Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Yoga in Koh Samui

There has always been an interest in studying yoga in Thailand. Although yoga belongs to the Indian tradition, Thai massage has a strong medical aspect that also deals with blocked energies like yoga. The cultural connections between India and Thailand are clear in religion and language. Names of places such as Srithanu in Koh Phangan are references to Lord Shiva.

From a tourist point of view, many people seek to do something more than merely sit on a beach in Koh Samui during their holiday. The notion for many of doing nothing on holiday has been superseded by the desire to experience as much as possible, to even start a learning journey or to experiment with new ways of living. One popular way to do this is to practice yoga or even undertake a yoga teacher training course in Koh Samui.

Below are some of the options for doing yoga in Koh Samui.

Vikasa Yoga Retreat

Vikasa Yoga Retreat is located just south of Chaweng Beach. They have ocean front yoga salas. They offer drop in classes, yoga retreats and packages that include accommodation. They also run yoga teacher training courses that allow you to join the Yoga Alliance and become a registered and certified yoga teacher.

There is a restaurant and pool on the grounds of the resort. Naturally the restaurant serves healthy and vegetarian options.


The Yogarden Samui

The Yogarden Samui is located in trendy Bophut / Fisherman's Village. They offer Iyengar, Pilates, Hatha and Ashtanga yoga. There is a pleasant covered yoga sala. It is a decent size and set in a quiet garden location.

They also do detox programs. They have a cafe full of yummy healthy food as well as a shop. They also offer Yin Yang Yoga teacher training.


Samahita Retreat

This yoga place is located on the quieter southern beach of Bang Kao Bay. It is a resort that offers a range of eco-friendly accommodation that is comfortable. They have good yoga facilities. They run fixed date yoga retreats, flexi date yoga programs and fixed date yoga training. They don't seem to have drop in classes as they want people to commit to at least a 3-day package.

Yoga styles include self-practice Mysore. They also incorporate cardio and specific strength training.



Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic Spa is a 5 star resort offering a range of wellness packages and spa packages. This is a very well equipped resort that focuses on wellness programs to detox, rejuvenate and to touch on the spiritual.

At present they don't offer drop in yoga classes. Instead they have one-to-one tuition  in a program called 'yoga synergy'. The package includes accommodation, Thai massage, soft drinks and access to daily holistic fitness activities. A 3 night package starts at around 61,000 Thai Baht.

Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic is located on Laem Set beach on the southern coast of Koh Samui.


Absolute Sanctuary

Absolute Sanctuary describes itself as a Moroccan-inspired boutique wellness resort. I think the Moroccan part refers to the soft furnishings and the design of the resort rather than to any particular style of yoga.

The resort is located in Cheong Mon. The resort features 2 yoga studios. Their teachers use a variety of yoga styles: hot yoga, Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga and hot flow. They also do breathing exercises and meditation.

Absolute Sanctuary offers drop in classes as well as bundles of lessons. A lesson starts at 750 Thai Baht. They also offer programs, wellness programs and detox programs. They don't do teacher training programs but they rent their yoga studios to those wanting to organise yoga retreats.

The onsite restaurant, the Love Kitchen, has plenty of vegetarian and healthy options on the menu.

The resort also has a communal pool.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Car Bomb in Koh Samui

On Friday 10th April, 2015 a car bomb exploded in Koh Samui. Although no one was killed an Italian girl and six Thais were injured. Police are investigating the bombing and are reticent to draw any conclusions.

The bomb went off in a Mazda pick-up truck late on Friday night. The car was parked in Central Festive Mall on the Chaweng Beach Road.

The attack clearly shows the intention of impacting the busy tourist trade on the island. Central Festive Mall describes itself as 'the most complete and largest lifestyle shopping complex in Samui’. It covers 90,000 square meters of retail space. It draws a large number of tourists as well as Thais. It is located in the biggest tourist center in Koh Samui.

You expect a bomb that explodes in such a location is intended to send out a clear message of shock and terror, and to effect the local economy which is heavily reliant on tourism in Chaweng.

Police have found the vehicle where the bomb was planted. It was registered in Yala Province in the south near the Malaysian border. It is an area that has seen a long time insurgency by Muslim separatists. Over the years they have set off bombs in southern Thailand as part of their insurgency.

