Samui is an amazing place. From beautiful beaches backed by palm trees, to an emerald jungle interior, this is a tropical island that is blessed with a great deal of natural beauty. It’s a very laid-back place and is great to visit when it starts getting cold in Europe and the year winds down. Many people come to indulge in some much-needed relaxation and to enjoy the Christmas and New Year parties in December.
There’s plenty to see and do, and easily enough to fill a few weeks of holidaymaking. But not so long ago, Samui didn’t have a very finished feel to it, and visitors here, though they might fall in love with the island, still had hankerings for the world outside. However now it has just about every amenity you’ll find back home. You’ll be taking in not just great views but also seriously professional restaurants and great shopping opportunities.
Samui has so much to offer its holidaymakers that it’s not surprising so many people make a beeline for it year after year.
QUICKER THAN THE BLINK OF AN EYE
Photographer Claudio Cerquetti captures the beauty of Samui, frame by frame.
There’s an old technique that Japanese Zen artists used in order to hone their skills. Their teachers told them to draw a circle. They dipped their brushes in ink and got going. It was all about seizing the moment, and expressing their skill in a second or two. Not so easy, of course, and to master just this technique would invariably take years. And by the time the novice was able to draw the perfect circle, then he or she would have mastered many other techniques along the way, and be able to draw people, animals and landscapes.
The photographic world has its own challenges, and a young Italian novice photographer, Claudio Cerquetti, who began learning the art of photography at the age of 12, set himself the task of photographing something very small. An ant, two millimetres long, drinking from a drop of water. You might be surprised at this. After all, it really isn’t a hard task, is it? Find your ant, click away and you’re done. Right? Absolutely! You’re bound to end up with a snapshot with a small ant in it somewhere.
When it comes to massage, Eranda Herbal Spa offers brilliant treatments with a setting to match.
On Samui, it’s so easy to get a massage. The entire island seems to offer treatments, no matter where you go. They range from simple beach massages to elegant packages offered by high-end resorts.
Some are merely good, while others, like Eranda Herbal Spa, are outstanding. But just what is it that makes that difference? At Eranda, one of the ways in which they excel is to consider your well-being before you’ve even arrived: the spa offers a free round trip pick-up service in Chaweng, Bophut and Choeng Mon (but please check regarding other areas on Samui). This means that you won’t need to get to the spa by yourself. The driver picks you up at your hotel or villa and whisks you off directly to Eranda; no chance of losing your way, being late or just simply getting lost. Anyone who’s ever arrived at a spa already stressed knows it’ll take a while to unwind. But if you care to use their service, then you’re guaranteed to be already relaxed as you step into Eranda.
A look at some common holiday ailments in Thailand – how to spot them and what to do.
Let’s make an informed guess. I reckon there has been more well-meaning advice written on Thai illness and disease than anything else. Probably even more than you’ll find on where to go and what to do. You’ll find alarmist tales of malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, polio, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) typhoid, hepatitis A & B and tetanus. Not to mention the presence of snakes, scorpions and worries about HIV. If you took all this seriously, you’d never come. And, if you did, then forget about swimming – you’d leak like a sieve from all those puncture marks! So what’s it all about?
Well, to start with, all of these are real diseases. All but possibly two on that list above exist, but are rare. Dengue fever exists. And tetanus can happen too. But for every one instance of a tourist with dengue, there are a million others suffering from chronic sunburn or diarrhoea. However, that’s not really the point. The thing is there is no free medical care in Thailand. You will need to pay for any and all hospital and medical treatment. Later, yes, you can claim it back from your insurance.
It’s onwards and upwards for Frisbee Golf Samui as disc golf gets increasingly popular.
