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.
Basically encompassing the northeast "corner" of Ko Samui, Plai Laem and Choeng Mon wraps around roughly two kilometres of beachfront, with Plai Laem running up the west coast of the peninsula from the Big Buddha and a series of small bays, finishing with Choeng Mon and Ko Fan Noi running down the east. Although this is one of Samui's quieter areas, it's still in close proximity to the hubs of Chaweng and Big Buddha (Bang Rak) beaches, making it a favourite residential area for expats who don't want to reside in the heart of the tourist areas, but still need to be a convenient distance to schools and supermarkets.
The area has an assortment of accommodation for travellers and tourists, from five-star hotels to bungalow-type villages available for daily rental or longer stays. Plai Laem boasts two of Samui's biggest religious sites, namely Big Buddha (Wat Phra Yai) and Wat Plai Laem -- both worth visiting. Big Buddha, an impressive golden landmark, has several good clothing and souvenir shops on the grounds. Big Buddha's upper deck offers views across the bay and over to the small island of Ko Som, inhabited only by one fishing family. This island can be reached by kayak or sailboat, and is great for exploring or to get a true deserted island feel. Wat Plai Laem is a colourful temple housing two large statues, one of the jovial laughing Buddha, and one of an 18-armed Buddha. This is a good place to take children, as they can feed the thousands of catfish, fattened by tourists and worshippers, or take a paddle in a swan-shaped boat across the pond.
Plai Laem has its share of restaurants, ranging from good street cafes to fine-dining experiences at five-star resorts. BBC Restaurant, just before the entrance to Big Buddha, offers Western and Thai food at reasonable prices, and spectacular sunset views across the bay as well as of the local fishing village. The more laidback Sunset Cafe right next door offers cheap Thai food, making it a popular local hang out. The eco-friendly Six Senses Samui has two restaurants, Dining on the Rocks and Dining on the Hill. The resort also boasts one of Samui's top spas, but be prepared to cough up a hefty price for treatments here.
Plai Laem beach itself is quiet and you can safely relax with a book and not be disturbed by vendors or jet skis. A few resorts are dotted along the beachfront should you feel like a refreshment. A pier and small harbour, constructed in 2011, is a good place to watch local fishermen bring home their catch alongside luxury yachts.
Venturing past Plai Laem, one enters Choeng Mon, Thongson and Thongsai bays. These are a series of small bays, many with exclusive housing developments and resorts along the cliffs and shores. Staying on route 4171 from Bang Rak past the Big Buddha and Wat Plai Laem will take you to the main beach area of Choeng Mon. From the road, it would be easy to drive straight through the little village of Choeng Mon without realising that a beach lies behind the resorts and restaurants, as it is not visible from the road. A small sign just before the Family Mart indicates beach access, and leads to a parking area next to Choeng Mon Beach Hotel.
To reach Plai Laem beach, Thongson Bay and Thongsai Bay, go past Big Buddha, but before reaching Wat Plai Laem, turn left between a 7/11 and a Family Mart. At this junction, and from here on, there is an abundance of signage offering directions to the various resorts. At the top most pinnacle of the peninsula is Samrong Bay, a small secluded bay shared by only a few high end resorts, and free of jet skis and vendors. From the junction, follow the signs for Arayaburi.
Choeng Mon's main beach is one of the most popular with expat families. The bay is protected and good for swimming, although the jet ski rentals can be a bit of a disturbance. Ko Fan Noi sits just offshore, and can be reached by foot at low tide, making for interesting exploration with children. Several resorts, both high end and midrange bungalow types, line Choeng Mon. Sun beds are in abundance, serviced by restaurants and resorts. 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.
The village of Choeng Mon is quite small, with only a few shops, restaurants and bars lining the area backing the main beach. Hostess bars are not allowed in Choeng Mon, making it ever-more family-friendly.
Although songthaews do travel to Big Buddha and past Plai Laem and Choeng Mon to Chaweng, this is not on the main transport route of the Ring Road, so they are less frequent. For those who hire a scooter or car, Plai Laem and Choeng Mon are only a short pleasant drive to many of the busier areas. Big Buddha/Bang Rak is only about two kilometres to the west, and Chaweng about four kilometres via the back route.
By Rosanne Turner.