Well, we’re back from a lovely Christmas break in Thailand having enjoyed a couple of days in the craziness of Bangkok before heading off to the quieter realms of Koh Samui.
Forgive me for not bringing you a post about KL today, but as I settle back into the normal routine of every day life, allow me to reminisce and tell you a little bit about our family holiday on this beautiful island.
Very different from Phuket, Koh Samui charmed us instantly with its quaint little airport, which sees you getting off your plane, on to a little open-sided tram, and taken to the arrivals hall where there is not much more than the conveyor belt to collect your luggage and a few tour maps. It’s typical ‘small-island’ feel was a welcome change after the hectic traffic we’d gotten caught up in while in Bangkok just a few hours prior to landing! Incidentally Bangkok Airways has over 30 (yes, thirty!) flights daily between Bangkok and Samui so it’s fairly easy to make it work with your international flight!
Driving from the airport to our resort on the west coast of the island we passed through Chaweng, the ‘hub’ of the island, where you have a bit more choice when it comes to shopping, lots of little restaurants, and eventually a bit of nightlife if you’re looking for it! But the island itself seemed much less crowded than other beach resorts in Thailand, to the extent that we had a beach completely to ourselves on more than one occasion!
Accommodation ranges from the usual back-packer lodges to the top luxury resorts. We treated ourselves for this vacation (if I’m honest, the whole trip was a surprise from my husband!) and stayed in the 5-star Conrad Koh Samui, which words will probably never be able to fully describe.
The resort is made up of villas etched into the side of the hill, each with their own private swimming pool, giving uninterrupted views to some of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen.
Hands down one of the most exquisite resorts we’ve ever stayed in – everywhere you looked it was picture-postcard perfect; from the glass-edged main pool and hammocks swaying in the breeze hung over the water, to colourful beanbags on the decking in front of a small private beach, and dining options all guaranteed to offer some of the best views on the island.
For the children there was also The Turtle Kids Club and while there weren’t a lot of organized activities, they did love hanging out there for arts n crafts, watching a movie or, for my daughter, getting her nails done!
While it would be tempting to just relax and enjoy the comfort of the villa, we did want to say that we’d done a bit of sight-seeing and so we ventured out a couple of times on tours that saw us taking in waterfalls, feeding elephants, and zooming off over the waves on speedboats!
Namuang Waterfall (well ‘waterfalls’ as there are two of them, named 1 &2!) was a short drive from the hotel and we were told it was an impressive fall to see with ample of water after the monsoon season, however I read it can be very disappointing in dry season – so double check if you’re planning a trip!
It was an easy one to do with children without any major trekking involved and also turned out to be the base for one of the elephant tour camps which saw tourists going off on rides and being taken into the jungle and off down the river.
We decided not to do an elephant tour, having done it previously in Phuket) but did go and see the elephants who were feeding nearby and bought some bananas to make sure they were fully-fed for the day!
There are several waterfalls scattered around the island of differing degrees of ease to access so there are options if this is something you wish to include in your trip. Namuang Waterfall number 2 requires more hiking and access to a certain point is only really doable by 4-wheel drive by the company that base themselves there so it may not be ideal for everyone.
We had a stop at Lamai beach (probably more famous for it’s rock formations known as Hin Yai & Hin Ta) and that was the day we basically had a beach all to ourselves! While the rocks attract the tourists (and photographers), we weren’t overly impressed so it’s not a must-see spot and if you’re not nearby, I wouldn’t suggest making the trip. We did, however, take full advantage of the empty beach and enjoyed walking around the little market-style shops with all the usual souvenirs, sarongs, fresh juices and coconut ice creams.
The Conrad offered a free tour via their own speedboat to an island about 15 minutes away from the mainland. The tour is open to 10 guests at a time so it’s best to reserve that a few days in advance once you arrive but it does go three times daily so you have plenty of options. We transferred to the jetty to join the speedboat before being taken to a first stop for some snorkeling. Our second stop was a 45-minute break on a pretty deserted island where you can do as you please for your time there. The children were happy to play in the sand, paddle (and practise their gymnastics!!) while we had a wander along the beach, took some photos and then relaxed in the shade. It worked, and as a complimentary activity, was a nice little outing for a few hours.