It’s odd what can happen when you take time off work simply to enjoy yourself. With nothing urgent to do, no stressful thoughts to preoccupy you, the mind’s freed up and can take a different direction. You can end up being inspired to do something radically different, and can even find a new way of life. This is precisely what happened to Nigel Mills, who’d decided to leave the United States and settle in Thailand. He’d had enough of working for up to 16 hours a day for an IT company and was enjoying a few months’ leisure before flying out of his native California. “That’s precisely when I discovered disc golf,” he says. “I had no idea how appealing it was. All I really knew about it was that a couple of guys used to play it at university; I’d hear their Frisbees clanging off light posts. It didn’t sound too exciting. But that was before a friend invited me to play.” Nigel was hooked and loved it from the start. He didn’t let it stop him from leaving, though, but never forgot the experience of playing. Once in Thailand, he realized that there was nowhere to play the game at all. But Nigel has a strong entrepreneurial streak, and it wasn’t long before Frisbees were flying through the air on Samui.
The Cliff not only boasts a wonderful location, but also has two top international chefs working for your dining pleasure!
Things on Samui are getting harder and harder! I mean, once upon a time, it was easy – simply because you didn’t have much choice. I’m talking about eating, and dining out in the evening in particular. Twenty years ago, you just strolled about until you found a nice hut on the beach, and then sat down and ate their barbecue. And then, on your last night, you went out for posh meal in a top hotel. And of course, even that was easy, because there was only a handful to pick from. But today our little island has become a world-renowned mecca for gourmets. Five-star resorts abound on Samui, and each has a menu to match. Not to mention the plethora of super stand-alone eateries, many of them of world standard. And one of these, and a name of note, is The Cliff Bar & Grill on the very edge of Lamai.
Well, it’s actually a little bit out of Lamai town itself, and just about the first viewpoint you’ll come to on the steep rocky hillside (hence the name) as you head towards Chaweng. Inside, the design and décor are impressive in their simplicity. There’s one long dining room with a wall of glass overlooking the bay, running onto a cosy and mellow adjoining bar area. At night, it’s all dark solid wood and warm lighting. And in the daytime, it’s cool and shady. Plus there’s a dining terrace perched outside along the top of the cliff. This is where everyone wants to be, so a booking for here is a must.
Psylo’s two stores in Chaweng showcase clothing that’s unique, urban and far from mainstream.
Step into either of Psylo’s two Samui stores and you realize that you’ve arrived somewhere unexpected. Psylo has something of the creativity of an art gallery about it, and as you spend time here you’ll realize it’s more of a state of mind than a place.
People come here to buy clothes that have stepped well away from fashion’s mainstream staples. You won’t find much in the way of bright colours here, and Psylo is the very opposite of preppy. It’s a place that enshrines mostly earth colours and tones. But dull, it ain’t. Without going overboard with the artist’s palette, the clothing always manages to exude vibrancy. These are items that stand out, even if some of them have camouflage colours. (One particular label even describes an article of dark green clothing as being ‘army colour’.) It’s definitely fringe-style clothing and always artistic. Everything, however, is tailored to be extremely comfortable and has an engaging simplicity about it. You’ll also find vintage and retro elements.
On December 5th, Thais celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the King
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great (Rama IX) is the world’s longest reigning monarch. He unites the Thais no matter who they are or what their station in life. If you are in Thailand on his birthday it’s guaranteed that you’ll see something of the celebrations; there are firework displays, exhibitions featuring His Majesty’s life and work, and just about everywhere large pictures of the King on display.
His Majesty the King was born in a Cambridge, Massachusetts hospital on the 5th of December, 1927. And this year the people of Thailand will celebrate His 88th birthday.
At His Majesty the King’s coronation he vowed, “We will reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.” It is a commitment that he has maintained throughout his reign. He has been particularly involved in environmental issues, focusing on the lives of those at a disadvantage and those ravaged by the forces of Mother nature,and he has always been there to give aid and advice to those most in need. His Majesty has established six Royal Development Study Centres,
Nature Art has thousands of semi-precious stones, and a treasure trove of jewellery on offer.
Holidays in the sun are all about sparkling sea and glittering sands, and any shopping’s almost expected to lag way behind when it comes to pizzazz. Even more so when it comes to jewellery. You might expect, at best, a few good finds, if you look hard enough and long enough, that is. It’s almost as if beautiful holiday destinations can get away with having tacky shops. But if you’re on Samui that cliché isn’t true. Here you can find great quality and do your shopping in comfortable surroundings. And if it’s jewellery or semi-precious stones you’re looking for, there’s no need to jet up to Bangkok, as you can find them right here on the island.
