Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Sailing in Koh Samui

Sailing is a sport that is growing in popularity all the time. There is a certain sense of freedom to be found on the open sea with nothing but the elements all around; the wind in your hair, the sound of the sails snapping; being the master of your own destiny. It costs a lot of money to buy your own yacht, more than it does to buy your own car, and that is why a yacht remains a potent status symbol of the rich and the jet set.

There is a fledgling yachting scene in Koh Samui. The best place if you want to experience yachting in Koh Samui is Saard’s Water sports Center. It is located in Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village next to the ferry pier.

Saard’s Watersports Center offers tour groups on 4 boats. There are tours to Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, and Angthong Marine Park. The Koh Phangan tour takes people snorkeling in Koh Ma off the coast of Koh Phangan then onto the beautiful beach of Thong Nai Pan then Than Sadet (place of a famous waterfall) and finally a short stop at Haad Rin. The Koh Tao tour takes in the famous triple islets of Nang Yuan. Ang Thong Marine Park is a collection of 40 uninhabited islands with many hidden beaches, sea caves, unusual rock formations, an inland lake and great snorkeling spots.

If you want something more private you can hire a boat by the day or the hour. The price includes a captain and a deckhand. There are 4 boats to choose from. The pick of the crop is ‘Kindred Spirit’. It is a catamaran with 3 double rooms. It is 13.1 meters in length and 9.6 meters wide. It has a speed under motor of 7 knots and 12 knots by sail. It is the perfect boat to take off on a journey to explore the nearby Gulf. The cost is 40,000 Thai Baht per day.

There are also 3 boats that can be hired by the day but are not suitable for overnight stays unless you camp on a beach. The fastest is ‘Sting’. It has two 300 HP engines and has a shallow bottom. It can seat 13 people in its air-con lounge.

‘Natalie’ is 38 feet in length can sit 25 people for day trips. It costs 9,000 THB an hour to privately charter. ‘Natalie’ has twin 250 HP motors.

The smallest boat in the fleet is ‘Panyawan’. It is 6.2 meters in length and can seat 5 people. The boat has twin 85 HP engines.

If you are interested in yachts or want to find out more about private boat hire then Saard’s is a good place to start. You can probably find cheaper speed boats for hire elsewhere in Koh Samui. What is special about Saard’s is the catamaran it has - surely, one of the most beautiful boats on the island.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Live Cheaply in Koh Samui


In the Past

There used to be lots of ex-pats living in Thailand, often on a very informal basis. Thailand is a country that has grown accustomed to over-charging tourists for everything from bottled water to Thai food to taxi journeys. Ex-pats have got around this problem by learning a few words of Thai and making local friends.

It used to be possible to get a series of tourist visas for Thailand by nipping over a border every 3 months. Foreigners worked in bars, dive shops and generally survived on a small budget in order to live next to a beach, in Bangkok or up in the north. Successive Thai governments have done a lot to clamp down on this. They have ordered their embassies in Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia to not renew tourist visas. They also made a few half-hearted efforts to raid dive shops.


Nowadays if you want to live in Thailand you have to marry a local, be sponsored by a company or get a pensioner visa. As a result many of the beaches in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan have lost many of their long term foreign residents.

Cheapest cost to live in Koh Samui

To live a basic life in Koh Samui you need a minimum of 15,000 Thai Baht. a month The cheapest rooms and bungalows have to be hunted out. They are normally privately owned places and can be had for between 3,000 and 5,000 Thai Baht a month.Most of these places are in the quieter south of the island. Don't expect to find them by searching on the internet!

As you can calculate, that leaves between 10,000 and 12,000 THB for living costs. The great thing about Koh Samui is that supermarkets such as Tesco Lotus make it possible to self-cater cheaply. The supermarkets charge everyone the same price.

If you have the funds to buy a moped (about $1,000) you can cut out most transport costs. Taxi drivers in Koh Samui never go on the meter. If you are on a budget they are out of the question.

On 15,000 THB a month it is still possible to go out occasionally to local bars and restaurants. Invaluable places for those on a tight budget are the numerous 7-11s on the island. They have cheap food, drinks and beer. They will also give you hot water if you want to eat a pot noodle.

Other than going to the beach most things in Chaweng and Lamai will be outside this budget.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Nathon has the best markets on the island. They are good places to shop for household goods and fresh produce.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Mummy of Koh Samui

The story of the mummified monk

The mummified body of Loung Por Ruam is the only mummified monk in Thailand and possibly in the Buddhist world. Whereas the Russian Orthodox Church and communist parties have a desire to preserve the bodies of inspirational leaders, the Buddhist faith has been opposed to the idea.

The story is that Loung Pordaeng (monks receive new names when the join an order) was a wealthy resident of Koh Samui. He saw the proverbial light and donated his wealth to charity and joined an order of monks on the island.

In then sat down to meditate. That was 30 years ago. He died and his death was not noticed at first. When it was noticed people were amazed to discover that his body was not decomposing. This event drew notice in the local area and the dead monk soon attracted a following. His death was considered a miracle. Very much against the wishes of the other monks Loung Por Ruam was mummified and put in a glass case.

The Condition of Koh Samui's mummy

Even after all this time the body of the monk looks in good condition: he still has some hair, fingernails and leathery skin. The sunglasses give the monk a slightly comical aspect. I need not remind you that laughing in a temple while not forbidden shows very poor taste when the laughter is directed at an object of veneration.

