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Koh Samui, Thailand, Travel

KOH SAMUI: TOP 5 THINGS TO DO

April 3, 2016

Finally managing to catch up with my blogging! And here are my top 5 things to do if you are planning a trip to Koh Samui in Thailand. This island has everything to offer from gorgeous beaches, nightlife, sight seeing and here I’ve listed my recommendations.

Beaches

Chaweng Beach is the main beach on the island. It is the place to be both day and night. With its endless bars and hotels lining its golden shore there’s no end of places to grab a cocktail or a beer and enjoy the island’s atmosphere. It’s not the best beach I’ve ever been to, but on a really sunny day the water is turquoise and crystal clear, you literally feel in paradise. It was one of my favourite ways to spend my weekends, if I wasn’t riding around the island exploring!

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Coral Cove Beach, this was my favourite beach after Chaweng. It is covered in huge boulders the size of buses and makes the most gorgeous back drop for those picture perfect holiday snaps – I actually did a mini-shoot here for a Thai-based swimwear brand which you can see here. The beach is very quiet and you feel like you are on your own private section. It’s a bit of a hidden gem on the island that no one really knows about, but very easily accessible from the main road, just look out for signs to Coral Cove Resort or Bungalows.

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Viewpoints

There are several “official” viewpoints you can go to on Koh Samui, but with the island being so hilly and mountainous anyway, all you really need to do is go driving into the hills yourself and get lost – you always come across some sort of view of the island and it is always stunning. However, the viewpoints I recommend the most are Lat Ko, towards Lamai, and Khao Hua Jook Pagoda Temple in Chaweng.

Lat Ko offered the most beautiful view of the island, in my opinion, and I also heard it’s supposed to be even more of a sight at sunrise (but I was never up that early). You will inevitably stumble across it if you are taking a trip to Lamai in the south of the island and the views you will see are of Chaweng. There’s lots of stairs that lead you down to the bottom where you will find a rocky section which is perfect for taking photos.

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Khao Hua Jook Pagoda Temple, although this was under renovation and slightly over-grown with trees when I went to view it, it still offered a gorgeous view of the island towards the north. The temple that is situated here as well is very pretty, so worth the visit for that also. It’s a little bit out of Chaweng, up towards a bar called Q Bar which can be seen from below in Chaweng, from the lake. It also looks out on to the airport so if you enjoy watching planes take off and land then this is the place for you!

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Fishermans Village

This area located in Bophut and makes a great change from the hustle and bustle of Chaweng when you want to get food or drinks. It is full of restaurants; most venues are right on the shore with sea views. It’s like a little town where you can literally do everything like, shopping, eating, drinking, relaxing so well worth a visit! It also has a good night market to wander around on Friday’s and Saturday’s – me and my boyfriend always used to grab whole pizza’s from this one stall for 100 baht each which were so good! In terms of dining at the restaurants here it is slightly more expensive than Chaweng, but they are a lot more luxurious.

One must go to place here is Coco Tams – the nicest bar venue on the island, I loved it there but it was extremely expensive (in Thailand terms) so keep that in mind if you are on a budget.

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Chaweng Night Market

This food market by Chaweng Lake was my favourite place to grab food after a day out. It is full of street style restaurants and stalls which sell everything from burgers, pizza’s, local cuisine and fresh seafood. It is also a great place to stop by for a cocktail or a beer as it is really reasonably priced in comparison to the proper bars located on the main road or the beach. The atmosphere is great and there is so much going on here and it is great for people watching. It makes a nice change from the usual dining experience!

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Sight Seeing

On Koh Samui there aren’t a large amount of sights to go and visit, but to be honest I’m not a massive “sightseer” myself, however I would definitely recommend going to see the Big Buddha Temple. Here in the north-eastern corner of the island you will find this beautiful golden Buddha statue that can been seen for miles. It is really something when you get up and close to it, especially the walk up to it in which the stairs is lined with a colourful dragon. The size of it is enormous and contrasted to the bright blue ocean and sky it really makes for a pleasant experience and is picture perfect holiday snapping material.

