Samui's big smoke
Published/Last edited or updated: 24th September, 2016
Located on the island's northwest coast, Nathon is Ko Samui's administrative and business centre along with its primary ferry port. A bustling, typical mid-sized Thai town, visitors are most likely to find themselves here on a transit basis, for a spot of shopping, or, in the past, to perhaps to visit the immigration office (which has now moved to Mae Nam) – it does not otherwise offer much in the way of recreation.
This said, if you're looking for a reason to peel yourself off the beach for a day but are stuck for a destination, Nathon is a good candidate, due to its abundance of shops offering goods at far cheaper prices than in Samui's tourist centres.
Wooden Chinese shophouses dot the main road, and sell clothing, wood carvings, silk items, arts and crafts and other tourist paraphernalia. Nathon's walking street market is held at the main ferry pier every Saturday night, and is popular with locals and offers cheap street food among other bits and pieces.
The centre of town is dominated by a clockwise-running one way road that loops through the southern part of town and along the beachfront. At the southern corner, overlooking the water you'll find a bunch of restaurants and bars ideal for sunset. North of town (not walking distance) are a second strong of bars and restaurants, some with live entertainment in the evening.
While we wouldn't suggest swimming in the ocean out from the centre of town to be a particularly great move, to the south of town, perhaps a hundred metres past the sunset bars and restaurants, the water is fine for a paddle. It is very shallow though, so while ideal for laying around in, you'll not get much swimming done. Also in this area are a few wrecked fishing boats which make for good photos.
Ko Samui's main ferry docks are located in Nathon, transporting passengers to the mainland town of Don Sak, as well as to Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao. Different operators use different piers, so make sure you're headed to the correct pier when departing. Also bear in mind that Samui has ferry departure points between Lipa Noi and Taling Ngam, on Mae Nam, Bophut and Bang Rak – so be sure to check where you should be headed!
Nathon does have a few places to stay which might appeal to those planning an early departure, but given the ease of transport around the island, it is difficult to make a case for staying in Nathon, unless you have a thing for seaside Thai towns.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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