Samui Wining & Dining
Samui Holiday Magazine
A Warm Welcome

A Warm Welcome

And we wish you a very prosperous New Year! Living here on this sunshine island, it hardly seems a moment since the last one. But if you’ve been planning, thinking and looking forward to coming here – away from the sleet and snow – then it’s no doubt taken forever to arrive.

          

You’ll need a little luck, though. We’re now in the tail end of the rainy season, so it’s probably 50-50 sun and showers, but at least it’s warm. That’s the best thing; you’ll never need scarves and gloves on Samui!

          

Many people feel that these few months at the beginning of the year are a great time to come here. The hustle and bounce of Christmas and the New Year is over and the weather is good. And if you’re here at the end of January, then there’s another treat to enjoy. The spectacular and colourful processions of the Chinese New Year will tour the streets on the 25th. Look out for this in Nathon, Maenam and Hua Thanon. And then in February, there’s the most romantic day of the year on the 14th . . . but we don’t need to explain much about that, do we? So, with that, we’ll quietly bow-out, and seal this greeting with a kiss!

 
TEMPLE TREASURES
 A guide to some of Samui’s favourite wats.

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Samui’s temples are a world apart from the rest of the island; often glimpsed with wonderment from the seat of a car, minivan or a motorbike and then gone in a second. Perhaps there’s even a turn of the head, and a mental note to go and take a look later. But Samui is known for its ability to distract, and good intentions somehow just get left behind – so much to do and barely time to triage the island’s pleasures and enjoy a handful of them. The clock’s ticking, and too soon the plane will be on the tarmac and it’ll be time to go.

          

Some visitors never even get to see a temple, and in doing so they miss out on some unforgettable sights. Temples are everywhere on Samui, deeply respected by locals and definitely worth any number of visits. More than the sum of their parts, they offer not just an insight into Samui’s culture, but are filled with atmospheres and a sense of mystery all of their own.

          

Here’s a brief round-up of some of the island’s favourite temples. Remember that there’s a dress code, so be sure to cover bare flesh.

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A SWIM IN THE PARK
 Don’t miss out on The Angthong National Marine Park, one of the treasures of Thailand.

Don’t miss out on The Angthong National Marine Park, one of the treasures of Thailand.

          

One of Samui’s biggest attractions turns out not to be on Samui at all. It’s a group of off-shore islands which attract thousands of visitors every year. The Angthong National Marine Park is visible from the west coast of Samui, and is an incredibly beautiful archipelago of some 40 islands. They’re easily accessible – under an hour’s speedboat ride – and if you don’t have time to see anything else at all while you’re on holiday, a visit here should be top priority. Even if you’re a seasoned traveller, this is a day out that’s bound to impress.

When you think of desert islands, you may well be thinking of a classical atoll. You know the type from computer screensavers: a minuscule strip of beach with precisely three palm trees sprouting improbably from the sand. Well, these islands aren’t like that at all. They’re better. They’ve got more substance and a quirkiness about them that’s hard to define. For a start, there are the islands’ strange shapes to consider. On a map they don’t look remarkable – just an archipelago like any other, really – but see them up close, at sea-level, and they appear very strange. Some have quite smooth shapes, while others are so jagged that they appear to be at times barely natural. Their contorted features are due to the geology here being karst; limestone that’s been eaten away by rain and the sea, leaving them with fantastic shapes and at times outlines that seem to have been cut by a mad person with a razor. For all this, they remain extraordinarily beautiful.

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ICONIC & IRRESISTIBLE
 Welcome to WOOBAR at W Koh Samui – more than just breathtaking.

 Welcome to WOOBAR at W Koh Samui – more than just breathtaking.

          

‘Wow!’ is the word that escapes everyone’s lips when they first see Woobar. Step through the atrium at W Koh Samui and you find yourself bewitched by this iconic bar that has the sky for a ceiling and the horizon for walls. It’s one of Samui’s most Instagrammed spots – it’s somehow virtually impossible to take a bad shot of the place - and so deservedly beautiful that people tend to momentarily forget what they came here for.

