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THAILAND: KOH SAMUI
Things to Do in Koh Samui

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Koh Samui

The best things to do in Koh Samui include varied and interesting highlights that range from splendid natural features to manmade attractions. Beyond the white sand beaches where you can spend a day out under the tropical sun or nodding palm trees, there are attractive waterfalls and more to explore.

You can discover anything from mummified monks to the famous 'Grandfather and Grandmother' rocks, known locally as Hin Ta and Hin Yai. For those interested in religious imagery and architecture, the Big Buddha will impress – especially at sunset. Nature lovers can visit Ang Thong National Marine Park on a day trip.

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Ang Thong National Marine Park

Ang Thong National Marine Park is a pristine archipelago of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand. The islands feature towering limestone mountains, thick jungle, white-sand beaches, fertile mangroves, waterfalls, and hidden coves and lakes to explore.

Within sight of Koh Samui, Ang Thong National Marine Park is a protected area covering more than 100 sq km of land and sea. It's home to a rich variety of exotic wildlife and sea creatures. Snorkelling, hiking, sea kayaking, diving, and simply relaxing are the main activities to enjoy at Ang Thong.

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Big Buddha 

The Big Buddha 'Wat Phra Yai' on the northern coast of Koh Samui is one of Thailand's famous shrines and probably Samui's best-known landmark. The 12-metre-tall golden Buddha statue can be seen from several kilometres away. The Buddha figure sits in the Mara posture, depicting a time during Buddha’s journey to enlightenment where he successfully subdued temptations and dangers thrust at him. The pose is a symbol of steadfastness, purity and enlightenment.

Inside the surrounding temple are many different shrines and other smaller Buddhas. There's also a small market selling a wide range of lucky charms and other souvenirs, alongside numerous food stalls.

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Hin Ta Hin Yai 

The Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks are some fascinating rock formations at the southern end of Lamai Beach on Koh Samui. They've been a source of giggles and wonder on the island since they were discovered by the locals many years ago. Known as Grandfather (Ta) and Grandmother (Yai), the rocks look, respectively, like male and female genitalia. 

The views from the rocks and the area around them are spectacular, stretching across the sea to nearby islands. The pristine waters here are so clear that colourful marine life can often be seen from the surface.

Hin Ta and Hin Yai are found near the traditional Muslim fishing village of Hua Thanon. In the surrounding area, there’s a lush landscape of plantations and buffalo fields, offering a glimpse of how life might have been on Samui before the rise of tourism.

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Wat Plai Laem

Wat Plai Laem is a colourful and interesting Buddhist temple near the Big Buddha in the north of Koh Samui. The temple features very ornate decor and art, an 18-armed image of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, and a large, white, Chinese Buddha set on a lake.

The giant Guanyin statue is a towering white structure in the centre of the temple grounds. It forms an imposing and serene presence and a showcase of Koh Samui's strong Chinese heritage.

Wat Plai Laem is a living and active temple. It's where devotees come daily to pay homage to Guanyin and the Buddha, who is also depicted in a number of statues and murals around the temple. The art techniques used in its creation are centuries old and based on ancient beliefs. Adding to its feel of tranquillity, the temple is surrounded by a lake, which is teeming with fish. Visitors who make a donation to the temple are given a bag of food to feed the fish.

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Other standout features at Wat Plai Laem include a large, white laughing Buddha statue, beautifully carved teak entry doors, and an elaborate ubosot (ceremonial hall) set on an island in the lake.
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Scuba Diving in Koh Samui

Diving in Koh Samui is among the top reasons to visit this tropical wonderland, with clear blue and warm waters together with amazing marine life. It's no surprise that the area is an extremely popular destination for both experienced divers and those wanting to take up the sport.

Short accredited dive courses are readily available and prices are very reasonable compared to most countries. There's a wide range of dive shops offering all levels of instruction and, if you look around, it's not difficult to find courses conducted in the language of your choice.

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Na Muang Waterfalls

The Na Muang Waterfalls are among Samui's most picturesque waterfalls, though it's technically 2 consecutive falls. Its name refers to the massive purple rocks at the waterfalls. Rocks and tree roots form a natural staircase that leads to the base of Na Muang 1. A large natural pool sits under the waterfall. A 10-minute walk further up the mountain leads to Samui's most beautiful waterfall, Na Muang 2.

The best time to visit is in the wetter months of September through November, when the waterfalls are fully-flowing. Na Muang is a popular place for families to relax and swim. Many Samui tours include a refreshing stop at the Na Muang Waterfalls on their itinerary.

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The Secret Buddha Garden

Secret Buddha Garden is a tranquil, sculpture-filled garden hidden high up in the hills in Koh Samui's interior. Thanks to its altitude, the unique site offers majestic views and an unusual collection of statues amid lush jungle surrounds. The gardens are a creation of an old Samui fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk, who began erecting several statues and temples around his family's verdant land in 1976.

The statues depict several animals, deities and humans in various poses, including one of Khun Nim himself, sitting on a rock in a relaxed position. The garden has a waterfall and stream flowing through, all shaded by thick foliage.

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Wat Khunaram

Wat Khunaram is a temple in Samui that's best known as the home to the island's most famous mummified monk. The monk is Luang Pordaeng, who died decades ago. As per his instructions, his body was placed in a specially designed glass case for posterity. It has remained there ever since and has shown few signs of decay.

