Here’s the thing: no matter who you are or where you are in life, at some point while thinking about Thailand, the image of a serene beach paradise will pop into your head. It will be a place to lie on warm, pale sand and drink from coconuts, to play in shallow waves, and perhaps to dance the night away with buckets of vodka and soda. After nearly a month exploring the cultural beauty between Bangkok and the north, I was ready to let go and shamelessly spend days lolling about on the beach.
Of course, there are a lot of options when it comes to beaches in Thailand. In fact, you could easily make an entire trip out of island-hopping and beach-going. For me, the decision came down to very few criteria… two, in fact. The first, I needed somewhere convenient to get to from Bangkok. I only had a week or so left in the country, so I didn’t want to spend half the time on trains and boats. That being said, I didn’t want to shell out a week’s worth of accommodations for a flight. Next, I needed to head somewhere that I could get a bit of privacy. Not that I expected an entire swath of white sand to myself, but I didn’t want to feel crowded and stressed by trying to find a free square metre of sand.
Koh Samui caught my eye because of the cheap flight cost. True, it is a huge tourist destination, but also true, many tourists flock directly to Chaweng. Chaweng beach is a stretch of calm waters lapping up on fine, white, sandy beach. The beach is lined with resorts and hotels, and the adjacent road is packed with restaurants, bars, shopping, and many, many tourists. Yes, I went there. Yes, I cut my time there short. The wet season had washed up debris, making the beach look considerably less pristine, and generally, it was packed. After a couple of days, I packed up and hopped on a tuk-tuk to Mae Nam.
Mae Nam is not a white-sand beach. It is more of a courser, golden sand. This may be a deterrent for some, but I’m not all that picky about my sand. The beach is wide and much less populated. Although, decent food and drinks are never too far. I could spend days lounging and reading, taking frequently dips in the slightly rougher waves. Then, venturing just up the street for some Thai cuisine, followed perhaps by a crepe from a street vendor nearby. Mae Nam is a great starting point to venture out to Ang Thong Marine National Park or to the famed backpacker parties on Ko Pha Ngan . I splurged to stay in a nicer beach hut, just a two-minute walk from the beach front. Tim and I split the cost, about $10-12 CAD each per night.
My time on Koh Samui also brought me to Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village, a market area with plenty of shopping and options for dining. I was able to walk (albeit a fairly long walk) from Mae Nam to Bophut. You won’t find quite so many tuk-tuks in Mae Nam, as it’s not nearly popular in the way that Chaweng is. A couple of times, we had to get someone to call one for us.
In the end, it wasn’t quite paradise: a few days were overcast and the powdery, white sand wasn’t quite white or quite powdery. Instead, I found peace, a few good restaurants and bars that I visited repeatedly and was always greeted enthusiastically, met with European expats that had happily made the place their homes, and got exactly what I was looking for. Sometimes, things are exactly what you make of them.
Ever been to Koh Samui? Where is your beach paradise! I’m always looking for suggestions!