As the temperature drops from blistering to just boiling, so too arrives the breeze (hopefully!) at the end of May. The wind attracts hundreds of top-notch sailors to the island, ready to participate in the Samui Regatta, which forms part of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix. You don’t have to be a competitor to enjoy the regatta, and in this issue we keep you up to date on what to see and do for both yachties and spectators alike.
But if sailing isn’t your thing, not to worry, as there’s plenty more to see and do on the island. Ever wondered about the bird-singing competitions on the island? Curious about the beautiful golden Laem Sor Pagoda? Well, we’ve done the research for you, so read on to find out what it’s all about.
And of course, part of holidaying is trying new dishes. In this issue we feature some of Samui’s favourite dining establishments; The Farmer in Maenam, RockPool between Chaweng and Choeng Mon and the aptly named, The Cliff, along the scenic drive connecting Chaweng and Lamai.
A week of competitive fun with the 12th annual Samui Regatta.
Those of you who are here between the 25th of May and the 1st of June are in for a treat. You’ll notice a change in the air. Almost overnight the feeling around the island, the atmosphere, will have ramped up a couple of notches. There’ll be a lot more merriment. The restaurants will seem more jovial. Mind you, there won’t be anything glaringly obvious to see – nothing at all like a fly-over by the RAF’s acrobatic fighter jet team, for instance. But then what’s happening this week is rooted in a less-showy pastime. We’re on a lazy tropical island. And there just couldn’t be a better setting for the final event of the 12 stages of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix – more commonly known as the ‘Samui Regatta’.
Hong Kong is a millionaire’s playground. Singapore doesn’t come a bad second. Even Thailand’s Phuket can boast three fully-equipped marinas. But, for lots of irritatingly different reasons, we haven’t even got one – Samui is thoroughly marina-less. And yet, every year, around about 100 sailing boats of all sizes, from ocean-going catamarans to 2-man dinghies, will quietly appear in Chaweng Bay. Over a two-or three-day period, upwards of 500 people will move into our resorts for a week. Vast amounts of food and drink will be consumed (or should that be ‘drink and food’!). Yes, in spite of the fact that all the boats will have to anchor out in the bays, the Samui Regatta attracts a full contingent every year. And there are two reasons for this.
A unique dining experience at The Farmer Restaurant & Bar.
Have you ever pondered exactly what ‘authentic Thai food’ means? If it’s your first time in the Kingdom then you’ll probably assume that Thai food is . . . well, Thai food. Certainly it’s won’t look and taste much like it does back home. It’ll probably be richer, creamier, and packed full of aromas and flavours that it’s a joy to experience. But, in reality, Thailand can be considered as being four different regions, each with its own way of life, traditions, local dialect and style of food.
The northeast, for example, was at one time the poorest part of Thailand, a region where simple foodstuffs needed to be heavily spiced in order to give them any kind of taste. In contrast, the central plain was the fertile area where the Royal Family and palaces were to be found, and also where foreign traders first seeded the nation with a wide variety of exotic herbs, spices and vegetables. It’s all ‘Thai food’, certainly. But, with such a wide range of cultural influences, it’s often not easy to know exactly what sort of Thai food it is. It might turn out to be the ‘mouth dynamite’ from the farming region of Issan. Or it could be the subtle blends of mellow flavours which originated from the courts of the kings. And the latter is very much what you’ll experience when you discover and enjoy ‘The Farmer Restaurant & Bar’ in Maenam.
Amari Palm Reef Koh Samui’s Breeze Spa takes a fresh approach to spa treatments.
Going to a spa should be fun. But sometimes for newbie spa-goers the experience can be a little daunting – not knowing what to expect, not sure what to book, and not knowing spa protocol on arrival. Breeze Spa, part of Amari Palm Reef Koh Samui at the northern end of Chaweng, has taken all the stress out of choosing a treatment, as after all, most of us visit a spa to overcome stress!