Aside from the so-called 'Mummy Monk', Wat Khunaram is a fairly typical Buddhist temple, where local people come daily to make merit and pray. Amulets and other Buddhist artefacts can be bought here, and visitors are welcome to join or observe the daily rituals and have a look around.

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Lamai Overlap Stone

The Lamai overlap stone is a set of impressively balanced boulders that are a challenge to get up to but offer spectacular views. The sights alone are worthwhile for the adventurous traveller. The steep, rough, dirt-track road leading to the viewpoint should only be attempted on a dirt bike or with a 4x4, and the last stretch may have to be walked, depending on conditions.

Alternatively, getting to the unique site is a hard 20-minute climb on foot, but there is a refreshment stall at the top and it's an exhilarating experience. Look for the signs on the right-hand side of the ring road 1 km south of Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks in Lamai Beach.

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Koh Tao

Koh Tao – meaning ‘Turtle Island’ – lives up to its name, being the scuba diving destination of choice in Thailand. The stunning white-sand beaches that ring the hilly, 21-sq-km island are surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The vibrant coral reefs there are home to a wide range of exciting and colourful sea creatures – including turtles, naturally.

The compact island is 55 km to the north of Koh Samui and supports a varied selection of hotels, from budget guesthouses and beach bungalows all the way up to 5-star luxury resorts. The choice of restaurants and nightlife establishments has also been constantly growing.

Snorkelling in Koh Tao is one to tick off a Koh Samui bucket list. Koh Nang Yuan's sandbar beaches, formed by the ocean's currents interacting with the 3 peaks of the island, are unique to the world. Their beauty will take your breath away. 

Enjoy snorkelling in clear water and a chance to encounter the most beautiful ocean life. Continue to Koh Tao where you can stop for lunch at one of the great local restaurants that offer wonderful value for money. After your wholesome meal, you can either snorkel, sunbathe or just relax under the coconut trees.

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Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is an island that’s world-famous for its full-moon and half-moon beach parties. Nicknamed ‘Samui’s Little Sister’, it only has about 10,000 residents but attracts around 30,000 travellers looking to enjoy the island’s hedonistic events. Koh Phangan may be most famous for its full-moon parties, but it has a lot more to offer visitors than all-night dancing. There are few day-trip options from Koh Samui, apart from sailing cruises, so at least an overnight stay is recommended.

Koh Phangan is some decades behind Samui in terms of development, which lends the island a lot of charm, and some would say it's more picturesque than Samui itself.

Some of the island’s beaches are nothing short of idyllic, especially those on its western coast. Getting around Koh Phangan can be a challenge as some roads aren’t as well developed as Koh Samui's. Some beaches can only be reached by boat – this works in their favour as most of Koh Phangan remains quite natural.

Koh Phangan is around 100 km northeast of Surat Thani and 12 km north of Koh Samui. Most ferries travel from Koh Samui to the island’s main town of Thong Sala, but some boats dock and depart from Haad Rin, which lies around 11 km away.

A coastal road runs southeast to Haad Rin and connects you to Koh Phangan’s sleepy beaches such as Thong Nai Paan Yai and Noi. A northward road leads to Ao Chaloklum, while a 3rd road runs west along the coast to Haad Yao, Haad Salad and Ao Mae Haad.

How to get to Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is easily accessible by ferry. Overnight buses and trains connect land travellers to the ports at Surat Thani and further south at Don Sak, where ferries depart for Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Ferries from the mainland generally stop at Samui’s Nathon before continuing to Koh Phangan. They usually depart at 9 am and 11 am every day. The voyage takes around 45 minutes.

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Nightlife in Koh samui

Most of the nightlife action in Koh Samui is concentrated around Chaweng Beach. Among the great choice of nightlife entertainment options, you'll find a myriad of lounge clubs, bars, pool parties, and discos, the most notable venues are soi Green Mango, soi Solo and soi Regae. Chewang is definitely the place to have a fun night out in Koh Samui.

Lamai is the second most popular resort town on Samui Island – behind Chaweng – and offers impressive after-dark entertainment despite its relatively small size. The nightlife here is not as busy as Chaweng’s but a few long-established venues do their best to prove otherwise.

Each of the other main resort towns in Koh Samui – Bophut, Bangrak, and Maenam – also have interesting nightspots to be discovered.

Dining in Koh Samui

The sheer quantity and variety of Koh Samui restaurants ensure that you need never go hungry anywhere on the island. From delicious local snacks to international 5-star cuisine, every taste is catered to. No matter where you're from or what food you like, you'll find it somewhere on Samui for you. The range of restaurants, cafés, street stalls, beach vendors, bakeries and local places to eat is huge.

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Shopping in Koh Samui

Shopping in Koh Samui is diverse, with hundreds of bargains to be found around the island. While almost every corner of the island has a store worth visiting, the main shopping sites are Chaweng, Lamai and Nathon. 

The shopping scene in Thailand is famous for the wide variety of products to be found at markets and local, independent stores. Koh Samui is no exception. Such products can generally be found in the smaller local markets. Most department stores offer international, brand name products and have fixed prices, but generally you can bargain almost everywhere else.

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