Samui Wining & Dining
Water transport used to be the only way, but what’s it now like – on Samui today?

Water transport used to be the only way, but what’s it now like – on Samui today?

We take it for granted. We can’t picture it any other way. Indeed, why should we? We only know what we can see, and the way things were before is unknown. It’s impossible to imagine Samui without the ring-road. But in 1980, it was quite new. The airport wasn’t here, either. And those legendary hippies who ‘discovered’ Samui in the ’70s had to come across by boat. No roads, no ferries, no planes – how on earth did people get around from place to place?


Things have changed very little (all over the world, in fact) ever since the first motor cars started being broken for spares. Because all you need is a boat, an old car engine, plus a long metal rod to hang a propeller on. And, even today, the vast majority of local fishermen here still putter around in these. Back in the old days, every little village had their ‘water taxis’ which you could hire to get you from place to place. But, as the island’s road network expanded and the car ferries arrived, these began to fade away. Now it’s almost impossible to wander up to a fisherman (hard enough to find in the first place) and negotiate the hire of his boat for the day. The resorts and local tour agencies now handle all that kind of thing.


So exactly what is available now, in the way of water transport, on and around the island? Well, let’s start big and talk about the ferries first. And right away, you’ll hit the malaise of the 21st century – Google. Google is totally un-God-like! So are some of the modern-looking websites that it throws up. Firstly some sites are still showing info from eight or nine years ago, and listing ferry piers or services that have collapsed; literally! One spanking new website (no names) even shows a photo of a pier in Maenam which doesn’t exist, and is in reality the big ferry terminal in Nathon. Other websites will provide details, but neglect to inform you of where on Samui this ferry departs, and then go on to contradict info found on other ‘helpful’ websites. I’ve been living on Samui for 15 years and, after three hours of shaking my head at the Google results (just to be on the safe side with the details), now I’m more confused than ever.


Water transport used to be the only way, but what’s it now like – on Samui today?Keeping it as fault-free as possible, there two big car/passenger ferries. Raja, running out of the ferry point at Lipa Noi on the island’s west coast, and Seatran, which is based at Nathon. Both companies run passenger and car ferries non-stop throughout the day to the nearest mainland port at Donsak, and offer combined tickets on from there to other destinations, including Surat Thani airport. Day-trippers already on Samui can also look at timetables from Seatran Discovery, close to Big Buddha, running outwards to Pha-Ngan and Tao (and on to the mainland). And there’s also the Lomprayah High Speed Catamaran, from the far end of Maenam, which offers similar routes. The old wooden Maenam pier collapsed in 2002 and hasn’t been replaced, although there is now one run a day here (off the sand) by Tong Nai Pan Ferry Company, going to Haad Rin (Koh Pha-Ngan) and onwards. There are others, but enough of this ferry frippery! Let’s move on.

It all depends what you’re after, doesn’t it. Book a day trip on a boat to the southern islands of Koh Tan and Koh Matsum and you’ll be put in with 12 other people sitting next to the rattling car engine of a big longtail boat. On the other hand, hire a Chinese junk for a sunset cruise and, at a price, it’s a completely different kettle of fish. And then there’s boat charter. Companies such as Sa-ard’s Watersports offer various combinations of luxury cruising in power or sailing boats, complete with crew, either with set routes or by arrangement if you want something special.        

At the more earthy end of the scale, you could go kayaking. It’s less glitzy but it’s more in keeping with a healthy lifestyle, and packages even take-in the wonderful vistas of Angthong National Marine Park, plus the cost of the boat to get you out there.Page-20-3 (Blue Stars are the best here.) But that’s not quite within the spirit of ‘transport around Samui’.


But one thing is that, if you’re reading this, you’re already here. So let’s summarise. You can go out on a longtail for the day, or alternatively charter a luxury-yacht. Go and visit Koh Pha-Ngan for a while, on an adventure excursion. Bounce with 30 others on a speedboat over to the Full Moon Party (file this under ‘Thailand cultural studies’). Or power your own kayak, singularly or in company, here or there, according to your budget or whim.


There’s only one thing lacking here and, entrepreneurs take note; there are no hovercraft to be seen anywhere. Who needs a jetty or a pier! The big slick ones can do 80 nautical KPH and land on any beach anywhere. The little personal ones you can just head off in and go fishing for the day. Forget about speedboats, or the antique longtails. Choose between kayaks or a hovercraft! It’s not only the way to go but you can drive it straight into your garage. And this is one thing that might make Samui’s old-time ‘water ways’ bang up to date!


 Rob De Wet


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