Koh Samui – Not Exactly the Expected Tropical Paradise

January 14, 2018

The decision to go to Koh Samui

After spending a few nice days in the north of Thailand in Chiang Mai, we decided to head south to one of the islands. Of course, there are dozens of islands in Thailand that you can choose from, each trying to attract travelers with great-sounding offers and amazing photos of perfect tropical beaches.

We had been thinking for weeks about which island(s) to go to, whether on the west or on the east side, where is the weather better this time of year, where is the diving better (for Daniel), where is the tourism factor low and the authenticity factor high. After all this thinking and long discussions, the day before our accommodation in Chiang Mai was expiring, we still hadn’t decided where to go next. We realized it was really high time to make a decision and stick to it. So we went for the (rather easy and a bit obvious) option of going to Koh Samui. “Obvious” because it’s one of the best known islands. “Easy” because it has its own airport, to which we could fly directly from Chiang Mai. “Easy” also because I had already booked myself on a yoga retreat there, which was starting in 5 days, so for me it was the least complicated option with regards to not having to travel from another island.

Expectations vs. reality

Despite some warnings from friends that Koh Samui is very touristic and not especially beautiful, before coming here, I chose to hang on to my belief (or rather hope) that the island must be a tropical paradise of quiet and relaxation. Well, now that I’ve seen most of the island, I honestly have very mixed feelings about it. Parts of it (Chaweng, Lamai) are indeed extremely touristic and set up exclusively for the tourists who just want to lie at the beach during the day and party during the night – not our style at all. Just look at this:

In those parts, the beach consists of bars/restaurants/massage parlors next to each other. There is hardly any space left to actually lie on the sand, let alone to enjoy some peace and listen to the waves. Big disappointment for me and a world away from what I had imagined the island to be.

But the island does have its quiet and remote beaches too – you just have to look for them really well. They’re mostly on the west and south sides of the island.

Once we discovered those, my impression of Koh Samui improved a lot. Still, at the rate the tourism is growing here, I guess these quiet beaches will soon disappear too, to make room for mass tourism and easy entertainment.

Our accommodation

Since we booked our accommodation just one day before coming here, we didn’t have a huge amount of options to choose from. But if you find a hotel made up of only villas, each with its own private pool, price reduced by 70%, with great reviews from previous guests, and it still has availability for the next day… well, you go for it!

So we arrived the next day at the Tango Luxe Beach Villas, wondering a bit about where the catch would be, because the deal seemed almost too good to be true. But once we were there, it became clear that there was no catch – our villa was indeed beautiful, had its own small pool with a whirlpool, and the hotel pool and restaurant on the beach were just a dream. After looking around our villa and the rest of the resort for a few minutes, I decided I wouldn’t leave it for the duration of our booking there (4 days). Of course, that decision didn’t last long, because I was curious to see the rest of the island, but we did end up spending a lot of time there, in our villa, in our pool, in the hotel pool, by the hotel pool having a drink, at the restaurant by the beach having dinner, etc. It was very indulging, but we’ve been very active on this trip so far, so a few days of relaxation did us a lot of good.

Next stop for me: Yoga retreat

After a few relaxing days in our small villa by the sea, it’s time for me to start the yoga retreat I booked, while Daniel will go to another island nearby to do some diving. The retreat is also on Koh Samui, so I just have to change hotels. The schedule of the classes includes yoga, cycling and core classes (totaling about 4-5 hours per day). I’m full of doubts now whether booking myself on a 5-day intensive fitness program was a good idea. Will I be able to keep up? Will I get terrible muscle pain after the first day and not be able to attend any more sport classes for the rest of my stay there? Will I meet some nice people there or spend the next 5 days more or less alone? Buffet food is included in the retreat, but it’s all very healthy and so on, so will I not starve for 5 days? To be sure, I’m packing some chocolate and cashew nuts, and intend to smuggle them in – just for emergencies…

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