Samui Wining & Dining
Samui Holiday Magazine
A Warm Welcome

A Warm Welcome

Autumn, and the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ is upon us. Well, perhaps where you’ve just come from! But Samui doesn’t suffer in the same way at all. It’s true that our temperatures will have dropped to a pleasantly-cool 25 degrees or so, but the only mists you’ll see will be the rainclouds hovering at the top of the mountain. There’s certainly the mellow fruitfulness though – but then we’ve got that all the year round anyway.

          

This is an ideal time of year to visit; it’s not too hot and the rainy season is still a month or two away. And in all the Western nations it’s the start of a new school year, meaning that there are usually fewer people in the resorts, on the street and waiting for taxis. And the shops won’t be so crowded either, making a visit to Central Festival or Fisherman’s Village a positive pleasure.

          

And what better time to make the most of the island’s famous Walking Streets? There are bargains galore, from local gifts and crafts right up to quality clothes and some lovely handmade jewellery. And that’s not to mention all that tantalising food – not just Thai, but of all nationalities – and usually some live entertainment, too.

          

And what better time to make the most of the island’s famous Walking Streets? There are bargains galore, from local gifts and crafts right up to quality clothes and some lovely handmade jewellery. And that’s not to mention all that tantalising food – not just Thai, but of all nationalities – and usually some live entertainment, too.

          

And if you’re just here to slow down and relax, well we’re famous for that, too! Our range of dining is to be envied. And then there are the spas, with something for everyone. Come, relax and enjoy!

 
FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS
 Get yourself down to Fishermen Pants Shop in Lamai.

Get yourself down to Fishermen Pants Shop in Lamai.

Thai fisherman pants are lightweight, unisex trousers, made very wide at the waist so that one-size-fits-all. The pants wrap around the waist, some are then knotted others have tapes that tie to form a belt. The excess material is then folded over the knot. Originally, these pants were adapted from sarongs and worn by Thai fisherman and farmers. This style of clothing is well suited to the tropical climate of Thailand as they are light and airy, quick-drying, secure and very comfortable. They are a true one-size-fits-all unisex garment that allows completely free movement of your body, even for the larger person. Perfect for casual wear and beachwear, as well as activities such as yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, martial arts and massage. Pregnant mums find them invaluable, and for travellers visiting temples and other religious areas, they provide a polite option to the normal travel wear.

          

Luckily, Koh Samui has its own specialist shop to provide for all your fisherman’s pants needs. The aptly named Fishermen Pants Shop in Lamai is owned and run by the extremely hospitable Erez Shmargad and his partner Belinda Basa. Erez moved here from India 15 years ago, to further develop the business closer to his source of inspiration. They live above the shop, which is a traditional Thai house very close to the sea, and Erez ensures that his house is an open-house. Take your time to peruse the fantastic top quality clothing, and if you are lucky, Erez may invite you join him for coffee and possibly to share some food. It’s Erez’s Israeli hospitality, and his way of saying thank you for visiting his shop.

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GET YOUR FEET WET
Don’t miss out on Samui’s wonderful world of water sports.

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There’s something liberating about water. Perhaps it’s the feel of weightlessness, the ability to float and lose contact with the ground. Water lets you get away from your normal life, the days spent on the land. It’s freedom - at times exhilarating. And in all probability, if Samui wasn’t surrounded by water, would you even be here at all? In some way or other, most of us have been drawn here precisely because of water. And now that you are here, there’s more to water than just the sea; there are water sports too, and a whole range of them on and around Samui that are sure to seduce you. Your hotel swimming pool may be captivating enough, but there’s plenty more to see and do when it comes to getting your feet wet. Here’s a brief guide to all things aquatic.

          

Kayaking is one of the easiest ways to get around in the water – and it’s fun, too. Children love it every bit as much as adults do. Probably your hotel has a kayak they’ll let you borrow for free – it’s surprising how many guests don’t know this. You can also venture further afield to Angthong Marine Park where you can kayak in crystal clear waters and swim and snorkel too. Blue Stars Kayaking is one of the pioneers in this field and guarantees a great day out. Want total privacy for you and your friends? Then hire a yacht to take you to local maritime beauty spots and ask for kayaks to be brought along.