Once you’ve taken in the view, you’ll be drawn to Woobar’s décor. It’s bright, bold and above all creative, yet entirely easy on the eye. The design injects W Hotels’ signature New York energy into the bar with vibrant, chic furnishings and artwork by an international street artist, Alec Monopoly. The unique design of Woobar allows it to effortlessly morph from day to night. And apart from regular theme nights, the versatility of the space is ideal for presenting exciting one-off events, which W is justly famed for; unique W Happenings which bring you the best of creative talent and showcase innovations in the world of music, art, design and fashion.

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THE TRAVELLING TAILOR
 Discovering the world of bespoke clothing with Paul’s Fashion.

 Discovering the world of bespoke clothing with Paul’s Fashion.

          

Samui is well-known as a place to find tailored clothes, whether formal or informal. Wherever you go you’ll find dozens of tailors offering great deals. It’s a competitive world out there and unrivalled services are hard to find. It’s easier if you live, here but if you’re on holiday then spending hours checking out different tailors is probably not your idea of fun. You might just feel like giving up. But you shouldn’t, not before you’ve looked at one of the longest-standing tailors on Samui. For many residents, Paul Subedhi needs no introduction. He’s the brains, and the very skilled hands, behind the highly successful Paul’s Fashion.

He’s not the sort of tailor that you’ll meet standing just outside his door, chatting to passers-by with the aim of selling them something, and the quicker the better. In fact, you may not even see him inside his fashion shop at all, as he’s frequently out and about visiting his customers.

          

He realizes you may be a lot happier relaxing by your hotel swimming pool, so he’s perfectly prepared to come to you. “It’s part of the service I’m offering,” Paul says. “I’m happy to meet customers at hotels, villas and resorts – anywhere on the island, no matter how far away.” And in case you’re wondering - any and all fittings can be done at the customers’ accommodation, without a single visit to his store. Very few tailors are able to offer service of this kind. However, if you decide to visit Paul in his store, you might like to take advantage of the free round trip he offers – from any hotel or villa on Samui.

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ALWAYS IN VOGUE
 Poppies Samui has been charming its guests for over a quarter of a century.

Poppies Samui has been charming its guests for over a quarter of a century.

          

Not many restaurants are able to keep up with Poppies; it’s acknowledged as one of the foremost places to dine on Samui. The surprise is that it’s been this way for over 25 years. Poppies was christened in 1994, and back then wasn’t so much a newcomer, but pretty much the first of Samui’s luxury restaurants.

If we say that it’s stood the test of time, that’s an understatement – it’s done a lot more than endure the passing of the years; it’s avoided becoming a staid old institution, and still has a fresh vibrancy about it. Poppies wins over its guests and delivers top quality food with the kind of effortlessness that make it appear easy. The reality is that a huge amount of dedication has gone into everything here. And there’s love too – staff have been here longer than in most other resorts, some since the day it opened its doors. All of this translates very directly into a better dining experience. Staff know what they’re doing, and no matter what the situation, they’ll know how to deal with it.

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BEACHSIDE BLISS
 Sands at Banyan Tree Samui offers the very best of gourmet food in a hideaway spot.

Sands at Banyan Tree Samui offers the very best of gourmet food in a hideaway spot.

          

Located in one of Samui’s most beautiful areas, and facing out over a gorgeous little bay, Sands is the kind of location that offers itself up to happy times by the sea with long lunches and dinners. A place where you can come and chill out, rejuvenate and enjoy a pervading sense of calm. Firmly off the beaten track – no crowds, busy beach scenes or noise – Sands is part of a wonderfully secluded headland, Laem Nan, in Lamai. Just take the small lane close by the IT Centre as you head into Lamai from Chaweng, and it’s a few hundred metres away.

A buggy whisks you along winding lanes through immense gardens and down to the sea, and a world that feels quite apart. Take a seat in the open-sided dining room or outside on the terrace, which enjoys the shade of a wide-spreading almond tree. Ease back into the vibe at Sands, sip on cocktails or a long drink while you explore the eclectic menu that ranges across all manner of delights, mostly international but with the addition of some well-loved Thai dishes.

