclusion of Choeng Mon makes for a more romantic stay. Ao Tong Takian is also known as Silver Beach in light of its shimmering sand and clear waters. Chaweng Beach is the most popular and can become quite crowded during peak seasons however it has become popular for a reason and is a must-see for all visitors to Samui.

Advanced and beginner divers head to Samui to capitalise on the island’s coral reefs and hospitable diving scene. The most enthusiastic divers may wish to head to Koh Tao, which isn’t that far away and proudly boasts the best diving conditions in all of Thailand. Those staying closer to Samui may wish to visit Ang Thong National Marine Park, which is a wonderful nature reserve spread across 40 islands. Meanwhile, those trying out their fins for the first time can take lessons at one of the many dive shops at Lamai, Chaweng or Bo Phut.

Adventure sports
If the adrenaline produced from the constant parties isn’t enough, try boosting it with a bungee jump during daylight hours. This popular leap can be taken in Chawang near the Reggae Bar. Whole families will enjoy go-karting or elephant trekking through the jungle. Another adventurous offering is the Samui Shooting Range in Chawang, which is open every day.

Many tourists enjoy visiting the waterfalls of Samui, which allow for a cooling freshwater swim and make a good spot for a picnic. Na Muang Fall 1 cascades down a cliff more than 120 feet tall, while its counterpart, Na Muang Fall 2, is a popular spot for trekking troupes and caravans of elephant riders. Hin Lat Fall is just south of Na Thon and boasts magnificent scenery and an abundance of plant life.

About the Author

Samui island in Thailand is a favourite relaxation choice for travel writer Andy Burrows, he recommends resources online;
Samui web travel guide
Beaches of Samui

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