By Irene Aviles
Thailand may be a small country but it offers so many things to see on the mainland and its numerous islands. After exploring the populated city of Bangkok, you must travel to one of the islands to really experience the beauty of this country. My favorite is Koh Samui, the second largest island. It allows the traveler to transition from big city life to island life because it offers various small city/villages around the island with fashionable hotels. Wherever you choose to stay, you will be drawn to the beautiful clear warm waters. There is something for everyone on this island – those on a budget and those who want ultra-luxury. The beaches also vary based on what you are looking for. For some Chaweng Beach is ideal with all of its hustle and bustle. For others, Lamai Beach is the way to go for a relaxed atmosphere. For us, we wanted ultimate quiet so we chose to stay at the Nikki Resort overlooking the crystal blue waters of Lipa Noi Beach because they offered beachfront villa type accommodations with our own pool, grass and hammock right up to the shoreline. We wanted a peaceful setting since we spent the last several days in Bangkok. We enjoyed magnificent cuisine, fun events from music and dancing under the stars to dinner on the sand for outdoor movie night. Lots of entertainment was offered on the property without needing to go far plus the serenity of the amazing warm beaches.
The Miskawaan Villas in Koh Samui offer amazing beachfront accommodations. It is an authentic Thai experience surrounded by the white sand, blue Mae Nam Beach and lush hillside. With luxurious villas from 2 to 7 bedrooms, Miskawaan can please small or large groups. Banyan Tree Koh Samui which overlooks Lamai Bay is another great option. The luxurious villas all have pools and a view of the ocean or hillside. They are nestled in the lush green hills and designed in traditional Thai architecture. Each villa is 1 to 2 bedrooms with amazing views. The resort offers many dining options and a relaxing spa.
For the water and nature explorers, opportunities are endless! You must visit Ang Thong Marine National Park. It is a day trip and for those wishing to stay overnight you can rent simple bungalows. The park covers 80% of the archipelago and is a protected area of more than 100 square kilometers. This offers a preserved home to a variety of exotic wildlife and sea creatures. You can kayak, snorkel and scuba dive. Another place is Koh Tao Island which is ideal for snorkeling and scuba but not too far away from the main island. We went to Muang Bay which was perfect for snorkeling – just amazing! We then went to the most fascinating of all, Koh Nang Yuan. It is a natural wonder of 3 islands connected by 2 strips of the whitest sand imaginable allowing easy passage between the islands BUT only at low tide! In high tide, you have to swim if you want to get between the islands! We were fortunate to be there during the low tide so we got to explore all three parts and then went snorkeling in the Japanese Gardens which was so incredible. The phenomena was that when you got into the water schools of fish would surround you in a circle but respectfully “give you space” so it was almost like they were snorkeling and looking at YOU! It was the craziest thing I have ever seen. If you wanted a bird’s eye view you had to climb onto a boardwalk and look down at people snorkeling with big black rings of fish around them. So amazing!
If you are Buddhist, interested in Buddhism or just fascinated by religious art you can see it everywhere in Thailand and on every island. It’s amazing how devote people are in Thailand. Basically on every corner you can find some kind of small temple or shrine. In Koh Samui, visiting the Big Buddha and Wat Plai Laem are phenomenal. Hidden away in the interior hills is also the Secret Buddha Garden which has a beautiful collection of statues in the lush jungle.
For the adventure seekers you have ATV rides to gushing waterfalls and elephant rides. At the Samui Aquarium and Tiger show you can get up close and personal with the Bengal tigers and leopards. It’s a once and a lifetime opportunity for sure.
For an island, Koh Samui literally has it all and you can drive it safely if you choose. You can have city life, night life, marine life, wild life and all the water activities you can imagine. Combine all of that with the finest hotels, cuisine, plus the whitest sand beaches you have ever seen and you have found HEAVEN!0