Koh Samui may be famous for its luxury resorts, but there’s also plenty of local atmosphere – if you can tear yourself away from your swimming pool.
This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Bangkok 101. Read it here.
Towering palm trees and flamboyant orange blooms of the Poinciana tree line the road in the less popular, southeast portion of Koh Samui. No construction shrills are heard here, just cicadas and birds singing overhead. Unlike most of the island’s developed areas, this road has few tourists, fewer resorts, and signs giving directions only in Thai.
At a main intersection, my bike ride is interrupted by almost a dozen imposing piles of coconuts. In one mountain, fibrous coconut husks decompose. In another, fresh green ones are stacked. Locals are picking, splitting, peeling the fruit – they’re readying the crop for processing, maybe to be pressed into oil or sold in a market. Here, coconuts don’t just decorate the landscape, they’re a means of livelihood.
This is the real Samui – culture unaffected by all that surrounds it. It’s present again in Hua Thanon’s Muslim village, where a narrow road of wooden shophouses runs the length of a fishing community. Instead of a barrage of hoisted resort advertisements, bamboo cages hang, housing birds for birdsong competitions.