One of the main attractions for Koh Samui, and one that is so very well worth doing, is a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park. Not only is the region absolutely beautiful, but our full day boat tour included snorkelling at two different sites, kayaking, lunch on an island in the marine park, and a bit of hiking to reach the ‘Green Lagoon’ on Mae Koh where there’s a fabulous viewpoint! We booked the trip from the tour operator based in our hotel but I’m sure if you were near the slightly more-built up areas in Chawang, you would have the chance to wander and get a good deal (as we did in Phuket by booking everything ourselves and negotiating the rates down!). Our transfer minibus picked us up at the hotel early, around 7.30am, and drove the 45 minutes or so to the port where we met our speed boat! At the time of booking, there were different options available; from the private tour for just the four of us, a speedboat with a maximum of 15 people, or the same size speedboat carrying up to 30 pax. To be honest we did the latter and it was great, not crowded, everyone had life jackets (infant and children vests were available), and had enough space both inside in the shade or outside at the front of the boat.
Our first stop was for some snorkeling where we stayed for about 45 minutes and we all enjoyed doing some Nemo-spotting. There were a few other boats there but it certainly wasn’t the mass of tourists like when we did ‘James Bond Island’ from Phuket in 2015. We then cruised around the national park a bit, and our next stop was kayaking which saw us heading out and doing a tour around another island.
As hubby didn’t want to do it (and instead took the option of exploring the island and getting some photos done!) I went out with both children on one kayak! Hm, maybe not advisable but we all lived to tell the tale and my biceps are looking great! It was fun, and they managed to help ‘a little bit’ with the paddling but we were sure ready for some lunch once we hit firm ground again!
We stayed on this island for a buffet lunch of chicken curry, rice, spaghetti, vegetables and fresh fruits and had time to wander, swim, or go trekking for an hour or so after the meal. Once we set off again we were en route for our final stop to see the Green Lagoon. The steps to reach this point are a little vicious and it would be tough with very small children. Children aged 5 upwards would manage it although I don’t know how many times I had to remind my children to ‘hold the rail, and go down backwards if it’s easier’, haha! A bit of caution definitely needed but there’s no obligation to make the hike up.
There’s an ice cream hut on the beach, snorkelling and time to relax on the beach if you prefer that option! All in all, it was a lovely day; we felt we had been successful in seeing one of the highlights of the area, and had our ‘back to nature’ moment while getting in a bit of water sports and time in the sun. Very nice!
We’re big fans of Thailand; the food, the people, the high level of service, and Koh Samui did not disappoint at all. With or without children, for relaxation at the spa or some scuba diving, this is a great destination and not a million miles away from KL!
Chagwon would be more built up and more crowded but does have shopping opportunities (including the only mall on the island) and is closer to the airport and lots of restaurants. While staying in a resort on the west coast was beautiful and quiet, it was also fairly remote. That didn’t bother us at all as we were there to escape city life for the holidays but if you want to be able to ‘walk’ out of your hotel and easily find a taxi, or eat street food, or pop down to a 7/11, it’s not gonna happen!
Thailand does have a monsoon season (‘normally’ September to November) so check your dates! We were very fortunate with our visit. Generally December doesn’t see a lot of rainfall (as with January and February) but two days before our arrival they had been hit by horrific rains causing flooding and even some landslides. For us to have had the weather that we did with great temperatures, sun and blue skies was almost a miracle! Since returning, Koh Samui has sadly been hit by further torrential rain causing some evacuations to take place; you really can never be too sure, but it ‘shouldn’t be raining right now in their official dry season!
We worried 8 days might be too long, but let me tell you something; I could have stayed a lot longer! We’ve taken so much pleasure in using our private pool as well as the main pool with bar. We’ve sat and watched the most amazingly colourful of sunsets melt into the sea from different restaurants and terraces and taken full advantage of down time as a family by swinging in hammocks and lazing around the beach…… Thailand, you will always be one of my favourites…..Thank you! S x