Bomb deposal experts and forensic staff have covered the area. So far the police are refusing to commit to any definitive explanation of the event or mention any possible suspects. Since the world media scrutiny over the case of the double murder in nearby Koh Tao of two British tourists last year Thai police are keen to stick to following due process to avoid any more criticism.

Read Guardian report - http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/11/koh-samui-car-bomb-seven-people-hurt-on-thai-tourist-island

Thursday, 9 April 2015

New Online Booking for Koh Samui

For those enjoying just a few days holiday in Koh Samui planning is essential to make travelling as stress free as possible. The biggest change in travel in Thailand has been the internet. People have access to lots of information about travel routes. And now 12go.asia has opened up some routes for online booking; these include the bus and ferry route between Koh Samui and Bangkok.

It used to be that you had to take time out of your holiday to get down to a travel agent to book tickets in advance for your journey in Thailand. I invariably got stuck in Khao San for the night because the Lomprayah coach and ferry was always sold out by the time we cleared international customs and got to their office in Khao San. Those days of having to either arrive on the day and take pot luck on getting tickets or having to go out of your way to organise tickets in advance are slowly disappearing.

Naturally you can book airline tickets online. Thai Air tickets are easily purchased online through their website. For a while you could use the Thai Rail site to reserve sleeper tickets. That only lasted a few months before the IT collapsed.

Luckily a private company has stepped into the breach. 12go.asia offers online booking for various journeys in Thailand. It is a modern looking website that is easy to understand. It clearly shows the prices and the times of departure and arrival. You just type in the route you are interested in along with the date of travel and the site lists available tickets for sale. You can buy tickets by credit card or by PayPal.

It is still early days for 12go.asia. Many journeys are not available. In many cases the website lists transport options but do not offer online booking. You can book a train from Bangkok to Suratthani City or Suratthani Airport but not the reverse journey. The best coverage is from Bangkok to various places in Thailand.

One of the problems with offering universal travel booking in Thailand is that there are so many small service providers. For example the Haad Rin Queen is not going to join anytime soon or the Thong Nai Pan Express.

I guess if they can improve the coverage for train journeys in Thailand and internal flights then that would be a massive step in the right direction. It allows holiday makers to reserve seats in advance so that they don’t have to worry about missing their flight back home or having to spend half a day booking tickets in advance.

Here is a brief list of links for booking travel tickets:

Book Lomprayah and Bus Koh Samui to Bangkok
Book Lomprayah and Bus Bangkok to Koh Samui
Book Train from Bangkok to Suratthani

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Koh Samui Meter Taxis

 First time visitors to Koh Samui are frequently left with a nasty impression of Koh Samui as soon as they decide to flag down a taxi. People generally accept that taxis from airports are an exception, but when they discover that island-wide taxis are a total rip off they ask themselves, "Why do the taxis have a big sign on their roof saying 'meter' when they refuse to go on the meter?"

It is a question that everybody has asked. The answer appears to be that the taxis on the island are run by mafia cartels. The high fares are fixed; market forces are not allowed to apply. Any driver using the meter would soon be out of a job. It thus came as some surprise that in 2014 the NCPO (National Council of Peace and Order) announced that Koh Samui taxis must go on the meter. They would be allowed to start at 50 THB and also add a final 50 THB to the final meter charge, but that must use the meter or...

Or else? While the military junta has shown its executive teeth in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, it seems that their edicts are ignored by the Koh Samui police force. It is easy to draw conclusions about why this is. Some points of consideration. Firstly, there are too many taxis on Koh Samui. Supply completely outstrips demand. This balance could be changed by setting up a license system just for Koh Samui that worked to a quota. Moreover, cheaper taxis (on meters) would soon encourage lots of visitors and ex-pats to use taxis instead of private cars, bikes and songthaews.

Another point of consideration is that most drivers don't own their own vehicles. They have to do as their employers tell them. While they risk being fined or having their license revoked for not using the meter, they risk losing their job if their employer get wind of them using the meter. The pricing fix will only work if no taxis break the monopoly.