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TOP MEDITERRANEAN
 Not just picturesque, The Cliff Bar & Grill beckons with its award-winning food and drink.

Not just picturesque, The Cliff Bar & Grill beckons with its award-winning food and drink.

          

Head in through the main doors and you’ll be in for a surprise. The extraordinarily beautiful view is showcased by the open-air dining room. Sit outside on the terrace – you may need to book in advance – or inside and you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery. Ao Thong Takian, a favourite spot for many Samui residents is just down below, and adds to the charm of The Cliff. Views don’t come much better than this.

          

Staff add to the experience; they aren’t just welcoming they’re highly attentive, and also think of the little things that can make a difference. They’ll bring you the password for the Wi-Fi as soon as you’re seated – maybe they shouldn’t; this is one place where you don’t want to be distracted. With views like this and the superb food, it’s best to forget the world beyond.

          

Expect stand-out food every time. This is what has made The Cliff so high up on residents’ lists of places to eat and drink. Serving top-notch delights from around the Mediterranean since 2004, The Cliff was one of the very first places on Samui to bring authentic Mediterranean food to its delighted guests. It’s still a feat for restaurants to do this, but back when it opened, restaurateurs had to go to inordinate efforts just to bring ingredients to the island. Owner Bradley Munns, along with general manager Lionel Helena, scoured the region for just the right ingredients; olive oils, cured meats, herbs and spices and so on. A lot of people would have chosen easier options. They didn’t. And in the hands of Chef Sergio Martelli – he’s been with The Cliff since its earliest days – the food here is inspired and just like back in his native Italy. If you’re not mesmerized by the views as you walk in, then check out the food awards that grace the walls by the main doors of the restaurant.

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THE PULL OF THE MOON
 The Full Moon Party and its hedonistic offspring guarantee fun throughout the month.
The Full Moon Party and its hedonistic offspring guarantee fun throughout the month.

          

If you’re seeking totally over-the-top parties, with an accent on massive amounts of fun, Samui and Koh Phangan provide them in spades. These two smallish islands vie with each other to be party central. Which one wins? It depends on what you’re looking for. Phangan is definitely the winner when it comes to the biggest monthly party, that of the Full Moon. But no matter if you’re not around for the big event, sister island Samui simply provides parties all the time – every night is party night here. And on top of all that, both islands offer parties to celebrate every phase of the moon. In a nutshell: you can’t go wrong. Nobody, ever, makes the complaint that this region of Thailand lags behind when it comes to having a good time. 

          

Let’s start off with the mother of all parties, the Full Moon Party. Unlike events such as the Rio Carnival, Burning Man or St Patrick’s Day, there’s no cultural reason for it. Only at best an aesthetic one; the night of the full moon bathes everyone in its light, except of course where there’s artificial light.

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SOARING ABOVE THEM ALL
 Stacked Burger takes American eats to unbeatable new heights.
Stacked Burger takes American eats to unbeatable new heights.

          

Great food is beyond reproducing. Anyone can make a half way decent meal but it takes an expert to morph dishes into gourmet treats. Burgers and the like can be sumptuous in the hands of the right chef, and that’s why so many holidaymakers and island residents head for Stacked Burger. Here you’ll find the home of the very best American-style foods. Despite the name of the restaurant, only about half of the menu is even to do with burgers – there’s a lot going on at Stacked, as it’s usually called, that has nothing to do with meat patties. You’ll find a brilliant array of salads, steaks, seafood and plenty of other fare - all of it is tantalizingly delicious.

          

Stacked is an ideal setting when it comes to an elegant venue to eat, drink and socialize. You’ll find a large outdoor deck to sit out on and an indoor, air-conditioned dining room that has communal tables for larger parties, smaller ones for groups of family and friends, and plenty of more intimate seating options if you’re here with a romantic partner. The restaurant brings a funky yet contemporary vibe, is laid-back and convivial. Though it’s able to seat up to 185 diners at a time, it can get busy on some evenings, so it might be a good idea to make an advance reservation, especially if you are planning to come in a large group. Surprise and delight are chief hallmarks of Stacked. If you’re familiar with American food, you’ll see there’s nothing outlandish on the menu that stands out as odd or not belonging. As soon as you read the menus for food and drink, you know you’re in for an exceptional American dining experience. Chef Artit Santhamit, usually known as Chef Gai, takes epicurean versions of all-American staples to new heights. Judging from the praise he’s received, Chef Gai’s culinary take on American food has been wildly successful. As with any good restaurant, updates are in the pipeline, and in any case there’s always a promotion no matter which month of the year you drop by at Stacked.

