Thoughts on Koh Samui

We love island life, even the times we’ve spent on a very small island, like Utila in Honduras. We enjoy the laid-back feel of island life. Koh Samui surprised me, though.

koh samui, sunset, thailand

When we were planning on visiting Thailand, Koh Samui, also referred to simply as Samui, was not a place I had planned on visiting. I had considered its neighbor Koh Tao because of the available diving, but not being a big fan of highly touristed places, basically that whole group of islands was off my list.

Then in the latter part of our Morocco stay, we were offered a housesitting gig taking care of 5 cats while living in a bungalow that was practically on the beach. How could we resist!

We flew to the island rather than the alternate, and more typical, route of taking an overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, catching a bus to the coast, and hopping on a ferry. That just didn’t sound appealing after a 12-hour flight from Paris.

This was our first introduction to Thailand. We quickly saw that the Land of Smiles was accurate. Most of the locals had at least a rudimentary knowledge of English which made things a bit easier in some regards, but was almost always entertaining. Both for us and for them.

koh samui

On our 2nd night on the island, we hit the tourism-driven walking market in Chaweng Beach. (Each town has its own walking market, so there are about 4 a week total.) It was Tigger’s first exposure to the wonders of the night market, and we happily indulged in extremely yummy street food.

We had the use of a scooter which made it quite handy to get around, especially since taxi prices on Samui are outrageous (easily double that of Bangkok). Here’s what we quickly discovered about the island:

  • Rules of the road are really more like guidelines. Vehicles generally travel on the left-hand side of the road, but “generally” is the key word here. If it’s a short distance, or simply easier, expect traffic coming at you head-on, too.
  • The island doesn’t have a lot of middle ground in terms of development. You’re either in an area that’s highly developed or barely at all. This kind of makes it handy when you’re wanting to avoid the hordes of inebriated Russian tourists, though.
  • You don’t have to worry about running out of gas. If there isn’t a gas station nearby, someone is selling it on the roadside.
  • I haven’t done an official count, but I believe there are possibly more massage places than people.
  • There are lots of temples, and most of them are fairly young.
  • If you aren’t into drinking/clubbing or lazing on the beach, you’re going to be bored out of your skull.
  • All those wonderfully low food prices you see people talking about in Thailand are on the mainland. (Islands are typically more expensive anyway.)
  • Usually some of the best street food in an area is available in the fresh markets, but this is not the case on Samui.

koh samui, temple

I didn’t really have a lot of expectations when coming to Samui. I did no research and didn’t ask people for tips or anything. After all, we were going to be living there for at least a month. I wanted the joy of discovery.

But we didn’t discover much that was special. Really, there just isn’t much to Samui. It’s a beautiful island, but for the first time in my life I’ve encountered an island that I was quite eager to leave.

Basically, I’d have to say if you’re looking for islands to visit in Thailand, leave Koh Samui off your list. Thailand has much better places to visit.

Have you ever been to a place and thought “Why do people come here?” Where was it?

Share This Post On


  1. I’ve been visiting Samui for the past 14 years and I love the island. If you don’t take the time to explore then you’ll be left with only a tourist impression of the place. The comment about if aren’t into clubbing or lazing on the beach then don’t bother coming is just ignorant. Perhaps if you had made the effort to get off the beaten track and maybe tried to interact with the villagers inland you might have had a different impression. Glad you’re not coming back.

    Post a Reply
    • I’m glad you love it there. We lived on the island for almost 2 months, avoided the tourist areas, lived in a mostly locals area, spent most of our time in locals areas, explored the island, and so on. We didn’t care for it. Not everyone will like a place, and that’s OK.

      Post a Reply
  2. So far we have been pretty lucky and there’s nowhere that stands out in my mind as a place that we visited that we couldn’t stretch our imaginations and see why other people might enjoy it, even if we didn’t. Although, I have to say, as much as we loved Malaysia, Langkawi came pretty close… Given what it offers, I’d say you can get much better pretty much anywhere else!

    We will be heading back to Thailand in a few months and had been thinking, as everyone does, of going to Koh Tao to do some diving (maybe our Advanced OW certs). But the fact that it’s so heavily touristed definitely is a drawback in my book… Hadn’t even considered Koh Samui, but it sounds like it’s totally skippable!

    Post a Reply
    • I had friends who did some diving on Koh Tao and didn’t feel it was too bad of a place to visit, so it might not too bad of a place for mostly diving. Another option is Koh Lanta, although I don’t know much about how touristy it has become. You’ll enjoy your AOW course, though. It’s a lot more fun in my opinion.

      Post a Reply
  3. I went through Koh Samui about 10 years ago, to Koh Pangnang?? That was a lovely place, they just got electricity, the food was cheap and you could have a bungalow on the beach for $100 a month, I hope to check it out again soon.. Koh Tao is also known for its beautiful diving scape…….
    and my son had a foot massage at age 12, I’ll never forget that sight…….

    Post a Reply
    • I think you might be a bit unhappy with the changes on Koh Phangan. It is now complete party central. They have some nice beaches from what some friends told me, but pretty much everything else around the island is based on partying. Unfortunately, it seems once word gets out about a beautiful island in Thailand, it doesn’t take long before tourism has swept in and radically changed it.

      Post a Reply
  4. Good to know (not that I ever thought otherwise), but yes – I’d much rather stay in my “skull” thanks. 😉

    Post a Reply
  5. I’m intrigued by your stat of more massage places than people! I have to admit Koh Samui has never been on my bucket list, we do try and avoid ‘party towns’ – we’re OAP’s at 26 – Glad to hear the house sit went well. The ocean is such a soothing sound, I think I’d be happy anywhere that I could fall asleep and listen to the waves crashing on the sand!!

    Post a Reply
    • That certainly was a highlight. The ocean is so medicinal for me.

      I may be exaggerating a bit about the massage to people ratio, but I’m not sure. LOL

      Post a Reply
  6. Interesting to read about your impressions of Samui. Of the many times we’ve been to Thailand, Samui has never been on our radar either–quite the opposite, we’ve consciously avoided it. How was the housesit though–was the beach nice at least?

    Post a Reply
    • That’s how I feel about many of the well-known islands. We wouldn’t have gone there except for the housesit. The sit was OK. It was fun having cats again, especially the kitty who Tigger fell in love with, and it was quite mutual. It was also quite lovely having a home right on the beach. I love having the ocean as my constant background noise. Other than that, though. . .

      Post a Reply
  7. Ya….as soon as I hit this:

    “If you aren’t into drinking/clubbing or lazing on the beach, you’re going to be bored out of your skull.”

    I’m into neither. Food, massages and temples sound good tho! Maybe its the place to be if you just need to hide out…?

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *