CRAZY ABOUT SHOPPING HERE
Koh Samui shopping is never dull. This might come as a surprise to most first time visitors to Koh Samui, but there are some shops you would not expect to find on such a small island.
Tesco Lotus meets Home Pro
One of them is TESCO LOTUS a giant supermarket chain selling everything, clothes, electrical goods, food, drinks, stationery, you name it and yes, their market is the Thais and the increasing number of ex-pats who are retired or living and working on the island. They also sell alcohol and have a modest selection of New World wines. Competition is hotting up and other shops have opened selling a wider selection of wines and spirits.
TIP. If you are buying alcohol during the day from a supermarket, you can only buy between the hours of 11 to 2pm or after 5pm in the afternoon.
Also, in the same complex are other small shop outlets selling mobile phones, cameras, toiletries, toys, videos and CD’s. There is a multi-screen cinema showing Hollywood movies, a fast-food hall, hairdressers, childrens rides and games and to top it all there is HOME PRO. Think B&Q in the UK.
Again, this is a giant warehouse selling everything for the home, including bedding, televisions, refrigerators, curtains and every power tool imaginable. DIY has definitely arrived in Thailand! This shows how things have changed in Koh Samui. The local Thai population has become more affluent and there is a rising number of expats, some who are married to Thai’s and who have made Samui their home, either for business or retirement.
TESCO LOTUS ALTERNATIVES
Just down the road from Tesco Lotus you have a choice of two other hypermarkets selling food and household items. If you are looking to buy in bulk then MAKRO is for you. This hypermarket is a little bit cheaper than Tesco Lotus, but only takes cash. Restaurant owners shop here and anyone who has a lot of storage at home. Good for parties and you want to stock up on the beer!
Further down the same road is Big C, similar to Tesco Lotus, but less crowded and easier to walk round. Big C has a very clean environment and a good choice of food, both fresh and frozen. Also, in the same building, on the ground floor, is a good selection of eateries, including a Japanese restaurant and burger bars.
If you are looking to buy good wine at rock bottom prices then go to Wine Connection, 50 metres past Tesco Lotus on the same side of the road. Here you will find a good selection of French and New World wines for under 500 Baht. Remember, Thailand has some strange licensing laws and you are only permitted to buy alcohol during certain times of the day, between 11am and 2pm and after 5pm.
Another shop that carries more western products such as Waitrose biscuits, teas etc., is TOPS SUPERMARKET, half way along Chaweng main street. If you are a regular visitor it is worth getting a loyalty card as you can save money on discounted items for card holders. Parking is easy here, just pick-up a ticket at the gate to Central Market and get it stamped in the supermarket, then hand it in as you drive out and you wont have to pay for parking.
Still in Chaweng Main Street and round the corner from Tops is BOOTS the chemist. Here you can buy all your toiletries and sun creams as well as the usual pharmaceutical items.
Save some money and stock up before you return home.
RENT A CAR
Car rental in Samui is safer than other rental alternatives and you will see many places around the island where you can rent a car. Expect to pay around 700-900 Baht per day for a small Jeep. Cars and bigger motor vehicles will cost anywhere between 1200-1800 Baht or more per day.
TIP. Before you rent ask if they have insurance. It is not a good idea to drive a hired car without insurance. Should you be unlucky enough to have an accident and this is bound to involve a Thai person, whether in another vehicle, or often or not, on a motorbike, you will have to pay for the other persons damage and hospital bills if they are injured, regardless of whether it was your fault or not. If in doubt, rent from one of the big-name car rent companies such as Hertz.
RENT A MOTORBIKE
This is the easiest and cheapest way to get around the island, but it is also the most dangerous. Always carry your driver’s license and wear a helmet, as the number of bike accidents is high. Again, check if you are insured.
For those who see themselves as Peter Fonda and want to relive the movie ‘Easy Rider’ you can also hire big bikes in places like Chaweng, though only experienced riders should consider renting them given the dangerous driving conditions. Prices vary depending on the model and your bargaining skills.
_TIP. Think twice before you rent a motorbike in the rainy season, as the roads can be quite dangerous when it rains. Many of the roads around the island become flooded in heavy rain and when they do they will cover holes in the road that you would normally see when dry.
