Thursday, November 5, 2009

Visit a friend in Koh Samui

This was the chance to stay in Koh Samui for a few days and see what’s real about the different weather conditions you find in Samui and Phuket.

So I left rainy and stormy Phuket in middle of September with a daily morning flight from Bangkok Airways, that connects the two resort islands. The daily flights make it very easy to get from Phuket to Samui. In less than one hour, ten minutes earlier the scheduled time, I was in the beautiful Samui airport. I was surprised that the weather was really good with sun shine and only some clouds, no wind and almost flat see, and we were at end of Samui high season.

Phuket high season starts and Samui is in off season. This is the winning combination that makes Thailand a year round destination. It is a fact that the best time to visit Samui is from February to end of September, while Phuket offers the best from November to end of April and good weather in July and August too. Clear form this that October is most rainy months in Thailand and can rain every where. These are basic indication and luckily nature can’t be controlled so low season many time are good for rates and weather.

Once in Samui it is easy to move around. You find there is one main ring road that runs all around the island and one that connects Chaweng to Bo Phut. The road is just bit more than 50 Km, using a scooter it will take about one and half hour to make it all around. So I took my friend’s scooter and just went down to Chaweng to have a quick look.

Staying in Koh Samui you will understand soon that all action and life is on the East Coast, where you can go from Big Buddha beach down to Lamai and further south to look for beaches and nice places where spend your vacation easy days. Choosing a beach really depends on what the person is looking for.

Chaweng Beach has night life, a lot of restaurants for dining out, pubs, bars and shopping, and surely also the most jammed road on the island. Find a place to park even with a motorbike is difficult. Best solution and easiest way is to use the local pick up (Songteaw) that run all day and night in Chaweng Beach for a small fee. For just 20 Thai baht you can jump in and out at any place.

Sunset view from the pool at Varinda House Lamai Beach is the second most important tourist area on Samui Island and offers a different style, more relaxed and less eclectic. Here you find small guest houses and medium sized hotels on the beach or on the cliff just behind. Staying in Lamai enjoying your holiday will pass slowly and you will release all stress. Here I have been to see the Varinda House. I think its a great to stay. It's built on the cliff of Lamai and the swimming pool is its edge - a real infinitive horizon pool. The staff is very friendly and you find a really family atmosphere.

The others beaches on Samui are smaller centers and the west coats is the commercial harbor of Samui. You only go there if need to take a ferry to mainland or wait for a delivery from the mainland.

You find plenty of hotels in Samui for all budgets and needs. I was staying in a private house in a small villa complex overlooking the North Bay and Koh Phangan Island. Staying in a Villa is a good solution if planning a long stay or like more privacy. During my visit I went to see some hotels and selected the best to offer for our holidays packages in Koh Samui.

The best way to move around is riding a bike. But you need to be very carefully and drive slowly. Samui offers a freedom life style, so nobody will ask you to wear a helmet, but almost everyone drives careless which makes the roads the only real dangerous thing in Koh Samui.

Taxi meters are available but the meter doesn’t work, looks like they all broken. So agree the fare before you get on the taxi, remember that they all work together so bargain is very limited and it also depends on your way to deal and sympathy. I enjoyed the motorbike, but remember to stop when it's raining because the roads will flood quickly. Stop, have a beer and go again when condition are OK.

During my stay i decided to go diving in Samui. So I booked a diving day trip out to Chumporn Pinnacle and Koh Tao. This one of the activity available here and many companies offer day trips and courses. I booked with Coral Grand divers and next morning at 7:30 I was at the dive center, ready to explore Samui's underwater world. A speed boat (all diving excursion are with speed boats) took us in about 1 hour and 30 minutes on top of Chumporn Pinnacle. I found excellent diving conditions with visibility over 30 meters, plenty of fish life all around us and beautiful corals. Then lunch in Koh Tao – Mango bay and second dive on local reef in Koh Tao. The reef is shallow here and visibility not great so was a god dive but nothing really exciting compared to the dive in the morning.

In Samui there are many things to do, from diving and snorkeling around the islands to elephant trekking on the central mountain. Sightseeing to Koh Phangan and nearby National Parks or all normal stuff during an holiday on a tropical island. You also can just enjoy the relaxed life style and indulge yourself on the beach all day just doing nothing and taking life easy.

To close my report I like to compare a bit Samui and Phuket. The 2 islands are rivals on the Thailand tourism market but also complementary. I believe it is worth try to visit both of them during a holiday in Thailand and then decided for the next time where to stay longer.

How to get there – Easy for both specially by airplane, Phuket airport offers many more flights while Samui has the most beautiful airport probably on the world.

Dimension – surely Phuket wins here and this means more people and more traffic, so from airport to your hotel can take up to one hour, while in Samui never more than 30 minutes. Surprising for the same fare.

Things to do – Koh Samui is smaller but is surrounded by many other islands and every day you can go to a different one. Follow the link for more about Samui Tours.
Phuket offers easy access to famous Phi Phi Islands, Similan islands, Phang Nga Bay and great islands on the south. Activity are similar on both places but Phuket's position allows more. Night life and shopping are surely unbeatable in Phuket. Samui is more relaxed and tranquil.

The Sea – Samui clearly on 2nd position as the Gulf of Thailand is a close small sea that collects big rivers such as the Mekong and the sea is not very clear. Phuket is open to the Andaman sea so the Indian Ocean with blue waters and spectacular reefs.

Weather – as said they are complementary with Phuket high season from November to April and offering good condition in July and heavy rains only in October. While Samui high season runs from February to September with heavy rains from October to December

Everyone can find pro and cons for both but is great to have them in the same country so visit them both they have different souls.

Many times during your holiday you will hear “same, same but different”. Which is true.

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