Rather than having one signature treatment, Breeze Spa has chosen five massages to ‘put the bounce back into your step’ as Spa Manager, Khun Pae, explains. The guest questionnaire to be completed on arrival, asks, amongst other things, “How do you feel at this moment?” (tired, stressed, relaxed, refreshed, tense) as well as, “How would you like to feel after the treatment?” (ready to sleep, peace and serenity, blissful and rejuvenated, refreshed and invigorated or unwind and energised). Depending on how the guest feels on arrival, as well as how they hope to feel after the treatment, the therapist will recommend one of the five mood massages, clearly explained with quirky bylines in the brochure.
When it comes to gratuities, being generous on Samui will make all the difference.
It can be confusing. And often uncomfortable, if you don’t know the rules. Tipping is a unique economic phenomenon, as it involves voluntary payments for service that has already been provided by the time the tip is given. Why do we tip, who do you tip and how much do you leave? I think most of us would rather contemplate one of Stephen Hawking’s theories on the origins of the universe than try and understand what the right thing to do is when it comes to leaving gratuities.
In your own country it’s usually no problem, you know the score. But that rarely means that somewhere else will be the same. And it’s the British who really are to blame for all of this. I know it’s easy and even pleasurable to blame the Americans for just about everything, and whilst they’ve had a hand in modern tipping etiquette it all goes back to 16th century England. In the late Middle Ages a master or lord of the manor might give his servant or labourer a few extra coins, either as appreciation of a good deed or in
Explore Samui’s less-developed southwest coast, for a taste of yesteryear.
So you’re lying on Chaweng Beach, sipping from a coconut, and the umpteenth vendor approaches you selling their wares. Now as fun as shopping on the beach can be, sometimes you just want a little peace and quiet to read a book. No music blaring from the bar next door, no jet-skis and no people yelling into their mobile phones. Wouldn’t that be nice for a day?
Well luckily it’s possible to escape the crowds and discover the ‘real’ Samui, only a 45-minute drive from the commercial areas of the island. The unspoilt southwest is known to some as ‘The Virgin Coast’, and the village of Taling Ngam forms part of this coast. From the ring-road, turn off at Route 4170 either coming from Nathon, or going clockwise, just past Hua Thanon. Follow the signs to Baan Taling Ngam, until you reach two massive elephant statues, guarding the entrance of the road to the rustic little village.
Most visitors to the island don’t venture past the tourist hotspots. Don’t be one of them. A trip to Taling Ngam is well worth at least a day outing, if not a couple of nights at one of the secluded resorts. The area has seen the least change on the island, it’s almost as if time has stood still.
Gaze down upon the world from the luxury villas at Narai Kiri.
First there were only huts on the beach. Then brick bungalows came along. And it wasn’t long before collections of these turned into resorts. Then big hotels emerged, sitting where there once used to be four resorts together. And the better and more luxurious these were, the more you had to pay. The problem was that although your resort had 5-star facilities and service, you were basically staying in just one room with a bathroom attached. And that’s where the ideas of villas came in.
Of course, renting villas is nothing new. But the new approach was to create what was essentially a self-contained resort, but one which contained secluded luxurious multi-room villas instead of bungalows. It made perfect sense for a family to share one of these, or a couple of sets of friends. In fact, taking one of these for three or four weeks often worked out less costly than staying in a quality resort for a fortnight and paying by the day. And, when it came to getting married on Samui nothing could be better than the family and friends of the lucky couple taking over several of these villas all next to each other.
Choose Chef in the Jungle Catering Service for your next event!
We’re all get sick of the rat race. Life sometimes feels like its just passing us by. Responsibilities get on top of us, time for rest and relaxation always feels limited and at times rushed. Urs Stoeckli felt like this, and three years ago, he and his lovely wife made the decision to relocate to Samui. After a two week holiday on the island they both fell in love with the place, the lifestyle, the people and the food.
Originally from Switzerland, Urs moved to Beijing to work as head chef at the Peninsula Hotel. He then opened his own restaurant, The Mediterraneo, in 1999, serving Mediterranean cuisine. At this time in China, there were very few Western eateries around, and most were located in major hotels. He continued with this business venture and also began travelling the world as a guest chef in many restaurants and hotels, passing on his skills and knowledge.
