Nathon, the administrative centre of Koh Samui, is likely your first point of contact with this beautiful island if you’re traveling here by ferry. Despite new-found prosperity from tourism, it’s real Thai life here.
The town is small, but it thrives on a large industry of services for the backpacker trade. Anything you need, Nathon has it – except for a tropical beach we’ve gotten used to on the pictures.
The closest beach to Nathon is Maenam, a popular choice for its tranquility and proximity to the center.
Nevertheless, a day or two at Nathon is worth it for any visitor that is eager to discover beyond their beachfront resort – for the reasons listed below.
Nathon town is as charming as it’s small. You can walk the entirety of Nathon in about an hour, criss crossing the web of small streets.
You cannot get lost here and the two major roads both lead to the waterfront. There, you will find heaps of authentic eating stalls with simple meals, like Thai noodles, Issarn barbeque and seafood.
Please do not leave Thailand without trying the amazing, yet simple, cuisine that is the Lanna people’s Issarn food. I swear that cucumber Som Tam and Larb will change your life forever.
Then there is the daily catch that comes fresh off the fishermen’s boats and is sold on by their wives in the waterfront seafood joints. Here you will get a taste of truly authentic local cuisine, seated on low plastic chairs.
Be warned though, Thai food is very spicy. So mention no spicy, if you worry your taste buds can’t take it.
The best times to stroll around town are morning and evening. The noon sun is unforgiving, especially if you didn’t use sun protection. If you want to avoid melting on the sidewalk, take my advice.
Finish the evening back at the waterfront restaurants and catch the sunset, that often sends the sky ablaze in fiery pinks, reds and deep purples.
The locals and those in the know-how all do their shopping at Nathon. Better prices, and with a shopping scene equally matched to Chaweng and Fisherman’s Village, you will bag great discounts on your souvenir shopping at Nathon.
Items sold at Nathon, like the island in general, are increasingly inventive and environmentally friendly. Here are some shops to check out while you’re here.
About Art and Crafts
An art cafe and shop in one, specialising in unique ceramic kitchenware and jewellery. You will find plates, bowls and mugs delicately hand painted by the owners themselves. Chat them up on their latest creations over a mug of coffee.
Little Buddha Aromatherapy
Sweet little shop shelved with natural cosmetics, bath products and essential oils. It’s a must-visit for the ladies – many products are made using coconut oil sourced straight from the island (considered the best coconut oil in Thailand).
Beach Gallery Antiques
The gallery houses an eclectic collection of Asian ornaments and art. Whether they’re authentic, I’m not qualified to judge. But the prices are reasonable and the shop is worth a gander for a look into Thai history.
Thai Winery House and Souvenirs
Sample some wine here from the chatty proprietor Kun Nush. Made from local Thai fruits, such as mangosteen, lychee, you’re guaranteed interesting flavours. And she will enrich your knowledge on all things Thai and mangosteen.
Khunchan Furniture and Home Décor
If you’ve taken an interest in exotic Thai furniture, this shop will help you source your own. They do international shipping too. Besides furniture and decor, the choice includes Thai spirit houses and Buddha statues.
Real leather shoes with beautiful designs set this shop apart from all the others on Samui. They can even make your own design, if you ask. Prices are reasonable, making it good for independent designers.
There are many hotels and other types of accommodation at Nathon. But they’re primarily aimed at the local market, because few tourists stay here more than a night.
These places fall short of the usual sunny beach paradise seekers vision of a place to stay. Besides the waterfront, there is no beach at Nathon.
A happy medium we can suggest is renting a villa. These properties would come with all the perks of a tropical island right at your doorstep. We are absolutely in love with this heavenly luxury villa in Nathon.
With spectacular views of the National Marine Park and Five Islands the amenities include five bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a pool sala, a fully equipped gym, and a study with its own comfortable terrace and built in sofas. Designed by award winning Architects GFAB, Villa Zest is truly a site to behold offering guests an impressive choice of private and communal areas to relax. The stunningly designed 5 bedrooms boasts bright and breezy tropical sanctuaries which have been stylishly furnished with sumptuous beds all affording breathtaking sea views.