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THE YEAR OF THE RAT
 The story of Chinese New Year and what goes on behind the scenes.
The story of Chinese New Year and what goes on behind the scenes.

          

All Westerners know exactly what their New Year is all about – a good night out, lots of drinks and fun, and with everyone going crazy when the clock strikes midnight! Yes, sure, there’s the idea of New Year’s resolutions, too. But apart from that, the whole thing is just a good reason for a party.

          

But it’s not the same with the Chinese. Their thinking about this occasion is complex, saturated with ritual and actually goes on for a total of 15 days. Because it’s based on the lunar calendar, every New Year begins on a different day, at that point in the month when the moon is at its darkest. It then runs until the moon is full, 15 days later. And this year’s celebration is set to kick-off on the 25th of January.

          

However, to most of us in the West, we’re only usually aware of one particular day, and that’s the one when the Chinese community have their colourful procession around the streets. This is the first day of the Chinese traditional calendar for the year – although in actual fact, where there are large Chinese communities such as, say, San Francisco, the street parties spread into a second day. But what most of us don’t realise is that, for up to a month before this day, there’s lots been going on already behind the scenes.

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PERFECT SEASIDE ESCAPES
 Beachfront chic gets a makeover at Samui Palm Beach Resort.
Beachfront chic gets a makeover at Samui Palm Beach Resort.

          

Samui Palm Beach Resort is one of the island’s most long-standing top resorts, but visit it today and it all looks brand new. And that’s because it’s just been completely renovated. It’s kept all that ensures that its many repeat guests return to their home away from home, while giving its wow factor an added big boost. The results are extraordinary, making Samui Palm Beach the perfect place to enjoy a tropical holiday.

          

When you arrive at the lobby, you’ll notice immediately how Samui Palm Beach honours its past. A great deal of Samui’s culture references traditional southern styles from Nakhon Si Thammarat on the mainland. But that’s not all. Many Chinese settlers came from the island of Hainan and took refuge here on Samui. They brought with them their own customs and artefacts. Many Chinese traditions live on today, and that’s why, for example, when you arrive at Samui Palm Beach you’ll be offered chrysanthemum tea. It’s good for the health and carries with it the scents and tastes of the past. Other Chinese grace notes can be spotted; an ornate Chinese doorway, and here and there the artwork reflects the Sino-Thai traditions of the two islands. In the rooms themselves, you’ll find original paintings, each different and representing traditional Thai life. The fact that all of this mixes in so brilliantly with the contemporary design of Samui Palm Beach is testimony to the ingenious architects and interior designers that have made the resort such an inspiring destination.

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IT’S MAKE OR BREAK TIME AGAIN!
 New Year resolutions are an admirable thing, but what are they really all about?
New Year resolutions are an admirable thing, but what are they really all about?

          

Here’s a thought. When you read the stories in here, what do you think? I don’t mean whether you actually like the stories. I mean . . . what is your instinctive feeling about the writer? Do you simply assume that we’re all experts on what we’re writing about? I imagine that many of you do. The reality, though, is different. At one extreme we’ll be interviewing people, accumulating facts, and taking detailed notes about what they say. Now and then there will be a topic that we know about. More or less! But at the other end of the scale, we won’t have a clue, and head straight for Google.

          

Like this story for instance. Hands up all of you who are experts on the topic of New Year resolutions. No, not about how many of them you have made and then broken, but about the idea behind them, and how it all began. How it was, and is now observed and celebrated, and in what ways by different nations and cultures. Who’s heard of the Roman god, Janus, for example? You see, there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye.

