4. Choice of Hotel
I’m a little picky when it comes to choosing the stay. Cleanliness stays at the top of my list. I have a thing for natural light in the room, a nicely-done bed, squeaky clean floors and enough space to move about without banging into the walls or furniture. A well-maintained restroom with clean towels, showerheads and taps and no (atleast not visbile) rust marks or floor spots makes my day.
Now that’s a lot to ask for while travelling on a budget. But I’m willing to compromise for the right price.
A way more important criteria is the location of the hotel. Your choice of hotel location should be based on your preference of environment and vibe. For example, we like to stay in or within walking distance of the centre of attraction.
The #1 popular and busy area of Koh Samui is Chaweng. ARKBar being the most popular party hotel in Samui, the choice was a breeze. I had come across this hotel in one of my friend’s Samui holiday pictures on Facebook. Tathagata watched a long video about this hotel on YouTube and was immediately hooked. It’s right on the beach (well so are most hotels in Samui), it’s in the epicentre of Chaweng’s most popular strip of road, everything is nearby (7-11s, restaurants etc.), the rooms are pretty and big, the amenities are more than we had asked for and it fit our budget. We had no second thought about ARKBar.
We stayed there for 3 nights and moved on to Lamai. Lamai is the second popular part of Samui. It’s less noisy but busy enough for our taste. For Lamai, I had my eyes on “Weekender Resort” and “Lamai Coconut Beach Resort”. Both of these are right on the most energetic part of Lamai. But sadly, the first one didn’t fit our budget and the second one had a waiting list on all rooms for our dates.
So we booked Samui Laguna Resort instead. It is located in the quieter area of Lamai but at a walking distance from the party strip. This saved us transportation cost to and from the night markets, the walking street, the souvenir shops, the amazing restaurants, the seaside market and all the other happening places.
So, how do we know where to look for our best-suited hotels? Here are three ways to detect the vibe of a place from thousands of miles away:
1. Do a generic search on “Best areas to stay in Samui”. There are ample sites that would guide you on hotel price, activity, traveller type and nearby attractions for the primary areas in Samui.
2. Look for the Hard Rock Cafe on the map. Why? Because the HRCs are usually located in the busiest and happening parts of a place. If you spot an HRC on the map, you’ll know for a fact that strip of road spells partayy!
Needless to say, we had an amazing Hard Rock experience. Rock DNA was performing that evening. We brought back an HRC t-shirt and the wristband that Korn Watcharapong (the bassist) happily parted with for my starstruck husband’s wrist after the show.
3. Look for the live street camera footage on YouTube. It’s real time and tells you all you need to know about how busy (or quiet) the area is. We had some fun at Chaweng looking for the exact street camera’s footage we used to watch back at home and spotting ourselves in the live Youtube video!
Staying near the places you want to frequent saves you the cost of ‘songthaew’ (these are partially covered pickup trucks used for transportation in Samui on a shared basis). Trust me, daily conveyance cost builds up to an alarming amount when you always have to shuttle back and forth between your hotel and the places you want to go to relax and eat at in the evenings. Additionally, the prices go up as the night matures.
Alternatively, you can rent a scooter to go on about the island. If you don’t know how to ride one, the driver will be willing to drop you at your location. Scooter fares are nearly half of a songthaew and two can ride pillion.
5. Make Your Own Bookings
I cannot stress enough on how much money you can save if you make your bookings directly (from the airlines’ website, hotel website etc.) instead of booking a package-trip or tickets through an agency.
However, on sneaky days, agencies may give you discounts on hotel-room prices. We had booked two hotels in Samui –
- ARKBar Beach Resort in Chaweng
- Samui Laguna Resort in Lamai
At the time of our booking, MakeMyTrip was not only providing a 20% discount on the room prices but also a free one-way airport shuttle for ARKBar – shoulder season booty. Even though we didn’t require the shuttle, the discount was good enough.
We got two wins out of our MakeMyTrip booking:
1. We were able to book a Premier Deluxe room at the price of a Deluxe room at ARKBar
2. We got a free upgrade from a Deluxe room at Samui Laguna Resort to an ‘almost’ beach bungalow! I say ‘almost’ because the beach was just two bungalows away from ours and we could see the sea from our patio.
Bottomline: always tally prices at your trusted agency’s website with the hotel (airline etc.) website and make the booking accordingly.
I almost forgot, be sure to call the hotel at least a week ahead of your trip to confirm your booking.
Read Part 4 here.