Samui Wining & Dining
What to see and do in Nathon.

What to see and do in Nathon.For many years, to get to Nathon, there was only one way - you had to take a night boat from mainland Suratthani. It was cramped and uncomfortable, hard to sleep, but if you hadn’t finally managed to doze off by the time you arrived in the tiny port, you’d be greeted by the sight of steep hills dwarfing the sleepy town that lay at their base. The slopes were entirely covered in dark green, and the town itself a patchwork of white concrete and the brown of traditional wooden housing. You stepped ashore and found the little port workaday and cheerful, an administrative outpost, but more laidback than official.


It’s much like that today, though more modern, and one of the best ways to approach is still by sea, which lets this small port grow bigger in increments. It’s only in the last minutes that it seems to have any real size at all, almost reluctantly spreading out as the ship docks. You can also approach along the ring-road, and then it’s there instantaneously and without fanfare. Even though it’s the island’s capital, it’s unfamed in comparison with Chaweng and Lamai. For a start there are far fewer hotels here, and people who are staying only do so in order to catch a ferry.


But it’s worth a visit precisely because it’s been so untouched by progress. It seems to have continued quietly going its own way, while Samui as a whole has become a world-renowned tourist destination. In the early days, people used to stay here more,What to see and do in Nathon. until Chaweng and its swathe of sand became the place to go, then, soon enough, it was followed by other places along the north and east coasts. It’s very different from those other destinations, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d suddenly been transported to some other island.


There’s surprisingly quite a lot to see and do in Nathon, all of which is glossed over in most guide books and travel websites – unfairly so. But Nathon has never sought to rectify that and just seems to give a collective shrug.


If you’d like to spend a few hours in Nathon, the first thing you will need to do is find some transport to get there, but this is easily done; choose either a songthaew or taxi or rent a car (park up in the car park by the port). Once you’ve arrived, start at the local government offices, just up the road from the main jetty and head south into town. The main road


is packed with housing, offices and shops, but look up any street that points towards the hills and you’ll see that within a hundred metres or so that the greenery takes over. You’re never far from plant life here, and there are fields just off the main road.


You might however be oblivious to all of this as there are plenty of distractions along the road. There’s an immense amount of clothing on sale. There are thousands of items. It might be well-worth your time, as these are the cheapest clothes you’ll find on the island. What to see and do in Nathon.You’ll also find a good supply of bags and rucksacks in the tiny lane that starts across from the Thanachart Bank. Whether you want a small pouch to put a phone in or a sturdy bag for your next trip to the Himalayas, you’ll find them here, and at bargain prices.


Take that same lane and you’ll come to what’s called Middle Street. Here you can see – largely preserved – some of the original buildings that graced Nathon. They were mostly built by the Hainanese who originally settled on Samui around a century ago.After a quick peak here, it’s time to see the Chinese Temple, which is considered one of the island’s treasures. Go back up the lane and you’ll find it in a field just round the corner from the Thanachart Bank. It’s definitely worth a look. Adorned in bright colours, step inside and you’ll find shrines all along one wall, replete with gods, goddesses and mythical animals. For many, this is the cultural centre of Nathon. The temple is one of the best places to watch the Chinese New Year celebrations – be there if you can. Dancing, dragons and walking across red hot coals are all part of the vibe at this time. But no matter when you come, this is definitely the most colourful part of town, literally, and your photographs will reflect this.


Go back to the main road and continue along it and you’ll soon come to the fruit and vegetable market, where you can find some of the island’s produce, fresh from the hills and the sea. The fare is as cheap as it’s plentiful; there will always be something tempting in season..


Keep going along the road until you come to a junction. Continue and to your left is a temple, but if you fork right you’ll quickly come to a short section of promenade. It’s a great spot for watching the sun go down. A number of restaurants here are popular as places to drink and eat while you do so.The views are memorable: the jagged mountains to the south, part of the mainland, and off-shore islands that make up the Samui archipelago towards the horizon.What to see and do in Nathon. Nobody ever tires of the evening scene here; plenty of people who’ve lived all their lives in Nathon come out to watch the remarkable sunsets.


Head back into town along the coast road and you’ll probably see some of the local fishing fleet. Depending on the season and the weather, there are usually a dozen or more brightly-painted fishing boats anchored just offshore. These working vessels ply the local waters for fish, which are brought daily to Nathon and feed the town’s populace. You can even buy from vendors who are to be found along the road fronting the sea. Meanwhile, ferry boats of varying sizes chug in and out of the port, just a little further away.


Evenings, pick up food at the vibrant night market right on the shore. It’s a busy scene; buy from any of the stalls and eat at small rickety tables and chairs while soaking up the atmosphere here. Cheap and cheerful, this is another gathering spot for local people and office workers just before they go home.


If you have transport, it’s well worth heading south from Nathon. Turn left at the big roundabout two kilometres outside town and head up the road as far as it goes and you’ll arrive at the very impressive Hin Lad Waterfall. It’s actually a series of waterfalls and plunge pools, but you’ll need good footwear, water and mosquito protection if you want to visit all of them – just head up the tricky path that starts to the right of the car-park. Otherwise do what the locals do and stay around the pool at the bottom of the hill. Otherwise, keep on heading south and you’ll come to the least developed part of the island, which is definitely worth visiting, too.


Rob De Wet


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