Samui’s often called a paradise on earth; an increasingly sought-after holiday destination that attracts visitors from all over the world. But it’s one thing to spend time on Samui as an adult, and quite another to come as a child. Grown-ups may relish lying in hammocks for hours, heading out for a boozy evening in Chaweng or just lingering in a stylish restaurant. But what exactly is there to do on Thailand’s third largest island if you’re still a child? How can families have a happy time, with everyone enjoying themselves?
Alas, the popular concept of ‘fun for all the family’ doesn’t work. The few exceptions prove the rule – there aren’t many activities that people of all ages are going to enjoy. No use then believing in the simplistic idea that mum, dad and little ones will all simultaneously be grinning from ear to ear and from dawn till dusk while on holiday.
What we’re saying here is that on a typical day, everyone can have some fun – but there’ll have to be some turn-taking. That’s blindingly obvious – but a lot of things get forgotten when the wheels of the plane touch down on sunny Samui. Adults can get so wrapped up in the happy hedonism of the island that they can’t understand it when their children express feelings of boredom.
Your little ones will no doubt enjoy the beach, but may tire of it quicker than you hoped. They may struggle to articulate that here, there isn’t the familiar bouncy castle on the promenade (there isn’t even a promenade!) and that the beach here with its incandescent sands and over-heated air is as hot as a toaster. Or maybe that the hotel swimming pool isn’t filled with other children, and the sight of adults lounging on loungers and sipping on strawberry daiquiris just isn’t really, well, fun.
Children here on the island like a bit of beach, but not for too long. They’ll feel twice as uncomfortable in the heat as you might, and unless you’re very careful they’ll be salmon-pink after an hour. The mere fact that they won’t be able to romp around outdoors for hours on end needs to be taken into consideration. So you’ll need to rely on some of the other activities that the island has to offer. The good news is that there’s plenty to do, even on a longish holiday here, rain or shine. Here’s a brief but not exhaustive line up:
Malls and Indoor Activities
Central Festival has a small play area for children with a sandpit and climbing frame. This will help younger children let off steam. Upstairs, older children will be wowed by XD Theater with its action-packed 3D films. Close by, you’ll also find the Haunted House, also on the upper floor. This is definitely for the older children but is every bit as scary for adults. It’s as close as humanly possible to stepping into a horror movie and becoming part of it. Be warned! Central Festival also has its own Cineplex, which shows films in English and there’s usually one or two for children.
The malls at Big C in Chaweng and Tesco Lotus in Chaweng and also Lamai (all three are on the ring-road) have large indoor play areas for younger children, simply called Skippy Wonderland. Little children love to come here, and make instant friends with the others who are jumping and leaping around on brightly coloured climbing frames. The staff all seem to actively enjoy working with children and there’s a very happy atmosphere here.
Little Monkey Club (on the ring-road in Bophut) offers a similar kind of play area with chill-out area for adults too, making this another great place to let your children play. You can also eat lunch here. Meanwhile there are day care centres such as Little Coconuts, which cater for younger children. Little Coconuts is on the Chaweng Lake road as it cuts across just south of Tesco-Lotus to Chaweng Beach. It’s about half way along and conveniently just over the road from Kaset Art Studio,
which runs art classes for both children and adults.
The Great Outdoors
Samui offers some notable trips. Children of all ages (but probably not toddlers) are wowed by a day out at the Angthong Marine Park. All travel agents offer tours out to the postcard perfect white sand beaches of these rocky islets just to the west of Samui. Most trips include lunch, snorkelling and a visit to the unexpected lake, set in a crater on one of the larger islands. Blue Stars offers kayaking as well. Definitely a day out that is, yes, fun for all the family. Equally enjoyable are trips to nearby Koh Pha-Ngan and Koh Tao. For Koh Tao, it’s best to go by speedboat,as the journey is too long by slow-boat. There will be opportunities for snorkelling and on Koh Tao you’ll experience the unexpectedly rich marine life at the tiny islet of Koh Nang Yuan, which is always included on the tour.
Samui has two water parks, but you’ll need to keep an eye out on your children if they go there. Do not think that you can abdicate responsibility in any way while you are there. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Paradise Park Farm offers swimming facilities, plenty of areas to explore and a beautiful approach road that takes you some way into Samui’s heartland.
Waterfalls are where Samui’s children go to have fun and frolic, rather than the beaches. Why? Because there’s always shade at hand and snacks and drinks. Hin Lad Waterfall, just two kilometres to the south of Nathon is very popular and there’s a temple to visit at the same spot. The more adventurous can hike into the hills along a well-marked if stony trail and take in the series of waterfalls and plunge-pools on the way up to a last swimming spot high in the hills.
It may seem like an odd idea to take your child to a temple as a fun thing to do, but a lot of children simply love them. The atmosphere is for a start very light and the temples have both large indoor and outdoor spaces. Big Buddha is a favourite, and children will enjoy the strange statues by the water’s edge and dare we say it, an ice-cream from one of the vendors, while at nearby Wat Plai Laem, they may enjoy feeding the fish in the temples’ small lake. It can become an obsessive pursuit for children watching the very ugly catfish snapping away at food pellets. The interior of the temple is so filled with bright pictures that most children will be mesmerized – at least for a while.
Samui may not have as many amenities as a big city does, but there’s enough to amuse children for a holiday, just so long as you put some thought into the days. But there are also some further plus points that not so many places share; one of the greatest things about Samui are the Thai people. They’re very welcoming to children – even difficult ones and you can take your children with you just about anywhere. This makes it far, far easier to enjoy a holiday here, knowing that your children will be happily accepted wherever you go. With a friendly atmosphere throughout the island and places to go and things to do, Samui turns out to be a wonderful destination not just for adults but also for children, too.