Here on Samui, he decided to put his 30 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, and his great passion for food and wine to good use, by starting his own catering business – Chef in the Jungle. Whatever the occasion, Urs can come up with a menu to match as he is trained and very knowledgeable in the creation and presentation of classic French, Italian, Mediterranean, Chinese and Thai cuisine.
Karma Resort’s RockPool, recently had a shake up in the way of a new and innovative chef, David Lloyd.
Sitting on the expansive deck suspended over the rock pools and ocean below, it’s hard to picture a more perfect setting. Here, white tables with comfortable armchairs upholstered in shades of teal and neutrals reflect the surrounding environment. Barstools are set at a wooden balustrade at the front – the perfect spot for sun-downers while sharing a platter of oysters, which RockPool is famous for.
Upon arriving at Karma, you’re immediately whisked away in a golf cart and driven down to the beachside cliffs where the restaurant is perched. Close enough to Chaweng for easy access, yet far enough to avoid the crowds, you’ll find the well-signposted Karma and RockPool along the road connecting Chaweng with Choeng Mon Beach.
RockPool has long had a reputation for its high-quality cuisine.
But just as everyone thought it couldn’t get any better, the restaurant acquired a new chef, David Lloyd, at the end of 2012. David is a breath of fresh air, like the breeze that cools the deck of RockPool. He brings with him not only a positive attitude and fantastic rapport with his customers, but also an innovative approach to cooking. When David speaks about food, it’s with true passion and his eyes light up.
A look at what Sa-ard’s Watersport Center has to offer in the wide wilderness of water around Samui.
We’re an island. We’re in the tropics. We’ve got sun, sand and sunset cocktails. We’re one of the best places in the world to take a holiday break. And for some that means delighting in doing nothing – beach, book, great food and sleep until you wake. For others it means a leisurely drift around the island by rented jeep or motorbike. But, whatever Samui’s got going for it, there’s a lot more square mileage that’s not made up of real estate. We’re a tiny piece of land in the middle of a great big sea. And so, for a great many people coming here, a holiday on Samui also means taking full advantage of all the water-based sports and activities that there are on offer.
There are jet skis and water-skiing, windsurfing and parasailing, not to mention the perennial scuba diving and snorkelling. There are boat trips galore – with or without fishing thrown in. There’s even big game fishing in one or two selected spots. You can hire a boat, ranging from a tiny laser dinghy, right up to an ocean-going 6-berth catamaran with crew and onboard chef. You can choose between a sunset cruise or a five-day run up the coast. There are so many possibilities and options that it’s almost confusing – where to go, who to ask, what to go for?
A look at Bubba’s, Chaweng’s alluring American-themed restaurant.
Bubba’s American Bar & Grill is a ‘theme’ restaurant. That’s one thing. But there’s also the food to consider. No matter how glitzy an eatery might be, success depends upon customers wanting to come back. And that means quality food and excellent service, too. Paul Watson is the brains behind the project, and he’s also very much a part of the island’s life and culture. As well as establishing the very successful and longrunning Tropical Murphy’s not so far away, he also established Max Murphy’s at Samui airport. And another of these gourmet pubs has just opened in Nathon. “It’s all about quality and consistency,” he told me. “If a new customer isn’t happy he won’t come back. And we won’t get regular customers unless they know that everything’s going to be great every time they come.”
Bubba’s got off to a well-grounded start in the form of California-born Nigel Mills, who was called upon to set up the kitchen and advise on the menu. Nigel is something of a colourful character, not to mention an established authority on quality barbecue dining. Californians (and Australians!) have elevated the genre to an art form, and Nigel’s expertise with his own dips, rubs and sauces paved the way in the kitchen. When the current masterchef and Dubliner, Neil Mann, took over, the time was ripe to extend the menu even more into the realm of ‘fine eating’. And today you’ll find that Neil has just taken over the kitchen in the new Max Murphy’s in Nathon – but more of this in a moment.
