The beautiful island of Koh Samui in Thailand has a little bit of something for everything. Golden sandy beaches, historic temples, tiny islands just waiting to be explored and more delicious food than you can shake a stick at. Here is how we enjoyed our time on the island.
Do you want to be kept up to date on posts like this one about Koh Samui? Please subscribe to the blog mailing list (it takes 30 seconds). You will get the new posts sent straight to your inbox. Your email address won't be passed on to anyone and you will never be spammed. Click here to sign up.
It's not every trip that you arrive at an open air airport with no doors and windows to hundreds of screaming fan-girls wanting autographs. But that's what happened when we arrived on Koh Samui. The screaming fans weren't for us though! They were for an (apparently) mega famous Korean girl band called Girls' Generation who were quickly whisked away.
Our own arrival was a little more low key, but that doesn't mean that we weren't made to feel special. The Thai hospitality didn't let us down when we arrived at the Muang Samui Hotel and were greeted with a big smile, a refreshing drink and a lei.
Walking the winding paths of this little resort, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the jungle. Birds swooping, trees taller than you can see, exotic sounds and smells and cats prowling. But not big jungle cats, cute little stray cats that you will see all over Thailand. One (who we named Molly) adopted us within minutes of arriving and we fed every day. I hope the people that stayed in the room after we left didn't mind the cat meowing at their door for food at 6am every morning.
We chose this hotel mainly for the huge beautiful rooms. We didn't spend much time in our hotels the rest of our Thailand adventure, but we knew we would for this one, as it was the relaxing part of the trip and a nap or two, and a hangover day, were definitely on the cards.
If I am being totally honest, I chose this hotel based on the massive bathroom! It had two doors at either side of it and the epic shower. The shower was bigger than our kitchen!
We booked this hotel so we could relax, and relax is exactly what we did. Coconut cocktails round by the pool (I know, such a cliche), topping up our tan and dipping in and out of the water when the heat got a bit too much.
The pool even had a waterfall! It may look like we were the only ones in the pool, but people were basically queuing up to get a photo with their cocktail under the waterfall. It was a photo opportunity not to be missed.
The food in Koh Samui wasn't the best we had on our 3 week Thailand adventure. It is a very touristy island, but there were many gems to be found. Feeling a bit lazy, we decided to see what the hotel had to offer apart from just the breakfast buffet and I was pleased to discover that they made a damn good papaya salad - which had a real kick to it.
Papaya salad had become by go-to dish when we were travelling round Thailand. I ordered it everywhere we went and my opinion on any establishment was based on how good their papaya salad was. What can I say? I am easily pleased! Or not as the case was sometimes.
I like to relax as much as the next person when I'm on holiday, especially a beach resort, but the thought of never leaving the hotel just bores me. We like to get out and about and explore. Why go all the way to Thailand if your not going to do that?
Early one morning, we boarded a boat to head out to the Ang Thong National Marine Park. Ang Thong is an archipelago of 42 islands about 12 miles west of Koh Samui which covers an area of about 100 square miles. Ang Thong translates as "Golden Bowl" and it is a collection of dramatic cliffs and rocks that rise out of the Thai Gulf.
All but two of the islands are uninhabited and the whole region is a protected nature area. Larger animals don't populate the small, steep, rocky islands, but smaller animals thrive. There are 16 species of mammal, including monkeys, otters, hogs, bats and dolphins, as well as 54 species of birds. There are 14 species of reptile (including snakes, lizards and turtles), 5 species of amphibians and a myriad of insects, fish, molluscs and coral. So, if you want to spot some of the local animals, that's the place to go!
The boat journey to the main island of Koh Mae Koh (Mother Island) took around 90 minutes and took in some amazing views of the smaller islands. It was fairly windy, as you can tell from my hair in the picture below.
The island of Koh Mae Koh has an emerald lake which requires the climbing of 467 steps, some near vertical - talk about a leg workout! We were the first tour party to arrive at the island, so we had an undisturbed climb. The steps wind up and around the steep cliffs of the island and after a 20 minute climb, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the lake.
The climb was exhausting, but after taking lots of photos and drinking all the water we had, it was time to descend the steps. This was just as hard work as the climb, because on the way down, we had to contend with the new arrivals coming up the steps. And at points, it became quite narrow. We made it down and enjoyed some relaxing time at Koh Mae Koh's golden sanded beach.
Of course, no trip to Thailand is complete without trying Chang beer. In Thai, "Chang" means elephant, the elephant being the national symbol of Thailand. Elephants have been revered in Thailand for many centuries but it is now an endangered species with roughly only 1,000 now living in the wild. It is down to important work by places such as the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, that are helping to rescue and rehabilitate injured and sick elephants.
After spending a couple of hours on the beach, it was time to board the boat back to Koh Samui. It is one of the must see sites when in Koh Samui, but one of the more relaxing ones too.
Whilst we were in Koh Samui, I celebrated my 31st birthday. We planned the trip to be there over my birthday, as we always try to be abroad for both of our birthdays. We didn't have much else planned other than being on the island, or so I thought.
Dave however had planned for us to do a Thai cooking course in the morning of my birthday as a surprise. This is something I have always wanted to do - we eat so much Thai food at home, why not learn how to make authentic Thai food when we are there?!
