Samui Wining & Dining
Pedestrians Only

The island’s four ‘walking streets’ every week ensure
a fun-filled atmosphere and car-free environment.

 

12Samui attracts tens of thousands of visitors every week. And for the most part, people simply want to relax and enjoy themselves in the sun. Usually, there’ll be a day or two spent going around the island taking in the sights and perhaps a visit to an out-of-the-way Thai roadside restaurant. But there’s a better way to get a real feel for Samui and its people. And that’s by taking in one or more of the four weekly ‘Walking Streets’.

 

They all start in the afternoon and go on until late into the evening. And they usually have several hundred stalls that sell local foods, clothing and a multitude of other goods. Maenam has its fun every Thursday in Soi 4. That’s the street just by the traffic lights, and the stalls run down to the seafront, around the Chinese temple and back up the other side of the U-shaped road.

 

Nathon folk gather together on Saturdays in the middle road of town and there’s a nice family feel to it. Like a community fair or jamboree, friends and neighbours all bring something to the party and everyone’s invited. Lamai is the place to head for on Sundays and its walking street runs from the ring-road turning into town and down to McDonalds. With all of them you’ll get directed to a parking area and then just follow the crowds.

 

Friday nights, though, are most people’s favourite and Fisherman’s Village in Bophut is closed off to traffic as they host their walking street in the most picturesque surroundings. If you’re coming from Chaweng, go to the Bophut traffic lights (about five minutes or so drive from Tesco Lotus) and turn right. A few hundred metres in front of you there’s a large archway with the name Fisherman’s Village emblazoned across it. You could park up near there and walk down that street but there’s a better option. Just before the archway turn right and follow the road for about 500 metres and you’ll see a school on the right. You can park in there, it costs 20 baht but there’re parking attendants and you won’t get blocked in, which does often happen if you park on the street. And directly across from the school is where the walking street begins at the far eastern side of the Village.

 

Architecturally and culturally, Fisherman’s Village is quite different from other parts of the island. This area was settled by Chinese seafarers at least a hundred years ago and until the recent advent of tourism was a simple fishing village. Many of the

original wooden style buildings still exist, although they’ve been refurbished over the years. It’s just one narrow street, with the intersecting side road that goes up to the archway and the ring-road, which stretches for about a kilometre or so up to Hansar Samui resort at the very top end. Both sides of the street are lined with family-owned shops, some bars and restaurants and a few small hotels and guest houses. There’re no ‘beer bars’ with semi-naked girls, no raucous behaviour and even the salesmen outside the tailors are polite and not particularly pushy.

 

Starting at the eastern end, it’s best to wander right through the Village to the far end making some mental notes of things you want to buy. And then do just that on the return leg. There’s no rhyme or reason to how the stalls are positioned, they’re all just jumbled together so you can miss some things on the first run. The first couple of stalls are usually ones with T-shirts, beaded jewellery and kids’ toys. Then there’s one with some barbecued chicken and pork on a stick (10 baht), another with hot-dogs and some fresh fruit stalls.

 

All of the stall holders are local people looking to make a little money and, in doing so, share with visitors some local snacks which they may not have tried otherwise. And everything is very cheap, so don’t insult them by haggling over a 20 baht sausage. Further on, you’ll come across quite a few different stalls selling beachwear, sunglasses, shirts, scarves, handbags, silver jewellery, household ornaments, flip-flops and shoes. And there’re paintings, sketch artists and even a tattooist, should you feel inclined.

 

Food, though, is what most people come here to sample. And there’s a couple of stalls with a variety of spicy Thai salads which are always popular. They do have a kick to them but are delicious and at just 30-40 baht they are well worth trying. You’ll also find a host of noodle dishes and not just pad Thai. There is one stall that has Issan-style sausages which are an acquired taste but also in great demand as many people from the northeast of Thailand now live and work on the island. In front of Cocooning restaurant there’s a nice selection of Thai-style tapas, another has honey-coated barbecued spare ribs and near that there’s a small stall with homemade strawberry cheesecakes, chocolate cakes and coconut cream cakes (50-60 baht), all are worth a visit and a purchase or two.

 

Dotted around are some pancake stalls and a couple that offer filled curry, meat and vegetable pastries. They look a bit like samosas or mini-pasties and the savoury fillings are tasty. However, as you may have experienced elsewhere in Thailand, they use a sweet pastry which many visitors don’t particularly enjoy, although Thai people love them.

 

Most of the bars do happy hours and two have live music. And there’s also a couple of stalls that do cheap cocktails like mojitos and pina coladas (50-60 baht). However, they often use a little too much sugar syrup making them eye-poppingly sweet but they do have the desired affect. Further up the street amongst the regular shops there’s a couple of side-lanes with stalls in them mostly selling clothes, jewellery, hand-carved soaps and beauty products.

 

And if all the nibbling has given you an appetite for sitting down to eat, the Village has French, Mexican, Japanese, Indian, British, Thai and Italian restaurants (including Villa Bianca, and, of course, the excellent H Bistro at Hansar Samui at the very western end). You could happily spend several hours wandering around Walking Street and have a great time tasting lots of different foods. And you’ll get to experience another side of Samui and see what the local residents get up to away from the bright lights of Chaweng.

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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