Quality of Life
Cost of Living
Muay Thai Training
Summary : Koh Samui ticks a lot of the training destination boxes but lacks the top-level Thais needed for fighter development. It's definitely worth staying in one of the gyms here for a short period and experiencing some decent training with the beautiful island life.
Koh Samui is an island situated in the gulf of Thailand about 700km south of Bangkok in Surathani province. Until the 1970’s, Samui was without roads and had just a trickle of backpackers travelling to the island. In the early 1990’s, tourists began to arrive in larger numbers and Samui is now the second most popular island destination (after Phuket). It is also becoming an increasingly popular muay Thai training destination.
Training in Koh Samui can be a great experience. I spent 6 months training on the island and had some great times, got in some quality training and fought 10 times. As with anywhere else in Thailand, it has its ups and downs so let me take you through some of the things you may like to know before making a choice on where to train in Thailand.
In this section, I’ll give you the pros and cons of living in Koh Samui so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not you’d like to train muay Thai in one of its camps.
Living in Koh Samui
Living in Koh Samui is great. It has a really nice, laid back feel to it and I really enjoyed the majority of my time here. It’s where I began my fight career so I’m particularly fond of the place. Here some stuff you need to know.
Koh Samui Nightlife
For a good night out in Samui, you’re really looking at two areas; Chaweng and Lamai. These are the two main towns on the island. Chaweng is lively in the evening and there are plenty of bars along the main stretch of road, and a few clubs too. The best club to go to is “Green Mango“. Mostly foreigners but lots of single Thai girls too. Green mango is legendary for scoring with chicks; if you can’t pick up here then you may as well just go home. You’ve failed at life.
Another club which is open from around 02:00-06:00 is called SoundClub (above). Pretty much bar girls and over-spill from Green Mango, doesn’t have a very nice atmosphere, to be honest.
Lamai is a quieter area but it can still be a good night out. A lot of the bars are girly bars and the only club (Fusion) is basically full of bar girls too. Your best bet is to drink in the bars early on in the night and then head to Chaweng later on.
Of course, with Lamai and Chaweng having so many beaches, it would be rude not to party on them so look out for the regular beach parties happening around the island.
Shopping for all of the regular items you’d usually buy back home shouldn’t be an issue while living in Koh Samui. Again, the chain stores such as Big C, Tesco and Macro are all available here and recommended for every day items. The Chaweng walking street market on the main road sells just about everything from iPods to paintings to sunglasses. Most of it’s probably fake but hey, it’s Thailand!
The walking street market in the same style as Chaweng. Come here on your cheat day for all best food you’ll ever taste.
Cost of living in Samui is quite high. Perhaps not as high as Phuket but still more expensive than mainland cities such as Bangkok and Pattaya.
Being an island, most activities you can try out here involve water. The snorkeling and scuba diving here isn’t as spectacular as some of the other islands such as Koh Tao but still worth a shot. Jet skiing, water skiing, kite surfing and a dolphin tour are other water-based options.
If you have a motorbike, you can drive right around the whole island in about 40 minutes. It’s a really nice, scenic drive and only costs you a bit of gas money.
Other than that, things are pretty limited. I’d usually find myself wondering over to the muay Thai stadiums at night time for something to do.
Cost of Living in Koh Samui
Being an island, Koh Samui will be more expensive than most places inland as most products need to be imported. In general, it’s not as expensive to live here as it is in Phuket, and some expenses are considerably cheaper.
Hotels in Koh Samui are generally around 600 baht for a decent standard, although you can pay upwards of 2000 baht per night for a swanky place. There are a lot of modern hotels located on the beaches nowadays which will be slightly more expensive but they come with obvious beefits.
My favourite place to stay in Koh Samui is in a beach hut! Small wooden huts right on the beach, usually with a shared shower block located a 10 or 20 yards away. You can grab one of these for 300-500 baht per night, depending on the spec of the hut and the location of the beach. Wake up and go to sleep listening to the waves crashing in. Amazing.
For gym accommodation prices, you”ll need to contact the gym directly as prices can range a great deal, but are pretty much always more expensive than the same standard of accommodation elsewhere.
For a bog-standard Thai dish of rice or noodles, you’re looking at paying around 30-60 baht per dish. In the upmarket restaurants it will cost you considerably more.
I don’t think the street food in Koh Samui is even very cheap anymore, but it tastes amazing! Lamai night market on a Sunday night has the best food on the island, in my opinion.
For long stays, take a trip to Makro wholesalers or Tescos to buy cheap food to cook at home.
