Jan 05 2012
Although not far from the main tourist drags, Plai Laem just past Big Buddha is often devoid of tourists who seem oblivious to its existence and quaint charm. Slightly better known is Choeng Mon, which consists of a main beach as well as several intimate coves often only accessible via resorts, or dirt paths that wouldn’t be discovered without some exploring.
It would be easy to drive right past Choeng Mon’s main beach without knowing this wonderful swimming beach even exists, as it is hidden behind resort facades, shops and restaurants. Turn left just before the family mart, and a road leads you to a parking lot next to Choeng Mon Bungalows and Restaurant. I am torn between sharing a few of my favourite spots, or letting them stay a well-kept secret … Well, here goes …
On the Plai Laem side, about 200m past Big Buddha, on the right, is Star Beach Bistro & Café. This little cafe is one of the few places in this area offering cheap Western food. The menu includes great salads and soups, and daily Russian food specials, as well as Thai options. The mushroom soup, at only 60B, is rich, creamy and delicious. Join locals enjoying their morning wake up with coffee and breakfast on the patio while reading the paper. Ask about daily specials, and try the fruit shakes.
Tango Luxe in Plai Laem opened in September 2011 and consists of 15 luxury villas all with private swimming pool and Jacuzzi. This joint really has the wow factor, from the moment one enters the lobby, wanders down the wooden walkway connecting the villas to the fusion restaurant and the large seafront swimming pool with pool bar, ideal for sunset cocktails. Think crystal chandeliers, plush couches, state of the art luxurious bathrooms, four-poster beds, and cool, shaded private courtyards. Add to that a great spa and quiet beach location, and Tango Luxe Villas makes for a great stay if it’s within your budget.
Samui is home to several good Indian restaurants and the best on Samui’s northeast coast is Akbar. What it lacks in view it makes up for in flavour: sample owner Binod’s lamb rogan josh, with a buttery garlic naan, or some spicy samoosas with his signature minty yoghurt dip. The menu is vast, with vegetarian options, and all the usual Indian dishes, plus a Thai menu too. The restaurant is located in the middle of Choeng Mon’s main road and reasonably priced.
Choeng Mon Restaurant is part of Choeng Mon Bungalows and provides free sun loungers and umbrellas, so even if you don’t feel like eating, you can spend the day lazing on the beach in style and order drinks from the restaurant. If you choose to eat, leave your towel on your lounger, and move up to the open-air restaurant for well-priced Thai or Western food. In the evening they move tables onto the beach, and add fairy lights and lanterns for atmosphere. For dessert, try the banana fritters with coconut ice cream – the hot and cold sensation with tropical flavours is a delicious way to end a meal.
A long time favourite vendor on Choeng Mon beach is Mr Coppi. He can be seen from about 11:00 each day, setting up his beach kitchen and drawing the crowds for his grilled buttered corn on the cob, grilled chicken with sticky rice and fresh fruit.
Visitors to Samui who would like to escape the crowds of Chaweng beach would do well to explore the northeastern beaches of Choeng Mon and Plai Laem. Plai Laem harbour makes for an interesting walk; drive the side roads and explore hidden beaches such as the one in front of Melati Resort, with its public access point being near Thongson Bay Bungalows.
As far as family activities are concerned, options include football golf, mini-golf and a visit to the vibrant Wat Plai Laem, where fat fish are waiting to be fed.
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