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REACH FOR THE MOON
Contemporary and atmospheric dining at Full Moon restaurant is within your grasp.

Contemporary and atmospheric dining at Full Moon restaurant is within your grasp.

Looking for a dining venue that has risen above the crowd? Full Moon at Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort is quiet, serene and romantic. It has amazing sea views with delightfully cool breezes, and offers value-added dining experiences with high-end cuisine and beverages at competitive prices. All team members are friendly, approachable and knowledgeable, and it is located centrally and well away from the busy road.

          

Full Moon is Anantara Bophut’s award-winning signature restaurant, and is located at the west end of the charming Fisherman’s Village, with easy access from both the ring road and the beach. This contemporary, classy yet casual restaurant is set in lush landscaped tropical gardens on an alfresco deck overlooking an infinity pool and the sultry Gulf of Thailand.

          

With the sunset and dusk, Full Moon transforms. Subtle lighting gives the restaurant an intimate feel, and the sounds of nature are enhanced, creating a venue of irresistibly exotic and romantic charm. The ambience is relaxed, yet stylish. The service impeccable. The food divine.

          

If you arrive by 6.30 pm you will witness the nightly sunset ceremony. Anantara team members, wearing traditional Thai clothes, meet near the reception end of the huge lily pond that leads towards the beach. There they perform a ceremony of music and singing to celebrate the day and welcome the coming evening. Flame torches are set alight around the lily pond, towards and past the restaurant and down towards the sea. The finale occurs with the lighting of two huge torches in front of the pool, where the resort meets the beach. By now the sky has darkened and the torches emit an ambient glow. The transformation from day to night is now complete. Anantara and Full Moon emerge as a romantic paradise, a calm and serene location to reach for the moon!

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A MOVEABLE FEAST
On the hoof at Samui’s walking streets.

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Despite the bizarre name, it’s the people who do the walking, while the streets stay where they are! Walking streets are markets that pop up every week in the same place, get going round 5:00 pm and finally close at 11:00 pm. They’re enormously popular, whether you’re a holidaymaker or island resident. The name has its origins in the fact that these night markets are situated on streets that need to be closed off to traffic – no driving of cars or motorbikes is allowed, only walking. The idea of walking streets came about when a previous mayor of Bangkok was looking for ways for local people to promote their goods and services. The idea was a simple one: you could rent out a small area of a street for the night at a conveniently low price, then set up your stall and make some money selling food, clothing, artworks or anything that took your fancy.

          

On Samui, walking streets have become part of the local scene. In high season they may be so packed that it’s hard to make your way down the street. Always fun events, walking streets give you the chance to experience a mix of activities that combine an evening stroll with eating and drinking and, of course, shopping.

          

How does it all work? Each walking street takes place the same day of the week. In the afternoon lots of pick-up trucks converge on the street and disgorge tables, chairs, awnings and, of course, the goods to be sold. The vehicles drive off to park elsewhere and the stalls are put up in the small space allotted to them. Since there may be a hundred or more of them in the street, this sounds like a recipe for utter mayhem. But it isn’t. It’s done with almost military precision. But the strange thing about it is that no-one directs or oversees the proceedings – everything goes up really quickly, simultaneously and with the minimum amount of fuss. Everyone seems to sort themselves out without impinging on their neighbours. The same thing happens when the evening is over and it’s time to go. Within a couple of hours the street is completely deserted and the only evidence that hundreds of people have been here for an evening are the neatly-tied garbage bags along the street, soon to be collected by the municipal waste collectors.

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FUN IN THE SUN
When it comes to the sun, follow some simple guidelines to avoid spoiling your holiday happiness.

When it comes to the sun, follow some simple guidelines to avoid spoiling your holiday happiness.

Can you imagine going on holiday in the tropics and not having the sun play a major part? Probably not! The sun makes us feel good, lightens our mood and makes our days positive. It can help us health-wise by putting us in the mood for fun and relaxation, and of course, it gives us vitamin D. For many of us, holidays are a time to go on an all-out solar binge. Unfortunately, as soon as you’re spending large amounts of time outside (here in the tropics that could be as little as 20 minutes) exposure to the sun presents some dangers. Every year in Thailand hundreds of holidaymakers put themselves at risk or end up sick because they’ve misjudged the sun. Here’s a brief guide to keeping safe on sunny days.

