Samui Wining & Dining
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An investigation into what 'Happy Hour' mean on Samui.


9Koh Samui. A sparkling sea, beaches fringed with swaying palms, and a big, bright sky that hangs forever overhead. It’s most certainly the stuff that postcards are made of. It’s a holiday island. But then, you could say that about Phuket. Or, for that matter, Ibiza, Majorca or the Canary Islands, too. But Samui’s different. In fact, there’s just no comparison. And the difference? All those other places are busy, busy, busy. They’ve got city blocks and multi-storey buildings. Wide roads everywhere with traffic lights and junctions. Everyone even drives on the correct side of the road! And they’re all simply crammed from top to toe with nightlife.

    Nightclubs, discos, bars, live bands, international DJs, parties – you name it. They’re all located in big, thriving cities and towns. And they’re all in competition with each other. Try to picture what’s just been said as part of a TV documentary that’s energetically cutting from one scene to the next. Imagine the images to go with the commentary – lines of clubbers dressed up to the nines, chuckling and shouting as they queue for admission; darkened dance-floors with pounding techno; strobing neon lights, noise and bustle everywhere and everyone thronging the streets and looking for fun. And now the sound and picture fades, and dissolves slowly to the hushed murmur of the sea as it kisses the fringe of a deserted beach at sunrise. It pans across to a sleepy one-road low-rise town that ribbons its way alongside the beach. And that’s the difference between Samui and the others. Samui isn’t a city. And it is not a party island.

      And that’s the attraction of our little island, and no doubt the reason that you came here in the first place. Sure, you’ll find little pools of nightlife scattered here and there – Chaweng’s Soi Reggae is the place to go for girly bars plus, of course, the famous Reggae Pub. More centrally, there’s quite a nightly buzz going on in the region of Soi Green Mango, which possibly offers something of a wider range of entertainment. The one outstanding exception being the legendary Q Bar, in a class of its own, up there on the hillside overlooking the whole of Chaweng. And that’s more or less summed up Samui, with the possible exception of the ‘round bars’ in Lamai.

      With Samui, it’s true to say that the vast majority of the island’s ‘wining’ is tied in with its ‘dining’; every purposeful resort has its own signature restaurant and bar. But, compared to other international holiday hubs, there’s just not the quantity of bars and clubs here to offer the wide-spread and fierce competition that you’ll see elsewhere.

       And this is even more of a truism in cities which aren’t holiday getaways. This is where the internet becomes a godsend, allowing quick searches for which bars and clubs might be offering tempting inducements. But, you see, such urban sprawls have another thing that’s lacking on Samui. They have weekends. They have two days together where people can have a little holiday. And so there’s a sense of anticipation. All week long the party people are looking forward to the weekend. And there are even social websites purpose-made so that you can contact your friends online, scan for happy hours and promotions, suggest venues to meet your friends, read their responses and interact online as part of the build-up. And that doesn’t even take into account the universal tool of Facebook with its trillions of social threads.

       The second thing is that, generally speaking, the prices of alcoholic beverages in Thailand are a lot less than you’re probably used to paying back home. Take cocktails for example. You’ll find that the average prices of a nice effective cocktail, around the island, is 150 baht. That’s three-and-a-half euros or 4.7 Australian dollars. Although, come to think of it, most of the Aussie fellas I’ve noticed didn’t have cocktails in their hands. But the same happy hour discounts apply to beers, too. And so it’s more or less universal that you’ll see ‘toofers’ (two-for-the-price-of-one) on offer around about sunset time – but usually only on locally-produced (i.e. in Thailand) spirits and beers.

      Wine is one of the very few items in Thailand that is considered to be a luxury item (along with imported cars) and thus attracts a whopping 300% tax. And the price of all imported alcohol contains a heavy loading, too. That’s why you’ll never see wine ‘happy-houred on a toofer’, and this applies to imported spirits and beers, too.

      But, stepping back a bit and looking at the bigger picture, we return to the essentials; that Samui is not only a small holiday island that’s lacking in excessive nightlife, but also that the resort restaurants are the main players on the wining and dining scene. Which makes a lot of sense really, as the majority of these restaurants have a terrace that borders the beach, with many having tables directly on the sand.

      It’s simply not possible to do any kind of ‘listing’, as you can take it for granted that just about every eatery and watering hole will offer their own kind of happy hour. And this will vary from one to the next in minor details only. But, really, what would you expect? Samui is one of those rare places where it’s a weekend every day – and that means every hour is ‘happy’!


Rob De Wet


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