Sitting just off the coast of Koh Samui is a little tiny island with a 12-metre-heigh statue of the Buddha. As one of the most well-renowned of all the landmarks on this island, Wat Phra Yai, (also known as the Big Buddha temple) houses this famous statue. Take some time to visit the temple and learn about the story of Buddha’s path to Enlightenment. The Big Buddha is seated in a cross-legged position, which is known as the Mara position. This Buddha image symbolises a meditative time in the Buddha’s life, when he was being presented with temptations from his former life, only to reject them and achieve enlightenment. Inspiring stuff.
Take in the interesting sights at Hin Ta and Hin Yai
Koh Samui is known for its beaches and natural beauty. Its coast line is surrounded by interesting rock formations, some of which have ancient legends attached to them. One of the most famous is Hin Ta and Hin Yai. Translating to ‘grandpa rock’ and ‘grandma rock’ respectively, these intertwining granite formations look like male and female genitalia. Local legend says that an old couple, Ta Kreng and Yai Riem, were traveling to a nearby province to see a man called Ta Monglai. They intended to ask Ta Monglai’s permission so that his daughter could marry their son. During their journey, their boat ran into a storm and they unfortunately died at sea. The couple then turned into rocks that symbolise the intension of their journey, which you can find on Lamai Beach.
See awesome scenery at Na Muang Waterfalls
Deep in the jungle of Koh Samui, you’ll find one of the most beautiful spots on the island: the Na Muang Waterfalls. These two stunning waterfalls are known as Na Muang 1 and Na Muang 2. Located about 10 kilometres south of Nathon Town, catch a ride to these waterfalls via taxi or tuk tuk. Located closer to the car park, Na Muang 1 flows into a natural pool. This is a great spot for a refreshing dip after a hot day. A hot-spot for many street vendors, you can also grab a bite to eat here. The second waterfall, however, can only be reached by foot. If you’re keen for a short 30-minute trek, head uphill towards Nu Muang 2. We promise that this 80-metre-high waterfall will be worth the extra effort.
Meet the Ladyboys at Chaweng Beach
Amongst the most notorious Koh Samui attractions are the Ladyboy Cabarets. An interesting part of Thai culture, ladyboys are considered the third gender in Thailand. The Thai transgender community has been visible for years due to the popularity of these Ladyboy Cabaret shows. The most famous in Koh Samui can be found on Chaweng Beach. The shows usually consist of ladyboys lip-syncing along to popular songs, dressed in extravagant costumes and makeup – some of which resemble the carnival costumes of Rio de Janeiro’s famous festival. There are tonnes of ladyboy cabarets on this Koh Samui beach – all of which will try to drag you inside to buy tickets to their show – so sit back, relax and enjoy the light-hearted performance.
Hide away at the Secret Buddha Garden
Hidden in the hills of Koh Samui, you’ll find the Secret Buddha Garden. This beautiful spot has amazing vistas of the island below, as well as an unusual collection of statues placed amid lush jungle surrounds. This garden was created by farmer Nim Thongsuk in 1976, who began to place many incredible statues on his family’s plot of land. The statues depict different animals, Buddhist deities and human figures in various poses. One of these depicts Nim Thongsuk himself, in which is depicted in a relaxed position on a rock. Located close to Lamai Beach, visit the secret garden and soak up the serenity of this peaceful place.
Things to do in Koh Samui
Chinese New Year
Interestingly, many Thai people have Chinese roots, which explains the presence of Chinese Buddhist temples on Koh Samui. As such, these temples hold Chinese New Year celebrations every year. If you find yourself in Koh Samui from late January to early February, join in on the beach parties and firework displays of this colourful festival.
Makha Bucha Day
Makha Bucha Day is an important Buddhist holiday marking an important teaching of the enlightened Buddha. Occurring in March every year, observers celebrate this festival by going to temple to pray and offer alms to the monks. Many temples will also hold Candle Light ceremonies, so don’t be surprised if you see processions happening around the island.
Full Moon Party
Music & Dance
Without a doubt, it’s the Thai Full Moon Parties that have put Koh Samui on the map. Celebrating the new full moon every month, these parties see beaches and local clubs come to life with extravagant parties. You’ll see locals and tourists alike donning fluro clothing and face paint to celebrate.
If you find yourself in Koh Samui between April 13 - 15, you’re sure to get caught in the middle of this massive water fight. Songkran is a three-day Thai national holiday, which is celebrated with water fights. Something like a Buddhist spiritual spring-cleaning, these fights wash away all the misfortunes from the past year.
Samui Green Market
Culture & Food
Less of a festival and more of a monthly event, the Samui Green Market is one to put on your to-do list. What began as a way to celebrate the International Day of Peace has grown into a massive monthly market. Selling organic produce and ethically-made products, check out the Samui Green Market every month in Bophut.
Top 5 Festivals in Koh Samui
Its lively culture and crazy parties have put Koh Samui on the map. No doubt that you’ll want to join in on some of the island’s many festivities. From fluro Full Moon Parties to the water fights of Songkran, here are five festivals in Koh Samui that you don’t want to miss.
Phat Thai Kung
When it comes to Thai staples, there’s no food more famous than phat thai. Made using thin rice noodles that are stir-friend with egg and tofu and seasoned with fish sauce, sugar, tamarind, vinegar and chilli, the island version of this dish comes served with prawns, giving it the name phat thai kung.
Best eaten at Crystal Restaurant, 155/33 Moo 2, Chaweng Beach
Khanom chin is a sweet and spicy Thai noodle dish that’s a favourite in Koh Samui. Made using fresh, thin rice noodles, the salad is dressed with a sauce made using lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, chilli and crushed peanuts. Pick up a plate at Chin Pa Khiao Restaurant in Koh Samui.
Best eaten at Chin Pa Khiao Restaurant, Highway 4169, Maenam, Surat Thani
Known in the west as green papaya salad, this fresh dish is made using strips of crunchy, unripe papaya, which have been crushed in a mortar and pestle along with tomato, long beans, chilli, lime and fish sauce. Tuck into this fragrant salad at Nana Tam Restaurant on Lamai Beach.
Best eaten at Nana Tam, Moo 4 Lamai Beach
Thailand is known for its distinctive curries, and none is more famous than gang keow wan, or Thai Green Curry. This iconic dish is made using green curry paste, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, chicken, eggplant and the staple mix of Thai herbs (basil, lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves). Head to Nuch's Green Ta'lay Restaurant for the best green curry on the island.
Best eaten at Nuch's Green Ta'lay Restaurant, 31/4 Moo 5 Thong Krut
Another iconic Thai curry, massaman has made a name for itself both in Thailand and the West. Rich in flavour, massamna is made using curry paste, coconut milk, beef, potatoes and peanuts. Try one of the best beef massamans on Koh Samui at Lucky Restaurant.
Best eaten at Lucky Restaurant, 310/22 Moo 3, Ang Thong
Food in Koh Samui
Thai food has become one of the world’s favourite types of Asian cuisine. With their fresh salads and rich curries, it’s not hard to see why. Make the most of your time in Koh Samui by sampling some of Thailand’s most famous dishes. Here are our picks for our five Thai foods to try.