Thursday, April 09, 2009

KOH SAMUI - THAI ISLAND

It was a first trip for me, to Koh samui, an island situated in the Gulf of Thailand. I am sure many have heard of Phuket (Thai Andaman Sea), Krabi, Phi Phi and so on. Seasoned travelers would have heard of Koh Samui as well but many I know have heard about it but never been there. Here's a taste of Koh Samui.

First of all, you'd arrive on Bangkok Airways (or in my case, private jet) to this island. The airport has been developed, owned and operated by Bangkok airways. One can fly into Koh Samui from Bangkok or Singapore too (or in the case of private jets, one can fly in from anywhere). What is unique about this airport is the outdoor-open air hut style, typical Thai ambiance buildings that make up the main terminal building, immigration, baggage claim and pretty much everything else. The only air conditioned "hut" is the Duty Free. Weather in Koh Samui or just Samui for short, is tropical year round, just as one would expect Thailand to be. Last month it was a bit cooler in the evenings, pleasant breeze blowing in from the sea always. This video below shows an overview of the departure terminal after one clears Thai immigration.


I stayed in a hotel on the most famous beach on the island called Chaweng Beach. This strip has many hotel/resort options, many dining and party options and except for the sleaze massage parlors that can be easily identified, there are some good traiditonal Thai massage options as well. Night life is interesting, to people watch and hang out at the many theme bars and cafe's. This island is not as crowded as Phuket or that commercialized as Pattaya, at least for now, but is already one of the favorite destinations for travelers in Thailand. Chaweng beach is the most crowded, I saw a bit of Lamai beach, south of Chaweng and less crowded and much cleaner. Seafood options are many, on the beach, if only one walks up and down to look at the menu as well as the catch of the day in ice, inside small wooden boats. Food options on the main street are many and varied. I'd suggest local fare as always. Here's a video of Chaweng beach adjacent to my hotel, in the evening, in very low tide.



There are a few things that one can do in Samui. I'd suggest a one day tour of the Island in a tour bus. I took a tour like that and went to some of the interesting places on the Island. I found the first stop a bit wierd. There's a bunch of rocks by the sea and that's really nice. What's weird is that one rock formation resembles the make genitalia and a crevice in another looks like the female genitalia. This place is called Grandpa and Grandma rocks, for this reason. As usual, there are funny stories about how this place was named. One of them being two star crossed lovers who jumped off the cliff there and the only thing remaining were these organs. Here's a video of the area.


Next stop was something uniquely Thai, a temple monastery (Wat Khunaram) where a revered monk's mummified body is kept in a glass case in a meditative position. He gave up his body during meditation I was told, having predicted his own time of death. Then there's a visit to a coconut plantation where monkeys are trained to climb the trees and pick the right coconuts. Next stop was an Elephant ride park that is also the starting point for hiking up a hilly trail.The hike is a fairly steep climb and not very pleasant in hot climate, ending at a water falls and water pools that one can dip in to cool off. Here are pictures of the entrance area to the hiking trail and a small part of the water falls in the distance up in the hills.



A visit to the main town on Samui for lunch and then off to the big Buddha near the Airport. Here's a video of the Big Buddha.


The surrounding area of the Big Buddha has several other temples and I was surprised that the deities were of Hindu gods such as Ganesh, Shiva, Brahma and so on. Brahma is fine, one can see Brahma statues everywhere in Thailand, even Bangkok. Here are some pictures of the temples and shrines of the area.





There is another "must see" in the big Buddha area. There's a guy with a show room full of Alien and Predator sculptures (real looking dinosaurs as well). What's unique about it is that all the sculptures are hand made, using various parts from many junked motorcycles. Some of the Predator and Alien sculptures are really big, over 6 feet tall. Imagine if this was kept near your front door! They are so life like that I thought one of them was going to attack any minute. For all you metal heads out there, this is nirvana, and I spent a considerable amount of time gawking at the fantastic metal work. Click on the pictures to see brake pads, spark plugs, shock absorbers and so on, that make these sculptures! They are for sale. The challenge would be shipping, handling and re-assembly. The guy who makes them can do all this too.


There's lots more to do in Koh samui and in the neighboring islands. There's even a National marine park that comprises of 40 something islands where one can observe nature and get involved in snorkeling, kayaking, swimming in the sea and so on. Tours leave hotels very early in the morning for this trip. Cost of staying in Koh Samui can go from budget to high end. Eating out is not expensive and generally things are cheap. I'd suggest Samui as a destination to just go and hang out, do a bit of sightseeing but mostly for just hanging out at the beach and getting a relaxing Thai traditional massage for literally a song.