          

The first thing I learned was this: after 30 minutes of Googling there wasn’t one writer who’d said a word about anything – any country or culture – except for his own, and seven out of every 10 articles were American-based. Plus 90% of these were about how to keep the resolutions that you’d made, and how to be strong and psychologically motivated. Also, it’s almost impossible to find any information on the southern hemisphere – remember, all nations and cultures celebrate the New Year in one way or another. So much for Google!

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SAIL & YOGA
 The best sailing around with Samui Ocean Sports - now with added yoga!
The best sailing around with Samui Ocean Sports - now with added yoga!

          

If you want to explore the waters around Samui under sail power, then your first point of contact should be Samui Ocean Sports. The company is owned and operated by German native, Armin Kundke, or Kunta, as he’s been known since he was at school.

          

As a young man, Kunta, like all men in Germany, was ordered to do military service. Since he was a trained mechanic, it fell to him to repair tanks and trucks. Hardly a glamorous job, not that he was expecting one. But then the winter came. As you no doubt know, winter in Germany can be brutal, but this one took even the natives by surprise: temperatures fell to minus 22 degrees. In the worst of weathers, he was ordered to check on the tanks, make sure they were all working and to dig them out of the snow. It was 6:00 am in the morning. He started digging a route through to the snowed-in tanks and his feet started freezing. It was fairly unbearable, but instead of putting up with it, he vowed to himself that he’d do something about it. And so, at that precise moment, a dream was born: he vowed to himself that he’d go and live somewhere warm, and exchange his army boots for flip-flops – forever!

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HORNS OF PLENTY
 When horns lock, money moves in Samui’s buffalo fighting stadiums.
 When horns lock, money moves in Samui’s buffalo fighting stadiums.

          

A lot of mystery surrounds buffalo fighting, and here on Samui, it’s no different. It all starts with simply trying to find out when and where fights are going to take place. Many visitors to the island aren’t even sure how to get to see a fight. Seemingly desperate posts are left on travel websites, and garner a few equally desperate replies. “When you see a buffalo on the side of the road, see if you can find the owner,” reads one particularly inane bit of advice, as if to say all buffalo owners happen to know about fights!

          

It’s actually quite easy to get to a buffalo fighting stadium, but just don’t ask Google to sort it out for you: no handy map will pop up with road directions, nor will you be able to buy a ticket with a few taps of the keyboard. That’s because buffalo fighting is a traditional sport that’s still conducted in very traditional ways. Think rustic. It’s not online yet. So who to ask? If you’re staying at a hotel, try talking to the receptionist. He or she probably won’t know any details but will know someone who does. Alternatively pop in to any of the island’s hundreds of travel agents, and they’ll find out where the next fight is slated to take place. If you drive along the ring-road you’ll see hand-written signs that announce fights. The stadiums where they take place are set well away from major roads, so it may require a bit of persistence to actually find. And locations can move, too, and new venues can open very quickly. There’s a fairly well-known stadium in Maenam. Turn inland at the town’s only traffic lights, head through the temple grounds, turn left, then after a hundred metres turn right and follow the road.

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SURF’S UP!
 EasySurf is Samui’s newest way to have loads of fun.
EasySurf is Samui’s newest way to have loads of fun.

          

Samui’s known for its beautiful beaches, but when it comes to surfing, big waves aren’t so much on the agenda. There’s only one place to go when it comes to dependable surf fun. And that’s EasySurf, a new and notable addition to the island’s collection of adrenalin rushes.

          

The folks at EasySurf have set everything up to allow you to learn how to surf, practice, or if you already know how to surf, just spend time engaged in this wonderful sport. EasySurf is located on the peninsula that juts into Chaweng Lake. It’s close to Reggae Pub and is open daily from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm (last wave starts at 5:00 pm). Staff are friendly and welcoming, ensuring that you enjoy your time here while being in safe hands.

          

Sessions cost 950 baht per hour and include use of showers and toilets. Lockers are free but you’ll need to deposit 200 baht for the key. Each lane is shared by a maximum of eight people, who each take it in turns, about a minute at a time – it’s hard to stay on the board longer than that unless you’ve reached expert level. And in any case, you’ll need to take a break in order to recharge your energy.

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