Samui Wining & Dining
Samui isn’t just sun, sand and sea – there’s a whole other world if you just head inland.

Samui isn’t just sun, sand and sea – there’s a whole other world if you just head inland.Traditionally Samui’s thrust towards tourism has placed a lot of value on the fact that we’re an island. There are palm-fringed beaches and white sand. The sunset cocktail on the beach has become an institution in its own right. There are a hundred scuba outfits offering their services. There are boat trips of every description, from sunset cruises to luxury yacht charter. But there’s one genre that’s yet to emerge. And that’s the organised tour that takes you inland. Certainly, there are organised temple excursions or trips to the aquarium or tiger zoo. But, these aside and bowing to our geography, on Samui, ‘in’ also means up.


Yes, you will find several trips that take you away from the seaside. But mostly these fall into the ‘adventure’ category, heading off-road on a jungle safari or a rented quad bike, or abseiling on zip lines from tree to tree. There’s nothing of a calm and placid nature. True, you can wobble about on the back of a jumbo for half an hour, and take in a local waterfall, but that’s not really what I’m getting at. If you want a leisurely look at what’s really inland – and there are a great many attractions, not least the amazing views – then you have to do it yourself.


I have to stress a point here: the weather in many places outside Thailand means that few people are used to riding on a motorbike. Okay, so the ones here are scooters with auto gear-changes, but that’s not the issue. The local people ride instinctively – in more senses than just one. Even the 10 year-olds, who’ve never even heard of the Highway Code or seen a licence, can do wheelies and go home from school with four on one bike. There are fifty thousand of them, all around in every direction, and just one of you. So rent a four-wheel-drive Suzuki jeep instead.


And then take a few gentle afternoon trips to get the feel of it. On the flat somewhere, learn how to engage the 4WD; there might be the odd steep bit where it’ll come in handy, so learn how it works before you need it. The only thing missing now is the excellent Samui Guide Map or Samui Island Map. Take a close look in conjunction with this article,Samui isn’t just sun, sand and sea – there’s a whole other world if you just head inland. as there are really only three main access areas to the interior and you’ll need to know where they are and how they all link together.


Something to bear in mind: once you get off the ring-road and into the uphill side-roads, a great many of these little streets join up sideways. Thus, it’s possible to head up the mountain somewhere in the region of Maenam’s Santiburi Resort and, keeping in a southerly direction, eventually end up in Lamai. Similarly, if going inland and uphill from the Lamai region, there are several leisurely day-trips of waterfalls and viewpoints that’ll put you back on the ring-road anywhere from Nathon to Maenam.


Probably one little area that has the greatest variety of things to see is uphill of that part of the ring-road near the ‘mummified monk’ at Wat Khunaram. Almost directly opposite this temple, there’s a road running up into the mountains. Passing Ban Chang elephant trekking, which is worth a stop, this is quite a new road, wide and level. And you can now follow it all the way up to one of the island’s most beautiful spots, the Secret Buddha Garden. This is quite astonishing: an entire landscape of large sculptures, beautifully set over quite a wide, shady area, all made by a local fruit farmer,Samui isn’t just sun, sand and sea – there’s a whole other world if you just head inland. Khun Nim Thongsuk, who began building the garden back in 1976m when he was a mere 77 years old. And you can take refreshment at the nearby Mountain Grand View Restaurant that’s almost right next door. At which point you have a choice.


If you keep heading north, you’ll eventually end up in Maenam, having hit some of the highest parts of Samui, and taken in some of the most spectacular views in all of Thailand. Or you can cruise around the general area, where there are lots of interlinked side roads. This is the part of the island where there are most waterfalls and, although none of them are particularly big, they’re all delightfully shady and cool. Namuang 2 Waterfall is just downhill from the Mountain Grand View Restaurant, and following the road further will bring you to Namuang Safari Park with its elephant trekking and crocodile farm, leading down a little more to the bigger spectacle of Namuang 1 Waterfall.


Another pleasant alternative is to head inland on the crossroads marked road 4172, that’s just south of Nathon. This has another little elephant trekking station and will lead up to Hin Lad Waterfall, after which you can hook to the right and wend your way southwards towards the Secret Buddha Garden in the area that’s already been mentioned. Or, indeed, you could continue on up and over, bearing down to your left, past Canopy Adventures and stop for a break at the View Top Restaurant before drifting down towards Soi 5 in Maenam.


This is one of the nice things about heading for the interior; there are so many alternative little routes to take. There are lots of different permutations. And the best thing of all? You won’t get lost. You can’t. There’s no way you’ll end up in the middle of nowhere. You might not know quite where you are, but that’s not the same thing. Just keep heading downwards, and you’ll end up back on the ring-road. Once you’ve plucked up the courage to ‘go in and go up’, it’s the only place left to go!


 Rob De Wet


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