Nature Art Gallery prides itself on having one of the most opulentlooking showrooms on Samui. The floor and ceiling are made of highly polished wood, and you can tell as soon as you walk in to the store that a lot of love and care has been poured into making the store a wonderful place to browse. There are literally thousands of artefacts here, so don’t be surprised if time seems to fly by, and you’ve spent a while longer in Nature Art Gallery than you might have thought. Gold and silver figure prominently, as well as precious and semi-precious stones. plus there’s a selection of hand-made leather bags, belts and other accessories.
SCL International School has overcome major challenges to offer its children a better education.
Just how much can you accomplish given a decade or so? While some people and some schools are content to coast through the years, others forge ahead, even when they face tough challenges that would daunt most of us. SCL International School’s story exemplifies a winning spirit; a school that started in obscurity but is now a major venue for the island’s students.
Back in 2004, an old wooden house behind a temple marked the beginnings of the school. It couldn’t really have been any smaller or humbler; it had just two pupils. Very soon, more joined them, and due to the high quality of the teaching, word got round the local area and still more children came. Eventually a new setting was needed because of the number of students, and the school moved to much larger premises. Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll find that the same school is still in operation, but with even more students.
And a few months ago, just over a decade since the school started, SCL moved again to still larger and better premises. It’s now located on the ring-road just a few doors up from Lamai Post Office. You’ll find a spacious setting with a sports area, all of it ready to welcome new children.
Chaweng’s Central Festival shopping centre is not only tip-top, but it’s low-key too!
A couple of years ago, an old friend of mine came to Samui. It was his first time here. We’d been mailing each other back and forth, and I’d been trying to warn him in advance. Trying to prepare him for a modern Samui. Trying to gently pave the way for all the changes. The fast food joints and discos. The sports pubs and bistros, and construction everywhere you look. I met him when he arrived, then gave him a few days to settle in. And then, later, when meeting up, the first thing he yelled at me was – “This place is a dream! I was expecting downtown Miami, but Samui is just about as lovely as it gets!”
You see – Samui is special. Just look at the other tourist centres in Thailand. They’re all big, busy, full-on cities. But Samui isn’t. It’s a small island with a flat bit around the edge and a mountain in the middle. And because of this it will never be a proper ‘city’. And that means no highways, no high rise blocks – and little old wooden houses and ancient fisher-folks forever mixed in along with 5-star fantasies and 15-bedroom villas.
Samui United Football Academy provides a place for children and youngsters to learn football skills and a lot more.
In medieval Britain, villages played over pitches that ranged across meadows and streams. Now, centuries later, football has almost universal appeal. Kicking a ball seems to have become part of the human psyche. Watching very young children playing football can be an almost eerie experience; it can seem in many cases that their anatomies and their brains dovetail with football, and that it’s an innate skill, just waiting to be nudged towards development. Football ingrained in the muscles?
“It certainly seems to be the case,” says Maher Kassar, the owner and manager of Samui United Football Academy, “I’ve seen many small children who have a completely natural way with a football. But it isn’t like walking or running; it’s a learned skill.” He goes on to say that even children who at first seem to have difficulty with the ball learn surprisingly quickly. It really is almost as though it’s in everyone’s blood.
The height of Samui chic is being stirred but unshaken – The Library becomes cooler than ever.
Either you’ve got it or you haven’t. Style. Flair. Creativity. It’s the easiest thing in the world to follow the fashion, to copy a trend. But to be a shooting star in a dimly-glimmering sky is a rare thing indeed. The Library isn’t a library, it’s a concept. And it’s also a resort, right in the middle of Chaweng Beach. It’s been described in many ways – refined, post-modern, minimalist. But none of what’s been said so far even comes close to touching the sheer vitality of the place. Usually, when you take away the fusses and frills of décor, it’s a process of reduction, and you end up with uncomfortably less than before. But here, at The Library, the crisp geometry of the architecture, the big wide spaces and the serenity of the plain surfaces only add to its presence.
