Samui Wining & Dining
For a small island, Samui packs a punch when it comes to shopping.

For a small island, Samui packs a punch when it comes to shopping.For some a vacation is about lazing on the beach. For others it’s about exploring the surroundings. And for others trying all the culinary delights of the country. But the urge will come over almost everyone to tear themselves away for a little bit of retail therapy. And Samui has lots to offer in that department.


There are four main shopping areas on Samui: Nathon, Fisherman’s Village, Chaweng and Lamai. Nathon still retains a local feel about it, and you are more likely to find a bargain here. If you take a stroll down so-called Middle Street (sandwiched between the beach road and the main road) you’ll see some wonderful Chinese style houses that have been converted into shops selling handicrafts and clothes. At the southern end of Nathon there is an all-day fresh fruit and vegetable market. If you’ve timed your shopping trip for the late afternoon you are guaranteed a wonderful sunset over the harbour. And if you enjoy soaking up the local atmosphere there’s a nightly food market next to the pier. So after an afternoon of shopping it’s a great place to unwind with a cold drink and some food. You can buy everything from papaya salad to chicken on rice. Nathon pretty much closes down around 6:00 pm so don’t come here for shopping in the evening or you’ll be disappointed. You’ll find only the restaurants are open at night.


Fisherman’s Village is being developed more and more and is attracting a number of fashion boutiques. The village has more of a European feel about it, with its beachside cafes and bars. You can buy pretty much the same souvenirs and clothes here as anywhere else on the island, though there are a few shops that have something a little different and quirky.For a small island, Samui packs a punch when it comes to shopping.However the pleasant surroundings make your shopping trip a very enjoyable one. If you enjoy food then you can’t go wrong if you come for an evening shopping trip and combine it with dinner at one of the many varied restaurants that line the beach road. And of course there is the recently completed shopping mall at The Wharf, with shops and restaurants aplenty.


Chaweng is the most bustling of all the areas on the island, and that goes for shopping, too. Pretty much whatever you want in terms of clothing can be found here, from evening wear to bikinis, or even a tailor-made suit. There’s something for everyone and for every wallet. It’s a very busy place from early evening onwards, and great if you love the chatter of life going on all around you. At night, temporary stalls selling all manner of things from tuk-tuks made from beer cans to knock-off watches are set up alongside the more upmarket boutiques. Bargaining is all part of the social interaction here. It’s expected that there’ll be some negotiation about the price, but it should all be done in a light-heartened fashion.


The only places where bargaining isn’t expected are department stores, chain stores and some of the smaller boutiques with affixed price tags. If you don’t see price tags then try your hand at bargaining. While in Chaweng, don’t miss out on Central Festival, a new and popular mall, Page-58-3with shops, bars and restaurants.


There are also the colourful and vibrant ‘walking streets’ which are outdoor markets held in the evenings. It’s a great way to pick up some souvenirs and mix with the local Thais. You can even enjoy live entertainment and a cocktail, yes a cocktail, albeit in a plastic beaker, while doing your shopping. And of course there’s food galore.


As an island renowned for coconuts there are an abundance of coconut souvenirs on the island and you can find them in all the major shopping areas and the markets. Coconut bead necklaces are highly popular as souvenirs. You can also find lamps fashioned out of coconuts and bowls made from the coconut shells and lacquered inside. And with the latest trend for coconut oil you’re in the right place to buy it!


If you are more interested in art, then there are lots of studios dotted around the island where you can commission a painting or buy an original work. The canvas can easily be rolled up and taken back home to be framed there. Or how about another work of art, a tattoo? You’ll find artists in all the main areas.


A great shopping experience for those up early enough are the morning markets. They aren’t the places for the latest fashion or accessories, as they sell mostly food. But they’re a wonderful Thai experience and you’re bound to come away with some wonderful fresh local fruit to enjoy.Page-58-4 This is where you’ll get a glimpse of everyday Thai life. And that naturally includes the Thai spirit, too: the laughter, the chatter and the good-naturedness of the people as they buy their food for the day. This is an experience for anyone interested in the local food. And if you’re a photographer you’ll definitely want to be here. The colours, faces and the morning light are a great combination for some wonderful pictures.


For those of you travelling with babies and toddlers shopping is probably your number one concern. Don’t worry. There’s no need to lug over huge supplies of diapers, formula or baby food. Samui has more than adequate supplies for all your baby needs, including all the necessities and all the fun stuff for the beach: arm bands, swimming goggles and beach balls. Entertainment for your toddler won’t be a problem.


Perhaps like me you’re one of those die-hards that still like a good oldfashioned paperback and are worried about packing heavy novels to bring with you. No need to worry. There are a few bookstores on the island selling both new and used books. Most have a return policy which leaves more room in your suitcase. Your resort may also have a selection which you can make use of, though the selection tends to be much smaller.


I could list all the things that you can buy on Samui, but there are just too many. Instead I’ll tell you about one popular souvenir, a lucky cat. Not a real cat you understand. You may see them when you go into a Thai store. They are usually on the counter with their paw moving backwards and forwards, beckoning customers, and hence money, into the shop.


A few years ago a friend was visiting the island and had heard about the cats and so the search was on for nine cats, yes, she’d gotten orders for nine cats. There are a lot of superstitious people out there. But let me finish before you judge. At that time it seemed hard to come by the cats – though these days I see them everywhere. So we searched and finally got the nine cats. My friend was very happy and bags now fully packed with cats she set back off home. A few weeks later she excitedly rang to say a friend who’d received one of the cats had, out of the blue, come into a massive amount of money. Now was it the luck of the cat that brought the money or not? And what about the other eight people you may ask? Well it can’t hurt to take just one, can it, and see what happens?


All in all, Samui is a great place to browse, and in a relaxed and unhurried way, you can always enjoy an indolent session of retail therapy.


 Natalie Hughes


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