Chaweng at night has something for everyone, from cosy bars to noisy clubs.
Think ‘nightlife on Samui’ and you’ll probably think of Chaweng. Even if you’ve never been to Samui before, it’s the bars and clubs of this strip on the eastern side of the island that always seem to be featured in travel programmes about it. There’ll be shots of ladyboys trying to wave passers-by into their clubs, the thumping techno of Soi Green Mango, or the fire dancers on the beach, all set against the backdrop of colour and lights. Chaweng at night offers a lot of different options.
Chaweng is the place to be for at least a couple of nights of your stay. Even if your ‘party until 4:00 am’ days are firmly behind you, it’s worth going there for a few hours just to experience it. And it’s not all techno bars and ladyboy clubs – there are plenty of acclaimed restaurants, quieter bars, entertainment venues, cafés, a cinema and even ten-pin bowling all available close by. Just walking along the main Beach Road and visiting a few spots there will offer up more than enough for a night’s entertainment, but if you venture into the smaller streets and alleyways there’re plenty of other options set back from the main road.
There are a few Chaweng institutions that anyone visiting here should make a point of seeing. First up it’s Bar Ice in north Chaweng (on the road leading from north section of Chaweng Beach Road to the main ring-road). And a cooling stop-off there is as much of a necessity as a novelty with its amazing ice lounge (there are normal temperature areas too) a chilling -7 degrees Celsius and complete with ice sculptures of Thai statues, an elephant, a dragon and a full size tuk-tuk. Don’t worry though, you get a warm cape when you go in so you can snuggle up and have a flavoured vodka or cocktail served in an ice (of course) glass.
Then we have the boxing stadiums, showing Thailand’s national martial art, Muay Thai. There are two stadiums in Chaweng – the Chaweng Stadium is the biggest, situated not far from another famous Chaweng institution, the Reggae Pub. It shows fights at least twice a week, often with a mix of Thai and foreign fighters, with fights starting at 9:00 pm and sessions of smaller bouts then the main fight at around 10:30 pm. The other stadium is the Petch Bucha Thai Boxing Stadium, where again the fights start around 9:00 pm and go on for a few hours. Both stadiums advertise their fights with flyers and trucks (listen out for the ‘Rocky’ theme tune, ‘Eye of The Tiger’), so it’s easy enough to know when’s best to turn up.
No visit to Thailand would be complete without an eye-opening trip to the ladyboy bars. And Samui has its share, with the cabaret show at Christy’s being the most well-known. It’s been going strong for years and combines some very talented performances with some very funny comedy turns. All the ‘ladies’ line up outside afterwards to pose for pictures – the show itself is free but tipping the performers is expected if you’re getting your photo taken with them.
The cabaret at Christy’s starts around 10:00 pm and lasts for about an hour, so there’s loads of time to go on somewhere else once you’ve had your photo snapped. If you’re coming out of Christy’s you’ll be near Soi Green Mango, the main hub of nightlife in Chaweng and where thousands of people party every week. Here you can get buckets of booze – two or three measures of vodka or whisky with a few measures of mixer, all dumped into a plastic bucket that really should come with a matching spade. There are more than enough bars and clubs in the Green Mango area to keep you pub-crawling all night and beyond.
Walking along Soi Green Mango it can be easy to think that nights out in Chaweng are all about pumping techno and sweeping lights. But if rock or reggae are more your thing, there’re still quite a few options. The Reggae Pub, beside the lake and a few minutes’ walk from the Chaweng Stadium, is a huge barn-type venue that has live bands as well as DJs mixing all types of music – there’s sometimes techno, but more often reggae and rock. The atmosphere here is always bouncing, very friendly, with a good mix of Thais and foreigners and decent table service considering the amount of customers on any given night. Going in the opposite direction from Green Mango will bring you to the Hendrix bar, a very laid back spot with pool table and rock music, whilst bars like The Islander also have a lively but less hectic vibe.
Of course, you’ll need to line your stomach before hitting these bars and drinking a bucket or two of Sang Som (the local Thai rum). There are as many places to eat in Chaweng as there are to drink and party, from the ubiquitous McDonald’s and Subway to five star Thai and international restaurants. Have a look at Zico’s, a Brazilian restaurant complete with fully-costumed Samba dancers on the big stage and an all-you-can-eat meat and salad bar. There’s also Red Snapper, for healthy Mediterranean meals and a good list of cocktails, or La Taverna for good old-fashioned Italian cuisine. There’s absolutely no problem trying to find a place to eat in Chaweng as you’ll be inundated with the smells and sounds of food sizzling wherever you go and will be able to see what’s on offer before deciding to go in.
And if you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed to do in Chaweng at night, maybe with the kids or after a night on Soi Green Mango, go through Laem Din market and onto the main ring-road, then turn right and go up to the Tesco Lotus shopping centre. The usual shopping is here, with Tesco itself, Boots and smaller outlets selling phones, DVDs, bags and sunglasses, but there’s also a bowling alley and a cinema so you can do something as a change from clubbing. The cinema shows all the latest releases, with most of the films still in English and with Thai subtitles, so you don’t have to worry about not understanding the final episode of the Harry Potter saga.
The contrast of bowling at Tesco’s with clubbing at the Reggae Bar, or watching cabaret at Christy’s with eating a Brazilian barbecue at Zico’s, shows how diverse and lively Chaweng can be. You’ll see families with small children eating at one of the Beach Road restaurants, stag parties drinking from buckets, stalls with canvas paintings or leather holdalls … it’s all here. Chaweng at night is one of the most ‘Samui’ places on the island and somewhere that’s not easy to forget.