Smart Traveller


Qantas Holidays


Koh Samui by Carol Mallett

Recently, I was fortunate to attend the Travelscene Holidays Educational tour to Koh Samui, Thailand.
We flew Thai International, economy class, Melbourne to Bangkok, then connecting on to Koh Samui. The service on Thai was excellent, as always and all flights left on time. On the return leg, the Thai fights have a 5 hour connecting time on Bangkok, so it would be worth investigating Bangkok Airways for this sector. It might cost more, but save time.
We stayed at the Bandara Resort which is situated at Bo Phut on the northern coast of Koh Samui Island. The beaches at Bo Phut are good, with nice sand and no weed. The water is clean. There are several resorts at Bo Phut, including Anantara and Peace Spa, as well as several cafes accessible from the beachfront. There is also a small village style main street with some shops, bars and restaurants. The Pier Restaurant is here, which was recommended, but we ran out of time to try it.
The Bandara Resort is a good 4 star resort with beach frontage. The rooms all have balconies facing the main pool and have 2 queen size beds, so a family of 4 could be accommodated. The main pool is huge and runs down the centre of the resort with rooms either side. There is another pool at the beach end of the resort. There are also some private villas which a more secluded. The main shopping area of Chaweng is a 15min taxi ride which cost THB300 ($15).
Hotel Inspections
As part of our tour, we were kindly hosted for dinner and an inspection at the Centara Grand Resort and the Baan Samui Resort.
The Centara Grand Resort is a very nice 4.5* resort at the southern end of Chaweng. It has beach frontage and is spread over large gardens. The Superior and Club rooms are the same size, but the Club rooms have ocean views instead of garden views. The Club rooms also have access to the Club Lounge where guests can have breakfast and evening cocktails. All rooms have a King bed or Twins. There is room for 1 rollaway only, but there are interconnecting rooms for families. This resort is easy walking distance to the shops and restaurants of Chaweng.
The Baan Samui is a 3.5 star resort and is in central Chaweng. It also enjoys beach frontage. In this price range, I thought it was a great resort. All rooms are very nice with a terrace or balcony and a good bathroom. The downstairs rooms are a slightly higher standard than the upstairs rooms as they are more recently renovated with a larger bathroom. There is also a suite that connects to a twin room for families. There is a nice restaurant and a bar at the main street end of the resort. This resort would suit young singles or couples as it is right in the heart of Chaweng.
Sightseeing Tours
We did two tours as part of our itinerary.
The first was a full day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park. This is a group of small rocky islands and the surrounding waters. The boat left from Koh Samui Wharf and we visited 2 beaches, with lunch onboard in between. There is good snorkling and kayaking as well as some walking tracks to look outs. At the second beach we climbed the stairs over a hill to see a magnificent lake. Overall, this was a great day out and I would recommend this tour. We went with Highsea Tours, but there were other operators also doing this tour. They take your photo as your board the ship and upon your return there is a nice plate with your face on it for you to purchase. (Which, of course, I did.)
The next day we did an Elephant Trek and Mini Eco-Safari Tour. The elephant ride was great fun, then we were taken to a farm for a demonstration of how monkeys retrieve coconuts and a cooking demonstration. The guide showed us how to make a Thai curry from raw ingredients and we tasted the ‘one he had prepared earlier’. There were several in our group who liked to cook, so this was a big hit.
Other Hotels
As we had some free time on our last day, some of us hired a driver to see some more 5 star resorts.
Six Senses Evason Hideaway­ - This beautiful, secluded resort is on the point at the north-east corner of Koh Samui. We were able to see a Pool Villa Suite which is the middle room type. The timber décor, with private decking and pool is luxurious. This room can be screened off to accommodate a third person or child, but this happens rarely. Whilst the resort does not prohibit children, it is not really family friendly. The main pool is fantastic as it jutts out of the side of the hill. All rooms are very separate and private.
Tongsai Bay Resort - This resort is close to the Evason, but was closed for renovations until mid November. It looked like a nice resort, without the Evason pricetag.
The Briza Beach Resort is a boutique resort of 57 villas at the northern end of Chaweng Beach. The villas are very spacious with a separate bedroom and open-air living area joined by a small courtyard incorporating a private plunge pool. The resort is beachfront and is quite hilly.
The Library is next door to the Baan Samui in Central Chaweng, but is very private. It is a very modern, funky design with a very nice bar on the beachfront. It’s signature feature is the red pool.
The Sala Samui is south of Chaweng on Lamai Beach. Whilst, 5 star, this resort had a very relaxed feel. The villas are very private with plunge pool. The restaurant is on the beach and Lamai Beach is the nicest beach we saw. It is about 10 mins drive to Chaweng.
Also on Lamai Beach is Pavilion Samui Boutique Resort.   The 70 villas have either spa bath, plunge pool or larger pool. In some rooms the bathrooms were very small, but the beachfront villa is particularly nice and connects with the next villa for families. We saw several families at this resort. The beachfront restaurant is also nice.
One thing l liked about Koh Samui is the abundance of resorts with absolute beach frontage. Even in busy Chaweng, the resorts on one side of the street all went through to the beach. The shopping is similar to Phuket, but smaller. There is the usual market stall with DVD’s, bags, shoes, cheap sundresses, beach gear & jeans, plus a collection of air-conditioned shops with dearer, but better quality clothing. 
There are plenty of restaurants and bars. One restaurant we went to on a recommendation was excellent, Eat Sense.  This is a beachfront restaurant – great food at reasonable prices. There is also the typical Irish Pub and Sports Bars.
Overall, I liked Koh Samui. I think that there is something to suit everyone. I look forward to assisting my clients with their Thailand Holiday.