Ko Samui, Thailand

The Perfect Island

It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote a post about Hua Hin and here we are again in Thailand! Thailand has an allure that’s hard to put into words; the cliché’s are there for a reason, the “Land of Smiles”, the fantastic food, the warm welcome of the locals. Those don’t however fully explain the immense pull this country has on its visitors. I think you need to add 10 more elements to get even close, including the stunning scenery, the high levels of service (perfectly matched to a down-to-earth mentality), and the beautiful and well-designed hotels, resorts, and restaurants, both old and new alike.

Chaweng Noi Beach – LEICA M10 50mm ISO-200 1/360sec f/5.6
Chaweng Noi Beach – X-Pro2 16mm ISO-100 7sec f/11

This time we decided to try Ko Samui, located on the east coast of Thailand, directly across the Gulf of Thailand from Cambodia. The distance is sufficient that sunrises viewed from the island appear to be looking over the ocean. According to Wikipedia, Ko Samui is Thailand’s second largest island, known for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest, plus luxury resorts and posh spas. The local population is very small at only 62,500 spread across 229sqkm.

New Star Beach Resort – X-Pro2 16mm ISO-200 1/140sec f/8

In comparison to the journey it took to get from Hong Kong to Hua Hin, the trip this time was very convenient and easy; we took a direct flight from Hong Kong to the very cute and tiny Ko Samui International Airport. Upon arrival, the plane stopped and these open sided carts (similar to a big golf cart) came up to the plane to take us to the arrivals hall. Once inside the hall, the line-up for immigration was quite long and slow; there is an express service available for 200 baht (USD$6) to bypass most of the line and I’d recommend you choose that option if the line is long.

New Star Beach Resort – LEICA M10 35mm ISO-100 1/90sec

One luxury we indulge in wherever we travel is to have a hotel car pickup service. While it’s fun to try the local transportation services, we often find it confusing, an inconvenience, and not worth the experience. In some parts of the world, this is also when you’re most vulnerable to having someone take advantage of your unfamiliarity with the local process, so we always arrange for a car pickup. When we look back at all the countries that we arranged a car pickup service, we definitely feel it’s been a worthwhile expense.

Chaweng Noi Beach – X-Pro2 16mm ISO-100 8.5sec f/11

We stayed at the New Star Beach Resort located at the Chaweng Noi Beach area. We chose this hotel because we wanted something close to the main town areas, but far enough away to have some privacy on the beach. We chose a beach-front villa and were not disappointed! The beach was literally at our door step and the way the hotel is designed, it felt like it was our own private strip of white sandy beach. This would become our home for the next five days and we rarely felt the need to explore much beyond the stunning scenery changing day by day before us.

In Hua Hin, we had experienced some of the magic of Thailand’s east coast sunrises, but nothing would prepare us for how beautiful Ko Samui’s sunrises are. The moisture that lingers around the horizon with the intense sun creates a potent mixture of colours, light rays and intensity.

Chaweng Noi Beach sunrise (HDR) – X-Pro2 35mm ISO-200 1/240sec f/1
Chaweng Noi Beach sunrise – X-Pro2 16mm ISO-200 1/34sec f/9
Chaweng Noi Beach sunrise – X-Pro2 12mm ISO-200 7sec f/1

Every morning, we had the pleasure of playing with three dogs that likely live at the resorts along the beach; they all had collars, but were free to roam. Every sunrise, the three dogs would come around and play and hang out on the beach with us early risers. Their presence added so much to the already amazing sunrises.

LEICA M10 50mm ISO-200 1/500sec
LEICA M10 35mm ISO-200 1/1000sec f/3.4

Thailand is known for its food and Ko Samui does not disappoint. It didn’t matter whether we ate in the very reasonably priced Kob Thai Restaurant or the fancy Kiree Restaurant at the Vana Belle Resort, the food was universally excellent. Even the touristy restaurants along the main strip turned out to have excellent food at reasonable prices.

We especially enjoyed the food and drinks at the Library Hotel in the downtown core. The Drink Gallery was a great place to watch and feel the energy of the city, while consuming on-point cocktails and wines.

Kob Thai Restaurant – LEICA M10 35mm ISO-200 1/250sec f/2.4
Drink Gallery at the Library – LEICA M10 35mm ISO-1600 1/45sec f/1.4
Drink Gallery at the Library – LEICA M10 50mm ISO-500 1/90sec f/2.8
Tapas Bar at the Library – LEICA M10 50mm ISO-640 1/90sec f/1.4
Kiree at Vane Balle – X-Pro2 23mm ISO-1000 1/34sec f/2

June is not usually known as a great time to visit Ko Samui, mostly due to the evening rainstorms. We actually rather enjoyed them because it made for some great photo opportunities and it also took the humidity down a notch. I’ve always wanted to try photographing lightning and the evening storms produced the perfect opportunity.

Chaweng Noi Beach – X-Pro2 35mm ISO-200 20sec f/1
Chaweng Noi Beach – X-Pro2 35mm ISO-200 20sec f/1
Pride Bar – LEICA M10 35mm ISO-800 1/90sec f/1.4

We had come to Ko Samui to celebrate my birthday, but I think we fell in love instead; we’re in love with the island. We love it so much that we’re considering buying a seaview apartment there. It was the perfect way to celebrate a birthday and something I think we’ll turn into an annual tradition.

Chaweng Noi Beach – X-Pro2 16mm ISO-200 1/350sec f/11
Chaweng Noi Beach – LEICA M10 35mm ISO-200 1/1000sec f/6.8

Hope you’ve enjoyed the images. Thank you!

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