The southern Thai tradition of bird-singing competitions is practiced here on Samui. We went to take a look and listen.
You’ve surely seen them in the traffic. Men precariously steering scooters with one hand, while carrying a covered birdcage in the other hand. Inside the cage is a prized possession – a Red-whiskered Bulbul, used in the traditional bird-singing competitions of southern Thailand.
On Samui, the competitions are held every Tuesday and Saturday at 11:00 am. It’s not advertised, there’s nothing touristy about it, and if you don’t know where it is, you won’t find it. The location for the competition is down what is known locally as the ‘Ghost Road’ – the road that links Bangrak to Chaweng. Coming from the Bangrak side, turn into the Ghost Road opposite Dae Tong Resort, between a light blue bank and a 7-Eleven. Continue about three kilometres down this road until you get to a crossroads with another 7-Eleven on your right. Keep going straight at the crossroads, and a few hundred metres on, after a bend, you’ll see an open field with a metal grid-type structure, and a wooden sala with a few chairs.
Chaweng Bay View Resort has an unbeatable view - and is great value for money, too !
Probably one of the best things about Samui is that it’s now at the stage where it has just about everything. At one time you could enjoy the tranquillity of endless deserted beaches; but couldn’t buy a loaf of bread. You could chill out in a thatched hut on the beach that only cost pennies a day; but there was no hot water. There certainly were no pharmacies, ATM machines, convenience stores or internet. But now we’ve got the lot. Plus we’ve still got the old quaint rustic aspects, too. We’ve still got the thatched beach huts (but not for pennies anymore) and the remote isolated beaches (if you know where to go), but we’ve also got glittering 5-star resorts with personal butler service. And there’s also a whole range of excellent accommodation that’s right in the middle range – quality resorts with great facilities and personal service but which won’t cost you an arm and a leg. And one which falls firmly into this category is Chaweng Bay View Resort, at the far north of Chaweng.
Its name should give you more than a clue as to its nature: it’s tucked away on the crest of a hilltop which commands breathtaking, sweeping, views over the sea and most of the coast in this area. And, as such, this is not a resort which is best-suited to the old or the frail. Although it has to be said straight away that the warm and attentive staff here will fall over themselves
Coconuts play a big part in life on Samui. Find out how to enjoy them best.
What’s the first thing you think about when mentally picturing a tropical island? Most will answer with a beach scene complete with white sand and coconut palms. Well in that case, Samui fits the picture, particularly with the coconut palms. Even though the palm tree has become synonymous as a symbol of Samui, it was only fairly recently that the coconut became the largest export from the island. Although there were always coconuts, over the years Samui farmers gradually turned the island into a substantial coconut plantation.
As the island’s industry grew, so did the local farmers’ income, as they were able to negotiate a good price for their crops. Their increased wealth didn’t go unnoticed by people from the mainland, and so Samui’s native farmers were joined by people from other areas of Thailand who also wanted to benefit from the island’s growing economy.
The legacy of the islands early coconut farmers is still apparent today as Samui proudly boasts more varieties of coconuts than anywhere else in the world. A few years ago, the island’s coconut farmers suffered a knock as hundreds of trees started to lose their fronds and die off. After much
The Cliff Bar & Grill has being wowing Samui’s diners for nine years.
The name is apt. As it suggests, The Cliff Bar & Grill is perched atop a cliff overlooking the small coves between Chaweng and Lamai. And if it’s a classic island view you’re after, you couldn’t pick a better spot. On a perfect day, the colours are so intense, it’s as though the scene has been ‘Photo-shopped’. Your eyes flicker between the vivid turquoise ocean below with bright kayaks paddling in the calm waters, vibrant local fishing boats in blue, red and orange and the cerise bougainvillea of the manicured gardens, set amid giant boulders leading to the ocean. Visit during the evening and you’re rewarded with an equally inspiring view, as the moon is reflected in the ocean, highlighting the palm trees and fishing boats.
