RTW in 50 Days – THAILAND, Koh Samui

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Even I, lover of all things urban, was looking forward to getting to the island.  Koh Samui, one of Thailand’s largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand, is known for its palm tree-lined beaches and coves and mountainous rainforest.  Accommodations range from luxury resorts and spas to run of the mill backpacker hostels.  Therefore the crowd on the island is quite diverse; you can have a quiet, relaxing family stay or enjoy nightclubs and beach party bars into the wee hours.

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Once again, because a swimming pool and an ocean were steps from our room, I had no plan other than to have some fun in the sun.  I had read another blogger’s review of her favorite places to stay on Koh Samui with kids and chose Hansar Resort in Bophut.  It is also near the Fisherman’s Village and the walking street which I thought would be a nice place for us to stroll.  Turns out I was right.

The island has better beaches and more luxurious resorts, but Hansar and all its amenities suited us perfectly.  We all had our own beds, for example!  Like any resort however, you pay a premium for food and drink so we didn’t eat much at the resort.  The breakfast was included with our room, a huge perk that I will always look for when traveling, and Hansar puts on an amazing spread.  The view from the dining room is also pretty easy on the eyes.  Smile.

DAY ONE – Chill by Pool & Make Friends

DAY TWO – Chill by Pool & Friday Night Market

We arrived on a Thursday, which was awesome because we had time to get settled, relax and then were ready for the Friday walking street in Fisherman’s Village.  I love markets and never tire of them, even if you start to see some of the same stuff.  Of all the street food we’d eaten I thought the food we saw on Friday night was the best yet.  We ate our way down the street for a few dollars while shopping for more souvenirs.  Because we needed more!

DAY THREE – X-Quad ATV Ride

Apart from enjoying all the water activities you’d expect, you can also see a few interesting sights and enjoy the interior rainforest on ATVs, motorbikes, hikes or ziplines.  I learned about X-Quad from a friend who’d been in Samui just a week earlier.  They do a fantastic (as in it was my favorite day on the island) tour on ATVs or UTVs.  They’ll pick you up, take you to the highest point on the island, spend the day riding with you, hike to a secret waterfall, feed you a delicious lunch and return you, good and tired, to your hotel.  It was well worth the price.

DAY FOUR – Church & Island Tour

Of course, I wanted to see more of the island than just what we had seen near the hotel, and I decided to hire a car and driver for a few hours to do it.  You can also rent a car for a day for about half the price and your hotel can most likely make that happen for you.  What can I say?  I was feeling a bit lazy and thought I’d rather have the driver do the work for me.  It also wasn’t terribly expensive.

We enjoyed church in the morning as we usually do, then headed back to the hotel to relax in the water during the hottest part of the day.  In the late afternoon we headed out with the driver for our tour, driving west around the island.  I chose to stop at the Temple of the Mummified Monk (pretty cool), the Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks (best, go at sunset for awesome photos and eat ice cream at Leonardo’s) then loop back up to see the Big Buddha.

DAY FIVE – Snorkel Tour

Unfortunately, the one thing I thought we’d enjoy most, a snorkel tour out on the speedboat in Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan turned out to be my least favorite day, and I think the kids would agree.  If you are feeling up to it, I’d take the ferry boat to Koh Tao and explore on your own instead.  You can always pre-book activities for Koh Tao ahead of time, but I’ve been told it’s a better way to experience it. I wish we would have done that, rather than the tour.

DAY SIX – Best Day Ever

I gave the kids a choice.  I wanted to know what their ultimate day would be, and I wanted to see if I could make it happen.  I had my heart set on the spa and I gave them the option of coming along.   We had been in Thailand two weeks and hadn’t had a massage.  I couldn’t leave without one!

There are a lot of places to get a rubdown ranging from nail salons to high-end health spas.  I was hoping for something in between.  You needed to be at least 14 to go to the place I’d hoped to go and my kids were both under 14.  Hansar happens to have a highly rated spa, LUXSA, right in the hotel, so I perused the menu and chose a service.  A three-hour service!  My daughter was excited to join me.  It would be her first spa experience.  My son on the other hand opted not to go.

“Mom, you know what my ideal day would be?” he queried.

“No, what’s that?” I wondered out loud.

“My perfect day would be sitting by the pool, watching shows on my iPod.  And could I order a drink at happy hour?” he added.

“That’s your perfect day?  Just hanging out by the pool and watching…(gasp) TV?” I said contemplating the drink part.  “If that’s all you really want, then I think that’s okay by me.” I can’t say I was all that surprised since I disallow electronics most of the time.  Why not let him?

And the virgin mojito was on its way.

RESTAURANTS & SHOPS

All located right on the main drag in Bophut.

Alla Baia Italian Restaurant – I am a tough critic on Italian and their food is very good and very reasonably priced.

Leonardo’s – owned by three Italian guys, their ice cream is the tastiest ever, made daily with fresh local ingredients.  They have three locations on Samui and you can visit the factory.  Try the passion fruit, easy to come by in the tropics but not so in the rest of the world.

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Billabong Surf Club – casual Aussie bar and restaurant on the Bophut shopping street.  Good for inexpensive burgers.

Sanoa Collection – unique, gorgeous fabrics, easy to wear clothing made in Bali.  Expensive compared to the cheap stuff in the markets and hawker shops, but if I saw something like it in TJMaxx at home I’d scoop it up in a hot second without blinking!

Smile House – right on the beach with a friendly staff and decent food that’s not too overpriced.  Go for the ambiance, not the cuisine.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The kids also enjoyed riding go-carts, which wasn’t a great value since you only ride for about 10 minutes, but I knew they really wanted to do it, so we did.  The track is on the main drag right at the entrance for Hansar, so it was close by.

I wanted to take them to see a Muay Thai match and there is plenty opportunity to do so all over Thailand.  The fights usually start late so we never made it to one.  I also heard that they were quite violent, so I wasn’t too sad we didn’t go.

Time for laundry again.  Everything at a resort or hotel is more expensive and laundry is no exception.  Here’s the best thing ever.  Just steps from the hotel is the beginning of the Bophut Walking Street and several places you can take your dirty clothes to be laundered.  I had all of our stuff washed and dried (they charge by weight) for the same price the hotel charged from one pair of pants, about $4!

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