Thu, Jul 11, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Big Buddha’s tropical paradise

Island hopping, scuba-diving, kayaking and elephant trekking are among the many activities to be found on Thailand’s Koh Samui

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter, in Koh Samui, Thailand

Aerial views of small islands near Avani+Samui. The signature free island-hopping activity for guests of Avani+Samui.

Photo courtesy of Avani+Samui

Koh Samui, Thailand’s second largest island after Phuket, has attracted an increasing number of Asian holidaymakers, including visitors from Taiwan who are seeking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.

The trend corresponds with Thailand’s bid to grow tourist numbers by 5 percent to 40.2 million this year, which would generate 2.21 trillion baht of travel spending, the nation’s Tourism Authority said on July 2.

The target represents a downgrade from the 8 percent increase it projected in January and came after a record 38.27 million tourists last year, up 7.5 percent from 2017.

Tourism is the economic lifeblood for the second largest economy in Southeast Asia, driving 20 percent of GDP with foreign tourists contributing 12 percent.

With an area of 228.7 km2 and a hotel occupancy rate of 73 percent, Koh Samui and smaller islands nearby have much to offer tourists, recreationally and culturally.

Tsao Wen-sheng (曹文生), 36, an engineer from Taichung’s Ying Lyu Technology Co (鷹律科技), and three colleagues picked Koh Samui as their destination, attracted by its scenic beauty and assorted water sports.

“We went on a cruise, island hopping, scuba-diving and kayaking,” Tsao said on his flight from Samui to Bangkok where they would stay for another three days.

While on Koh Samui, Tsao and colleagues also went elephant trekking and visited the landmark Big Buddha and Na Muang Waterfall.

As of May, 16.72 million tourists had visited Thailand, an increase of 1.58 percent from the same period last year, Thai government data showed.

Travelers from China remain by far the largest tourist source market despite an 8.55 percent decline attributable to a fatal boat accident in Phuket last summer and an ongoing slowdown in the Chinese economy, Thai media said.

GETTING THERE:

Daily flights leave Taoyuan International Airport on Eva Air, China Airlines, Thai Airways, NokScoot Airlines and others. There is no direct flight between Taipei and Koh Samui, visitors have to transfer in Bangkok or Hong Kong. Ticket fares vary from NT$15,830 on budget NokScoot to NT$22,000 by China Airlines or Eva Air round trips.

GETTING AROUND:

There is little public transportation on Koh Samui. Motorbikes and regular taxis are available, though price-haggling is required. One hassle-free option is to ask hotels to help hire private drivers at 3,600 Thai baht per half day, or 1,000 baht an hour, to visit popular tourist attractions, including Chaweng Beach, Big Buddha, Na Muang Waterfall and Lamai Walking Street. One baht equals 1.0079659 New Taiwan dollars.

WHERE TO STAY:

Avani+Samui offers 58 guestrooms including 27 private pool villas for daily room rates of 3,500 to 25,000 baht.


Meanwhile, visitors from Hong Kong and Japan picked up with tourists from Taiwan gaining 6.05 percent to 56,268.

Tsao gave his thumbs-up to Koh Samui, saying the trip is refreshing and inspirational.

A local restaurant waitress nicknamed Wewh said over 80 percent of Thai people are Buddhists, accounting for the salient presence of Buddhist temples on the island.

KOH SAMUI’S ATTRACTIONS

Must-go tourist attractions include Guan Yu Shrine, dedicated to Chinese deity Guan Yu (關羽) whose ardent followers include New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) and former Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海) chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘).

Wewh said that most of Koh Samui’s 62,500 residents work in the tourism industry, which requires long working hours, but they are generally happy.

The secret lies in the fact that “Thai people don’t mourn the past, worry about the future, but live in the present moment,” she said.

Thailand ranks a top pick among Taiwanese vacationers, supported by its visa waiver program, said Miki Lai (賴怡君), a travel agent in Taipei.

Thai authorities have since November last year made visas on arrival free of charge for visitors from 20 countries, including Taiwan, for a limited period, a scheme that has been extended a few times until the end of October.

A 50-year-old Hsinchu resident surnamed Huang (黃) flew to Koh Samui with his wife and seven other friends to relax and have fun.

Huang said Koh Samui resembles Taiwan’s Penghu County in geographic size and temperature, making it popular for people fond of water activities.

This story has been viewed 1919 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top