When seeking out a location for our 2013 Christmas Holiday you might think we were a little strange that Koh Samui wasn’t our first choice. Our idea of Samui was an island with too many big fancy resorts, lots of shops and parties and not enough casual relaxing beach space. We enjoy the simple things when we travel to an island, we don’t expect much fan fare and love a bit of quiet seclusion away from the dramas of daily life. Our first pick was actually the gorgeous isolation of Koh Wai in the east of Thailand near Trat and Koh Chang. But sadly that and our second choice (A relaxing jungle escape) were fully booked. So in the end we chose Samui partly because a friend recommended a secluded bay and partly because they had a room we could book.
We were quietly surprised by Samui, yes it is big, has an airport, lots of shops and fancy resorts but it still feels like a relaxed and chilled out island. It wasn’t all high class frills, there were sandy streets and Thai street food. It was like a mix of a small Thai town and a beach-side tourist town in New Zealand. Though development on the island is happening quite quickly, a friend of ours who used to lived there said he was surprised by how much it had changed in the 18 months since he left. Though even with development I find it hard to imagine Samui losing it’s relaxed beach town feel. And the local wildlife definitely still think it is a tropical island oasis.
A great place to stay
Our friend’s recommendation for accommodation was spot on for what we expected from a tropical island bungalow. A simple, rustic room with a fan, bathroom and of course the deck and hammock.
We stayed at Thongson Bay Bungalows in Thongson Bay, also called Melati Beach. It is a small bay located on the north-east tip of the island. It has a nice beach area and only two resorts – the lower budget Thongson Bay Bungalows and the 5 star Melati Resort. While we were staying at Thongson Bay Bungalows we were surprised at how empty the resort was which made for a relaxing time. But we found it hard to imagine what it would be like if it was full – it seemed to attract the kind of tourist who wanted a little bit of a get away from the hustle and bustle of Chaweng, or family groups. So we think it would be a great place to stay if you are looking for the feel of quiet seclusion. The resort did also hire out motorbikes so it would be easy to travel to the busy areas and still easily come back as it isn’t that long a distance.
Located over the head land from Bungalows, walking past the more expensive air condtioned rooms Thongson Bungalows offers, you reach a deserted bay with only sand and palm trees. Though as we found if you arrive at 11.30am it seems to get a little crowded with topless sunbathers. But before then you might be lucky to get the whole beach to yourself and feel like you are escaping on a deserted island.
The added benefit of being on a more developed island was the ease of finding food and not having to stick with what was on offer at your resort. Even though we did thoroughly enjoy the food at Thongson sometimes you just want a simple som tam and grilled chicken. If you don’t want to hire a motorbike then you’ll be in for a 20 minute walk to the nearest village, where you’ll find great coffee at Choeng Mon and simple Thai food restaurants.
All in all we were pleasantly surprised by Samui and it just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a place by what you hear about it. Because you might only hear one side and you’ll end up missing out on something great.