View from my not so great room at the Samui Orchid Resort & Aquarium
As my previous blog post explains, I had the opportunity to hop over to Koh Samui to celebrate new years. It was a last-minute decision which provided me with plenty of info on what NOT to do. Here are my tips and description of the area.
Tip # 1
For major holidays such as New Years, Loy Krathong, Songkram and during peak season (December-January) it is very important to book accommodations in advance if you can. This is especially true on New Years. A couple different hotels told me that they had been booked up since March or April for New Years. INSANE. The rest of the year I would suspect it would be fine to just show up and find accommodations. I was lucky and had only booked a hotel for December 27th, but managed to find accommodations for the rest of my new years trip. I was traveling alone so this provided more flexibility.
Tip # 2
If you plan to visit Koh Samui for new years and you want to fly into the airport on the island make sure to book your flight well in advance. I was only able to book the guest room I found because the people who had reserved it weren’t able to make it onto one of the flights in from Bangkok. They were fully booked and had to create a massive number of additional flights to accommodate the New Years crowd. The island was so packed that they had flights arriving every 15 minutes. They had to borrow planes from other airlines to get everyone flown in.
Tip # 3
If you plan to spend a lot of time lounging on the beach working on your tan I suggest that you try to stay at a resort ON the beach. Unless you are staying at a resort on the beach there are very few places where you can access it. I only found one “public beach entrance.” When I tried to leave the beach, I found that almost all of it is reserved for resorts. I walked a long ways and had to try cutting through resorts without getting caught.
Tip # 4
If you’re a solo traveler hoping to meet people, you’re better off on Koh Tao. I mainly saw families and couples on Koh Samui. There weren’t many backpackers. When I was on the boat over to Koh Samui I noticed that most of the back packers got off on Koh Tao. That’s the place for you as well as oodles of divers! While there, you can get your diving certification! The blue waters are so tempting.
Tip # 5
If you will be getting out to the islands by boat, please read up on the different options. There are at least 3. There is a night boat and some sort of drive on ferry. The boat I took is the Lomprayah high-speed catamaran. The service is professional and it is much quicker than the others but if you get sea sick you may want to opt for another option. My experience included musical vomiting from all directions. They have staff whose sole role appeared to be vomit support. Hand out bags, throw away full ones, and pass around tissues. It looked like a busy job. I was surprised at how violently the large boat rocked. I’m not easily rattled but I was slightly frightened at first and I did get very nauseous. On my return trip, I joined the choir of musical vomiting. It was very unpleasant. BUT, please note that sometimes the ride is fine. I spoke to a couple whose previous ride over was very smooth and enjoyable. It’s a gamble.
Koh Samui has a few different stretches of beach areas. The most popular part of the island is Chaweng Beach. After that, Lamai Beach. They are about a 30 minute ride from the boat docks. Both have accommodations in all price ranges but since Chaweng beach is a larger area you will have more options there. Chaweng beach has the best nightlife on the Island. If you’re looking for a party, go to Ark Bar towards the North part of Chaweng beach. For a massive party hop over to Koh Phangan, the neighboring island, for one of the world-famous Full Moon parties. It is only a short 15 min speed boat ride away. They also have half-moon parties, jungle parties, and a few others. If you plan to visit this cluster of islands for several days it’s likely that there will be some sort of party going on on Koh Phangan.