Photo: A handy pier for jumping.

Ko Samui is so big, we’ve split it up into areas, select one of the below for detailed accommodation and food listings in that area. Sights and general overviews for Ko Samui as a whole can be found via the icons above. Don’t know where to start? Read an overview of Ko Samui’s different areas.

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Big Buddha Beach (officially referred to as Bang Rak) is located on the northern coast of Samui, with Bophut to its west and Plai Laem, over the headland, to its east. The beach area of Bang Rak is known as Big Buddha Beach because of the huge golden statue beyond the far eastern end of the beach, just before Plai Laem.

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This area has a large expat community, with many housing developments along the coast as well as inland off the main road. Several private villas are dotted along the beach as well as on the hilly area just before the Big Buddha. Accommodation on Big Buddha Beach is diverse, from five-star establishments such as The Scent through to small nondescript bungalow operations.

The main road runs alongside the beach with resorts lining the coastal side of the road, and bars, restaurants, shops and general businesses on the other. The area is known for its sports bars -- think The Office, The Boardroom and Tuk-Tuk Bar -- where locals, expats and tourists gather to watch events on big screens over a local beer. Although there are several hostess bars along this stretch, they are not as prominent or sleazy as in areas of Lamai or Chaweng. Restaurant choices are plentiful, both streetside and indoor.

Driving along the road, visitors are often caught off-guard when low flying planes about to land pass just metres above their cars; the runway for Ko Samui International Airport is set back behind the beach and air traffic noise can be a problem for some, but it's not too bad. The first planes go over at 06:00, and the last at 22:00. Those looking for peace with far less noise pollution whatsoever may prefer the neighbouring areas of Plai Laem or Choeng Mon.

Along the western section of Bang Rak beach, the sea can retreat considerably at low tide at certain times of the year, creating mud flats. Locals harvest shellfish early in the morning at low tide, and fishermen wade out to a large sand bank to fish. It is not uncommon to see water buffalo being walked along the beach, or even taking a cooling dip in the sea.

The beach itself has several piers -- including Big Buddha, Petcherat and Bang Rak -- used by ferries and speedboats taking passengers to and from Ko Pha Ngan. Several luxury vessels as well as local fishing boats moor in the area, making for an interesting view.

Big Buddha beach is located on Route 4171, a prominent loop road that joins the 4169 main Ring Road at the Bophut traffic lights. Taxis and songthaews do frequent this area, although perhaps not as much as on the main route. Jeep and scooter rentals are abundant, as are motorbike taxis.

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