Instead, rent a high chassis motor vehicle, do not rent a car, as the roads can flood to the height of a car door sill or higher in some places, and you will never know how deep the water is until you are driving through it.
WALK THE WALK
Walking on the main roads is not recommended, walk only where there is a pavement or path. If you have to walk on the road always walk towards the oncoming traffic so you can see oncoming traffic and get out of the way if necessary.
If you are a runner and want to stick to the roads, then the best time is early morning before the rush to work. Alternatively, Chaweng beach is long enough to give you a good workout and will make you feel good afterwards. It will take you roughly 45 minutes to walk the length of the beach in each direction. Make sure you take a bottle of water with you!
Bikes do not seem to be part of the scene on Koh Samui, I expect, because it is just too dangerous to ride a bike. The roads are too busy and there are so many potholes you would have to content with and, if you were unfortunate enough to hit one, you would definitely damage your bike and most likely be thrown off it into oncoming traffic. That would not be a pretty sight!
However, having said all this, the roads have improved considerably over the last few years. A concerted effort has been made to upgrade them and now most of the ring road around Samui has been tarmacked with road markings on them and in some places they have even put in cats eyes in case fog suddenly descends!! Because of this improvement we have seen more cyclists out and about which can only be a good thing.
Talking of bikes, one amusing sight I did see one day whilst walking along Chaweng beach was two tourist police riding their bikes along the beach. In case, you are now thinking I have been out in the sun for too long, I was able to take a photo to prove I was not imagining it. Notice, the policeman on the left is carrying a handgun; you can just see the butt sticking out of his belt.
Since I took this photo, back in 2003, I have never seen tourist police on their bikes again, let alone riding them on the beach. Perhaps, it was a just a dream after all!
Teak wood houses by the water
There are many places to visit in Koh Samui. Start with Fishermans Village in Bophut a picturesque village by the water with some original teak houses still standing and home to a number of popular restaurants and cafés.
Fisherman’s Village is changing all the time with new restaurants and cafés appearing all the time. There are also a good number of pubs along the waterfront and they serve great pub grub and beer. Also, some have live music and most of them carry the major sports channels on their TV’s, so if you are on holiday you need not miss an important match back home.
Along the main street you will also find some eclectic looking clothes and shoe shops, so it is worth going in and browsing around, you never know what you may find.
Fisherman’s Village has a pier, but don’t be put off by its rickety appearance. Here you can buy tickets for the ferry, which will take you to Koh Phangan.
If you miss the ferry and want to go to Koh Phangan early in the morning then further along the beach from the pier, at the far end of Fisherman’s Village, you will find a number of speed boats. This is the fastest way to travel to the outlying islands, but make sure you are not getting into an overcrowded boat and be sure to wear a life jacket.
Visit Fisherman’s Village on a Friday night, it’s buzzing! The high street is closed off from all traffic and the locals set up stalls selling everything from jewellery to tasty snacks.
TIP. Beware if you intend to park in Fisherman’s Village, as it is a one-way street from the pier end and quite narrow. You cannot park in the street. There is another parking area half way down the high street on the left hand side behind some village houses and shops. In the evening expect to pay anything from 20-100 Baht to park here. Don’t park in the village on a Friday… you will never get back out!
Alternatively, look for a parking space at the far end where the beach can be reached from the road. You can also park on the left as you enter Fisherman’s Village through the arch. If you see a sign saying no parking do not ignore it as an irate local resident might vandalise your vehicle while you are away.
W in Samui opened recently to much applause, the first W in Southeast Asia. An all-villa beachfront resort uniquely located at the peak of the north shore of Samui Island, W Koh Samui brings an alluring new dimension to Thailand through its location, forward-looking design, and vibrant contemporary lifestyle.
Not so long ago there were very few ATM machines in Koh Samui.
Now it is almost impossible to avoid them. The ATM machines have landed like an alien force from Planet Metalica. Yellow and blue are the most popular colours and most of them dispense a maximum of 20,000 Baht at one time 24/7.
They will take most bank cards and is the easiest and most convenient way of getting cash.
ATM machines can be found installed either in the wall of a bank or the wall of a shop house and also as a stand alone.
All purpose built shopping centres and malls have one and they are mainly concentrated in the north part of the island and in town centres.