This exotic sun-soaked island offers more than just idyllic beaches and are a number of Thai cultural treasures you shouldn’t miss whilst on holiday in Koh Samui
While many tourists flock to Koh Samui in search of sun, sea and beach parties, the island is home to more than its fair share of intriguing cultural gems too.
It’s definitely worth setting aside a portion of your visit to exploring the island’s villages, temples and local markets and a private villa offers the perfect base to chill out between outings.
Your villa manager will be able to advise on the best places to see in each area and can also arrange transportation.
Below is a run-down on the best cultural sites to explore on this Thai island gem.
If you’re keen to rub shoulders with the locals whilst on holiday in Koh Samui, make you set aside at least an hour for a trip to Chaweng’s Laem Din food market. This is where the locals go to buy their food, so you can be sure of an authentic, typically Thai experience. With an entrance on Soi Reggae close to the Thai Boxing Stadium, Laem Din offers a vivid rainbow of exotic fruits and vegetables, and you’ll see locals discussing the price and quality of fresh produce. This is also an excellent place to sample a little street food, so make sure you work up an appetite.
The Spiritual Side
Buddhism is deeply ingrained in Thai culture, and the sprinkling of temples and shrines found across Koh Samui continue to play an incredibly important part in local life. Situated in the northeastern corner of the island, not too far from the famous Big Buddha monument, is the stunning Wat Plai Laem temple. This visually striking complex offers visitors a fascinating insight into Chinese-Thai spiritual beliefs, and although fairly new, its design represents centuries of tradition. An elaborate statue of Guanuin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, forms one of the temple’s visual highlights. Positioned in the centre of a man-made lake, the statue occupies a central space within the temple grounds. Guanui is believed to be a protector of all beings, and many Thai Buddhists also see her as a fertility goddess.
If you’re looking for a glimpse into what Koh Samui was really like before it became one of Southeast Asia’s favourite tourist spots, head down to Hua Thanon Muslim fisherman’s village. This laid-back settlement is home to one of Samui’s last remaining traditional fishing fleets, and the charming atmosphere and slow pace of life makes it well worth including in your holiday itinerary. Visual highlights include the hand-painted decorations on the side of each fisherman’s craft, and there’s even a fish market you can visit before heading to one of the local seafood restaurants to enjoy the catch of the day.
Perfect Sunset Stroll
Positioned on the island’s western coast, Nathon is relatively laid back compared to other towns in Koh Samui. As well as serving as the island’s chief administrative centre, it is also home to the port where many visitors travel to and from Koh Phangan and Koh Tao by boat. The location’s true charm is revealed on a stroll through the centre of the town, past the colourful Chinese shop houses that line the road. There’s an eclectic range of goods on offer, from souvenirs to gold. The waterfront is the best place to go if you’re feeling peckish as there are plenty of scrumptious seafood restaurants and street food stands to choose from.
If you want to get off the beaten track and explore a little more of Koh Samui’s fascinating spiritual side, head over to the Wat Kiri Wongkaram temple in Taling Ngam village on the less developed west coast. This temple enjoys a serene location, allowing its magnificent brightly coloured exterior to really stand out. Compared to Big Buddha or Wat Plai Laem, Wat Kiri Wongkaram is fairly small, but it is still a key part of everyday life for the local community. Inside, a gleaming statue of the Buddha sits in front of a vividly coloured wall, with an array of intricate illustrations depicting scenes from Buddhist history. An array of shrines and tombs are scattered in the grounds around the main temple structure.