The history of the resort, though rooted in the hippy era of peace and love, took a unique twist along the way. It was at one time a traditional Samui thatched-roof bungalow resort, and handed down from father to son. But the son, Khun Pang, was schooled in Bangkok and educated abroad, and he returned with an outlook that was considerably broader than tradition usually dictates. The Library opened its doors in 2006, and did a lot more than just raise eyebrows. This was more than merely clean styling. The thinking and the visual concepts that ran throughout were unique on Samui, and quite possibly in all of Thailand.
Combine your holiday on Samui with cosmetic surgery for a beautiful new you.
Most people are unaware that one of Samui’s assets is its medical expertise in cosmetic surgery. While some holidaymakers are busy soaking up the sun, others are on the way to the dentist’s chair or even the operating theatre. What’s going on, you might ask? Can’t they get everything done at home? Why come to Thailand?
But just spend a few minutes on-line Googling up ‘medical tourism’ and you’ll see that it’s very common to go this far afield for cosmetic surgery. Thailand has established itself as one of the main go-to places for all sorts of medical treatment. Some people come here because they know they can get the same operation as at home, but at a fraction of the price. While others want to combine their hospital visits with recuperation time in a warm, welcoming country.
So how can you improve your looks while you’re on holiday on Samui? Many different treatments are available, according to Dr Chalermkit Supalertmongkonchai, who is both a cosmetic and plastic surgeon. “There’s quite a lot you can do, even on a fairly short vacation,” he says. “On Samui you can opt for breast augmentation and reduction, as well as breast lifting. Ears can be corrected, so can noses, and you can also do cosmetic surgery on the upper and lower eyelids – blepharoplasty.
W Retreat Koh Samui continues to expand the mind and dazzle the senses.
Once upon a time, 5-star was 5-star. You knew exactly what to expect. Okay, some places had more marble and gold leaf than others. But you found your brand name and stayed with it. And it didn’t matter if you were in Transylvania or Tennessee, the style, the furnishings and the service would be the same. Familiar, reassuring and predictable. But today things have changed. You don’t need to be old anymore to enjoy the finer things in life. And the meaning of ‘quality’ has shifted too. Back then, it meant the same furniture and carpets wherever you went. But now it’s more about the atmosphere. It’s about the vibe and the whole experience; it’s a lifestyle event.
‘W’ is one of those forward-thinking brands that exemplify this. Each of the nearly 50 luxurious W getaways are part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts group. And each of the very stylish resorts is individually designed to echo and reflect the local character of their environment. This, together with some very up-to-the-minute artwork and design. In the case of Samui’s own W Retreat, this means some breath-taking spatial games that will bring you to a halt and make you look twice. And nowhere more so than the stunning showpiece infinity pool that you’ll encounter as soon as you come through the reception area.
Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa’s expert massages and treatments are guaranteed to leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
If you like spas that are a total getaway from the world, where all you need to do is step through a door and leave your cares behind you, then you’ll definitely want to head for Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa. It offers a fivestar experience that, even amongst all the excellent spas on Samui, stands out as being rather special.
The resort is located on the ring-road, some 500 metres from Bophut traffic lights, as you head west towards Maenam. The resort is set well away from the road, however, and is an oasis all of its own - the spa even more so. Pass through the resort’s atrium, and a corridor takes you out towards gardens. You’ll see the chef’s herb garden on your right, and on your left the imposing entrance to the spa. A massive stone portal that looks as if it belongs to a far older civilization beckons you inside.
Step through, and a limpid pond scattered with lotus flowers greets you. The spa reception is in the middle, on an island all of its own. It’s here that you choose your treatments, while sipping on a cooling infusion of pandan.
A look at Hansar Samui as they reveal their gourmet New Year’s Eve menu.
You are totally spoiled for choice. Christmas and New Year on Samui are exciting. If you’re just coming for a short stay then it’s probably the best time of year to come. But even if you live here and you’ve seen it all before, then it’s still hard to beat. Firstly, you’ve got those two terrific bookends – Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. And then there’s the food. Take your pick! A traditional English Christmas blowout? If you’re German or Swiss then you’ll be going your own way on the 24th. Scandinavian? Plenty of options there, too. And when it comes to the New Year .
