In 1971 two tourists arrived on Thailand’s third-largest island via a coconut boat from Bangkok and stumbled upon paradise – white-sand beaches with palms blowing in the wind and clear green seas sparkling in the sunlight, against a picture-perfect background of lush green hills and brown roads interspersed with rough wooden structures.
More than 30 years after the first rough-hewn hut went up on Ko Samui, the island and the archipelago that includes 80 smaller islands, has become the Asian travel market’s most enigmatic chameleon – as attractive to fire-twirling backpackers as to flashpackers toting Louis Vuitton. On the map alongside places like Goa and Bali, Samui has polished its reputation as a hippy island paradise that remembers to provide the best of the creature comforts from home. In the last five years, Samui has become as popular as Phuket, and at times as trendy. If it’s nightlife you’re after, the full moon parties held at Ko Pha-Ngan are legendary, while snorkelling and nature enthusiasts will enjoy Ko Tao.