          

Sunburn’s always a worry when it comes to hot climates; it’s easy to go red. Just because it’s a bit cloudy doesn’t mean to say you can’t get sunburned. A few hours, albeit under a hazy ceiling of cirrus cloud can leave you groaning with pain by the evening. Similarly, driving along the road with your elbow sticking out of the open window may seem innocuous but it can give you nasty localized sunburn – though of course you may not end up with any elbow at all given the dangers of the roads here! Possibly the most unexpected of all sunburns happens when travelling on an open boat. How come? Because it doesn’t feel hot thanks to the sea breeze, and you may be lulled into a false sense of security. Thirty minutes at sea is quite enough time for you to begin that short metamorphosis from human to lobster. Likewise, if you’re constantly going in and out of the sea or the swimming pool, you may not feel hot at all, and psychologically you may believe you’re not at risk from sunburn. Even if you’re used to the heat and sun of the Mediterranean, here the sun is more ferocious still.

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BEST BEACH BRUNCH & MORE
Chilled-out Sundays and fun on tap at Beach Republic.

Chilled-out Sundays and fun on tap at Beach Republic.

It may fall short of being a country in its own right, but Beach Republic is definitely a place apart, and an amazing one at that. As soon as you cross into its territory, you’re leaving behind the stresses and strains of life and becoming an instant citizen of a much more laid-back place.

          

On arrival, you’ll immediately note that the architecture is very different to anything else on the island. A wavy-topped, open-sided dining pavilion awaits. There are plenty of tables and oodles of space, but you can also sit out at small thatched salas that line the beachfront here. Wherever you choose, friendly staff are there to welcome and help you.

          

Beach Republic is well away from Lamai itself, and close to nature. It’s set a little way up a clearly sign-posted lane on the eastern edges of town, close to the IT Centre. The beach here, with sand and small coves, is backed by palm trees, and is everything you’d look for in a tropical coastline. Not one but two swimming pools are situated right by the beach, yours to enjoy and frolic in. Guest DJs and live performances are part of the daytime fun here. Food and drink is always available, and virtually every day there’s a promotion or special discount of some kind. Check out the website for precise details.

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NOT IN THE HOT SEAT
Don’t want to drive, or ride a motorcycle? There are other ways of getting around Samui.

Don’t want to drive, or ride a motorcycle? There are other ways of getting around Samui.

From the moment your plane touches down on Samui, you’ll be faced with choices: what to eat, drink, which beach to go to, what to do at night, and so on. A good many of these choices will involve transport. And Samui, which looks so small on a map, turns out to be a lot bigger when you’re actually here. Not everyone wants to hire a car or motorbike to travel around, given the dangers of driving here – the island has appalling accident statistics. You may think your options are limited, but they’re more wide-ranging than at first glance. And they’re worth investigating as each of them comes with benefits of its own. They can variously help you save money, time and cut down on stress. Here’s the lowdown on ways to get around without actually being in the hot seat.

          

Maroon and yellow taxis seem to be everywhere and will give you a toot of their horn as they’re about to pass you. The drivers will take you anywhere as long as the road isn’t too much of a dirt track. Some locations on Samui look like they’re accessible, but the roads still haven’t been completed, and unless you’re a rally driver with a seriously good 4-wheel drive vehicle, it’s best not to venture on them. Taxi drivers may refuse if the road looks a bit rough.

          

Taxis are a lot more expensive than they are in Bangkok, and before you get in one, you should ask the driver for the price. He or she will expect this. You can then accept, decline or bargain. Whatever you do should be done light-heartedly. Once you’ve accepted the price, you cannot bargain further. Check also that the price quoted covers all your party and isn’t a per-person figure. Taxi drivers are supposed to use their meter, but it still remains a rarity.

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BEACHSIDE GETAWAYS
Essence Restaurant at Avani+ Samui offers casual fine dining with a difference.

Essence Restaurant at Avani+ Samui offers casual fine dining with a difference.

Take a beautiful south Samui coastline where jungle slopes frame a perfect little bay that dreamily gazes out to sea, add in some mangrove trees and a deserted stretch of sand and you have the ideal setting for one of the island’s most exciting hotels, Avani+ Samui, along with topdining spot, Essence Restaurant. Stay and dine far from the crowds and kick back in the placid world that is the south of the island.

