Photo: A quiet stretch of Lamai.

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Lamai Beach, on Samui's southeast coast, is the island's second largest after Chaweng. The beach offers similar fare to that of Chaweng, but is more low-key and generally a little cheaper.

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The exposed beach is long and quite broad, with the central part being the best section for swimming -- the northern part is prone to mud flats at low tide so isn't so favoured. The resorts generally look after their beachfront and have done a good job in rehabilitating the beach, with the middle section in front of the larger resorts such as the Pavilion or slightly further along at Lamai Wanta being in notably good condition.

Unfortunately jet-skis are in abundance along Lamai, as are bars playing music – so if serenity is what you are after, this probably isn't your best option and Mae Nam or Bophut are probably better bets, although it's still much quieter here than Chaweng. Off the beach it is also gets pretty raucous and party-loving backpackers tend to head to Lamai because of its cheaper prices, clubs and bars -- though note some of which can be very down-market. Cheap street cafes are easy to find, as are the vendors selling fruit and grilled corn and chicken on the beach.

The cheaper prices are also reflected in the accommodation prices -- budget accommodation on Lamai is in abundance, making it popular with independent travellers and backpackers but off my the hit to the pocket a bit further up the coast at Chaweng.

Chaweng Noi lies to Lamai's north and Hua Thanon is to its south; driving from Chaweng to Lamai offers spectacular scenery along the 4169 Ring Road, as the route takes one over steep hills and around giant boulders high above the bay. At the lookout point between Chaweng Noi and Lamai are a couple of resorts and eateries. On the non-coast side on the same road is also Samui Circus Studio, where you can learn tricks such as fire twirling and poi.

Just to the north of Lamai are two beautiful bays. First off is Coral Cove, one of Samui's best snorkelling spots, though more for the plentiful fish than coral. Coral Cove offers some good accommodation alternatives for those not wanting to be in the main tourist areas, but still only a short drive away from them. Right before you reach Lamai you'll find Thong Ta Kien Bay, where the waters are crystal clear, surrounded by limestone rocks, and fringed with soft white sand studded with palms and shade trees.

Like Bophut on the island's north coast, Lamai is popular with expats living on Samui, especially the French and the Brits, and the beach also boasts some of the island's top spas, such as Tamarind Springs, a long-time favourite, and the hippie-style yoga and detox retreat, Spa Samui Resort.

Lamai's walking street market is hosted on Sunday evenings along the road between the fresh market and the bridge. As with Samui's other walking street markets, this one offers good cheap street food, cocktails, clothing stalls and music. Coco Splash, Samui's only water park, is located in Lamai and is a good bet to keep the kids busy for a while.

One of Samui's natural wonders is found just south of Lamai. Hin-Ta and Hin-Yai, Grandfather and Grandmother rock respectively, have been naturally formed by the elements to resemble male and female genitalia, and are sometimes referred to as the "rude rocks". This is a popular tourist location for photo opportunities, as well as being popular with Thais on the weekends. The road leading to the rocks is lined with some good gift shops and street food. This is one of the few places to buy garamear, Samui's own coconut candy, a strange-textured sweet made from sticky rice, coconut and palm sugar. Stands also sell virgin coconut oil, good as a hair conditioner, body oil, for scar treatment and for cooking.

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