There is a telephone line that unhappy customers can use to report taxis in Koh Samui charging too much. There are no official figures for how many calls they have received. At present a journey that would cost 100 Thai Baht in Bangkok costs 400 or more Baht in Koh Samui.

While costs are slightly higher for fuel etc. on Koh Samui this represents bad consumer value. The issue of low cost short journeys on a relatively small island penalises drivers that take customers short distances. The airport is privately owned and has done a deal with certain transport providers. They have another fixed price scheme that is also poor value for private taxis.

Thailand has always attracted people because of its air of freedom. It is a country that is famous for its gentle Buddhist manners and lack of regulation. The downside of this is that unscrupulous elements can embed themselves in seemingly secure positions in the ‘white’ economy. The new rulers in Bangkok are finding it difficult to overturn this state of affairs – making pronouncements and getting things changed are two entirely different matters.

Friday, 9 May 2014

On Street Bar

This is the name of a bar that is not surprisingly on the street in Chaweng, next to the Buri Rasa Resort. There is absolutely nothing new about this type of bar in either Koh Samui or in Thailand. After having been to this bar I am nearly totally ignorant as to why Trip Advisor rates the place as the number one bar in Koh Samui.

If you are starting up a small bar in Thailand with very little capital the best way to keep costs low is to use outdoor space with cheap tables and chairs. Beach bars in Koh Phangan, and once in Koh Samui, all followed this model. They were often made of driftwood and local materials. Most of the construction was the bar itself. Patrons had to sit outside on cushions or in a hammock. Decoration would be odd bits and pieces and of course rasta colours. Bars like this include Rolling Stone Bar in Mae Haad. They are fun, geared towards backpackers and sell cheap bottled beer.

Perhaps Koh Samui and Chaweng have insisted on re-inventing itself  for high-end tourists  so much that basic street bars now seem a novelty, and hence the unexpected favour which reviewers have bestowed On Street Bar.

The popularity of the bar seems to rest on the hospitality of the owners – Jim and More – who make guests feel at home. Many establishments in Koh Samui tend to take their customers for granted. Moreover, the late night venues in Chaweng have seen more than their fair share of drunken fools starting fights, not paying for their drinks and revealing their body parts. The staff and management are jaded with such types (but not the money they bring in). It is thus  refreshing to encounter friendly bar staff and owners who join in the festivities.

Another factor for On Street Bar’s success is its drinks list. It has some impressive items on the menu such as passion fruit and strawberry mojito. These drinks are cheaper than in the bars of the main resorts. No doubt lots of tourists decide the Buri Rasa bar drink prices are a bit on the steep side and then stumble upon On Street Bar just outside the resort that has a better atmosphere and better prices. The contrast is considerable and a good incentive to make the effort to write a Trip Advisor review.

Clearly people rate more highly cheap drink prices, fun atmosphere and friendly staff more than beachfront location, leather sofas and expensive wine.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Ladyboy Shows in Koh Samui

One of the most fascinating parts of Thai culture for the foreigner remains the phenomenon of the ‘ladyboy’. Although, most other countries where gay people are not persecuted have their own transsexual scene, it seems no other country has such a flamboyant and visible transsexual culture as Thailand. In Thai they have a cover-all phrase ‘katoey’ to refer to gays, lesbians, transsexuals and transvestites. The phrase seems imprecise not from lack of interest to distinguish but because there is a deep-seated acceptance of the third sex in Thailand. All those who are neither straight men nor women are in one way or another ‘katoey’. One of the oldest running jokes in Thailand remains the situation where an unsuspecting foreign man sleeps with a ladyboy mistakenly thinking it was a woman. The movie Hangover 3 re-ran this joke, and it never appears to go stale. If such gags tickle your fancy it might be worth your while checking out of one of the ladyboy cabarets in Koh Samui. If you watch the audience you are more than likely to spot a drunken young Westerner who is lapping up the attention of a ladyboy. It seems unlikely the young man is gay but it seems likely he is about to have a ‘gay’ experience. Women on holiday are often drawn to the ladyboy cabarets. They invariably mention how wonderful the performers’ costumes are, and how beautiful the ladyboys look. There seems an element of voyeurism and rivalry in the way foreign women relish a ladyboy show. There are 3 main ladyboy shows in Koh Samui.