Now many establishments with such an idyllic view would simply rest on their laurels, letting other important factors such as the food and service slip, relying on the view to draw the customers in. Sure, a good view may bring them in once, but it’s the food, ambience and service that will keep them coming back. Those that visit Samui each year will notice an ever-evolving island, with new restaurants, bars and hotels pushing out older places that no longer make the grade. But there are a few places that stick around – because they are consistently good. A good restaurateur
Everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and some things you didn’t) about getting around on Samui’s roads.
“Driving in Napoli is like a video game. You just have to relax, stop thinking and feel it in your stomach.” Giacomo Bennelli: Manager of Hertz, Naples.
Ever been to Rome? How about Cairo or Zimbabwe? I would dare to suggest Afghanistan, too, but seeing that it’s more or less a war zone that’s hardly fair. So how about New Delhi, then? Any ideas yet about where I’m heading with this? All right, let’s just say that in Cairo nobody takes any notice of traffic signals at a crossroads. The technique for driving across the junction is to aim directly at the car that’s crossing your path; that way by the time you get there, you’ve missed him – just. At least in Rome or Naples everybody seems to be heading the same way and on the same side of the road.
And, essentially, that’s what it’s all about. In order to get safely around the unfamiliar roads of any new destination you have to be aware of what everyone else is doing. In other words, forget everything you’ve learned about the Highway Code and the rules of the road. You have to. The other people on the road around you know nothing about your rules and certainly don’t drive by them.
Thousands of expats have bought homes on Samui over the last two decades. Some of them now choose to live here full time and others use their houses and villas as an additional source of income by renting them out. And that decision has a major impact on the best way to furnish and decorate your home. But, as with anything that requires more than a cursory thought, it often pays dividends to get help from a professional. And that’s where Oriental Living come in.
The moment you walk through the doors of Oriental Living you are guaranteed a warm, friendly, relaxed, individual personal experience, that’ll leave you feeling inspired. Located in Maenam, about 500-metres from the post office, their contemporary creative designs are visible from the street, enticing you inside.
And they have now expanded to open a further branch over in Phuket. But despite being in two separate locations, they’ve managed to integrate both teams to create one big family. The whole operation consists of 12 sparkling personalities that’ll dazzle you with their designs. All your expectations will not only be met, but exceeded by the creativeness that the team offers.
Bondi Aussie Bar & Grill offers wholesome pub grub, live music and all the major sporting events on big screen TVs.
Australians – let’s call them Aussies (and there are a few other prized nicknames for them that we won’t use here) know how to have a good time. They’re not a pretentious bunch and enjoy wholesome fun, such as chatting over a beer with their mates, watching sport or having a barbie – that’s a barbecue for those who don’t know. They enjoy the sun, the surf, the great outdoors and any social event that doesn’t involve pomp and fuss.
So with this in mind, if you’re after a laid-back pub scene with hearty pub grub and a natter with like-minded sports lovers, head to one of the two branches of Bondi Aussie Bar & Grill. Both are well-signposted, with the Chaweng branch being close to the turning to Soi Green Mango, and the Lamai branch being next to McDonalds.
If there’s a sporting event that you just don’t want to miss while on holiday, Bondi is a sure-fire option, as they cover most of the main events. If you’re not sure, check out their website first, as there’s a schedule listed to ensure you don’t miss supporting your team.
And if you feel like getting your groove on, Bondi Chaweng has a live cover band seven nights a week from 9:00 pm, and Lamai on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. They play good old rock ‘n’ roll and pop, so it’s
Down in the far south of the island lies the little-visited golden chedi at Laem Sor.
One of the best things about Samui is that it’s not huge. Even though it’s Thailand’s third-largest island, it’s still only around about 25 kilometres from side to side. This means that it’s big enough to hold lots of hidden treats tucked away here and there, but it’s not so big and complex that you’re going to get lost, or exhaust yourself travelling for hours. The other thing which makes everything so much more accessible is that probably 98% of Samui’s attractions are more or less at sea level – there are only a couple of things that are (well worth) seeing that involve a mountain day-trip or safari.