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Just 5 minutes down the road from the Big Buddha Temple you will also be able to go and see Wat Plai Laem Temple. Here you will find two huge, stunning carved statues and a ceremonial hall which lie on top of a lake. It is brightly coloured and the lake is full of gigantic fish which you can feed. This compound allows visitors to take a look into the Chinese-Thai beliefs as well as the Buddhist side. You will see here a white 18-armed figure of the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, Guanyin and you will also see a white laughing Buddha.

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My tip when going to visit both of these sights is to dress appropriately but if you forget don’t despair as the Big Buddah Temple offers cover ups, however the other site does not. Both of these sites can be found on Google maps with great accuracy.

Overall, the island has so much to offer and it is really, really beautiful. I couldn’t recommend enough just exploring the ins and outs of Koh Samui yourself by renting a bike and just driving anywhere you feel like. You will always stumble across a stunning view or hidden gem of a beach! Just what travelling is all about.

Koh Samui, Thailand, Travel

COST OF LIVING: KOH SAMUI, THAILAND

February 8, 2016

After living here in Koh Samui for the past three months here is a breakdown of how much it has cost me to live on a monthly basis as well as an overview of the cost of drinking and eating out, how to get around and visas.

Where to live or stay?

Chaweng Beach area is where everything is going on and the number one place to be if you are on holiday. There is no end of restaurants and bars on the main road and along the beach itself so you will always find something. The beach here, I have to say, is the best one on the island when the weather is good – except for all the private beaches owned by the 5 star resorts which most of us will never see.

Bophut area is also very good. Here you are close to Chaweng and also have the stunning Fisherman’s Village where you can wine and dine at some of the best restaurants and bars on the island, most of which have sea views with Koh Phangan in the distance.

Lamai is another area which you might also consider for a longer term stay. It is further south from Chaweng and a little bit more quiet but still has a lot to offer being the second biggest resort area on the island. However, I wouldn’t say the beach is amazing here as it seems to be lacking the atmosphere and beauty that the rest of the island has to offer.

Where did I choose to live?

Me and my boyfriend managed to find an apartment complex in the hills in between Bophut and Chaweng at White Pearl Village. It was a studio apartment with one-bedroom in a nice quiet area with a private pool. It was fairly modern and just what we needed.

It was a little bit of a challenge trying to find it and the state of the roads getting to it are pretty unstructured and get worse when it rains – I would not stay here unless you are comfortable renting a scooter and okay with being a bit more secluded from the main tourist area.

White Pearl Village

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In all honesty it’s not been the best stay and we encountered a lot of issues with management:

  • The manager over charged us by £100/$100. The manager at the time – she is no longer working here – over charged us by 5,000 THB. We were supposed to pay 20,000 for the first month and instead unknowingly got charged 25,000 THB. When it came to pay for the next month with the new manager it was revealed that we had been ripped off and the extra 5,000 was pocketed by the old manager who was sacked for “corruption”.
  • Next, they claimed that they had no record of our deposit which was also stolen by the old manager, or was it? To secure the room prior to moving in we paid 10,000 THB deposit (£200/$200) and fortunately for us we received and kept the receipt for this. However, when we mentioned this deposit amount to the new manager when we came to pay for our second month she said she had no record and that the owner had no record either. We showed our receipt for it and thankfully everything is on record now. (I will be writing a blog about all of the corruption and scams I’ve experienced in South East Asia soon!)
  • Last issue, in the contract we signed it clearly stated that cleaning of the room for monthly guests takes place every 15 days and that clean bedding and towels will be provided all of this is for free. A very interesting clause we came across was – upon checking out monthly guests need to pay the owner 700THB to have the room cleaned after they have left (something I have seen in a number of negative remarks about the apartment). Next thing you know the new manager comes along and says that this 700THB is a monthly recurring fee for cleaning and that cleaning for monthly guests was not free despite it being stated clearly in the contract – we didn’t obviously pay this and cleaned our own room after hearing this.

