Chong Mon Bay
Begin your tour with a motorcycle ride along the dirt road that hugs the coast to the arching bay at Chong Mon a highly recommended route through fabulous scenery. A decade ago, the beach was lined with magnificent drydocked fishing boats elegantly carved with gigantic rudders. Then—as it always seems to go in places like Ko Samui—a hotel conglomerate purchased the boats and converted them into private chalets elevated on varnished supports. The bizarre effect detracts from the beach but certainly proves the creativity of Thai hoteliers.
Big Buddha Beach
Ko Samui's famous 12-meter Big Buddha statue, surrounded by meditation huts elevated on stilts, is a few km west of Chong Mon and can be reached on the main road or along the dirt trails that skirt the coastline. Big Buddha Beachmore properly called Ao Bang Rak ("Bang Rak Bay")—is named after the image at Wat Hin Ngu which sits atop Ko Farn ("Barking Deer Island"), a tiny islet surrounded by polychrome Buddhas, the earth-goddess Torani, souvenir shops, and small cafes. Attached to the temple is a meditation center, which offers instruction to Thais and farangs.
The road continues west past bungalows and hotels, boat service to Ko Phangan, and the turnoff to Ko Samui Airport and a meditation center tucked away under the mountains. Back on the highway, posterboards nailed to trees advertise upcoming buffalo fights, Thai kickboxing, and nightclubs with everything from reggae to world beat.
Bophut Beach has long been the backpacker's choice for its reasonably good sand, isolated location, and magic mushrooms, which grew to mythical sizes and were served by local cafes in soups and omelets. Now, massive development has almost completely transformed the dusty wooden village into a continuous string of ex pensive bungalows and luxurious hotels that tower over the narrow beach. Asking for mushroom soup only brings quizzical looks and nostalgic stories about the good old days pre 1987.
Bophut town is still worth a visit tor its restau rants with French names, banking facilities, a used bookstore, and boat connections to Ko Phangan. Beyond the dead-end road to the west are several bungalows still untouched by commercial activity.
Mae Nam Beach
Mae Nam Beach is 12 km from the ferry pier, midway between the principal town of Nathon and Chaweng Beach. The beach is long, narrow, somewhat coarse, and relatively untouched by mass tourism because of its isolation and because the main road essentially bypasses its beach. Visitors who want a look should drive up a dirt road to visit one of the bungalows. Nature, Moon, Lolita, Mae Nam Resort, and Shangrila are good places to stop tor a meal and walk on the beach.
Ban Mae Nam, the commercial center, has several restaurants, a clean bakery, laundries, a medical clinic, a gas station with fair prices, and a big monkey tied to the tree on the interior road.
Phang Ka Bay, a very pretty and isolated cove at the southwest corner of Ko Samui, has several small bungalows in a magnificent setting of limestone peaks and swaying palms. Pearl Bay and Seagull bungalows provide a welcome escape from the commercialism of Samui. The nearby beach at Tong Yang lacks the splendid sand of Chaweng and Larnai, but it does offer good corals and bfazing sunsets over dragon-spired Angthong National Marine Park.
Thong Krut Beach
Longtail boats can be chartered from Thong Krut Beach to explore the nearby islands of Ko Katen ("No Dog Island") and Ko Mat Sum. Both islands have coral beds on the eastern fringes. Snorkeling is best during low tides Aug.-April. A primitive set of bungalows is located on Ko Katen, also known as Ko Taen.
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