Koh Samui: A pocket guide
Once associated with the party-hard backpacker crowd, Thailand’s second largest island has matured into a sophisticated retreat graced with palm-shaded beaches, plunging waterfalls, and dense jungles. It is easy to get to, since it has its own airport, making it an excellent hub for island-hopping. More laid-back than Phuket, Koh Samui appeals to both active visitors and those disinclined to venture beyond their private pools. It is surrounded by Anthong Marine National Park, and thus a good jumping-off point for day trips by boat to the islands along its coastline. It is possible to travel around Koh Samui itself in just a few hours by car or moped. Chaeng is the heart of the island and the most popular spot for beach holidays; its blend of entertainment and tranquility makes it ideal for a young family. Despite the presence of supermarket chains and branded storefronts, the island has not lost the charm of its past, when it was known for its fisheries and coconut plantations. Its two main landmarks are Big Buddha, the 39-foot gold-clad statue erected on a hilltop in 1792, and the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks, famed for their peculiar natural form.