This last issue really highlights how important it is to read what you are signing up to and to clarify things which are unclear or seem strange with the owner or management. Personally, I think the whole “cleaning fee” situation was just another money making scam which we really were not in the mood for after being robbed of £500 in Bali, having 5,000 THB taken from us by misrepresentation at the beginning, then having our 10,000 THB deposit stolen and being told there was no record of us ever paying it.

Anyway, back to the blog… The cost of rent per month was 25,000 THB + electricity which was not cheap at all. Electricity cost us 7 THB per unit and this amounted to an extra 3,500 THB per month.

So the cost per month for accommodation here in Koh Samui was £560/$800 – very, very expensive in comparison to Bali where rent only cost us £430/$620 all inclusive of cleaning twice a week, electricity, fiber-optic wi-fi and the best TV channels ever! We did have trouble there admittedly with theft by the staff as I previously mentioned, but still, it was a much better deal than in Koh Samui.

How to get about?                                                                                                                                                  

Getting to Koh Samui from Bangkok is fairly easy there are a few options you can take. Obviously you can catch a flight over which will take you around an hour or you can rough it and save a load of money on the overnight buses. We took this option and it took us about 12 hours to arrive in Samui.

We didn’t buy into the sales representatives on Koh San Road who have really bad reputations for stealing your belongings and over charging you for the ride – we were quoted 1,600THB each, one way for one of these buses that picks up on Koh San Road and doesn’t even drop you off at the ferry port.

We booked a VIP government over night bus which picks you up at a proper bus station in Bangkok and takes you the whole way to Samui – the bus gets on the boat with you to Koh Samui. This cost us about 900 THB each and it included lots of little snacks, a blanket and fully retracting seats so you can sleep.

We have done the same on the way back and it is even cheaper this time around at 700THB. We booked via a site called Thai Ticket Major but bare in mind this does not include your ferry ride fare which I think is about 200 THB one way.

Sorting out a bike was pretty tough as no one wanted less than 3,000 THB per month and also wanted to keep hold of your passport the whole time! Eventually, we got in touch with an English renter who rented us out a bike without taking our passports and he charged us only 2,500 THB per month (£50/$70).

In comparison to Bali, again, is way more expensive. We paid £30/$43 a month there.

To fill up your bike with petrol here in Koh Samui you’d be paying about 50-100 THB dependent on your tank size and should last you two weeks or so.

Taxi’s out here are – I hate to say it again, but they are another big scam. They all have this big sign at the top of the cars saying “Metered Taxi” but they will all swear to you that taxi’s in Samui have no meters despite there being local police banners up everywhere around the island saying – no meter, no passenger. So just be aware of this they like to pull numbers out of thin air no matter how near or far you want to go.

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Eating, Drinking, Groceries?

Gym membership at World Gym for a month cost my boyfriend 1,300 THB (£25/$36) it was very basic – no air conditioning and fairly old equipment. Back home in the UK he said he would pay around £30-35 per month which would include sauna, state of the art equipment, hot tub, pool, air conditioning and in Bali he paid £17 per month for a much bigger and better equipped gym. So all in all, again, it is more expensive in Samui for gym membership.

Eating and drinking out is cheap if you go for thai food, however western food or seafood is quite a bit more. For a local dish, such as Phad Thai this would cost you about 50THB (£1/$1.40) and up wards depending on where you eat.

I have to recommend Uno – this small Italian place in Chaweng Beach Road for a full English breakfast because the amount you get and the quality, it is amazing. We never found anywhere that matched it – for sausage, bacon, two eggs, a baguette with jam and butter, grilled tomatoes, coffee or tea, plus orange juice it cost just 210THB.