          

Avani+ Samui is brand new, opening just last year, but has already made a name for itself. Very professionally run, it really goes the extra mile to please its guests. Just recently General Manager, Cindy Delhomel, has done away with check-in/check-out times – no more irritating waiting around for a room to be cleaned when you arrive. Guests also enjoy having a free shuttle service that takes them into Lamai and, for many the most exciting of all, Avani+ has a long-tail boat that runs trips out to Koh Matsum, a very enigmatic and barely visited off-island. Accommodation is first class, and it’s a wonderful experience staying here. But you don’t need to be a staying guest to enjoy Essence, which is highly recommended for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in-between. Just turn up; everyone’s welcome.

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AZUR SAMUI
AZUR SAMUI Living the dream.

AZUR SAMUI Living the dream.

The appeal of Azur Samui is as immense as the views it commands. From up on high, the panorama is an amazing one. An entire plain of palm trees leads the eye down towards the coast and a turquoise sea that stretches to the horizon, taking in Koh Phangan and Koh Tao on the way. First time visitors tend to stand in silence, just drinking in all that beauty, while residents get to enjoy the same view every day – all properties here look out onto it.

          

Azur is set amongst the forested northern slopes just a few minutes’ drive south of Maenam, famed for its beautiful bay. Once you’re at the development, it feels wonderfully secluded; it’s easy to imagine an intimate way of life up here. Yet, for all that, it’s exceptionally easy to get to all the main shops, facilities, restaurants and nightlife extraordinarily quickly. You can get from the front door of your property to the airport or Chaweng in about 20 minutes. And this may sound bizarre to note, but getting back is just as easy: the approach road to Azur is easy and gentle to drive – though it’s set in the hills, there are no jaw-dropping steep slopes to negotiate.

          

More and more people are moving eastwards, away from Europe and the West. Some come for economic ease, others for the cheerier climate and still others because they simply want to be closer to all the action – with this side of the Pacific Rim emerging in fits and bounds as part of a larger Asian powerhouse, Thailand is seen as a stable area. And where more pleasant to live than Samui? Azur caters for a complete spectrum of buyers. First there are those who simply want to make an economic investment; for them ownership of a property offering rental returns is the name of the game. Then there are those who wish to move to Samui fulltime, and who dream of a long-term property as a home. Then there are people who intend to come to Samui for some months in the year and live elsewhere for the rest of the time. Azur offers all of these different buyers a wonderful home in a wonderful setting.

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HERE COMES THE FUN
From scary to serene, beach life through the ages.

From scary to serene, beach life through the ages.

Every year, millions of people will visit a beach for a day, a week, a month or in some lucky cases, longer still. The average visitor will aim for a journey to the beach that’s less than 3,000 miles; some will venture a lot further, though. Whatever, the beachside rituals will be more or less the same: lying out on a towel and reading, of course swimming, watching children play with buckets and spades, then maybe a sunset drink and dinner at a table within sight of the ocean. These rituals are shared across dozens of cultures, and take place on thousands of coasts across the world. Their deeper hallmarks are relaxation and a cessation of anything that even faintly looks like work. It’s time instead to breathe in that sea air and to contemplate life on a greater scale. There’s a feel of arrival that’s way beyond the geographical. There’s something special about the sea that you don’t seem to find with rivers, lakes or mountains. When it comes to holidays, the sea always wins out. The sea, it appears, radiates calm and a sense of peacefulness that’s virtually irresistible – at least to today’s holidaymakers.

          

Go back a few hundred years, however, and to people back then, the sea was a very different place. Where the land ran out and the water began, so did trouble. Foreign invaders arrived by sea to create havoc whenever they could. Diseases arrived with ships – the greatest being the Black Death. And for those setting out to sea in order to fish, it was never sure if they would make it back. The deeps were filled with monsters, and the edges of medieval maps marked with them. Ports were the only refuge, and would welcome in the ships, home after storms and maritime havoc.

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STRANGE DAYS
Are you a stranger in a strange land, or are you merely here on holiday?

Are you a stranger in a strange land, or are you merely here on holiday?

