Category Archives: THAILAND, july 2011

KOH SAMUI

Koh Samui is a perfect vacation spot for exotic holiday with your little ones. Of course saying that doesn’t mean that all travel lovers wouldn’t love this island as well. The scenery is just beautiful and you can find a perfect sandy beach just for you. If you are party animal Samui has a very lively night life, lots of bars, clubs and restaurants. But if you prefer a more peaceful stay, you can easily find yourself a bungalow amidst palm trees right on the beach.

We took a flight with Bangkok Airways after Qatar adventure from Venice via Doha.

Flight buddies
Flight buddies
Sleeping during Doha Bangkok flight with Qatar Air
Sleeping during Doha Bangkok flight with Qatar Air
Meal at BKK airport before onwards flight to Koh Samui
Meal at BKK airport before onwards flight
Killing some time on Bangkok Airways flight to Koh Samui
Killing some time on Bangkok Airways flight to Koh Samui

The cost for spending you holidays here compared to Phuket or let’s says Hua Hin for example is lower here, but still much more expensive when compared to the northern part of Thailand. Genuine local food at reasonable prices is going to be hard to come by here, since many places charges a higher price for the lovely views they offered to their guests.

It’s fair to say that most locals here are not as friendly and smiling as they are in the north of the country or on not those touristic islands (like Koh Jum or Koh Yao) and the service isn’t that good either. We were very lucky with the staff of the resort that we stayed in (http://www.promtsukburi.com/ ). The place was just amazing, affordable, and very clean and located on a gorgeous Thongtakian Beach where we could play on the beach or in the shallow waters, or just laze in the shade when the sun was too hot.

Promtsuk Buri Resort grounds
Promtsuk Buri Resort grounds
Plenty of space to run around at Promtsuk Buri
Plenty of space to run around at Promtsuk Buri
Hammock where you can spend your afternoons
Hammock where you can spend your afternoons
Edita's bungalow was just across from ours
Edita’s bungalow was just across from ours
There is never enough protection from the sun
There is never enough protection from the sun

You can read our review about this great place here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g2314594-d736569-r122810792-Promtsuk_Buri-Maret_Ko_Samui_Surat_Thani_Province.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT

We also booked a car with their help and everything was just perfect. There also a huge Tesco Lotus supermarket just 10 min drive away. 

Tesco Lotus Supermarket
Tesco Lotus Supermarket

This was our second visit to Koh Samui so we sort of knew things to do and see.

Wat Kiri Wongkaram
Wat Kiri Wongkaram

Big Buddha Temple at Buddha Beach
Big Buddha Temple at Buddha Beach
Hi there
Hi there

Wherever you are staying on the island, you will need a vehicle, as there is not much of a public transport system, only taxis. In our opinion the most convenient means of transportation in Thailand is a scooter. But since we were with our little boy we rented a car instead. You can go around the island in just under an hour.  

Gas station
Gas station
We had a hard time finding kids car chair
We had a hard time finding kids car seat

I advise you to carefully consider the information about the beaches and villages of the island before you book a hotel.

MaeNam Beach

The beach is long with yellow sand, not crowded, there were a very few people (we loved Koh Samui for this reason. It is so easy to find a beach where you will be alone!). There is a sharp descent into the sea; you don’t need to walk 100 meters off the shore to swim as it happens in some places.

Mae Nam beach
Mae Nam beach

Bophut Beach, the Fishing village

We’ve stopped here for some sweets and coffee on the way around the island

Bophut Beach
Bophut Beach

The beach is long with yellow sand; the sea water seemed more or less transparent. Generally the place is picturesque and interesting. The fishing village is quite small. It is filled with an abundance of restaurants (mostly Italian) at medium and high prices. It is located not far from the main attraction of the island – Big Buddha.

Chaweng Beach

The most popular beach. This is a place for lovers of nightlife and filled daily life. Here you will find an abundance of restaurants, shops, a night market and lots of people. Beaches in Chaweng are not the classic turquoise water beaches. When we were there (June) the low tide was around late morning till late noon. The exposed sand was quite muddy and had crabs which were nice to see and show the kids, but not so nice to walk to where the water was deep enough.

We left this place for our next visit to Chaweng Beach
We left this place for our next visit to Chaweng Beach

The beach is crowded; you won’t succeed in lying down in silence on the white sand. As I already said the sand on this beautiful beach is whitish, and the sea water is clear.

Chaweng beach
Chaweng beach

Chaweng is very noisy at night. Lots of cars, drunken tourists on motorbikes, a bunch of transsexuals on the streets – chaos in one word. I would suggest this place for only those who like a very lively nightlife.

Crystal Bay / Tongtakian

The most beautiful beach on the island! A small beach between Chaweng and Lamai, surrounded by large rocks on both sides and palm trees from the road. We really hit the jack pot with our pick of the resort. The water is blue and crystal clear. The sand is white, and there were very few people at the beach. Kids can also play safe on the beach and shallow waters.

