Koh Samui, which locals usually call Samui, is the second most popular island destination in Thailand. It’s also the up-and-coming gay destination in Thailand. Although it’s not nearly as raucous as Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket, Koh Samui is open, friendly, and accessible, but still coming to terms with the rapid social and economic changes brought about by tourism. Until the late 20th century, Samui was an isolated self-sufficient community of fishermen, coconut farmers and a few pirates, having little interaction with the Thai mainland. Western backpackers were the first to arrive for daytrips, or beach rave parties in the 1970s and '80s. The airport was built in 1989 and now about a million visitors arrive each year. Beautiful sandy beaches, plus natural areas such as the Khao Sok National Park, with evergreen rain forest, exotic plants and wildlife, and dramatic limestone mountains, along with the Mu Ko Angthong Marine National Park of 42 islands, (2 hours northwest of Koh Samui by boat), are part of the attraction.
Fine examples of the gracefully carved wooden houses that are disappearing elsewhere in Thailand survive on Samui, as well as temples both gorgeous and gaudy.
Ladyboys and "third sex" people have traditionally had their niche in this part of the world. As western concepts of gay identity take hold, many young men feel even more comfortable being open about their sexuality. Gay Thais have also moved from elsewhere in the country, to open businesses or practice their professions here - sometimes in partnership with foreign expats. Both English and German are widely used in tourist areas. Resident Italians, French and Germans among others, have opened restaurants around Chaweng, Bophud and Maenam, providing a variety of options in addition to the local cuisines known for being spicy, with Malay, Indonesian and Indian origins.
The gay neighborhood is mostly centered in Cheweng, with a cluster of gay and gay-friendly bars and cabarets, though not so many as before, with several closings of late. Boy Zone and KClub have the dancing-boys shows so typical of other resorts, and Starz cabaret is the gayest among several featuring ladyboy cabaret. Other mixed clubs such as Green Mango Disco, Sweet Soul and Wave are gay-friendly too. For massage and body care spa services there are several good options. To access all the natural wonders here, on land or under water, contact the guys at Rainbow Scuba & Tours. A multitude of hotels and resorts ring the island now, from super luxury villas and cottage clusters set in lush beachside gardens, to simple and inexpensive B&Bs. Several are mostly gay, but almost all are comfortable places for gay visitors to stay. See our Koh Samui gay map & listings page for locations and websites of local businesses in each of the above categories.
The open-air Koh Samui Airport is served mostly by Bangkok Air and Thai Airways for easy connections from your arrival city. Minibus tickets and private car/taxi transfers can be booked at the transport counter in the arrivals area to take you anywhere on the island. Car rentals are also an option, although most guides suggest you avoid the aggravation (and vehicles are driven on the left).
There are also good bus and rail links to ferry service from the mainland; often a cheaper way to get here than flying. See the TrekThailand or Kohphangan websites for info. Car and passenger ferries arrive from Don Sak on the mainland, see the Charlie Connection, Raja Ferry and Seatran websites for details. Lomprayah has high-speed catamarans from Chumporn (bus or train from Bangkok) to Koh Nang Yuan, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.
You can easily walk around Koh Samui. Many tourists opt for renting motorbikes, but you can also take advantage of songthaews (open-air buses) that circle the ring road. There are taxis too, but watch the meter. With no standard for transliteration of Thai words, the spellings for business, place, or street names may be written in several different ways in the Roman alphabet, but you'll soon get the hang of it.
Currency and Money
The local currency in the Thai baht. You’ll find ATMs, most commonly in the tourist areas. Inform your local bank before departure, for trouble-free debit and credit card transactions .
Prostitution is technically illegal, but widely tolerated so long as both people are over 18 years old. Officially set at 15, various legal caveats both local and in your home country make 18 the practical age of consent. Some hotels are fine with a new friend/guest coming to your room (after checking ID/age), but others may charge extra. For cruising tips here and around the world see Squirt.org.
Media and resources
Nicky's Gay Koh Samui, has one of the best and most updated listing sites, with useful comments.
Travel Gay Asia has listings for SE Asia, Japan, China, Indonesia and Sydney Australia, with good coverage of nine destinations in Thailand.
Samui Pride is the website for the September local rainbow celebrations, and other special dates throughout the year.
Rainbow Scuba & Tours will show you around all the most beautiful places on land or underwater throughout the region.
The Samui Express is a local English-language general-public newspaper.
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