“Uninspiring Surat Thani is of use only as a jumping-off point for trips to Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and, at a pinch, more distant Ko Tao.”
Ouch. I read this line in our guidebook whilst we were still in Chiang Mai after I had just booked for us to spend 1 month in a villa in (you guessed it) Surat Thani.
This doesn’t sound good. Uninspiring? That’s not what I was going for when I made the booking and I have to say, it doesn’t look all that uninspiring. The reviews look great too.
Is it possible… could our guidebook be… wrong?
I have to admit that when I was searching for accommodation in the area I had actually typed ‘Ko Samui’ into the search bar of Airbnb but it has an annoying habit of returning search results outside of the stated search area. This is actually pretty helpful when you’re travelling on a budget because you often stumble upon prime properties outside of town that you wouldn’t ordinarily have searched for but you do have to be careful to verify the location before you book.
On this occasion I had fallen in love with a gorgeous villa that ticked all the boxes for us:
- Fantastic location right on the beach front
- Plenty of space for us both to have a comfortable work station
- Free high speed WiFi (jackpot!)
- Air con
- Modern kitchen / bathroom
- Great reviews on Trip Advisor
It was only when I noticed a comment from a past review about taking a day trip to Ko Samui that I realised this place wasn’t actually in Ko Samui. Ack! I knew it was too good to be true.
I kept searching but I really couldn’t find anything in Ko Samui that ticked all the boxes and this Surat Thani place was starting to look better and better. Realising that I had struck gold I decided to dispense with the whole Island thing and stay on the mainland instead. It’s easy to island hop from Surat Thani so I figured this way we would be getting the best of both worlds whilst performing some major budget bad-assery.
Then I saw that line in my guidebook.
I admit I panicked a little. Finding adequate accommodation is my job and whilst I do sometimes get it wrong I’d hate to inadvertently pick a crappy spot just to save a few pounds. And isn’t our guidebook the king of information? I mean I can take this stuff as gospel right? I wouldn’t pay for a guidebook that gave me rubbish information. That would be stupid! Right?
Because the person who wrote our guidebook, or at least that line in our guidebook, is an idiot.
I suspected it before we had even left Chiang Mai and after I had Googled Surat Thani to death but I knew it for sure when we arrived in beautiful Khanom, Surat Thani and I saw for myself what an incredible, unexplored gem this place is.
I suppose I should thank this idiot. I mean, if he had written “this place is amazing, you must go right now” then we wouldn’t have gotten to explore an unspoilt town before it became commercialised and ruined, like Phuket. But instead I feel outraged on behalf of Surat Thani and pissed off that we nearly missed coming here based on the information given in a guide we’re supposed to trust.
Here’s what we found in Khanom:
1. A beautiful, modern villa full of home comforts for well under our normal budget
Cute. Comfortable. Functional.
2. A stunning, unspoilt beach where we rarely see another person.
3. More palm trees than we’ve ever seen before in any place we’ve visited
4. Romantic and peaceful dinners on the beach for just a few pounds
Dinner and a view 🙂
5. So many hidden view points and beauty spots to find and explore
Can you believe that view?
6. Too many sunsets to mention
7. Two very happy nomads!
The sun definitely suits us!
This is also the first place we’ve ever been to where we’re pretty much the only white people in town which is kind of cool! The locals are always eager to talk to us, the children can’t believe their eyes and all want to touch our skin and everyone goes out of their way to make us feel welcome. One person even drove us all over town in search of some factor 50 sun cream to protect our ‘farang’ skin.
Ko Samui is only a short trip across the water and of course we went to check it out but actually we were quite glad to get back to peaceful, quiet Surat Thani after our visit. It’s an incredibly special place.
It is not uninspiring.
In fact we managed to get so much work done in this little haven. It’s easy to brain storm whilst going for early morning walks along a deserted beach. It’s pretty simple to knock out a few freelance articles when there are no distractions and it’s not hard to find the motivation when you realise that you could wake up to this view every day if you work hard enough.
Read your guidebook, take what you can from it, but trust yourself too. You’re a traveller with great instincts and you too can pick a great place. Just because some guy told you it’s uninspiring doesn’t mean that it is.
Go see for yourself and draw your own conclusions. We did and we found paradise on a shoestring.