Beach at Promtsuk Buri Resort
Beach at Promtsuk Buri Resort

If you like snorkeling, you should definitely come here. Of course, you won’t see much, as Koh Samui is not very good for snorkeling, but I am sure you will manage to see a dozen different beautiful fish as we did.

Lamai Beach

The second most popular beach in Samui after Chaweng Beach, but more laid back. Every Sunday in the local village you can enjoy the night market with street food and a variety of Thai trinkets and clothing. There are also plenty of restaurants.

Lamai beach
Lamai beach

Not far from Lamai you will find waterfalls, a variety of activities, for instance riding the elephants, while in the southern part of the beach you can snap a picture of the famous Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks.

Rock formations
Rock formations
Grampa rock
Grampa rock

Of course we had to go on elephant ridding with Svit, since he was talking about it since we have landed.

Elephants are sooooo big
Elephants are sooooo big

If nice resorts, reliable internet and electricity, great customer service and lots of dining out options are a must for your holiday, and you don’t mind nice but not idyllic beaches, than Koh Samui is perfect for you. The bonus of being so developed is there are a couple of shopping centers with AC and fast food chains, which is always nice when it’s hot outside and the kids are tired of local foods. But honestly if you look pass the development and if you dare go out of your comfort zone (do that please) Malaysian Perhentians are better choice for a toddler.  But we still had a great week of relaxing holiday here and I’m sure we’ll be back someday. Just not that soon.  Our next destination was Koh Phangan and no, we weren’t there for full moon party:)

KOH PHANGAN

We took an early morning fast speed catamaran ride to Koh Phangan. The Lomprayah catamaran leaves from the pier on Mae Nam beach and after a hectic boarding we were on our way.

Calm seas await
Calm seas await

After good 20 minutes we reached the Thongsala Port on Koh Phangan, where our driver was already waiting for us. Finding a good beach on this idyllic island can be a bit tricky due to the tidal situation during summer months. Since we were there in July the west coast was sadly out of the question so our choice was North-east of the island where are not one but two gorgeous beaches at Thong Nai Pan – Thong Nai Pan Yai (big) and Thong Nai Pan Noi (little). Back in the day there were just a collection of small bamboo huts on the beach here but recently these have made way for the bigger, more lavish beach resorts. It remains a chilled out place however, especially at the southern end of the beach where many of the more classical, rustic Thai style accommodations keep the good old vibe going strong.

View in front of Havana Beach resort
View in front of Havana Beach resort

Our place Havana beach resort is located the begging of the Thong Nai Pan Yai. We had a bit smaller room but it was sufficient since the huge pool made up for it.

Funny shape, right?
Funny shape, right?
Monkeying around
Monkeying around

While kids can play on the beach or in the pool adults can grab an excellent and very cheap Thai massage next door at the beach. There is also a small 7/11 on the main road few min from the beach. You have quite a few resort restaurants to choose from at this beach. But if you like Indian food Havana is a place to be

Havana Beach
Havana Beach

 5 min long tail boat will bring you to Pan Noi beach across the bay where two upscale resorts are situated. We went for a look a quick coffee there one day and it’s really a beautiful place there.

to Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach
Short boat ride to Nai Pan Noi beach
Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach view
Thong Nai Pan Noi beach view
Coffee at the beach
Coffee at the beach
Beautiful scenery on Yai beach
Beautiful scenery on Noi beach

At the night you can watch the lanterns up in the air all over the island…so of course we had to try it too.

Lantern for a wish
Lantern for a wish

If you have enough of lounging around and doing nothing you can always take a boat trip around the island. It was a half a day trip with long boat (of course the roof it’s a must because of the little fellow) that we did not regret.

Quick nap on the snorkeling trip around Koh Phangan
Quick nap on the snorkeling trip around Koh Phangan
Snorkeling trip around the island
Snorkeling trip around the island

Beautiful coastal scenery, waterfall, hidden lagoons and of course top arguably the best beach on the island, called Bottle Beach.

Bottle Beach
Bottle Beach

The sand is powdery white and the water is a gorgeous aquamarine yet clear colored. Make no mistake, this bay is an absolute gem but if you’re coming to Koh Phangan especially for Bottle Beach make sure you don’t come at a time of year when it will be difficult to reach the bay. During the monsoon months it gets very windy and choppy around the headland that leads to Bottle Beach and as a result boats might not come here. If you want to be sure of being able to get here then come here between February and March when clear blue skies and calm blue seas is the order of the day at Bottle Beach.

Sneakers pancake (yes, THE chocolate bar inside)
Sneakers pancake (yes, THE chocolate bar inside)

Overall Koh Phangan has lots of stunning beaches and it’s less crowded and developed that neigbouring Koh Samui. Yes, Phangan-parties on the beach or jungle are the best in the world, but it’s just a small part of the island’s life and just one of many Koh Phangan’s faces. This days we can see more and more families with children here – because it’s hard to find place better for that type of holiday (except Haad Rin beach with nightly parties). Almost everywhere in Phangan you can find lots of small cafes and restaurants with Thai & International dishes. If you cooking by yourself, there is fresh fruits, veggies, and all other stuff on the markets “Tesco” and other smaller shops. 24 hours available “7/11” – 9 shops around the island.