For those of you with a nervous disposition – especially if it’s your first time on our holiday island – take heart. Samui’s ring-road does just that – it goes around (almost!) the edge of the island, and it’s just about impossible to get lost, as you’ll always end up back where you began. But after you’ve been out a few times on your rented scooter (they’re not motorbikes despite what the locals like to call them) then you’re ready for the Little Adventurer’s Handbook chapter two. And that’s when you realise that the ring-road is actually only three-quarters of a ring.
Fitness, rest & relaxation all under one roof at Dr Fish and Bikram Yoga.
Everybody enjoys a good story, especially when it’s a true tale. And in this case there’s romance and babies, work and business and travel and health, all thrown into the mix. If you’re sitting comfortably we’ll begin! We’ll commence our journey with the charismatic, energetic and lovely Lola Lavaud, who originates from Brussels, Belgium. After moving to Vancouver, Canada to study Philosophy, she soon realised that whilst being interesting, this was not her destiny. And so she embarked on a yoga teaching training course. As luck would have it, her teacher was the great yoga guru, Bikram Choudhury. A practitioner from the age of four, his knowledge and experience in this art form mean that his teaching methods are second to none. He originally developed the 26 hatha (or hot) yoga positions as a simple 90-minute workout sequence, which can stimulate all the core points in the body, helping to eradicate aches, pains and illness.
After completing the course, Lola travelled around the world to teach and practice yoga. She found that yoga aided her in such a way that she could never imagine not being able to at least practice this art form. But really her passion comes from being able to pass it onto others. Previous to practicing yoga, she suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and also had a lack of flexibility in her body. After discovering yoga, all of these problems have been eradicated.
Teaching English as a foreign language is a good way to see new places and earn money at the same time.
Let’s face it. Few of us are trust fund babies or have inherited a fortune, and so it’s unlikely we can afford to travel the world and finance such adventures ourselves. Well here’s one solution: TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This small but well-used acronym describes the industry, the profession and the courses you can take to qualify as a teacher. TEFL can be temporary or permanent. Some people do it as a career break or as a gap year, as it’s a great way of earning money while travelling and discovering new cultures, and in Southeast Asia particularly, this is a way that many finance their wanderlust.
So who would normally decide to do this? More often that not, TEFL teachers are new graduates, fresh out of university, not yet ready to settle down in the corporate world. Others - in fact many - are tired of the ‘rat race’, daydreaming while staring out of their office windows. Seeing new countries and exotic places forms part of many people’s ‘bucket list’. (And for those not familiar with the term, that’s a list of things you wish to do before you, well, kick the bucket so to speak.) Before we know it, the years speed by, and the ideas and inspirations we had when fresh out of school,
Travelling with kids? Here’s a few outdoor activities to keep them entertained on Samui.
“What can we do? I’m bored! Take us somewhere fun!” What parent hasn’t groaned at the sound of their kids uttering these phrases while on holiday. Now while Mum and Dad might be quite happy to read a book for hours on end, swinging in a hammock between two coconut palms, children generally need to be entertained, and few can entertain themselves for long.
Sure, you can bring the ‘electronic babysitter’ along – that would be the iPad – but really, being on holiday is about spending time together as a family, and doing things you wouldn’t usually get a chance to do back home. Being on a tropical island means that the weather is good most of the year, and so there’s a lot of scope to enjoy outdoor activities.
‘Beaching it’ means something different to everyone. To some, it involves lazing on a sunbed and topping up the tan. To a kid, this is borrrring! So if you’re determined to soak up some rays, be sure to stock up on a few props to keep the little ones entertained. On the main beaches you’ll see vendors patrolling up and down, selling beach bats, buckets and spades and inflatable water toys. Isn’t it worth it to spend a few hundred baht to keep them busy so you can enjoy the peace and quiet? And remember that you can catch as much of a tan building a sand castle with them as