The last time I was in Koh Samui was a long time ago, so long that I had to check with my friend and we had a fun time reminiscing the trip 14 years ago. Since that trip I’ve had fond memories of Koh Samui, so when the PSLE Oral dates came out, we decided to take only the eldest since he is in P2. Our younger son didn’t really mind being left behind because he remembers the trip we took with just him previously, and his school had scheduled a trip to Kidzania while we were gone. As for the youngest, let’s just say she had no clue where we were going 😆.
We took the Bangkok Airways flight which left in the late afternoon, since it was much cheaper than the Silkair flight. Don’t say I don’t want to support local companies ok? I actually managed to book it at something like $1k for 3 of us, but the payment somehow didn’t go through and I kept forgetting to call the office for a week. After which they said the promotion was no longer on and I had to pay a little bit more, although it was still cheaper than Silkair. Still annoying though right? Thank goodness Bangkok Airways now fly Airbuses on this route, as compared to the propeller planes they used to fly 14 years ago. It was an uneventful flight, and we touched down at possibly one of the most unique airports I have been to (probably unchanged since the last visit). Which other airport can you do bird spotting while waiting in line at immigration?
On the return trip, at the Samui airport, Bangkok Airways passengers get an air-conditioned facility and some light bites and drinks. There is also a small plastic playhouse structure that kids can play in while waiting.
Just after immigration and luggage is the area for transport arrangements and SIM cards. We bought ours for 150baht for 5 days (since we were spending 4 days here). We’d hired a car from Avis but we both forgot our drivers licenses so we couldn’t rent our car and they cancelled the booking without any charge.
So we took a shared minivan transport to our hotel for the night, the Ibis Samui Bophut. The Koh Samui airport is privately run by Bangkok Airways, so there are no taxis and only arranged transport. We paid 330baht for 3 of us from the airport to Bo Phut, which is a decent rate.
As we landed at 6pm local time, I wanted a cheap place to spend the night before heading to our “real” resort. I found the Ibis relatively cheap and booked a family room which consists of a king bed and a bunk bed (super single size), and an Xbox which we couldn’t get to work. The family room is a comfortable size and ours had views of the pool and beach. These were probably one of the best rooms they had. But the resort has seen better days, the rooms nor the resort is impressive, but the rates are reasonable when you compare them to the shocking rates that other resorts are charging. As part of the Accor group they were quite good at emailing you to remind you of your upcoming stay, asking you to check in before hand, and then after the stay requesting for your feedback (I received like FOUR?!).
The next day we had an early breakfast and after that by the time we got our things together for a swim, the pool and pool side massage area was packed. The beach is also nothing to shout about, so I was now ready to move on to our next destination :p
From the Ibis you can walk out to a number of eateries and shops, including several convenience stores. At one we cleaned the shelves (almost) of instant noodles and potato chips. Who’d have thought that Thai basil would make an awesome chip flavour? Too bad there wasn’t any proper supermarket, I would have loved some fish sauce, curry paste, etc.
The first night we ate at a very popular Somchai restaurant where we had to wait almost an hour for our food. It was so not worth it. The next day we had lunch at Hinom just a few doors down which is much smaller and much much better! There is also a pizzeria within walking distance. Fisherman’s Village and a “walking street” not far from the hotel. The main road is very busy and the sidewalk is not well constructed so if you have little ones, do be careful.
The Ibis is a good place to base yourself if you are planning not to be stuck in a resort and from which to visit other places of interest. I would have been miserable if I had come all the way here to be stuck in the Ibis.
Thankfully our next destination was the eco-luxury Six Senses Samui. This was of course completely different from the Ibis experience. It is not far from amenities or the airport, but it is not within walking distance since it is quite isolated.
We have stayed at their Maldives Laamu and Con Dao properties before, and the Samui property is the easiest resort to get to since its 15-20 minutes from the airport and a direct flight for us from Singapore. The rest of the resorts require about 2 different transport methods to get to, eg boat, plane and car. The resort is on a hilly area, which was great exercise from all the pigging out, but if you have mobility issues, do ask them to recommend the villas with the least steps.
We stayed in a duplex villa (I think all of them are duplexes), and they made up the sofa bed into a very comfortable bed for Mittens. They have larger villas which have a separate living area which apparently can hold 2 extra beds, so that could fit our family of 5. However, we were told that the villas (maybe referring to these smaller ones) can only fit 2A1C.
Here in Samui we stayed for 2 nights, alternating between the main pool, our own pool, and the beach where the boys went kayaking. There was no need to leave the confines of our cosy room. There is no kids club but we did not require one. I didn’t even attempt to go to the spa although I should have. I was too happy bumming around!
The food was not cheap but very good. One of the nights we had the Thai Family Set, which was an amazing array of dishes for THB1300 for 2 pax. That cost less than the breakfast of THB1200 per pax, although they do have a decent spread. We also loved the free ice cream from 3-5pm every day! The kids menu is very reasonable at THB160 per dish.
Breakfast for champions
Overall we felt that this trip was a perfect combination of a busy resort area first, with restaurants, shops and supplies aplenty; and a quieter more exclusive resort after.
Would I go to Koh Samui again?
Although we had a fun time and loved the food, I think it will be another 15 years before I can be lured back. I didn’t feel that there was anything particularly unique that I couldn’t get elsewhere in Thailand. The roads are rather undeveloped, unlike Phuket where we found it easy to drive. In fact, there aren’t many street lamps (if at all?), and we didn’t even see any petrol stations while we were there, so it was a blessing that we didn’t rent a car in the end.
I’m not interested in full moon parties, and nice resorts are a dime a dozen all over the region. The beaches in Koh Samui were decent but not spectacular. At least I didn’t cringe in horror like I do at our coastlines in Singapore. I can see its appeal to slipper-wearing backpackers, or those who want a really rustic environment.
And, the airport stank. Literally. It was probably the fertilizer they used for the plants but they should really rethink it if everyone is holding their noses from check in to the gates. And although the open air airport is quaint, Mittens and I have never been so frozen with fear at the immigration counters, because each officer had their own air conditioned booth, and there were mosquitoes constantly flying in and out of them! Argh!
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