“Earlier this year, the hubs and I were thinking of going away on a short, tropical holiday. My in-laws were visiting and my almost 3-year-old son was eager to go on a holiday ever since reading his favourite book Maisy Goes on Holiday.
But where would we go? We had visited the usual suspects of Bali, Phuket and Krabi countless of times. Thirsty for a new adventure and keen to show our visitors Asia’s unparalleled natural beauty, we started doing intense research. Since we were travelling with a young one, the destination also had to have enough kiddie activities to keep our curious kewpie entertained.
‘What about Koh Samui?’ my husband asked one evening. The only other time I had been there was almost 10 years ago with my girlfriends. I was single then, so I definitely hadn’t taken into account how child-friendly the island was. I remember it was rustic and less-commercialised than other parts of Thailand ― I was also blown away by its white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters.
“It was laidback, relaxing and there were enough activities to keep kids entertained.”
When we asked friends who had kids, none of them had been there. ‘What’s there to do besides lying on the beach?’ one friend asked. Good question, I thought to myself. So, like a diligent journalist, I gathered several tips on where to bring my little one. I figured that I had better make it worth his while, especially since the last thing I wanted on vacation with me was a bored toddler!
I’m happy to report that our four-day trip to Koh Samui was a total success! It was laidback, relaxing and there were enough activities to keep kids entertained. The best part is that if you’re looking to escape the usual crowd and commercialism you will normally find at other tropical holiday destinations, Koh Samui is the place to be.
If Koh Samui is on your must-visit list, here are the top six things you can do as a family.
ACTIVITY #1 CHAWENG
Samui’s busiest and biggest town, Chaweng, is constantly bustling with clothing shops selling beautiful outfits made from Thai silk, eateries serving scrumptious local delights and international fare, plus bars. If you’re worried you won’t be able to find anything here for your picky eater, let me put your mind at ease. Almost every restaurant you enter serves kiddie food such as pizza, club sandwiches, steamed rice and soup, sausages and fries. The Thai people love children, so my kiddo was immediately the centre of attention wherever he went. Baby chairs are readily available and my little boy enjoyed cooling down with freshly squeezed fruit juices all day long.
ACTIVITY #2 CHAWENG BEACH
One of the most stunning beaches we’ve ever seen sits smack in the middle of bustling Chaweng town. Because it’s much less touristy than places like Bali and Phuket, there aren’t many beach hawkers trying to sell you things. Get to the beach early (not a problem if you have a little one who wakes up at the crack of dawn!) to ‘chope’ beach chairs. To maintain the surroundings’ unspoiled condition, beach chairs are kept to a minimum. You pay a nominal fee of 200THB ($8) per day for use of a chair. Once you’ve settled down, it’s time to frolic in the powder-soft sand and take countless dips in the azure water. The only child-related problem you’re going to have is to figure out a way to get them to leave, because they will be having so much fun!
ACTIVITY #3 SPEEDBOAT RIDE
Got a “speed demon” in the house like we do? Then he or she is going to love a spin on a speed boat. You can find these power-packed boats on most beaches. They cost 700 TBH for 20 minutes and can hold up to two adults and one child. Kiddos as young as age 2 are allowed to travel in them as long as they can fit into a life jacket. My little man jumped into one with his dad and grandfather and had the time of his life. When the husband stopped the engine after a few minutes to check to see if our son was doing okay, the only thing our toddler said was ‘keep going!’. So, off they went full throttle further and further into the horizon, as a paranoid mummy clutched her heart and said a silent prayer. But the trio returned with huge grins on their faces. The biggest, of course, belonged to the littlest one.
ACTIVITY #4 LAMAI NIGHT BAZAAR
Lamai beach is Koh Samui’s second most popular beach after Chaweng. It’s also where you’ll find a bustling night market teeming with a variety of items in the centre of the town almost every evening. It’s a great place to get your shopping fix as it offers everything from hand-carved soap, to fairy lights and hand-painted serving bowls. You can even find an array of exotic spices and cute tees. Our little boy soaked in the vibe and had the time of his life checking out knick-knacks, playing with balloons and watching a group of kids staging a rousing show using traditional Thai musical instruments.
ACTIVITY #5 NA MUANG FALLS
This island’s beauty is not limited to its glorious beaches. It is also home to some of the most spectacular waterfalls. Venture out a bit, 12km south-east of Nathon Bay to be exact, and you will come face-to-face with the majestic 30m Na Muang waterfall. The rocks are an ethereal purple, and the cascading water gives this place a rather magical feel. The water is chilly to the touch though many daring travellers don’t think twice about taking a dip it in. For little ones and families, it’s a great place to relax, cool down and have a picnic. If you’re adventurous enough, you can even take a short hike to visit a second waterfall further in. There’s also an elephant sanctuary nearby where you can feed bananas to the super-friendly elephants.
ACTIVITY #6 FEEDING THE FISH AT WAT PLAI LAEM TEMPLE
The Big Buddha is one of Koh Samui’s most impressive and impossible to miss landmarks. Built in 1972, you can see this 12m-high golden statue from a distance of several kilometres. In fact, it’s one of the first things you will see when you land at Koh Samui’s airport. While the statue is impressive enough to garner a visit, the kids will most probably enjoy a pit stop at Wat Plai Laem temple more. Just down the road from the Big Buddha, this temple sits on a massive lake teeming with different types of fishes. Make a small donation to the temple and you’ll be given a big basket of fish food. Toss the goodies into the lake and watch hungry fishes come to the surface for their nosh. If you’re lucky, like we were, you might even witness them fighting each other for food. Needless to say, my little boy was tickled by the entire experience.”
Jassmin Peter-Berntzen, 36, SmartParents assistant editor, is mum to Andreas Dhiraj, 2.
Photos: Jassmin Peter-Berntzen
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