A small local beer at a bar or restaurant will cost on average 70THB (£1.35/$2) and for a large one it will cost you around 100THB. A cocktail will cost on average 120THB (£2.30/$3.35) or more, but we have managed to find cheaper than this at some places.

If you’re roaming around the shopping centre called Central Festival in Chaweng there is a bar called C Bar and they do the best Mojito’s for just 80THB. Also one little bar in Fisherman’s Village, set out on the street do a range of different cocktails for only 100THB.

However, if you want a real treat go to Coco Tam’s – it’s just a stunning set out and such a chilled out place to be in, as you can see by the photo – but a cocktail is 240THB which is really steep for Thailand.

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The here is a breakdown of a few bits from my grocery list:

Large Milk – 86THB

Pack of 12 Eggs – 57THB

Loaf of Bread – 25THB

Orange Juice – 76THB

Brunch of banana’s – 30THB

2KG of Chicken – 100THB

Spray Deodrant – 115THB

Bag of Potatoes – 30THB

3 Pack of Chang Beer – 150THB

Bottle of cheap Wine – 279THB

Visa ‘s

Before we left Bali we arranged for 60 day tourist visa which could be extended by 30 days in which we went to the Royal Thai Consulate which was literally a little house in Denpasar. It was so smooth and I would highly recommend you go there to sort this out. There was barely anyone there so it was a much nicer experience than fighting it out with the masses elsewhere.

Documents you will need are:

  • Visa application (which you get given at the Consulate)
  • Copy of your passport
  • 1 Passport sized photo
  • Proof of travel both entering and exiting Thailand (after 60 days)
  • Proof of paid hotel booking
  • Proof of bank account statement showing at least USD $700 available
  • 560,000 rupiah (I think this is what we paid, it may have changed)

You literally spend 10 minutes filling in your paperwork and handing over your documents + cash with this thai man and off you go. He will tell you to come back after 2 days at around 2pm.

Royal Thai Consulate, Denpasar

Address: No. 9, Jalan Permuda II, Renon, Denpasar

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 09:00-12:00 (Applications) & 13:30-16:00 (Collections) – Closed on Thai and Indonesian holidays

Visa Extention on Koh Samui

We then extended our visa for an extra 30 days here in Koh Samui and we went to the Thai Immigration office in Nathon. It was so busy there and people were literally fighting with each other in the queue. It was not a nice environment to be in.

Documents you will need are:

  • Passport, with at least 2 passport page spots and 6 months validity
  • 1 Standard size passport photo ( you can get these done at the Koh Samui immigration office at the shops nearby)
  • Visa extension application form (you can get these at the immigration office)
  • Photocopy of your passport (you can get a photocopy done for you at the shops)
  • Photocopy of your immigration card that you got on arrival
  • Photocopy of your Thai visa entry stamp with clear date
  • 1,900 Baht in cash to pay for the extension

You will get your passport back on the day and you can be waiting anything from 30 mins-2 hours after you’ve handed in your documents dependent on how busy it is. We were lucky and were pretty much one of the first to hand in our documents and money, but we still waited about 1 hour to get them back. They will send out a staff member with a huge pile full of passports in their hands and you will give them your allocated number to claim your passport back.

Thai Immigration Office, Nathon, Koh Samui

Address: Thaweeratphakdee Road, NaThon

Opening hours: Monday – Friday 8:30am – 16:30pm. *Please note they are closed for lunch from 12:00pm-3:00pm.

So in total it cost us £28 for the initial 60 day visa, then £37 for the extension of 30 extra days -it’s fairly expensive.

Summary

Overall, I had a great stay in Koh Samui. I didn’t really feel unsafe or isolated and it really is a beautiful island with so much to offer, but I do feel like it’s a lot more expensive than other places in Thailand or even other countries in South East Asia – it’s very nearly as much to live here as it is to live in England.