Just weeks before our first marriage anniversary, this March, Tathagata and I found ourselves in a headspace to plan a short (somewhat weekend) trip somewhere nearby. A lot of research was done, a lot of suggestions were taken and quite a few destinations were listed in our memory notebook. But somehow none of those seemed to work out, there was always an excuse to strike each one out. In the end, we decided to drop it.
Quite surprisingly (not!), a month or so later, on a Sunday evening, we ended up sitting side by side with a laptop, my debit card in hand, at the final step of booking a flight to Pattaya. Apparently, none of us had actually ‘dropped it’. As luck would have it, the booking didn’t go through. So we looked at each other and decided to give it another week. “If we cannot find another place to go to, we would resume and complete this booking next Sunday” – is what we decided.
The next Sunday, we didn’t book a flight. Not even the Sunday after. A couple of Sundays later, we booked a flight to Koh Samui! Well, actually a flight change, a bus and a ferry – but you get the point.
More than a month of research, planning, doubts and clearing those doubts had gone into making this booking. Among all the reasons that had us second guessing the destination, one stood out – flight fare. The tickets go for as high as a two-person round trip and stay in Pattaya! Also, with Koh Samui being an island, it was bound to be expensive.
On the other hand, Tathagata (and I) was bewitched with Samui. You know that feeling when you are stuck with a destination in mind and no other place (no matter how beautiful and budget-friendly) seems to come close? That was Koh Samui for us. So, we immediately knew that we needed to do a lot of budgeting if we really wanted to go there.
Turns out, it isn’t impossible but it sure is nerve-wracking to cover all that groundwork. So, I’ve decided to share our research and our experience with you so that when you are planning a trip to Koh Samui (and trust me, you should if you haven’t already), it saves you the budget-planning uptime.
1. Choosing the Time to Go
I’ll give it to you upfront. Always choose the shoulder season. Two reasons:
A) It is quite obvious that the flight fares and accommodation rates will be high in the peak season
B) And I’m going to say it. No matter how low the prices fall in the low season, no one enjoys travelling in the rain or scorching heat. It’s really inconvenient and cancels out all the fun.
That leaves us with the shoulder season. Now what exactly is a shoulder season? It is the fleeting time between the peak season and the off season. Yes, it exists. And more importantly, it’s budget-friendly.
A tropical place has two primary seasons – hot and wet. The shoulder time falls during the transition from the hot to the wet season and vice versa.
December to March are the busiest months in Samui since these are the driest months of the year. The skies are clear, the weather is warm and the prices are soaring.
The heat starts to set in from April. However, April being the month of the Thai New Year Festival, the prices are quite likely to stay up. May is the hottest month of the year followed by June making it pretty inconvenient to visit the island during this time.
July and August are the two sneaky months when things start to cool down a bit. This is the shoulder season. There’s sporadic rainfall in the evenings, clear sky in the morning and afternoon and even though the heat burns, it’s bearable. We chose July – 13th to 19th. By the time we left, the rains had started to spread to the morning.
Rainy season generally begins from September and stays on till November. I’m not really sure how enjoyable Samui will be without the sun and water activities. Let’s be honest, it’s an island after all.
So July offers reasonably priced hotels and the airfares are of great value too during this time of the year. However, you might need to carry an umbrella with you in the evenings because of the sudden downpours. If your hotel doesn’t provide one or if you are scared to lose it (which I always am), carry your own. But people are pretty honest in Thailand. Tathagata and I had mistakenly left our umbrellas at our table in one of the restaurants one evening in Lamai and our server came rushing out to return them to us.
Read Part 2 here.