Can we take him home pleeeease?
Can we take him home pleeeease?

As usual our vacation shifted into the second part and we still had one more Thai gem island to visit. So Koh Tao is next… We are wondering how it looks after 5 years when we were here.

KOH TAO

The island shocked us initially with its messy, tout-ridden port and extensively developed Sairee beach – think 2 km of bars and eateries, loud music, occasional drunken silliness from the wrong sort of traveler, and monthly boatloads of wasted-looking ravers who come after the famous full moon parties on Koh Phangan, the fluorescent paint still peeling off their pale bodies. At Sairee, the water off the beach is so shallow behind the much degraded reef that you can’t swim except for around high tide – or you can pick your way through the coral and swim on the far side, taking your chances with the taxi boats in the deeper water.

Main town harbour
Main town harbour

It’s not that nice here anymore. There are less fish, but what we notice the most are that the hard corals are mostly dead and broken … and the soft corals almost gone. I’m sure a lot of it is due to pollution or the warming ocean water, but a bit later we see what the biggest factor is likely. Around lunch time a flotilla of almost a dozen converted fishing boats arrive with day trippers. They tie up close to the best snorkeling spots and then proceed to spew out wave after wave of snorkelers. As we watch this, we realize that (amazingly) quite a lot of them don’t know how to swim … they are strapped into life vests, lowered overboard and then proceed to destroy corals that took decades to grow. Either by breaking them with their fins or by simply standing on top of them or smiling for the camera. The tiny island of Koh Tao (“Turtle Island”), 45 km north of Koh Phangan, is one of the top scuba diving destinations in Thailand, if not the world. In fact, only Cairns, Australia issues more PADI certifications than Koh Tao. So you can only imagine the amount of divers on this tiny island.

Koh Tao
Koh Tao

Because of the crowded Sairee are we have decided to stay at the Chalok Baan Kao Bay. It ‘s less crowded but it still provides lots of options with 7/11,  few pharmacies and lots of restaurants to choose from We’ve decided to stay at Paradise Zone resort (review) which was and was not a great choice for us. It is located on the top of the hill overlooking the Chalok Baan Kao Bay. The views are just stunning.

Breakfast with the view
Breakfast with the view
Shark Bay
Shark Bay

The downside was the climb to the resort from the beach. Thankfully they have free shuttle that takes you up and down and also for a small fee to the main town and Sairee Beach.

Open transport to Paradise Zone
Open transport to Paradise Zone

But you are still missing on the bungalow-on-the-beach-holiday-experience.

Chalok Baan Kao bay
Chalok Baan Kao bay

The Chalok Baan Kao Bay isn’t your ideal Thai beach experience as we soon found out. The water is murky and filled with oil stains from long tail boats. But as usual there is hope for the explorers:) One day we made few extra steps around the corner of the bay and we found Tah Toh Ya Beach.

Taa Toh Bay
Taa Toh Bay
Sunset at Taa Toh Beach
Sunset at Taa Toh Beach

At lower tide levels it is an easy walk with minimal and shallow wading from Chalok.

Wooden pathway around the rock
Wooden pathway around the rocks

At background right a walkway goes around the rocks to…..

Freedom beach
Freedom beach

Freedom Beach. This small stretch of sand is pretty nice with some good shade under trees in back. We were here the entire day, Svit could easy rest in the shade of the trees, and there were virtually nobody around. The far restaurant/bar was a nice place to spend time and seemed to be the hang of quite a few long-term travelers. Basically this is how we imagined Koh Tao should be.

Freedom beach again
Freedom beach again
Svit foud a new pet while waiting for lunch
Svit foud a new pet while waiting for lunch

Another great but small beach is Jamson Bay where Charm Churee Village is located. So if you are not staying here there is a small fee to be paid (100BHT) for which you get your wooden chair. But for as long as we were there nobody checked if people were paying that. There is abundance of fish in this small bay so Svit really had a blast. And so did we with our cold Chang in the hand.

Charm Churee beach
Charm Churee beach
Potato chips anyone?
Potato chips anyone?
Charm Churee beach
Charm Churee beach

We also had to go to Haad town for at least a dinner and a stroll along Sairee beach.

No rice for me today
No rice for me today

As mentioned before it was really too crowded and noisy for traveling with a kid, so our choice of resort was wise.

Kindergarten on the way to Sairee
Kindergarten on the way to Sairee
Stroll through the Sairee
Stroll through the Sairee
Beach
Beach
Low tide at Sairee
Low tide at Sairee

After few days it was time to go back in line for the boat that would take us back to Samui.

In line for Catamaran
In line for Catamaran

The ride back wasn’t pleasant at all, because soon after we’ve left Koh Tao the waves has started hitting us hard and there were lots of people throwing up the entire way. Sadly Svit and Edita were one of them.

Last photo before the waves started
Last photo before the waves started

There was only the flight back to Bangkok left and our island vacation was over.

Back to Bangkok
Back to Bangkok