My first month in Thailand played out exactly as I had imagined it would. I explored Bangkok’s chaotic beauty, took the train up north to Chaing Mai where I trekked through the jungle, played with elephants, and learned all about Thai cooking. I made tons of traveler friends and really dug into solo travel life.
However, like any solo traveler will tell you, I was getting pretty sick of having only 24-48 hour friends. The goodbyes were starting to take a toll on me. I couldn’t wait for my six best friends and then boyfriend to come visit. The mostly Jewish group arrived on Christmas day, boasting about having eaten authentic Chinese food at the airport in Hong Kong along the way – satisfying the ancient Jewish tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas.
We spent our first few days bumming around Bangkok doing what we do best: eating and drinking. While this would be the theme of the trip, the boys took care of a very important task as well: getting tailored navy linen suits crafted for the upcoming nuptuals of two of the crew, Jamie and Brett.
After a few days of sweating through the city streets, we were ready for some fun in the sun – Koh Samui was calling. While I ultimately fell madly in love with Koh Samui’s little cousin, Koh Tao, we definitely did things right on Samui. Read on for more recommended things to do in Koh Samui!
We rented this mansion in the Samui hills off of AirBnB back in July when prices were still reasonable, as Christmas time is peak season for the Thai islands. The house was so beautiful, we barely felt the need to leave the property. Each couple had a massive room with a view. We had a full staff (which we were actually a bit uncomfortable with – we promptly told them we can pick up our own towels) and Jazz, the house’s manager, took great care of us.
The only downside to this spectacular accommodation was that it was quite difficult to get cabs to and from the house. Since we were a group of couples and best friends, we were okay with not spending too many nights out downtown and enjoyed relaxing in our open air dining room with meals crafted beautifully by the house chefs.
Here’s a link to $25 off your AirBnB booking!
Eat at Krok Mai
At this point in my adventure I still had trouble finding truly authentic, yet delicious places to eat. While Trip Advisor is great for activity recommendations, I think it’s absolutely terrible for finding the types of restaurants that I look for when I travel – restaurants where locals actually eat. My mouth immediately began watering when an expat family friend offered to take us to what he said is some of the best Thai food he’s had.
My first glance at the patrons at Krok Mai assured me that were in the right place. Our group of still pasty white Americans were the only farangs in the entire place. Krok Mai serves Isaan, the northern region, Thai food. Instead of curries, think spicy papaya salad, sticky rice, grilled meats and whole fish. It’s become my favorite type of Thai food and this place does it right. We returned to gorge ourselves on the demonly spicy deliciousness and I took a cab straight to Krok Mai during my layover in Samui on my way home. If you’re in Samui – go here. Here you can find directions to Krok Mai (no, you cannot find it on google maps).
Angthong National Marine Park
Part of what draws tourists to Thailand’s Southern coasts are the gem-colored water dotted with islands that seem to be placed there just for you. While my wallet had me originally hesitating to participate in the day trip one of my friends picked out, I quickly got over it when I realized how we would be spending our day together.
Our motley crew, joined by a few additional friends who happened to also be in town, pulled together for our own private speed boat. With only each other as company, we had all the time in the world at each stop. The day began with snorkeling at a little island called Koh Wao. It continued with a hike to a viewpoint over the emerald lake. Sun-drenched and ready for food, we lingered over lunch on what felt like a beach restaurant planted on the island just for us, where we ordered prawns, crab and fish by the kilo. The day ended with a quick final sun-bathe on a completely deserted private beach. This trip to the mini islands of Angthong National Marine Park was worth every penny.
Full Moon Party at Koh Phangnan
To go or not to go to the Full Moon Party, that was the question. For some reason, a few of us were not so sure they wanted to participate on this evening of insanity (sarcasm intended). For those of you who do not know, the Full Moon Party is a gathering of thousands of neon-painted, flower headband, booze bucket-holding backpackers on the beaches of neighboring Koh Phangnan.
Between fire jump rope, fire limbo, broken glass and the potential to have your drink spiked at any minute, the Full Moon Party is definitely a major danger zone. Not to mention the amount of garbage that ends up in the beautiful Gulf of Thailand after the guests move on. It is dirty. It is destructive. But it is wildly fun and worth doing – once.
There were two major decisions that made our Full Moon experience much less stressful and way more fun. First, we took a private speed boat from Koh Samui. While a bit pricey for Thailand terms (about $100 a person), we never had to wait for a boat to take us back home. After seeing the hoards of drunk people waiting for hours both to get to the party and to get home, I was happy to shell out for it. Second, I made everyone wear flashing headbands so we could keep track of one another. Drinking in a mass of similarly dressed lunatics, we knew there was a very high likelihood of losing someone. The flashing headbands made it so much easier to keep track of one another.
Explore a Local Market
One of the more popular ways to explore the Thai islands is via scooters. We were no experts and no one felt like going home with a Thailand tattoo (scrapes from a motorbike accident), or worse. Instead, we rented two cars and while we had a few mishaps due to some spacial awareness issues while driving on the opposite side of the road, we were able to explore different sides of the island. One of our favorite stops along the way was to a local food market. As we wandered, admiring the variety and widening our eyes at the whole pig heads, we shared bite after bite of sweet and savory Thai treats, all new, different, and glorious.
Sunset Drinks on the Beach
Villa Rocca was on the east side of the island near the popular Chaweng beach. While the location was stunning, we got great sunrises instead of sunsets, none of which we were able to enjoy. On one of our final nights on the island, we stumbled into a beach bar on the west side for a final sunset beer.
Our first and last, this sunset was one to remember. It doesn’t get much better than watching the sky turn from golden blue and gray, to orange, pink and yellow with your best friends by your side.
Have you been to Koh Samui? What’s your favorite way to explore the island?
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