Ko Samui is situated 400 miles (700 km) south of Bangkok, in the Gulf of Thailand. It is the country’s third-largest island, after Phuket and Ko Chang. A backpackers’ haven in the 1970s, Samui has now seen tourism become its main income earner. With rapid development, the arrival of major hotel chains, and persistent promotion by the TAT, Samui has become one of the most popular islands in Southeast Asia. It also attracts foreign investors building luxury homes for wealthy business people from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, and has a thriving luxury villa rental market serving European holiday makers.
Nathon is Samui’s capital and main ferry port. The island was first settled in the 1850s by Chinese merchants who had come in search of trade in cotton and coconuts. Nathon was founded around 1905, when the site was chosen as the island’s administrative center. Few visitors stay here, except in order to take an early morning boat to Surat Thani on the mainland. The town has a supermarket, post office, and money changing facilities. The main transport route on the island is the 31-mile (50-km) circular road, which passes through Nathon. Songthaews departing from Nathon ferry port travel either northward (clockwise) toward Chaweng beach and the airport, or southward (counterclockwise) toward Lamai.
This 2-mile (4-km) long beach is the most westerly stretch of sand on the north coast. It has extensive views of Ko Pha Ngan . Visitors flock here for the excellent windsurfing opportunities, which are aided by the strong directional breezes that blow on-shore during the northeasterly monsoon from December to February. However, the beach is narrow and not as attractive as others on the island
Bophut has better facilities than Maenam. Its bustling village, at the eastern end of the next bay to the east, includes bungalows, hotels, banks, bars, restaurants, and a range of water sports. The 1-mile (2-km) long beach is popular with families and backpackers.
Adjacent to Bophut is Bangrak, also known as “Big Buddha” beach. The sea is not as clear here as it is off Chaweng and Lamai beaches , but it does offer plenty of budget accommodations. A causeway links the eastern end of Bangrak beach to the tiny island of Ko Faan, home to the large, gold covered Big Buddha. The imposing statue is popular with islanders and Asian tourists, who come here to make merit . A gaudy bazaar of souvenir stalls and cafés has sprung up at the foot of the naga staircase leading to the Buddha image. From the pier at Bangrak there is a ferry service to Hat Rin, a beach on Ko Pha Ngan and home of the full moon parties.
Thong Son and Choeng Mon
On Samui’s northeastern cape there are a series of secluded rocky coves. Hat Thong Son is a peaceful inlet with marvelous views across to Ko Pha Ngan. Most of the accommodation on the headland is concentrated at Ao Choeng Mon, an attractive bay with a pleasant beach and good swimming