Our trip to Koh Samui, Thailand, in July had a rocky beginning. The Malaysia Airlines flight from Heathrow was initially delayed and then cancelled due to technical difficulties. After spending the night in an airport hotel, we woke early for round two, battling further delays before finally departing. When we landed in Kuala Lumpur 13 hours later, we raced to meet our connecting flight, only to discover we hadn’t been checked in. We were diverted via Singapore and eventually reached our destination more than 24 hours late. To add insult to injury, the airline misplaced our luggage for a further three days.
Although we can laugh about it now, the whole experience was incredibly stressful and exhausting. The kids took it all in their stride, and despite hours and hours of travelling, they remained in good spirits throughout. Luckily, we were able to extend our trip and make up the time we missed.
Journey from hell aside, it was an amazing holiday. This was our fourth trip to Thailand and our second time visiting Koh Samui, the first being our honeymoon in 2012. Although it’s a long way to go, we think it’s an ideal destination for those with children in tow. I wanted to create this family-friendly mini guide to Koh Samui just in case any of you are curious about visiting the island with kids.
Where We Stayed
Our ground floor beach front suite at The Tongsai Bay was easily one of the best places we’ve ever stayed. Located on a lush, green hillside overlooking a peaceful, private bay, the hotel and its staff made us feel welcome from the moment we arrived. As well as helping us locate our lost luggage, they provided impeccable, friendly service throughout our stay.
We enjoyed delicious food and drink at both Po-Lad Beach Bar and Chef Chom’s Restaurant. Breakfast was a delight each morning, especially the freshly prepared smoothies, and I was really impressed by the hotel’s vegan menu. After two indulgent treatments, I can also recommend Prana Spa. The children loved the free-form pool and we also made the most of the free kayaks and paddle boards at the beach.
Things to Do
We wanted a combination of relaxation and adventure, and that’s exactly what we got. As well as days spent lounging at the water’s edge, we hired a driver through the hotel and explored the island by car, visiting some breath-taking sights. Wat Plai Laem, an ornate Buddhist temple surrounded by an artificial lake and giant religious statues, was a firm favourite. Wat Phra Yai, known as the Big Buddha Temple, took my breath away all over again and Pagoda Khao Hua Jook was also incredible.
We fell in love with the Secret Buddha Garden, a beautiful hilltop garden created by an old Samui fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk, who in 1976 began building statues and temples on his family’s land. The statues depict a number of animals, deities and humans in various poses, including one of Khun Nim himself. Crossing waterfalls and streams as we wandered among the sculptures beneath thick jungle foliage really did feel quite magical.
Na Mueang Waterfall was busy, but fun. We all managed a swim in the pool and Jesse absolutely loved clambering across the rocks. I’d also recommend a quick stop at Lad Koh Viewpoint for panoramic views across the water towards the Chaweng beach area.
Carl and Jesse spent a wonderful morning at Samui Football Golf. It was an affordable treat and transfers from our hotel were included in the price.
After a fabulous experience during our honeymoon, we were very excited about visiting Ang Thong Marine Park with the children. It’s definitely something I’d recommend if the weather is good and you can afford a fairly luxurious tour operator. Unfortunately, on this occasion we went with Insea Speedboat and had a terrible time. Everything that could possibly go wrong, did, and we didn’t feel safe at all. I would urge you to avoid this company at all costs.
Food & Drink
Dining out and sampling local cuisine is one of our favourite things to do when we visit Thailand. Food and drink are incredibly cheap and we’ve never had a bad meal. The nearest village to our hotel, Cheong Mon, was a little too far to walk, but grabbing a taxi suited us fine. Having eaten there multiple times, Krua Thai on the main road would be our top pick. Cocktail King a couple of doors down is also well worth a visit.
The night market at Fisherman’s Village was as much fun as we remembered, although we found it a great deal busier. I’d recommend arriving early so you can wander slowly while it’s quiet. If you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, a sling or carrier is essential. We filled up on all sorts of street food and the super cheap mojitos were among the best we’ve ever tasted.
At the beginning of our stay, when we were without luggage and desperate for clean pants, we ventured to Chaweng. It’s very lively and busy, especially at night, but if you want to hit the shops or fancy the familiarity of Starbucks and McDonalds, it’s where you need to be. The children very much enjoyed the beach too.
We didn’t have any issues finding vegan and vegetarian meals. As Thailand attracts quite a young crowd and plenty of backpackers, I felt restaurants were keen to provide plenty of options. Many advertised vegan dishes and I ate well everywhere we went. Tofu pad Thai and stir-fried morning glory were among my favourite dishes and I couldn’t get enough of mango with sticky rice for dessert. Jesse, a notoriously fussy eater, ate a lot of chicken satay and chips.
Useful Links & Top Tips
We booked this trip through Trailfinders. When everything went horribly wrong with our outward journey, their service was outstanding. As well as rearranging transfers and liaising with the hotel, they also made it easy for us to extend our stay. They switched our flights with minimal fuss and helped us secure extra nights at Tongsai Bay without the hassle of having to move rooms.
Our visit fell during the rainy season, but we didn’t have any issues with ‘bad’ weather. It was always hot, sometimes overcast, and the kids loved the sporadic early evening downpours. They would run straight to the pool whenever the heavens opened! However, it was a factor in our disastrous boat trip to the Marine Park, so I’d suggest checking weather reports before booking anything similar.
- Our love affair with Thailand continues and there’s still so much we want to explore. We’re yet to venture beyond the confines of the airport in Bangkok and I’d love to see more of the mainland in general. How about you?
Love Audrey xxx