Samui Guide Magazine Online Version. "Koh Samui. "Koh" is Thai for Island and Koh Samui is Thailand's favorite island getaway location. Located in the south of The Gulf of Thailand just offshore from Surat Thani. The island is surrounded by white sand beaches and coral reefs. The Angthong Marine National Park lies just a few kilometers away. Samui is a favorite with young and old, singles and families, Thais and International visitors. Features and attractions include natural beauty, waterfalls, national parks, inland mountains, coral reefs, extensive white sand beaches, scuba diving, four-wheel-driving, elephant trekking, mountain tours, island tours, national park tours, accomodation, night life, zoos, parks, gardens, temples, wats, restaurants, markets, fishing villages, buffalo fights, working monkeys, snake farms, butterfly farms, bungalows, 5-Star accomodations, PADI & BSAC dive courses, land & house rentals and purchase. Samui is the place to be for the holiday of your lifetime." 
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Koh Phangan


The Trip  The most reliable option is the ferry to Had Rin from Big Buddha pier - about five minutes drive from the airport, (10.30am, 1.00pm and 4.00pm). There's also a ferry from Nathon, which leaves for Thong Sala three times a day at frequently changing times, and a longtail from Maenam (just round the corner from the 711) that stops at all the beaches from Had Rin to Tong Naipan when it's operational - check with Travel Solutions (see page 50) for details.

Once you arrive at your chosen destination, the best advice is to chill out and enjoy it - Phangan's roads are ten times worse than Samui's and are often no more than muddy rutted tracks. Songthaews run reasonably frequently between Had Rin and Tong Sala, but on the rest of the island can be as infrequent as twice a day. Songthaews and private boats are available for private charter, but only at exorbitant rates.

The Beaches

Had Rin West is where the Big Buddha ferry docks and is shallow and very rocky. Had Rin East is the home of the Full Moon Party (see Dusk 'Til Dawn) and is Phangan's nightlife central. It's also the major hub for longtails, which means that swimming is often out of the question on the otherwise very pleasant beach. Bungalows and guesthouses are cheap and plentiful, but remember that even on a non-Full Moon night, you're likely to be kept up until 2am by the bars sound systems. Considerably quieter is Had Leela a short stroll to the end of the isthmus.

Had Yuan, a ten-minute longtail ride away from Had Rin, has excellent swimming and several quality stilt bungalow operations.

Had Tien is home to the Sanctuary Spa and Wellness Centre (www.thesanctuary-kpg.com), which has a great vegetarian restaurant and a wide range of quality accommodation. The beach isn't that great though.

The pristine Tong Naipan is great for snorkelling and is very popular with families. It also has plenty of decent accommodation including Panviman Resort (077 238 543), the islands only three star option.

Bottle Beach is considered by many to Phangan's most chilled beach and attracts many long stay backpackers with basic, but very cheap, beach huts.

Had Yao on the west coast isn't the best of beaches, but it is overlooked by Tantawan Bungalows (01 229 4804), which boasts great French food and one of the islands best swimming pools.

Eating, Drinking, Dancing

All the beaches have passable to excellent Thai restaurants, for more international flavours, Had Rin is the only place to be. Try Shell (on the lake) for top notch Italian and the best coffee on the island, Om Ganesh (main road) for very cheap northern Indian, Niras Bakery (crossroads) for all manner of pies, pastries and sandwiches or Bamboozle (just off the main road) for authentic Spanish treats.

The beach bars are mostly of a reasonably similar techno orientated ilk apart from Drop Inn and Cactus, which also play reggae, rock, and Euro-house. Alternatively, for less volume, pub grub and a very friendly atmosphere, head for the Outback Bar (main road).

The clubbing scene has cooled somewhat since the social order crackdown started but Harmony (behind Bamboozle) and Backyard (road to Had Leela) are both packed most nights and play any kind of music as long as its trance.