THE IN­SID­ERS KOH SA­MUI, THAI­LAND

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - BRUCE HUMPHRY HO­TEL GEN­ERAL MAN­AGER

GO: Koh Sa­mui in south­ern Thai­land has grown from its hum­ble ori­gins as an is­land of co­conut plan­ta­tions to be­come a pre­mier lux­ury des­ti­na­tion. With stun­ning beaches, en­chant­ing Bud­dhist tem­ples and a laid-back lifestyle, it is an ideal lo­ca­tion for an un­for­get­table hol­i­day; kohsamui-tourism.com.

SHOP: Cen­tral Fes­ti­val in down­town Chaweng has a good se­lec­tion of de­signer brands, restau­rants and a small cin­ema show­ing the lat­est in­ter­na­tional re­leases. For a more lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, Fri­day night’s Walk­ing Street mar­ket in Fish­er­man’s Vil­lage, Bo­phut, is a must. Ven­dors sell street food, sou­venirs and al­most ev­ery­thing else you could imag­ine. The beach road is lined with charm­ing bou­tiques, restau­rants and bars, but the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit of the lo­cals and lively at­mos­phere are the main at­trac­tions.

EX­PLORE: I love tak­ing a leisurely drive around the south of the is­land. This area is much less de­vel­oped than Chaweng, La­mai or Bo­phut and fea­tures beau­ti­ful scenery with lush co­conut plan­ta­tions and buf­faloes roam­ing the fields. The Laem Sor com­plex is well worth vis­it­ing with its stun­ning golden pagoda on the beach, boat-shaped Bud­dhist tem­ple and hill­top chedi, or stupa, of­fer­ing panoramic views.

DINE: Kiree res­tau­rant at Vana Belle spe­cialises in au­then­tic Thai cui­sine, so I head to Chez Fran­cois in Bo­phut when I feel like some­thing dif­fer­ent. Small and con­cealed be­hind a large wooden door, it serves tra­di­tional French cui­sine in re­laxed sur­round­ings; 33/2 Moo 1 Fish­er­man’s Vil­lage.

DRINK: Sun­set by An­gelina, lo­cated near the en­trance to Big Bud­dha tem­ple, is one of the best places to en­joy a sun­downer. Also try the Drink Gallery in Chaweng and W Re­treat Koh Sa­mui’s Woo­bar for cre­ative cock­tails in a chic, con­tem­po­rary set­ting; wre­treatkohsamui.com.

SWIM: Koh Sa­mui has many beaches and small coves to dis­cover. The jewel in the crown is un­doubt­edly Chaweng Noi beach, which has clear wa­ter and great swim­ming con­di­tions for most of the year.

SLEEP: You can see the ocean while ly­ing on the bed in many of the premium gue­stroom cat­e­gories at Vana Belle. The only thing that comes close would be the Sher­a­ton Sig­na­ture Sleep Ex­pe­ri­ence beds at Sher­a­ton Sa­mui Re­sort, a lit­tle fur­ther along Chaweng Noi beach.

Perth-born Bruce Humphry has worked in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try for nearly 30 years and is gen­eral man­ager of Vana Belle, a Lux­ury Col­lec­tion Re­sort, Koh Sa­mui, and Sher­a­ton Sa­mui Re­sort; van­abellekohsamui.com; sher­a­ton­samui.com.

Gra­ham Er­bacher Gra­ham.Er­bacher@news.com.au

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