One of the reasons that Samui’s such a favourite is that there’s a mix of old and new. People of all ages love it. There’s a whole load of things for the 18 to 30s. Yet something quite different for those of a more, shall we say, mature, disposition. There are beach clubs and parties a-plenty. But there are also waterfalls and temples and unspoiled beaches if you want them. And when it comes to entertainment, then the same sort of thing holds true.
But here, what we’re really looking at isn’t really ‘nightlife’, not as such. If you’re already a part of the beach club scene, then you don’t need to find out more – you’ll have heard it on the grapevine already. So what we’ve got here is more of a general ‘what to look for and where to go’ sort of thing. And hopefully it’ll give you more after-dinner options that you’d get from just a general walk-about town.
The first point is that our island has two small towns where you’ll find lots of things all close together: Chaweng and Lamai. There are also a couple more ‘big villages’, for the want of a better way of putting it, and these are Bangrak and Maenam. Meaning that for a lot of the suggestions to follow, you’ll need some sort of transport, a taxi or a car.
For most of you the first stop on the entertainment trail will be your own resort. Most resorts of 4-stars and up run their own buffet night, and usually there’s a Thai dancing show included. The only slight problem here is that (unless you’re an expert on Thai culture) once you’ve seen one, then all the rest look the same. And some of these are pretty bland stuff, pitched firmly at tourists. Which’ll only give you more of a push to get out and about!
And a general note to begin – it’s an entertainment in its own right to take a look around the ‘girly bars’. In the last 10 years, Samui has toned things right down and there’s nothing at all sleazy anywhere. But a walk around the Soi Green Mango or down Soi Reggae Pub will give you an insight into what’s going on. The same in Lamai, where there’s the added attraction every Saturday of what’s known as the ‘lady boxing’, although today it’s moved away from its roots and has all sorts of bouts.
Chaweng has a lot to offer in the evenings, including live bands at several of the larger pubs. Of note here is Tropical Murphy’s, where the excellent menu warrants an evening out by itself, live music or not. It’s the same further south, where Zico’s Brazilian Grill & Bar has super food and some very energetic dancers. And on the theme of energy, there’s also the Thai boxing stadium where you’ll see some authentic Thai ritual, as well as some serious exponents of Muay Thai.
One place that’s an evening out in its own right has to be Central Festival. Not only does it have all the expected shopping, but there are several open-floor entertainment areas where there’s usually something going on, a fashion show or a school dancing troupe or something seasonal. And then there’s also the Pirate Adventure Horror House, an XD Theatre with 6-D motion rides, and even the Major Cineplex if you fancy a little bit of home-from-home.
And then there’s that all-time-favourite Thai institution, the cabaret show. Which in Thailand, means ladyboys. There are two in Chaweng, the most notable of which is right in the centre and known as Starz Cabaret. These shows are a must for visitors to Thailand, and Starz runs its three shows a night, starting at 8:30 pm. There is also the Paris Follies in Chaweng and, what seems to be the most original, the Cabaret Lamai. The cost of each of these is very similar; a modest fee to get in (250 baht or so) and which includes one drink.
But before moving away from Chaweng, there are also a couple of cool places for you to try out. Bar Ice, over on the Lake Road, has an interesting layout, with a seemingly-normal bar as you enter, but with an inner sanctum that’s at minus 7 degrees (warm clothes provided!). There are all sorts of fascinating ice sculptures in here, plus a bar, and even glasses made of ice. And similarly, you can also chill out at the ice bar that is part of The Palms Bar & Grill on the beach road.
One general ‘must’ that’s island-wide, however, are the ‘walking streets’. These are a combination of a street fair and a market, with cut-price food, drinks, souvenirs and general bric-a-brac, and with usually all the adjacent shop and bar keepers coming out with stalls on the street, and there’s often live music, too. Probably the best one (certainly the biggest) is at Fisherman’s Village every Friday. Maenam is also excellent and held on Thursdays. Sadly the one at Chaweng is nothing to write home about, however. Nor is the one in Lamai. But very much worth a look is the night food market in Nathon – probably best to look around Nathon first then head across around sunset-time, although this is food only.
There’s not the space here to go into all the attractions of Maenam, or Bangrak, for that matter – either one is worthy of a full story on its own. But suffice it to say that Bangrak Beach is one long beach-road that’s two kilometres long, with restaurants, shops, bars, and pubs on both sides, and best enjoyed at leisure, in the evening.
Maenam is smaller and concentrated along the area of the walking street and around the traffic lights, although Maenam Beach itself is much more extensive. There are some super eateries representing cuisine from five or six nations, and several pleasant bars and bistros. There are also several very good quality handicrafts shops, including one excellent silversmith. The big advantage of Maenam is that it’s all together in one area, rather than spread out all over the place. And that’s always for the best, isn’t it?
Rob De Wet