We visited Koh Samui 10 years ago and loved it. We went to Khao Lak Last year, fell in love with it and returned again this year. In some respects KL reminds me of Samui as it was not as I understand it is (no Starbucks, KFC or McDs in KL - yet!) Beautiful beaches, great restaurants and bars but not over commercialised.
street vendors as in the food stall people? like..the "khai yang" stall people ? or the sellers?
Oh, the beach sellers. I'd forgotten about them! The food sellers with their pineapple etc. were great (until you got Delhi Belly - or the Thai equivalent) but I made the foolish mistake of buying a T-shirt one day and was pestered thereafter as the guy expected me to buy one EVERY day off him!
I did'nt say street vendors, I said beach vendors. Now, whilst as people they are,well, people and nice with it, they are, for the most part, a pain in the bottom on Samui. Unfortunately, they don't realise they are a p.i.t.b. as they just say "we need to make a living". When pointing out people are on the island to relax -they just say "they have lots of money, and they can say no". well, saying "no" 250 times a day, gets wearing.
Like many replies to these questions: A vs B? the answer depends on what you are looking for.
Samui is a busy island with a wide range of facilities and resorts, the beaches are okay, some hotels great, plenty of shops, etc. It is similar to the resort areas on Phuket Island (except for wild Patong Beach on Phuket, which is a different kind of place). Samui has a lovely small island feel and has developed a reputation for its health spas and there are some very nice restaurants.
Khao Lak is very undeveloped, but with some really nice resorts (La Flora, Mukdara, Nang Thong Resort, etc).Many of them have lovely beachfront villas. The two disadvantages about Khao Lak is that it can be very rainy at this time of the year and, secondly, you can still see some damage from the tsunami. If you find this sort of thing disturbing, it could spoil your holiday. However, the beaches are clean and very quiet and the people are very friendly. Also, you can always visit Phuket about 90 minutes away if you feel the need for some action.
I think you could happily combine the two, as you can fly directly between Samui and Phuket Airport, where all Khao Lak hotels will collect you. About 10 days in each could be perfect.
But, as the Thais are fond of saying, its up to you!
I disagree that the signsof the tsunami are visible. Yes, if you look for them but they are certainly not "in your face" and it would be wrong for anyone to get the impression they are. If you went to Khao Lak not being aware of those terrible events, you would see a rapidly developing resort with new resorts being built - but by no means a building site.
For those who sympathise and empathise with the the residents of Khao Lak and the tourists who lost their lives, there are many opportunities in and around Khao Lak to enjoy the rebuilding of this wonderful part of Thailand without any distrssful reminders of the events of Boxing Day 2004.
Chose between each destination on their merits not on their recent history.
Firstly.. I agree completely with Arandora with regards to the rebuilding after the tzunami... You see the evacuation warning signs, but unless you otherwise look for the memorials or wonder about a couple of derelict resorts... signs of what happened is by and large not there today.
Having visited Phuket a couple of time, Koh Lanta a couple of times, Phi Phi island and Samui once (last July) and just recently.. Khao Lak... I have to say that right now, none of the other areas mentioned offers as good value for money as Khao Lak....
While the event of the tzunami is still fresh in many peoples minds.. there's no doubt that lots of potential visitors think that because Khao Lak was the hardest hit area,.. please don't think it was the only area devastated, it’s still a construction site.... you see construction.. but more due to expansion rather than rebuilding ... this was done very quickly after that tragic event.....
However, the stigma means that prices of excellent quality resorts are well below what they should be.
Which of the places you are thinking about visiting will give you a DeLuxe room in a 5* resort.. with smoked salmon on the breakfast buffet.. a wonderful beach and service to match for less than USD 100 a night (low season)?
Granted... west facing beaches are not at their best at the time of year you are looking to go.... but still?
The idea of going to both Samui and Phuket/Khao Lak has lots of merit..... The distance is only about 200 to 250 Km.. Khao Lak is around 100 Km north of Phuket.... Easy to check out several areas in the time you are there... If you choose Samui.. also give some thought to crossing over to Koh Phangan... a really nice island.. lots more low key than Samui.. much cheaper places to stay and far away from the mass tourism that, I’m sad to say, now is strangling both Phuket and Samui.
Top of my list of places right (in southern Thailand) now is Khao Lak... and just below that koh Lanta.. (but don’t go there that time of year.. just too quiet.. Khao Lak might be quiet too though?... Below that I’d put Koh Phangan.... then Samui.. I’m afraid that Phuket has lost me altogether.... But some of the quieter beaches would be ok.. just not for me... when there are so many other wonderful places to go... with much better value for the Baht.
Happy travels.. nice to have choices.. ain't it:-)
i solved the issue when posed with the same question...
i have booked both khao lak and koh samui for a week at each (i fly out tomorrow), with a little 5 day stint in phuket in between - hang the expense and tell the boss you are sick!
Hope you have a good holiday and come back and tell us all about it. Am gathering info for next trip and really want to get to Khao Lak this time.