By: Payal Hindocha
Holidays have the potential to do a lot. It could rekindle lost spark in a relationship, strengthen bond among buddies, reunite families, re-energise or sometimes offer sheer, hard core retail therapy. Mine are mostly of the latter kind. Sometimes, I travel to a place just to tick it off my ‘To Travel To’ list. That’s exactly what took me to this small Thai island, Koh Samui.
Landing in Koh Samui is such a refreshing experience. Colourful marine creatures, imprinted panel on the aircraft that ferries you to Samui, vibrant open transfer buses and the feel of the place in general is apt for a beach holiday. My first impression of Koh Samui, as I caught glimpses of it while on my way to the resort, was of a small island with many tourists but not exceedingly commercial. It had the right amount of buzz.
Usually my holidays are series of indulgences. Broadly they are all about gourmet indulgences, nocturnal carousing (nightlife), retail therapy, spa retreats and location exploration.
Thailand, specially the beach places, are challenging for vegetarians like me, however, there are some options available. Most good hotels in Samui serve good Mediterranean and Thai food with vegetarian options. You will also find the usual Starbucks, KFC, Burger King, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Subways.
Tree Tops Restaurant in Anantara Lawana definitely deserves a mention. Built on a series of wooden platforms at a height and open from all sides, it gives you the feeling like you are dining from a tree top. The seating area is like a cabin with a table for two. Dim lights, green trees, Lionel Richie’s melodious renditions and the pristine ocean enhances the dining experience. Ideal for a romantic dinner and its 7 course meal is a foodie’s delight. Its mesmerising ambience and palate pleasing food compensates for its steep pricing.
H Bistro at Hansar Samui serves delectable Mediterranean food with breathtaking seating near the beach. OceanKiss at Anantara Lawana has great options to tingle your taste buds. Italian food joint Preggo has a separate menu for vegetarians and the food is average. The Coffee Club had to be my ‘go and grab’ place. But its wooden décor, blissful coffee aroma and scrumptious snacks made for an amazing experience. On the beverage front, coffee or tea, Samui will not disappoint. The cool coconut water offered at almost all places is a total treat.
Samui’s nightscape is pulsating mostly on Wednesdays and weekends. Touted one of the best party places in the world, Samui has its own charm. Rows of night -clubs even cabarets stretch out on both sides of Chaweng Street. Ark Bar on Chaweng Beach is a lively place, perfect to park yourself from evening till late night.
A place that caught my fancy was Green Mango. It attracts maximum number of clubbers in the city, music is good and the space is quite open. Don’t stress on your dress. Vests, shorts and flip flops, and your good to go. In fact, you will even find people in their bikini tops (so there is no limit to dressing down). Try putting on something clubby and you could well be over dressed!
I was looking forward to the Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan (45 minutes boat ride away from Samui). Boat ride to the island can be rather bumpy and could get you drenched by the time you make it. It would be ideal to carry a pair of extra clothing or just wear your bikinis en route or better still reach the island and buy a new outfit from beachside stalls selling full moon party logo vests and t-shirts.
Party usually starts gaining momentum from midnight and will glide its way to early morning hours. On a small stretch of the beach you will find numerous DJs playing different tunes from trance, reggae to hip-hop. Fire antics which aren’t extra ordinary, but if you are high, it’s just the right amount of entertainment. And people selling little buckets with booze and soft drink bottles for you to so make your own concoction.
I began the party by parking myself on the highest bar on one end of the beach which gave me a lovely view of the entire full moon party. As I looked around there was the full moon party logo lit up with psychedelic lights stamping the beach with party fervour. Little shacks and lounge bars lining the beach, people in high spirits dancing away.
With such party pandemonium there are bound to be some turn offs like rowdy crowd, intolerant alcoholics throwing up and a little wayward behaviour. However, this didn’t dampen my spirits.
When I landed in Koh Samui, I had an aim in mind. To be in a spa every single day! Must say, I more or less lived up to it.
Most resort spas in the city are tranquil, aesthetically made and surrounded by greens. Spa treatments are usually set in motion with a cool cup of exotic tea. Their tea concoctions are refreshing and delightful. Spa treatments are varied and masseuses at most places know their job well.
Big Resort hotels like Anantara and Amari have their own spas, which are good. Then there are cheaper versions on Chaweng Street, like Irraya, which also do a decent job. Look and feel of the place, décor and clientele are good telling points as to whether the place is worth trying or not.
Well, when you are in the land of spas, you must not miss any opportunity of being mollycoddled.
Koh Samui is not a shoppers’ paradise unless you’re big on fakes. Some of the paintings and home décor articles sold are nice. Boutiques offer unique stuff but they are mostly exorbitantly priced. If you must pick up something to satiate the shopaholic within, I recommend Fisherman Pants, really comfortable and cool.
Samui is surrounded by the beautiful islands of Koh Tao or Koh Phangan. Within Samui places worth visiting are Chaweng Street which is the commercial hub of the city that runs along Chaweng Beach. Most of the good bars, resto lounges and clubs are scattered on this street. Then there is Bo Phut which is a little more reclusive but has some beautiful resorts and a pristine clean stretch of beach. Every Friday, Bo Phut comes alive with a pedestrian flea market in the Fisherman’s Village. Then there is the gigantic Great Buddha golden statue providing breathtaking views of the sea.
My favourite place in Samui has to be the Big Buddha Café (BBC) near Bangrak. Famed to offer the most beautiful view of the sunset, the ambience and the way it has been structured is striking. The open air seating makes you gaze at the vividly hued blue sea all around in disbelief.
All in all, Samui is the land of white sand, blue waters, green plantations and a myriad rainbow of people from all over the world. Lounge at the sea, soak yourself in indulgent massages, reconnect with yourself in an easy going and relaxed environ, dive into the depths of deep blue waters and party a little while you’re here. It’s a beach getaway that will surely go down in your travel diaries as a cherished memory.