Even old people (like me) go to the Full Moon Parties. Like we would to Stonehenge or the Taj Mahal. Just gotta do it and go there! But age prescribes activities. Meaning that pensioners don’t usually ‘party’ and uni gappers aren’t known for being particularly sensible. So what you get up to in Thailand has a lot to do with your age and your testosterone levels (or whatever the alternative female thing is).

          

Ever seen the movie ‘Dumb and Dumber’? This is a generation thing, too. My (30-something year-old) daughter has, but I skipped it after watching the trailer. I reckon I’m just so much older and that much wiser. But she doesn’t agree. She just thinks I’m old. This is what I meant by ‘the age thing’. My generation is going to fall for Thai fake gem scams. Her generation is going to fall off scooters. But (being old and wise) I reckon that, overall, it balances out. We just fall down in different ways, that’s all.

          

Particularly over here. In Thailand in general, and on Samui in particular. There are things that you ‘just don’t do!’ It’s nothing much to do with some kind of style or trend. It’s to do with staying alive and safe. Or simply not being ripped off. Even if you’re young and here for ten days, how many lives do you have if you are not a cat, but just a cheery teen-twenty foreign tourist? Answer – not so many. Thus this little story is an attempt to clue you in, whether your age is gap-year or pensionable.

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IT’S A WHAT?
A look at Lamai’s Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks.

A look at Lamai’s Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks.

It’s always puzzled me. I mean, look at it this way. Suppose somebody said to you, “Hey! What should we do while we’re in Paris? Shall we go to The Louvre and see some art treasures? Or would you rather go and see a rock which looks like a badly deformed penis instead?” Well, surely no contest. And there are two quite alarming aspects to this proposition anyway, assuming you apply it to the famous landmarks on Samui. First of all, what possible reason might there be for anyone over the age of 13 years to want to go out of their way to see a rock that’s shaped like a penis?

          

The other aspect touches upon the darker side of Man’s nature. The sort of thing that FBI profilers spend years being trained for, and then sneakily slip into psychological tests alongside inkblots that look like two fish and a violin. Because, you see, the Grandfather Rock looks nothing at all like a penis. Some kind of wobbly mushroom that’s been trimmed to a point; perhaps. Put a photo of it in front of a psychopathic serial rapist and ask him what he sees. If he says ‘penis’, that’s it. Conclusive proof of a warped imagination, and being abnormally disturbed. And yet every year, thousands of tourists haul themselves and their cameraphones off the road, down a narrow track and towards the sea, to take photos of it.

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A QUICK BREAK FROM THE BEACH
A better smile and great teeth thanks to Bangkok Samui Dental Clinic.

A better smile and great teeth thanks to Bangkok Samui Dental Clinic.

Out of all of Samui’s delights, visitors tend to mention the sunny climate, the beautiful sea and the relaxed island vibe here. Then there’s the food and drink, the resorts and all the fun activities. Few however mention the excellent dentistry. But why would they? Holidays and visiting the dentist don’t seem to sit well together in most people’s thinking. Even if they’re important, teeth are to be sorted out before or after a vacation, not during. But Thailand has long been attracting medical tourists – some one million a year – who undergo all kinds of operations, and not just routine ones either. It’s a trusted country for medical procedures. Many holidaymakers fit in visits at the dentist, and are happy to do so. And not just in Bangkok, but here too, right on Samui. Bangkok Samui Dental Clinic has for years been treating all sorts of dental ailments and providing a wonderful service.

          

More and more vacationers are swapping some of those indolent hours on the lounger for some at the clinic in the dentist’s chair. And this is done with no sense of fear or worry. Bangkok Samui Dental Clinic adheres to stringent international hospital regulations. Everything is hygienic and all the equipment is very thoroughly sterilized and entirely safe. When it comes to anaesthesia, you need have no fears at all – the team know exactly what they’re doing.

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ECO ELEPHANTS
Get up close and personal with these amazing creatures at Samui Elephant Home.

Get up close and personal with these amazing creatures at Samui Elephant Home.

The banning of the logging industry in Thailand, in 1989, left the majority of Thailand’s domesticated elephants with nowhere to go. Unable to be released into the wild, most moved into the tourist industry to be used for trekking or in shows, while the least fortunate were used to beg for food on the streets. These days, there is growing objection to the use of elephants for trekking. This has resulted in a dilemma. Again, it is not possible for domesticated elephants to be released into the wild, but they still have to be cared for over the course of their long lives.

