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

During their five-day vacation, Huang and friends signed up for jungle biking and boat trips to smaller islands, which also featured a tour of Chaweng Night Market, Thai massages and local cuisines.

Thai massages cost 250 to 300 baht an hour — cheaper than similar treats in Taiwan, Huang’s wife said.

Apart from visa waivers, Thailand recently announced plans to pour funds into expanding airport capacity and connecting major terminals with high-speed railways with an aim to raise foreign tourist numbers more than 60 percent by 2029, according to a Bloomberg report.

Isabella Zheng (曾嫣然), a native from China’s Sichuan Province and a college student in the US, flew to Koh Samui to meet her girlfriends from elsewhere to kick off their summer vacation.

Zheng and friends, all in their early 20s, aimed to visit Instagramable dining venues such as Tarua Seafood Restaurant on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea and sumptuous tent-shaped Dara Serene Restaurant located on the beach.

“While appreciating natural scenery, we are looking for different and memorable experiences,” Zheng said on the flight from Bangkok to Samui.

Zheng said she and her friends didn’t have a budget but would allow their whims to guide their spending.

Newly opened Avani Hotels & Resorts in southern Samui is wooing Asian guests like Zheng who have made a big contribution to Thai tourism revenue. Thai authorities are looking at a 9.5 percent gain in tourism revenue this year and a 10 percent growth next year.

European guests account for 70 percent of Avani’s clientele and Asian visitors the remaining 30 percent.

The breakdown is reversing for some facilities on Koh Samui, and Avani would like to jump on the bandwagon, said Cindy Delhomel, the resort’s French manager.

“The goal is achievable as Avani, a life-style brand with 25 properties in 15 countries, has a strong presence in Thailand,” Delhomel said.

A Hong Kong housewife surnamed Chan (陳), who stayed at Avani with six family members and friends, said they just wanted to relax during their weeklong vacation.

“We don’t have a to-do list, which gives room for more possibilities,” Chan said, adding Koh Samui is 3.5 hours away by airplane, rather convenient for Hong Kong holidaygoers.

Chan and family visited the Sunday Lamai Street Market one day earlier and planned to go kayaking or swim in their villa’s private pool.

It takes 6.5 hours to fly from Taiwan to Samui including a transfer in Bangkok.

The flight is a bit long but worthwhile once visitors set eyes on the island’s untouched beaches, coconut trees and lush jungles, Lai said.

The island offers both a quiet hideaway and vibrant night life including boxing fights to suit tourists with different tastes, Lai said.

Crystal Hsu stayed at the Avani+Samui courtesy of Avani Hotels & Resorts.

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