Starz Cabaret

This place is on the Chaweng Beach Road. There is a cover charge to enter and drinks cost slightly more than in a normal bar. There are performances at 8pm and 10pm every evening except Sunday. It is a popular show with an element of interaction: the ‘girls’ will tease each other, and sometimes they find a willing member of the audience to take the piss out of. It is all good-humoured fun of the gay variety.

Christy’s Cabaret

This ladyboy show is in central Chaweng on the beach road. The main show is at 10pm but the club opens at 8pm. There is an entry fee. For this fee you get ‘girls’ in glamorous and outrageous costumes singing along to gay anthems. As with all the ladyboy shows in Thailand, the performers and their entourage mingle with the audience and are happy to lavish attention on drunk, young and handsome men.

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge is the only free ladyboy cabaret in Koh Samui. They make up the short-fall in revenue by increasing the price of the drinks. The shows are at 8pm, 9.30pm and 11pm. The nightclub is on the Chaweng Beach Road close to the burger king. The show is big and spectacular and features musical and burlesque elements and extravagant costumes. If you just want to have a look at what all the fuss is about Moulin Rouge is the place to go. Be sure to buy at least 1 drink or you will attract unwanted attention. A ladyboy cabaret is one of those must-do things when visiting the South of Thailand, like going to the Full Moon Party. I leave it up to the reader to decide whether they want to fall in line with received wisdom.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Bophut and Chaloklum

Bophut is one of the most interesting places to visit in Koh Samui. It retains a lot of the original wooden, Chinese style fisherman’s houses in the aptly named “Fisherman’s Village” at the entrance to Bophut. In Koh Phangan the northern village of Chaloklum is similar. In many ways these two villages and tourist destinations are similar.

For many visitors to Koh Samui Bophut is the ideal location for a beach holiday. It has a long stretch of white sand beach lined with resorts. Most of the places to stay are in the mid-range and could be considered 3 or 4 star (not that the star system has any standard application). There is Sandy with pool, restaurant and air-con bungalows starting at 600 Thai Baht. There are a few budget places set back from the beach. There is the boutique styled Zazen and the branded Anantara Bophut Resort and Spa with excellent facilities, private pool villas and definitely worthy of 5 stars. In short there is a great choice of accommodation suiting all budgets. Many of the resorts back on to the beach. This means guests don’t have to deal with roads or noisy traffic.

Chaloklum doesn’t have the same range of resorts or indeed any big hotels, but you can stay in relative comfort in places like Buri Tara Resort and Spa and Chaloklum Bay Resort. Outside of Thong Nai Pan Noi, Chaloklum has some of the nicest places to stay on Koh Phangan.  The village of Chaloklum is the centre of the small fishing industry in Koh Phangan. You can see old houses, longtail boats, bigger fishing boats and the men repairing their nets. Recently they have created a seafood area with a few great places to eat fresh BBQ fish as well as traditional southern Thai fish dishes.

As with Bophut, Chaloklum has a boutique feel to it with stylish bars and restaurants to enjoy such as the Mandalay.

Being Koh Phangan, it is not all up-market. There is still a strong backpacker presence. There is the Omega Bar with regular open mic nights. There is also the nearby beach of Haad Khom that is off the main electricity grid and has cheap and basic bungalows that can be got on a monthly rate.

There is plenty to do in Chaloklum such as archery, elephant trekking, and during the windy months, kiteboarding. There is sometimes a party at the nearby Paradise Waterfall. Yet, it remains a relaxed and peaceful spot far from the excesses of Haad Rin and the Full Moon Party; similar in a way to Bophut that has plenty of great bars but doesn’t have any pick up bars.

Since Bophut has its own ferry pier, as well the nearby Big Buddha, it is easy to jump on a boat to either Thongsala or Haad Rin. From there it is a 30 minute taxi ride to Chaloklum. If you are spending a bit of time on the islands it is worth checking out both places.

For more information about the best things to do on Koh Phangan click on this link and it will take you through to www.kohphanganhotelreviews.com. It is by far the best review site dedicated to Koh Phangan.