I thought we would be in a big group, but we had a private cooking lesson in our teacher's home. Our teacher, Pai, was the sweetest Thai lady you will ever meet. The language barrier was sometimes a little difficult, especially when it came to ingredients that we had no idea what they were, but that was all part of the fun.
Dave had told her all of my favourite Thai dishes, and that is what we were there to make. Instead of the traditional red and green curries, my favourite is a Thai yellow curry. We also made Pad Thai, egg fried rice, chicken red curry, stir fried vegetables in a sauce that would make make even the fussiest eaters want to eat vegetables.
After about an hour cooking (Thai food is so quick and easy to make), we sat down to this feast. Pai stayed around to answer any questions we had, and give a few more tips, but she then left us to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
Before we left, she gave me a lovely birthday gift of some Thai herbs and spices. We have been using them ever since we got back to recreate the recipes that she sent us away with. She printed all the recipes and bound them in a folder and they are our go-to on curry night.
If you find yourself in Koh Samui, definitely head to Pai's Cookery Class to learn some authentic recipes.
For a long time, doing stand-up paddle boarding has been on my bucket list. It's becoming more popular in the U.K. and there are a few places that you can do it, but wearing a wet suit and falling in to cold water never really appealed to me, so I always put it off.
Well, Dave had another surprise up his sleeve for my birthday and he had booked me a session paddle boarding. I was convinced it was going to be really hard and I would spend most of the time in the water, but it was actually really easy. The next hour was spent paddling along the coast, never being too far from the shore, paddled over to a little island, and then just laid on the board out the sea and just floated about. I started thinking that this is a pretty awesome way to spend my birthday. If I lived by the water, I would paddle board every day.
Back at the hotel, the lovely staff had spelled out Happy Birthday in flowers on our bed. It seemed such a shame to move them, as they looked so pretty and they must have spent ages putting it all together.
If you thought the birthday surprises were over, you would be wrong. Throughout the day we had been watching the staff tirelessly setting up an elaborate table and tent on the beach. They were putting flowers everywhere, fairy lights hanging from everything they could, and carving hearts in to the beach.
"Awwwwh", I said to Dave! Looks like someone is going to be proposed tonight. He nodded and agreed and we carried on watching them set up for the rest of the afternoon, impressed at how much attention they were giving to one table.
We went back to our room to get ready for my birthday meal out. Dave said he had found a nice restaurant along the main strip, so when it was time to go out for dinner and he lead me toward the beach, I got a bit confused. "Why don't we have a cocktail first?" I'm not going to say no to that!
As we got down towards the beach, as night had fallen, that table we had seen being set up was all lit up and it looked beautiful. "Oooh, we might get to see the proposal" I said. I thought we were going to be having a cocktail at the hotel bar, but Dave led me down the beach, away from the beautiful table, to our own private cocktail bar on the beach. Giant comfy bean bags on the sand, the waves lapping near our feet and any cocktail we wanted. Perfect!
Suitably cocktailed up and ready for dinner, I thought we would be cutting through the buildings and heading to the main strip, but Dave led me back down the beach towards the hotel. As we got closer, I could see about 5 members of staff standing by the twinkling tent grinning at Dave as we approached. I briefly thought, "Is this for me?", but thought surely it can't be. As Dave led me up the heart carved in the sand that said "Happy Bday Dannii", it finally all clicked. Best birthday surprise ever.
Now, if we weren't already married, I would definitely think I was going to be proposed to (my proposal 7 years earlier was equally beautiful, on a deserted beach in Spain at sunset). Which funnily enough is what every passer by thought as we sat down to dinner. People kept shouting " congratulations" and I did correct them to begin with and say it was just my birthday but the more I drank the more I played along with it.
The staff were attentive, but still gave us our space and privacy. My glass was never empty (and boy did my hangover the next day prove that) and the food was incredible.
We had a 5 course fish feast that included king prawns, smoked salmon, scallops and a dessert platter to finish. Everything was so beautifully presented, we really couldn't have asked for anything more.
The staff were super accommodating about taking photos of us too. I mean, when someone goes to this much effort for your birthday, and not even a big birthday, you want lots of photos of it. I wish I'd taken my big camera to dinner to get some better quality photos, but I wasn't expecting this.
Just when I thought I couldn't look at any more food, all the staff cane walking along the beach singing happy birthday, holding a chocolate cake. Dave would have happily tucked in and made himself ill, but with it still being 9pm and having the whole night ahead of us, I made the sensible decision of taking it back to the room for later. Who needs a kebab after a night of drinking when you have homemade chocolate cake?
The night didn't end there! We headed off to the main part of town (after dropping the chocolate cake off to our room) to enjoy some more cocktails. There are no photos of this, as there were a lot of cocktails and shots consumed! We partied way in to the earlier hours. I really couldn't have asked for anything better on my birthday and Dave earned some serious brownie points for that.
If you are looking for a Thai island that isn't off the beaten track, has enough places to explore during the day, but relaxing little beach spots to kick back and do nothing too, and then comes alive with bars and restaurants at night, then Koh Samui is the place for you! Would we go back? Probably one day, but there are so many more Thai islands to explore first!
Let's Stay in touch.