The sea was a shade of aqua blue, the sand pale pearly white and the surrounding foliage a blanket of emerald green. There was silence except for the sound of the lapping waves. I was on the island of Ko Samui and the last thing I had expected to find: tranquility.
It was all around me – everyday I awoke to a view of the turquoise sea; I would spend the day watching the water-buffalo swim before me and by evening, the ocean lulled me to sleep. At Upni Duniya, I saw a side to Ko Samui that few could imagine – laid-back, languid and unspoiled.
Samui is after all Thailand’s biggest island and it has been known as a backpacker’s party island for years. As a traveler seeking offbeat destinations, I had avoided it like a virus for decades. Having been away from Southeast Asia for the last two years, I hesitated when I was offered the chance to visit Ko Samui. Was I ready to face the tourist-clodded beach towns and disturbing signs of sex tourism?
I decided to give Ko Samui a shot and clearly it won my heart over. Beyond the raucous streets of Chaweng, I stumbled upon rare patches of quiet fishing towns, endless fields of coconut palm tree and remnants of its heritage and culture. The strings of charming villages and empty beaches definitely outweighed the few gritty towns that have given Samui its bad reputation. Those seeking to steer clear of the crowds, these are some offbeat towns and beaches.
Baan Taling Ngam – The Virgin Coast
The Virgin Coast, poised on the unspoiled South-West corner of the island, runs for miles without a single resort in sight. Due to its craggy shoreline, there is minimal construction here; instead you’ll find wide sweeps of coconut plantations and forests that cover hill slopes rendering the area extraordinarily green.
Taling Ngam has seen the least change of any area on the island, as though time has stood still. Many traditional wooden Southern style houses can be seen still standing in compounds with other out-buildings of the whole extended family. The rivers and bays harbor long-tail boats that bring in a daily catch of fish, while shellfish are collected by hand along the shore.
Choengmun, a town that retains a tinge of authenticity, is home to a quiet bay and the massive Buddhist Kuan Yin temple. The temple itself is a reason worth visiting Choengmun for. With less than ten resorts stretched out across the turquoise beach, Choengmun makes an excellent base for those seeking tranquility. In the town market, chowhounds will be able to feast on colorful street food and outrageously flavorful local grub.
Among the 450 islands that dot Thailand’s shoreline, Ko Tao is said to be one of the most beautiful isles complete with white sandy banks, sparkling clear sea and the ubiquitous longtail boats. Thanks to its proximity to Samui, many visit Ko Tao and its neighboring Nang Yuang Island (pictured below) on a day-trip. In recent years, it has attracted a loyal following of scuba divers and curious backpackers. Its convenient location close to the party isle of Koh Phangan puts it on every Thailand beachbummer’s itinerary.
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