34 comments:

Kamini said...

Koh Samui looks like paradise on earth! It was interesting to see those huge statues of Hindu deities in this Buddhist country.

avdi said...

I love beaches. I love mountains too, but I think I love beaches better. Such lush greenery too. The metal statues look awesome too, I think my son would be in my debt forever if I procured one for him :)

Wonderful write up with interesting pics and videos.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi Kamini, thanks for your comment. The temples and the deities were indeed interesting since Samui is multi-cultural although the island belongs to the muslim majority southern Thai provinces. That is unique by itself. As you may be aware, there is a seperatist movement in Southern Thailand (Thai border with Malaysia) but Samui is not part of it at all. There are aspects of all these religions in Samui living harmoniously. It's not entirely paradise but worth a visit.

Thanks Avdi, for your kind comments on my writing and pictures. I love beaches more than mountains too. I love the sand and sea. Samui is indeed very green and largely clean as well. The metal sculptures are indeed awesome, I had not seen anything like this before and the artist has been so imaginative in his use of various mobike parts that it is mind boggling. There are many affordable pieces in his shop, smaller in size as well, hence easier to ship/carry. The large predator, I remember, was around $2,000 or so. In terms of what we can buy in Singapore for that money, that is dirt cheap. Don't convert to Indian currency, that would make it sound really expensive since Rupee has lost so much value at the moment (Rs 50 to a USD currently)! Your son would be forever indebted to you for sure!!

avdi said...

Yes Anup he would, as long as he is a teenager :) The transformers are his favorites, and these sculptures are so like that.

For me, I would just love to spend time on the beach. Its been so long for me.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Avdi, the artist had one transformers character left in his shop, an Autobot (optimus prime) that had a "Sold" sign on it. I liked the transformers concept too, from my young age till now. I guess your son would be eagerly awaiting the new Transformers movie "Revenge of the Fallen" to be released this June, I think. I loved the first one too.
Regarding beaches, I have to be near one most of the time. Had a good time living in the Miami/Ft Lauderdale area long back and subsequently better part of three years in Maldives and here now for 3 years. Although Singapore can't boast of great beaches, access to many in this region is limitless. So, I can't complain. Just got back from Goa a few days ago, finishing up paperwork on my apartment there which is now complete. It's the beach or bust for me too. Hope you get to go to one soon.

sundar said...

Capt...

Interesting wirte up with nice video clips..Big Buddha looks massive...loved it.. Its a wonder to see Hindu Gods in Thai...

thanks sir

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi Sundar, thanks for visiting and your comment and you are welcome sir. The Big Buddha is 12 meters tall, I believe. The whole area is interesting.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Avdi, on closer look, in the last picture next to the dinosaur (to the right of the picture) is an autobot!

avdi said...

Thanks Anup, Let me look at the picture once again :) Oh yes ! Revenge of the Fallen is eagerly awaited by Mom and Son.

Chandigarh is miles away from any beach :(

When I was in Bombay last, I begged my friend to take me to the beach, but for some reason we couldnt go.

YOSEE said...

That was very informative and interesting, Capt. After Phuket,Pattayya, Krabi, Phi Phi, Leam Seng etc, Thai Beaches and Islands were begining to pall. But this sounds definitely different, something to try out the next time.

The metal junk craft looks amazing. We'd bought some small models of the art at Phuket sometime back.

The hindu idols look jolly !

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi Yosee, some of these locations like Phuket, Krabi are over rated. They were really nice a decade ago. Now most of them thrive on sleaze. People go to these places because they are so heavily promoted by tour companies, especially Pattaya and I think it is way over rated. It won't be long before Samui suffers the same fate, although one hopes it wouldn't.

You know, in all my travels to Cambodia, I never went to Sihanoukville on the Southern coast (Gulf of Thailand). Even two years back it was supposed to be quiet, somewhat secluded, white sandy beaches with little facilities. Sihanoukville now, I have been told, is beginning to see too much construction of new hotels, bars, and other development with the sudden spurt of tourist arrivals. I guess everyone is looking for "alternate" beach destinations other than the over-done ones in Thailand.

hendy said...

I wish I could there someday... can we change link??? I add yours in my bloglist.. so you can add me too....

YOSEE said...

i know what you mean. The moment an "unspoilt" place is discovered and this USP is spoken about,its dead . Thats "development" for you !

Swaram said...

Interesting to see Ganesha and Brahma statues there; nice to see so much information about places. Very helpful.

krity said...

That's the reason behind the Incredible India

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hendy, thanks for reading my blog. Will look into your blog as well.

Yosee, very true.

