Best known for its idyllic islands – Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao – the province of Surat Thani treated Indian travel agents to a showcase of its tourism products in Mumbai on Wednesday, 20 April.
The roadshow, which brought in a delegation of 19 sellers, was part of a larger mission by the Surat Thani Trade and Tourism Association, also involving trade and industry, lead by the province’s governor, Wongsiri Promchana.
With the goal of giving Mumbai’s travel trade a quick, yet deep insight into Surat Thani’s tourism and cultural appeal, the roadshow included a Muay Thai Chaiyya performance and a presentation by the Chief of the Koh Samui Tourism Coordination Centre, besides several hours of B2B meetings and deal-making.
The Surat Thani province boasts a host of attractions that could appeal to a wide variety of Indian market segments – from high-end luxury seekers (in line with TAT’s overall strategy in India), families, youngsters, couples and niches like divers.
The highlight – Koh Samui
The idyllic yet happening island of Koh Samui rather offers an array of competitively priced hotels that allow direct beach access or dizzying views of the ocean from cliff tops across the island of Koh Samui. From clean yet budget-friendly hotels to extremely high-end hotels complete with private villas and butler service, Koh Samui offers affordable luxury.
Koh Samui is all about its perfect powder-white beaches that kiss turquoise blue waters and many secluded spots on its beaches. Candle-lit dinners at stylish restaurants make for romantic evenings. Rows of restaurants on its various “beach roads” offer cuisine from all over the world and most beach cafes offer exciting nightlife options with enjoyable music and great cocktails. Travellers have five different beaches, each with a different vibe, to choose from. Chaweng Beach is for those who love to party and enjoy a busy beach scene with watersports and other beach activities. The other beaches on the island are more quiet and relaxing. Travellers can also visit and relax in the pools at Koh Samui’s various waterfalls. One can also plan an evening at its dizzyingly beautiful view point which falls halfway between Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach.
The more adventurous might like to go on diving and snorkeling excursions in Koh Samui.
For those who might want to shop, Koh Samui features interesting street shopping near popular tourist areas, especially at Chaweng and several night markets that begin around 5pm: Fridays at Bophut – Fisherman’s village, Saturdays at Nathon and also near Central Festival Mall, Sundays at Lamai Beach.
Getting around in Koh Samui is easy as one can rent a scooter (be sure to request a helmet or be prepared to pay a fine for riding without a helmet). Indian food is easily available for those who might not enjoy the delicious southern Thai cuisine, which is celebrated worldwide as one of the best seafood culinary cultures. Of course European and western cuisine is also easily available on the island.
World-renowned for its monthly Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan started out as a hippie’s paradise but has since evolved to welcome not only the free-spirited but pretty much everyone who enjoys the ocean.
Despite widening its appeal, the island remains a serene hideaway with only a handful of top end hotels. Couples will love resorts such as Santhiya, which already attracts a number of high end Indians and also Pariya Resort & Villas Haad Yuan, which is only a short boat ride away from Haad Rin, where the Full Moon Party happens. Families can bond over beach and pool activities at the Anantara Rasananda Koh Phangan Villas.
Khao Sok National Park
Established as a national park in 1980, the Khao Sok National Park is a virgin rainforest surrounded by limestone mountain ranges and high cliffs. With an area of approximately 646 square kilometers, the main attractions in the park include Namtok Mae Yai and Namtok Sip Ed Chan which can be reached by car while other waterfalls and caves are accessible by foot. A boat ride on the reservoir is soothing, cool and enjoyable.
The area is home to wildlife animals like elephants, leopard, serow, langurs, tigers and bear. Rare flowers can also be found here, but most visitors come here to see the Bua Phut or Rafflesia kerri meyer, a flower which can only be found here and is touted to be the largest flower in the world with its diameter reaching up to 80 centimeters when in full bloom between October and December. Note that a 5-8 hour walk is required to see such flower.
Another big highlight of the park is its floating hotels. Quaint little raft-houses set up in the reservoir allow for an exciting experience. This is a water-baby’s delight – jump into the water for a swim on a whim, any time of the day. Most raft-houses come complete with floats and life jackets to allow swimmers and non-swimmers to enjoy the water. Besides these, the park’s own and other entrepreneurs’ bungalows, camping areas are available at the park.
Tiny “turtle island” Koh Tao is a top destination for scuba divers though non-divers too, are easily drawn in by the island’s beauty and its inhabitants’ charm.
The destination is perfect for travelers who seek simply crystal clear waters, powder white beaches and an international beach vibe.
Surat Thani mainland
While it is mainly a city, attracting the business traveller there are a few experiences that one must try on the Surat Thani mainland.
One truly sublime experience is a fireflies’ boat tour. No cameras, no talking, no splashing… the tour guide will always rattle off a whole host of don’ts but travellers will still want to do this.
Another interesting activity for families and culture vultures is that Phum Riang, a silk-weaving community of Thai Muslims.