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Chaweng Beach Koh Samui

Chaweng Beach, located on Koh Samui's east coast, is the most developed and popular area on the island. It attracts many young travelers and families alike, and remains good value for the money. The beach is approximately 7 Km long, with powdery white sand. It is bordered by dreamy, emerald-blue waters and a coral reef where waves break, leaving the bay quite peaceful.

Two small islands are close to the reef -- the nearest one can easily be accessed by walking through the shallow waters. The second island, further out and larger, provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy snorkeling and kayaking. Bring shoes if you plan to walk around the islands, as they are made of sharp coral sands.

Chaweng Beach Koh SamuiThe beach offers great swimming and plenty of water sports, dining and accommodation options. In both the summer and winter high seasons, Chaweng Beach is packed with sun-seekers soaking up the rays and has a fun, holiday atmosphere. It is not the most secluded or peaceful of Samui's beaches, but everything one could desire is within a few metres of your sunbed - from cold drinks and snacks to massages, making it a great option for lazing away the day in comfort.

If you do feel like a calmer alternative, at the southern end of Chaweng, on the ring road traveling towards Lamai, there is a separate little stretch of beach called Chaweng Noi, which is pretty and less crowded and also boasts good swimming.

On the whole, Chaweng beach offers similar services and ambience along its entire length, so if you're visiting for the day, just walk down from the beach road at any point and find a spot to relax lay down your towel. The southern and middle sections have the deepest water and are therefore the best areas for swimming and water sports. At the northern end the water can be very shallow and there is a reef just offshore, however this makes it ideal for small children.

Before heading out for a swim, lookout for red flags, which warn bathers of dangerous currents at certain times of the year. Most of the time the azure waters are perfect for bathing but when the temperatures warm up in the hot season you may need to find a hotel pool to cool down in.

If you are not staying in a hotel on the beachfront, then some resorts hire sunbeds and umbrellas to non-guests for about 100B per day. Alternatively, just take a towel and stake your claim to a patch of sand, although it can be difficult to find shade during the hottest hours so don't forget the sunblock.

An army of vendors patrol Chaweng beach selling ice creams, fruit, grilled sweetcorn or chicken and Thai papaya salad, cold drinks, jewelry, sarongs. They also offer services such as henna tattoos, hair braiding and pedicures.

The vendors are mostly polite and not too persistent or pushy. They will take a friendly "no" for an answer. But if any of the goods and services on offer appeal, this is a nice way to spend your money with local people. Vendors often come from Thailand's poor northeastern provinces and have travelled to work in the tourism hot spots in order to support their families back home.

One great luxury for westerners is being able to have an affordable massage right on the beach, which is lined with massage salas attended by legions of jolly women ready to knead and pummel away your cares.

Although not quite as rigorously trained as some of the masseurs in salons and spas on the beach road, these ladies provide a great service nonetheless, and there is nothing quite like listening to the lap of the waves while strong hands ease your tense muscles. Most of the beach masseurs offer Thai and oil massages, as well as aloe vera body wraps for those that overdosed on sun. The busiest time for the beach massage is between 4-6pm, so it is sometimes worth booking beforehand.

Chaweng beach may be the perfect spot to laze around and work on the tan, but there is also a good range of sports available for the more active visitor. Just walking along the beach you will find many places that rent jet-skis, catamarans and kayaks, and you can even indulge in some banana boat mayhem.

Two of the best and reasonably priced hire outfits are located near the deeper waters at the southern end of the beach.

Dolphins, near Chaweng Resotel and Cabana Resort, offers catamarans, windsurfing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, parasailing and kayaking. The friendly and knowledgable staff can also arrange fishing trips. A few minutes to the north you will find Chaweng Water sports, which has lots of jet-skis and a banana boat or two, they also have speed boats that you can charter for a day-trip with a skipper.

As the sun goes down, many of the beachfront restaurants put out tables on the sand, and when darkness falls, the candles and fairy lights create a romantic ambience.

Chaweng's development has naturally centred on the beach, the main road runs parallel to it, and the beach Chaweng Beach Koh Samuiitself is lined with resorts and hotels along its entire length. At the northern and southern ends there is a calmer, more family orientated atmosphere, whilst around the central nightlife zone near the famous Soi Green Mango, budget beach resorts attract a younger crowd.

The seedier side of Thai tourism is in evidence but not dominant in Chaweng, and can be easily avoided. The overall atmosphere will appeal to anyone who likes people watching, and to those who enjoy staying where every service and amenity is conveniently close to hand.
Soi Solo Bar

Chaweng beach road is lined with shops, restaurants and bars of every size and description. International chains such as Starbucks, and Burger King sit alongside rickety canvas-covered market stalls.

Long stretches of the main road are occupied by small local business selling many different souvenirs, handicrafts while money changing booths and ATMS, internet cafes, laundry services, travel agents, car and motorbike rentals and international-style pharmacies fill the spaces in between.

Over the years, Chaweng Beach has developed at an incredible pace and because of this the infrastructure does not always keep up with demand. The beach road suffers from inadequate drainage in the monsoon season, as well as traffic congestion, although a recently instigated one-way system has reduced traffic jams. This one-way system also takes tourists through some of the more "Thai" areas off the main beach road, which could be of interest to more adventurous souls.

The Thai market area of Laem Din is located directly behind the main tourist strip with a covered fresh produce market, as well as local cooked delicacies, and bargain clothes. These backstreets are also where many Thai people that work in Chaweng live.

The best way to go from place to place is to ride a songtaew, a dark red, covered pick-up which hoots its horn about every 10 meters. Prices can vary depending on the mood of the driver, but it should be around 20 B/person for a ride within the Chaweng area. You can also use a motorbike taxi, easily recognized by the drivers' colored jackets, for 10-20 B depending on the distance.

If you rent a car and are not familiar with the Thai way of driving, you will realize that driving and parking here can be difficult exercises. Renting a motorbike is the easiest way to get around the island but it is also the most dangerous. Don't forget to carry your driver's license and to wear a helmet as the number of bike accidents is quite high in Samui.

Motorbike and car rentals can be found in all the tourist areas and usually cost about 120-150 B/day for a bike and 800-1,000 B/day for a car (usually a Suzuki Caribbean, in more or less good condition). Big bikes can also be found in Chaweng, though only experienced riders should consider renting them given the dangerous driving conditions.

Chaweng Beach Koh SamuiOn the Beach road, the streets can seem deserted during the hottest hours of the day, when the tourists are all on the beach, so most business is conducted after 5pm, when the hustle and bustle begins, with people cruising for pre-dinner drinks, souvenir shopping at the little street-side stalls, and choosing where to dine.

The scene as the sun goes down is a colourful, noisy melting pot of pedestrians strolling the sidewalks, with motorbikes, taxis crawling along the road n search of a fare. While down in the clubbing zone, the vibrant atmosphere continues way into the night and the crowds don't disperse until the sun comes up.

Chaweng is Koh Samui's Party Central. All along the Beach Road you will see sois (streets) leading off into warrens of bars and pubs of varying appeal and popularity. The epicentre of all this hedonism and fun is undoubtedly Soi Green Mango in Central Chaweng, with Soi Reggae, by the lake, coming in a close second.

Before we get too hyperbolic about Chaweng's nightlife it's best to remember that bars close at 02:00 by order of the police so the party curve zooms upward past midnight and peaks a little earlier than some would prefer. And yes, some bars stay open later ? those whose owners have friends in high places.

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