Well, actually, this one’s a bit harder. When it comes to fabulous food, most places seem to back-pedal a bit. They might run a buffet perhaps, probably with a band, and some fireworks later. But they’ve spent all their energy on the Christmas menu, and there’s nothing all that special for the 31st. And that’s a pity, as two fantastic meals over the festive period are much better than one. But, if you really want to make an occasion of it, you’ll need to look closely at Hansar Samui.
At Hinta Hinyai, rocks get ribald and are guaranteed to provoke a reaction.
Oscar Wilde once said of the Alps that they were ‘bad taste’. We can only wonder what he might have said about the astonishing duo of rocks at Hinta Hinyai. Unknown in his day, they’re now an infamous feature here on Samui, and are a major tourist attraction. For a couple of rocks, they certainly get a lot of visitors. And a good few raised eyebrows and laughs.
Rocks aren’t known for their sense of humour, nor is geography a source of ribaldry. When we gaze at landscapes we may find them beautiful, but they’re definitely not going to make us laugh out loud. Well, not usually. And this is partly why so many people end up going down a narrow lane to take a look at the rock formations in question.
They look uncannily like male and female genitalia. And what’s odder still is that they’re positioned just 25 metres apart. That’s quite a coincidence. The proximity is certainly eye-brow raising;
A look at why it’s well worth a trip for the cooking classes at Olivio.
Thai food is now one of the most popular cuisines in the world. So how about making a bet? What are the odds that your resort has a Thai cooking class? If it doesn’t, then it’s in the minority! Today, everyone wants to have a go at making Thai food. And it’s not only easy; it’s great fun, too. However, all these classes are different. Some include trips to a local market first. Some offer making just one dish, whereas others cover as many as five different recipes in one session. And the personalities of the teachers are all different, too, as of course, is the cost.
But did you realise that every resort is more than happy to have you visit them and sit in on their class? It makes for an excellent alternative trip out, plus you’ll get a chance to see somewhere different while you’re at it. And so, with all this in mind, we went along to have a look at how they do things at Baan Haad Ngam Boutique Resort & Spa.
From time immemorial, Samui people have set out to sea to fish. Now you can join them.
Fishing. It always has the feel of a great adventure, especially if you’re taking a boat out to sea. And it’s an activity that combines both excitement and peacefulness. A place where two extremes not only meet, but somehow complement each other.
When you come to Samui, you may think there’s not much in the way of fishing trips, as you won’t see any loud adverts for them. There’ll be plenty else going on to capture your attention, so you may just end up thinking they don’t exist here. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Samui is big on fishing. In fact, it’s one of the principal industries here. And it always has been.
Traditionally Samui was a fishing and farming island, and everybody lived off the land and the sea. Times were good; the fields had plenty and so too, did the sea. Everybody had food on the table. When tourism came along, people wanted to try and do something different, and Samui’s hospitality industry was born. Looking after all the holidaymakers became so important that many people gave up the traditional way of life altogether.
Different attitudes and lifestyles mean that there’s a huge range of accommodation here – depending on what you want!
It’s a cliché, but it’s true – you’re spoiled for choice. You’ll find patches of hyper-luxury dotted around above deserted beaches with huts to rent. At one extreme you can take over an entire luxury walled multi-villa resort, complete with personal chef and servants. And then we’re back to wooden huts again, no mod cons, at the other end of the scale. Plus there’s everything in-between.
Over the last couple of decades, there’s been a pattern of the smaller prime resorts being absorbed by bigger ones. The inevitable result has been that the ‘hippie huts’ of the ’80’s have all but disappeared. In many ways these became iconic, representing not only a particular lifestyle, but also a time, now passed, when everything was simpler and less commercialised. They do still exist, albeit that there are more to be discovered over on Koh Pha-Ngan. However, we’ve heard of one or two still in the Lamai area, even though they now have electricity and running water!