          

This is where Samui Elephant Home comes in. People will still have the opportunity to meet and interact with these magnificent creatures, but without the need to ride on them. The elephants are treated ethically, and can enjoy a more relaxed and enjoyable life than that they were previously used to. Here you will have the opportunity to feed the elephants, walk with them and even help to shower them in a giant bath. It’s a truly unique experience that you can enjoy in some of Samui’s most beautiful natural surroundings.

          

Your visit will begin with a mini bus pick up at your hotel or resort, and you will be driven to Samui Elephant Camp, which is situated on more than 10 acres of land in the Namuang area of Samui, near Wat Khunaram. On arrival you will be offered a welcome drink and receive a short introduction to the concept (as well as some important safety rules) before meeting the elephants you will be spending time with - Kularb, Mali and Chaba. At this point, you will be given a Thai style farmers shirt to wear. The reason for this will become clear later!

          

The next activity is to prepare some food supplements for the elephants, which are a combination of tamarind, pumpkin, peeled bananas, sticky rice and sea salt. You will then feed these to the elephants, as well as more bananas, grass and sugar cane (elephants eat a lot!).

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THE SECRET TOUR
Want to see Samui off the tourist trail? Get to grips with our alternative tour of the island!

Want to see Samui off the tourist trail? Get to grips with our alternative tour of the island!

The big advantage of an organised tour is that it’s . . . organised. No need to think. You’ll be picked up, taken around with a truckload of others and make new friends. You’ll all get fed, carted about to somewhere new, then taken back and dropped off where you started. But why not hire a jeep and do it yourself – it’s cheaper and way more fun!

          

I’ve put together my own tour of the island. No activities. No trekking or safaris, no racing cars or off-road rides or any kinds of golf, massage spas or resorts. And the only restaurants on the route will be the ones that take your fancy when you feel like stopping for a break - I’ll get no commission for taking you there!

          

You’re not going to need much gasoline; a full tank will take you completely around Samui about six times over. I’m going to start off in Chaweng as all roads lead to Rome and, anyway, you can pick up the trail anywhere along my route. If you look at the layout of Chaweng, you’ll see that the island’s ring-road bypasses it completely. Look again and note the three side-roads leading off the ring-road, in and out of Chaweng.

          

Find the side-road that heads almost directly towards Tesco-Lotus. It runs along the edge of Chaweng Lake, thus is known as ‘The Lake Road’. Look for Q Bar: it’s up the hill on the other side of the lake. Follow that road upwards. And stop outside the temple at the top. This is Wat Khao Chedi. It’s the highest point overlooking Chaweng. And not only is it an oasis of tranquillity, but you can now actually see just how close the airport really is!

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WE’RE ON THE WAY
Two thousand years of tourism makes Samui the place it is today.

Two thousand years of tourism makes Samui the place it is today.

Probably you’re on holiday yourself as you read this – staying in a resort on Samui, enjoying the life here and relaxing. You’ll also know that you are lucky; you’re no doubt aware that just a couple of generations back most people couldn’t go on holiday. Holidays might appear to be a recent invention but that’s actually far from the truth. They date back millennia. The Romans – if they were rich and leisured enough – enjoyed nothing more than going on holiday. The only trouble was that very few could afford to do so.

          

But when they did, a Roman vacation didn’t look so different to one that would be common now. A Roman vacationer would quickly feel at home in the kind of resorts you find in Thailand; especially when it comes to swimming pools and spas. Spending time in pools was de rigueur for the Romans. Food and drink were equally high up on the list of what made for a good time. And like us, they were used to travel being fast: their roads were the medieval equivalent of today’s motorways.

          

Even if most Romans couldn’t afford to go abroad and spend time in luxurious places, they were pretty keen on having ‘feriae’ or days off work. Those days off were treated seriously. Some were for religious reasons, others were government-related. Some might strike us as bizarre. The historian Livy says that it became the longstanding practice in Rome that if there was a shower of stones, a festival would be ordered in response, a whole nine days of it. You could be fined if you worked during these official times off. Even slaves were excused their normal duties.

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