Published: June 25th 2012June 23rd 2012
I've suffered from information overload when it comes to planning where to go in Koh Samui and the other islands to the north in the Gulf of Thailand. There are hundreds of descriptions of hotels, bars, and restaurants in my guidebook, and it doesn't help that I'm using a Kindle (not recommended for guide books), so it's hard to flip through or bookmark interesting places. Also, since it was the beginning of my trip, I hadn't much of a chance to exchange ideas with other travelers. Since research was overwhelming, I decided to stay at 2 days on each of the three main islands -- Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao.
It's easy to get to Koh (sometimes spelled Ko) Samui on a short flight or a longer overnight train then bus then ferry from Bangkok. I chose the latter because it was 1100 baht (35 USD), as opposed to almost $200 by air, which also wouldn't include overnight accommodations. The train was supposed to take from 7:30 at night till 7 the next morning, but it got off to a pretty late start. Add an hour bus trip and hour and a half ferry, and forty minutes in
the back of a pickup truck, and I didn't get to Chaweng until after 1 PM the next day.
The pickup-taxi with bench seats took me to Chaweng, the largest city on the island. It was 80 baht, which I guess was reasonable considering the high prices on the island. In hindsight, I probably should have opted for one of the smaller towns to the north, but I wanted to find a room quickly and have drugstores nearby since I wasn't feeling well after eating a waffle that I'd bought in the train station.
Lonely Planet speaks highly of Wave Samui, which is about a block from the beach and has a really nice bar and restaurant. I just wanted a private room where I could relax and sleep off the stomach bug in private, so I paid the outrageous 500 baht for a single room, only to discover after this that the city was replacing sewer lines right outside the window of my room, making it plenty loud and plenty smelly if I kept the windows open. As a whole, the Brits who run the place do their best to entertain, but it isn't enough to make
This was more or less the scene the whole way from the dock to the town (40 minutes). The island is heavily populated.
the island worthwhile to someone like me.
After a few hours of sleep, I went to the restaurant and tried to eat something. I found out there that there was a 48-hour ban on alcohol because of elections (implemented to make sure people actually vote). The owner of my hostel wrote this on a chalkboard sign outside the restaurant, and I watched as Aussie partiers walked by, stopped, their jaws dropping in horror as they read the sign. I tried to put down some food, but that didn't work out very well, so I went back to bed and slept till the next morning.
I woke up the next day feeling much better, but with men jackhammering the road right outside my window. I would have got up and left the island, sacrificing my second night's fee, but the hostel doesn't open until the ridiculously late hour of 10 AM. But, it was sunny, and I still wasn't 100% anyway, so I went to the beach to make the most of it.
Overall, Koh Samui (Chaweng, at least) is crowded, noisy (vans with loudspeakers advertising wet t-shirt contests, construction, etc), and expensive. Sure -- the beach is beautiful, but it's really nothing special (it's quite nice for a morning run, though). If you're looking for good night life, enjoy the club scene, and don't mind overcrowding and commercialism, you might enjoy it, but considering there are so may other options in the Gulf, I'd skip it. After all, it's only a 30-minute ferry ride from Big Buddha beach to Koh Pha-Ngam (see next blog). I was excited to leave.