Swaram, thanks for your kind comments. Ganesha is a favorite here in SE Asia. I have seen Chinese keeping him in their shop for prayer and good luck, I've seen him freely displayed in many parts of Indonesia (not only Bali). Brahma is common all over Thailand including Bangkok. In India we hardly have temples for Brahma (there's a story that most people know which explains the reasons for the absence of Brahma temples in India). In Thailand, I guess they have no baggage and no curses that prevents Brahma from being consecrated in front of buildings, at street corners, in temples, practically everywhere. That is interesting indeed. Thanks again for visiting my blog.

Swaram said...

Thats what actually surprised me. We don't worship Brahma here as such in the form of any idol and here we see this big statue. Which fool ever said religions and people are different. Such people need to see this. Thanks for taking us to places we have not visited.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

True Swaram. I agree. It's my pleasure to bring such places to readers who have not yet been there.

There are some important and very popular Brahma shrines in downtown Bangkok that the Thai's pray to. I go to BKK a lot and last year I had a detailed blog prepared to write about Bangkok, with photos including those of the famous Brahma shrines in downtown. I did not publish that blog because of the massive protest organized by the "yellow shirts' that closed the Tourism industry entirely and I thought that a blog about visiting Bangkok was not the ideal thing to do then! It's the "Red Shirts" now that are at it, this time. Tourism is taking a beating because of the turmoil.

Poor Thais, they are such nice, friendly people. I only hope they get their act together and bring some peace to an otherwise peaceful land.

Namita Chandra said...

Reading your post one almost feels that One has traveled to the destination which you describe so well with photos and videos. I started my travel blog with the same thought but somehow never managed to achieve it.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Namita, for your kind words. My blogging has also taken a backseat due to work load. I'm usually in different countries each month of the year and been doing that for a very long time. I should have enough material to write but my excuse is that I don't manage time well enough to be able to write! Hope to see more of your writing as well. Cheers.

iW2K said...

Nice and a descriptive post.

iW2K said...

We, at iW2K run a free service that will put you on the map. Besides, we plan to add traffic to your blog. If interested please drop us an email at iwrite2know@gmail.com or drop me your email id.

From the desk of iW2K
‘Get noticed.’

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

Very informative post. For most of us bred on Western ideas of sightseeing, this is a revelation.

In India there are hardly any temples for Brahma.

From what I can gather there is something for everyone here!

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

P. S. Great videos and pictures

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Raji Madam. Interesting place, it is, something for everyone. When tourism picks up, this place may eventually get over crowded.

Sheheryar said...

Wow the sand looks very white and the water very clean! We've been looking for a good and not so popular beach to hit and this is now officially on our list.

David said...

Hi Capt,

What do you think about the public transportation in Samui island?Is it convenient for tourist? I'm going to Samui Island next month:)
Thanks for the information as i enjoyed your blog.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

David: Thanks for visiting my blog and for your kind comments. My trip in Koh Samui was pretty short and I just took those mini buses that are found usually. I saw motorcycle taxis also plying around the Island. The local transport did not look very organized. Taxis are around too but few and costly. I'd recommend a combination of these minibuses and motorcycle taxis to get around. I hope you have a good time there. Cheers and all the best.

Mitr - Friend said...

Samoi.... A beautiful secluded beach with which I had fallen in love a few months ago when I came to know about it - Thanks to Kingfisher Calender shoot. Its so nice to see your pics and Travelogue and first hand experiences about this place.
And about the temples, Thai has its own exclusivity in its temple architechture and sculpture. U've got its essence so beautifully in your pics.
Your blog is tooooooooo good... I love your blog and am following it now..
Do drop into my blog sometime - My Travelogue

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Mitr: Welcome! Thanks for your kind compliments about my blog. Yes, Koh Samui was a fun place. I did not know that it was featured in a photoshoot for TV. I did manage to go through a bit of your blog. Your articles and sketches are fabulous. Will keep visiting and will read all your blogs soon.

Mitr - Friend said...

Hi Anup,
Not for the TV shoot. It was for the Kingfisher Calender shoot by famous photographer Atul Kasbarekar...
Glad you liked my articles and sketches. For a change, the last 2 posts have skectches, else its all photographs... Pls do find time to go through my blog and am awaiting your comments as well... - My Travelogue

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Mitr: Kingfisher shoot. Ok got it. left comments on the latest two articles. I am going through your Namakkal post now, very interesting indeed.

Mitr - Friend said...

Thanks Capt. Do drop in often.. Would luv ur visits n comments - My Travelogue

shams said...

Best of all, is for everyone. When tourism picks up, this place can exceed crowded.
Pallet Jacks