After spending almost two weeks in the north of Thailand and in Bangkok, it was finally time to get to see some of the world class beaches that Thailand has to offer. We chose to go to Koh Samui. While Koh Samui was still an insider tip two decades ago, the island now has an international airport and countless resorts, an excessive restaurant and nightlife scene and everything else that comes with mass tourism. This all concentrates along Koh Samui’s east coast where the most beautiful beaches are located (according to some travel guides). At the same time however, Koh Samui still has its beautiful and remote places on the West and South coast and in its interior. During our stay, we got to see both faces of Koh Samui.
Our Small Little Villa
As we only booked our hotel the day before arrival and we were between the peak holiday seasons, we got a huge discount on a small villa in a hotel on the quieter North Coast. Apart from the bathroom that was probably at least as big as the bedroom, we also had our small private pool outside. So we could spend five relaxing nights there and drink mango juices and cocktails at the bar that was directly facing the sea.
Mass Tourism at the East Coast
We were warned by friends ahead that Koh Samui is very touristic, but what we encountered along Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach exceeded our worst imagination. The otherwise wonderful beach was completely overcrowded by people, the resorts and bars literally came down to the water, and everywhere was music. And the streets behind the beaches were not any more inviting. International chains like Burger King, Hooters, and Hard Rock Café were trying to attract customers, twilight massage shops are looking for customers, and every 10 meters someone tries to sell you something. Ilinca and I were really glad that our hotel was on the north coast where everything was a lot more relaxed and we could simply jump on our scooter and leave these awful places.
Tropical Paradise Elsewhere
Luckily the mass tourism concentrates around the airport. Once we explored the mountainous interior of the island or the West and South coast, we got an idea of what Koh Samui must have been before the tourist dollars transformed it. Especially the beaches on the South coast were some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen so far all over the world. A wide band of white sand going gently towards the shallow ocean, and behind the beach palm trees. And most important of all: You almost have the whole beach to yourself. I really don’t get why tourists prefer the mass tourism to this paradise, but I know that next time I go to Koh Samui, I will stay either on the South or the West Coast.
Koh Samui is definitely still worth a visit if you know where the beautiful spots are. And even though two out of the five days the weather was everything else than pleasant, there are still plenty of things to do on the island. The next stop for me will be Koh Tao, a much smaller and laid back island around 50 km north of Koh Samui with world class scuba diving.