Samui has always been a popular tourist destination since the backpackers started arriving over twenty years ago. In those days tourists were looking for remote beaches and ‘back to basics’ travel experiences and relished the idea of eating like the locals and waking up in bamboo huts on the beach. These days the backpackers have moved on, and Samui has developed into a cosmopolitan island that attracts tourists from every corner of the globe who are looking for far more luxurious style vacations.
As well higher end tourist Koh Samui has now gained quite a reputation as one of the most popular destination wedding locations in the world and hundreds of couples flock here each year to say “I do” on the sandy white beaches, in luxurious hillside private villas with spectacular ocean view backdrops and on equally luxurious yachts that sail effortlessly around the shores.
Earlier this year UK celebrity Denise Van Outen attended one such wedding and when she returned to the UK in April she spoke to the leading UK tabloid, the Daily Mail.
She said “I first came to Koh Samui 13 years ago when it was still a bit of a hippy paradise. It was about the time that the film version of Alex Garland’s book The Beach – starring Leonardo DiCaprio – was released. Suddenly there were lots of people all milling around Thailand looking for the perfect stretch of sand and hoping to find a never-ending party. But while it had undoubtedly changed a lot from the island coconut plantation it had been when first discovered by tourists in the Seventies, it still seemed very authentic to me.
What I particularly loved were the local people, who were really kind and very nice – I remember how much I’d enjoyed that first visit and had been waiting to go back ever since. This time around, however, I would be seeing the island in style. And I wasn’t simply coming on holiday, I was in Koh Samui for a friend’s wedding, someone very close to me whom I’ve known for 22 years.
A big group of us had flown over: it was a real gathering of friends. There would, of course, be a hen party and the climax would be the marriage ceremony on the beach. While it sounded as if it might turn out to be a bit like a tropical-beach version of the movie Bridesmaids, I knew that it was going
to be a pretty sedate affair. After all, I was travelling with my two-year-old daughter Betsy, and the trip came just before the start of the series of Strictly Come Dancing in which I was competing. So this was my last chance to recharge the batteries before what I knew was going to be a pretty intense period of work.
In Koh Samui, most of my friends stayed in private homes because they knew people who lived there. But Betsy and I stayed at the W Hotel, and I was delighted because over the years I’ve become a bit of a fan of these establishments. I’ve stayed at the W in New York and I’ve been to the one in London, which I think is great. I had been keen to visit the W Retreat in Koh Samui because I’d heard good things about it. The hotel’s website paints a gorgeous picture, describing ‘the azure waters of the Gulf of Thailand’ meeting ‘palm tree groves boasting more species of coconuts than any other place on the planet’. My expectations were high and I wasn’t disappointed. (The Tripadvisor reviews are an endless stream of unmitigated praise, so I knew I was in for a good time.)
As soon as I arrived, I was astonished to see just how much Koh Samui has changed since my first visit. When I went on that trip with a boyfriend, the island was really not built up at all. There were little shacks on the beaches and the market at Chaweng had little old stalls.
Now everything has become so much more Westernised; there are ‘proper’ shops. I was amused to see that they’ve even got a Tesco there – and, of course, a Starbucks. If I were living on Koh Samui,
obviously I’d want to have a Tesco and a Starbucks, but I could understand how people who remember the island as it was are nostalgic for the way it used to be. However, as far as I was concerned, it was still just as lovely as I remembered. The locals are still warm and hospitable and I had every bit as much of a good time as I had on that first trip. Of course, I’m not the same person I was 13 years ago: I’ve travelled more and my expectations have changed.
In recent years, I’ve seen some fabulous holiday places. My favourite holiday destination is the Maldives – I don’t think there is anywhere that can compete. The islands there are just exquisite. But while the Maldives is ultra-relaxing for me, it’s not an ideal destination for a two-year-old. I think Betsy would find the attractions of the Maldives slightly limited. Thailand, however, offers lots of fun and games for a toddler. For example, we went on an outing to Fisherman’s Village, where there were loads of little market stalls. It was good fun. And we loved the Walking Street Market, which is a riot of colours, sounds and scents. It’s a bargain-hunter’s paradise with everything from flip-flops to the latest in fashionable cosmetics. We also did some exploring, visiting the Big Buddha Temple which sits majestically on a small rocky island off Koh Samui’s north-eastern corner.
The golden, 36ft-tall seated Buddha statue, at the top of a huge flight of steps, was built in 1972 and is one of the island’s most popular attractions. When you’re in Koh Samui, you have to do some of the classic tourist things. Ten of us, all different ages, went to a ladyboys show for my friend’s hen night, which was fun.
Then came the wedding on the beach, and it was just amazing. The bride and groom arrived at the ceremony on an elephant. There were fireworks, and we all launched lanterns into the night sky. It was really magical and probably one of the best weddings I’ve been to. It was a two-day celebration, because my friend had a traditional Thai wedding and then a Western wedding, so we had plenty of time to celebrate. I can recommend a Thai wedding as a great way to tie the knot”.
Of course if you live in Koh Samui and you are planning a wedding you may already have a very good idea about what is available to you in terms of wedding locations and accommodation for you and your guests.
For those less familiar with the island then help is at hand. There are many wedding planners in Koh Samui that offer superb wedding packages. Of course not every bride wants a package; some have very fixed ideas about their perfect day and want a bespoke wedding that cannot be achieved within the boundaries of a package.
Weddings Koh Samui offer comprehensive wedding planning, and accommodation booking services for customers from all over the globe, who come from different cultures, have different religious backgrounds and are looking for their perfect wedding day on a wide range of budgets who want something tailor made an unique. This can be anything from a small and intimate wedding for just the bride and groom, to luxurious and lavish affairs that any celebrity would be proud of.
No matter what sort of wedding brides and grooms are looking for in Koh Samui there is no doubt that the island is attracting more and more wedding parties that not only want a spectacular location for their wedding but an island that offers such a diverse range of venues, other attractions for their guests and the wide range of accommodation available for their guests who themselves are on a wide range of budgets.
Koh Samui offers a myriad of pre and post wedding activities, has all any bride or groom could hope for in terms of hen and stag night entertainment options and with its all year round climate it is not hard to see why Samui is one of the world’s top wedding destinations.
To find out more about Weddings Koh Samui click HERE to visit their website.Stay updated with Samui Times by following us on Facebook.
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