Where is the mummified monk?

The mummified monk of Koh Samui can be found near the beach of Baan Ban Kao in Wat Khunaram. It is free to enter the temple; as with all temples in Thailand legs and arms should be covered when in the temple.

A miracle of sorts

As a final note I am reminded of the Brothers Karamazov. The grand patriarch that the one religious Karamazov brother Alexei loved was nearing the end of life. In the story it goes that many of the monks were convinced that when the old patriarch died he wouldn’t decompose. Sadly, the story goes that he did. It seems that defying the forces of nature after death is a fairly common idea of a miracle. In the heat of Thailand it seems even more miraculous.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Hilton Arrives in Koh Samui

Introducing the Hilton to Koh Samui

Hilton / Conrad have recently opened their second hotel in Thailand. The first hotel is in Bangkok and this year (2011) Conrad Koh Samui Resort and Spa opened. This underlines the importance of Koh Samui as a destination for the affluent.

Conrad Koh Samui Resort and Spa is located in the Taling Ngam area of Koh Samui in the south-west. The resort consists of 80 free standing villas facing west and overlooking the tranquil beach of Aow Thai.

Private pool villas with sunset views

The villas are cleverly arranged to fan around a hillside so that they all have sea and sunset views. There are 65 one-bedroom villas, 14 two-bedroom villas and 1 Royal Thai Villa. All the villas feature private plunge pools with sea views.

As would be expected of a Conrad / Hilton each villa is stylishly appointed and feature LCD flat screen TV, iPod docking center and wireless internet. The rooms are in a contemporary Thai style with unique art work, Thai silk and tropical hardwood floors.

The Conrad Koh Samui has private cellar dining as well as cliff top dining at the Jahn Restaurant. There’s also Mediterranean dining at the Zest Restaurant. Sunset cocktails are available at the Glow Lounge.

The resort also features a cutting-edge designed spa that offers a range of holistic treatments, a fitness center and a floating pier.

The Conrad Koh Samui Resort and Spa is definitely one of the leading places to stay in Koh Samui. It is 28 kilometers from the airport.

The downside

The only downside to the Conrad Koh Samui is that the area of Taling Ngam is a quiet one with very little to offer in terms of nightlife. Moreover, the beach is nothing special. As with so many of the luxury hotels in Koh Samui they seem to be about trapping guests in remote spots so that the resort takes the lion’s share of the guests spending on food, drink, souvenirs etc.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Laem Set

Laem Set is both a quiet beach and a beach with plenty to do and see. This is unusual for Koh Samui (and much of Thailand) where the main tourist hubs are also the places offering the most entertainment. If you want to see animals while in Koh Samui then Laem Set is the place to go. It is also a popular place for those looking to practice yoga and other healing arts.

Laem Set is located in the south east of Koh Samui, 20 minutes from Lamai. It is a beautiful beach area with plenty of nature to enjoy. There is a coral reef 100 meters out from the beach that offers snorkeling opportunities. The beach has high tides and the best swimming is between April and October. At other times the sea doesn’t get deep for a long distance out to sea. Also there are lots of dead coral in the sand that can cut feet. Some resorts offer free plastic shoes for the sea.

For those interested in water sports there is a place next to the Samui Orchid Resort that offers kite boarding.

One of the biggest draw cards for Laem Set is the Samui Aquarium and Tiger Show. It costs 250 THB to enter per person and hosts aquatic shows as well as the island’s biggest aquarium. There is also an aviary. For children the Samui Aquarium and Tiger Show is no doubt a winner. Where else can you touch a tiger? Naturally people who voted on Trip Advisor gave the place a 96% thumbs down. One has to question the living conditions of the tigers and why they are so placid for the tourists.

Accommodation in Laem Set

Laem Set has a few mid-range and luxury accommodations. The biggest resort is the Samui Orchid Resort. It has hotel rooms, private villas and private pool villas. There are 3 pools and 3 restaurants. Pleasingly enough they also don’t insist on you buying a Christmas or New Year dinner like many other places on Koh Samui.

Shasa Resort and Residences will appeal to those put off by the thought of staying at the Samui Orchid. It is a stylish boutique resort that offers well appointed apartment style accommodation with 24 butler service. The restaurant ‘The Z’ is the coolest spot to have dinner on the beach.

The other notable place to stay in Laem Set is the Kamalaya. It combines luxury accommodation with lots of resources for wellness. On arrival guests are given a ‘wellness’ consultation. Also one on leaving. The Kamalaya has rooms and private Jacuzzi and pool villas. As you would expect there’s lessons available in yoga, pranayama, tai chi, chi gong and Pilates. They have a far infrared ray sauna and a fitness center with personal trainers on request. The Kamalaya also has a large communal pool and restaurant that caters for all dietary requirements. It is one of the leading wellness centers in Koh Samui.

The other thing of note about Laem Set is that on the hill behind the beach is The Butterfly Garden. It is a large garden under netting with a profusion of butterflies to admire. It seems more humane to cage butterflies than it does tigers. This costs 120 Thai Baht a person.

Laem Set thus offers snorkeling, a quiet beach setting, wellness treatments, tiger shows, kite boarding and plenty of butterflies. This makes Laem Set one of the quirkiest beaches in Koh Samui.