Heading west of Hua Thanon and detouring south off the ring road brings a whole new aspect to Samui and delivers a nature lover’s ideal holiday area . The beaches from Bang Kao, through Thong Krut and Taling Ngam Bays to Lipa Noi are all relatively undeveloped and gaining a reputation as the most desirable area on the island. New developments are appearing, but the pace of change is much slower than the busy resorts to the east and north, and these recently built properties, resorts and facilities are generally aimed at up-market travellers and jet-setters who have recently discovered the fabulous natural beauty of this tropical island.
Bang Kao – also known as Laem Set beach – has a relatively short and narrow beach, at around 2 kilometres in length, but the sand is flat and ideal for beach games or jogging if you have the energy to spare! Swimming is good and the waters generally safe and clean, with some spectacular boulders and coconut palms leaning over at seemingly impossible angels! These palms fringe the beach and provide much needed shade during the heat of a tropical day, and you won’t be plagued by jetskis buzzing the bay like the beaches to the north and east.
However, there is not much to do on the beach, and dining options are limited. The Butterfly Garden, Buffalo Show, Tropical Zoo and the Aquarium are all nearby and well worth a visit – especially the aquarium which is chock full of coral, turtles, sharks, catfish, giant grouper and other fascinating sea creatures in massive glass tanks – and you can even hand feed giant turtles and manta rays as they circle the water!
The Bird Show is a highly entertaining event and included with the ticket for the Samui Tiger Show…. Unfortunately, like many local owners of wild animals, they often drug these normally aggressive creatures to pacify them for tourists ‘bravely’ having their photographs taken with them: it is generally best not to succumb to the staff offers to pet the tigers as the extra cash it generates only encourages this behaviour.
(Please don’t cuddle a sleepy giant iguana or allow a tout to place a docile eagle on your arm either – things you may well be offered in Chaweng and other tourist hotspots. Sadly, only the monkeys at the shows and elephants offered for jungle rides are safe from being forced to consume sedative drugs for photo opportunities.)
At the eastern end of the beach is the fabulous Laem Set Inn, a proper tropical oasis set in a fairly steep gully with thatched teak bungalows perched on the sides and a wonderful walkway down to the beach bar and poolside restaurant. Photos taken in this amazing location have adorned glossy travel magazines worldwide, but the resort has a faded air about it now and the well-heeled travellers who used to stay here have moved on to better things, though a visit to the beach bar for a drink and a snack is still highly recommended.
Bang Kao has a number of very well appointed rental villa options, including the magnificent secluded beachfront property, La Lagune, a Thai sala style house with all the facilities you could possibly need, Baan Laem Set with its beachside infinity pool, and Waterfall Villa perched high in the mountains with amazing ocean views.
Check out the full range of Koh Samui villas available for rent in Thailand.