As soon as you arrive at the airport in Koh Samui, which has an alarmingly short runway and is all entirely open-air, you know you have stepped into another world. This was the first trip to Koh Samui for our travelling group and we had no idea of what to expect, but we hopped into a cab and arrived at the Golden Sands Resort in Lamai Beach.
Upon registering at the check-in desk, we received a coconut with a straw in it, which was most appreciated after a 13-hour flight from Bangkok and a further hour to Koh Samui. What we didn’t realise was that we had arrived on the day of the king’s birthday and on that day, the sale of alcohol is prohibited in bars! But we managed to locate a bar, which was served to us ice cold Carlsberg in large coffee mugs.
Lamai is the second biggest resort area on Koh Samui and by my estimation is the superior. Chaweng Beach is the larger of the two and because of that, it is more "upscale," which to me means just like any other Western beach resorts -- all McDonald’s and big name chains. This is fine if you like that sort of thing, but if you are going to travel to the other side of the world, I feel that you should try to immerse yourself somewhat in that world. By that rationale, Lamai was perfect -- big enough to never be dull, small enough to make it friendlier.
In particular, check out the rising sun for the best breakfast in Lamai, the Siam Bar and Grill for great Western food, and the Suram Thai Restaurant for delicious Thai food. Ask for medium spicy, even if you normally eat spicy at home; believe me, medium is plenty. I tried a genuinely spicy Thai dish and it took three Cokes and four beers just to reduce the burning sensation.