An Interview with Cruise Asia by Destination Asia Thailand Managing Director, Addie Hirunkate
Which port in Thailand is your favorite?
Koh Samui is my favorite port in Thailand. As one of Thailand’s leading holiday destinations, the island offers a tropical forested interior with picturesque waterfalls and peaceful stretches of coastline to explore. Na Thon Pier where ships dock is conveniently located to explore this tropical island and the ecosystem of Ang Thong National Marine Park. I particularly love the coconut tree plantations which abound across the island, giving it genuine exotic atmosphere.
What do you remember about Na Thon Pier from the early days of cruising?
We started operating shore excursions on Koh Samui approximately 20 years ago, when the island infrastructure was in its infancy and there was not even a main road to speak of. The roads then were narrow, winding their way through picturesque sleepy fishing villages and coves. At that time there were not so many 5-star hotels, the majority then were small residences and locally owned.
What’s the biggest change from then to now?
As the island became more accessible and tourism a major driving factor, we have seen its popularity dramatically increase to attract more 4 and 5 star hotels of both local and international brands. Koh Samui has become more cosmopolitan but managed to retain its tropical island charms which captivate all who visit. With growth came more restaurants, bars and shopping malls, but the real fun is still to be had shopping at street stalls along Chaweng and Tha Ton, picking up souvenirs for family and friends. Visitors must try delicious and inexpensive street food such as Pad Thai, sticky rice and mango, papaya salad and grilled chicken. There are also more excursion experiences to choose from, and it is much easier now to explore the outlying smaller islands along with Ang Thong Marine Park which is only an hour away by speed boat.
What kind of activities are cruise tourists interested in leaving from Na Thon?
Samui has more to offer than just beautiful beaches, clear water and gorgeous scenery. It also has a densely forested tropical interior – and seasonal fruit orchards to explore. There are interesting adventure/eco-safaris introducing guests to the ‘other side’ of Samui. From Na Thon pier guests can travel directly by 4-wheel-drive vehicles passing through local sleepy fishing villages and plantations to explore this lush green interior, admiring the scenery and majestic splendor of Na Muang waterfalls.
What else does Na Thom have to do to make itself into a cruise hub on par with Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong etc?
Koh Samui is only a Port of Call that complements Laem Chabang, it would never be a cruise hub on par with other bigger ports. It has its own charm and we wouldn’t want it to be overly commercialized. The Thai government however is currently looking at developing the port by increasing its capacity to accommodate more ships.
Finally, what are the top 3 things you tell cruise passengers they must do in Koh Samui?
1: Don’t miss the major sights such as: Big Buddha, Grand Father Rock and Fisherman Village Walking Street.
2: Try the local street food such as the famous (and authentic) Pad Thai, and sticky rice with mango.
3: Enjoy a Thai massage by the beach!