Your muay Thai training in Koh Samui is really cheap! I think this is partly due to the rivalry that the Wech Pinyo and Jun Muay Thai gym owners parted company. Jun offer one month’s training for 5,000 baht, which is unrivaled anywhere in Thailand, as far as I know. Wech Pinyo is 7,000 per month, while most of the other camps on the island aren’t far off. A big contrast from Phuket and Bangkok gym prices.
A VIP muay Thai session will cost around 500-600 baht per hour.
There are plenty of public pick-up vehicles (songthaews) and motorbike taxis around the island which would be the cheapest way to get around.
I always advise visitors to buy or rent a motorbike to save costs even further, as well as giving you more freedom. A rental bike should be priced at around 3,000 or 4,000 baht per month, depending on the season. During low season, the price for anything are negotiable, including bikes.
The Samui taxis will always try and inflate their prices so make sure they display their meter. If you don’t mind jumping on the back of a bike, then motorbike taxis are a better option.
Training in Koh Samui
There aren’t as many options here as in Phuket but the choice isn’t too shabby for the relatively small size of the island. There are new gyms opening and closing on a regular basis (as with everywhere else in Thailand) but there are probably around 8-10 established gyms here operating at any one time. As with Phuket, the gyms are aimed mainly at tourists so you will get the pros and cons that come with those types of gyms.
On the whole, the gyms in koh Samui are more traditional than in Phuket; they are owned mainly by Thais and, although they are marketed towards foreigners, they have less of a western influence and usually have a few young Thais fighting in the local stadiums. Having a stable of Thai boys and older Thai fighters is extremely important for the culture of muay Thai and for the standards of the gym. How long this tradition will continue for in Koh Samui with an ever-increasing tourist population is another matter.
Some camps here that will attempt to get good Thai training partners for the foreigners to work with but most will just be content with allowing foreigners to spar and clinch with other foreigners. In my opinion, this isn’t enough. With the growth that Samui has undergone in the last 25 years, it’s not surprising that your training partners will mainly be tourists with little or no fighting experience.
That being said, I have had some decent Thais to train with in the past. The benefits of training in the tourist gyms like these is that you will definitely get to train with the Thais, unlike some of the star-studded gyms of Bangkok where foreigners and Thais train separately.
The trainers you’ll get in Koh Samui will be a mixture of ex-stadium fighters from Bangkok and some Southern Thailand area fighters. What matters more is that they are committed to their job and are good at transferring their knowledge to their students. The standard of English among trainers in Samui is OK but probably not to as high a standard then the trainers from Phuket but this will vary from gym to gym. As with Phuket trainers, the professionalism and motivation of the trainers can be questionable at times.
Koh Samui is a very laid back island and the gyms are aimed at foreigners so most of the trainers here have a very laid back coaching style to go with it.
Muay Thai Stadiums in Koh Samui
On the whole, the muay Thai stadiums in Koh Samui host a higher standard of fights than the Phuket stadiums. There are two main stadiums which are situated in Chaweng and also a lady boxing stadium in Lamai.
The biggest stadium and the one which hosts the best fights on the whole is Petch Buncha stadium in Chaweng, it’s also the most expensive out of the three at 1,000 baht per night to watch the fights. Here, you can expect to see a mixture of Thai vs Thai, foreigner vs Thai and Foreigner vs foreigner and the fights are pretty evenly matched. Of course, being a tourist destination, you can expect to see the odd bum fight too. The bum fights usually involve “fighters” from the WMC camp who like to give their guests easy fights.
Phetch Buncha hosts fights 3 days a week. During low season, and even some of the nights during high season, the stadium is barely half-full but once every month during the high season the promoter will put on a “big show”. The stadium is totally packed and the atmosphere is awesome. This is when you’ll see the high quality fights.
The other stadium in Chaweng is “Chaweng Stadium”. This is a small bar-like stadium which is a bit more modern and doesn’t have the authentic feel that Petch Buncha has but it follows the same format in terms of the type of fights you’ll see. The standard of fights is a little lower here and the entry fee is 800 baht.
The third stadium is located in Lamai and is named “Lady Boxing”. More for entertainment than anything else, this stadium hosts mainly female muay Thai fights between the bar girls from the surrounding bars and whoever else wants to fight really! The girls have limited training experience but some actually have some skills. You’ll often see them training during the day time in a ring situated in the middle of all of the girly bars. A few male fights will be put on throughout the night too which aren’t bad. The entry is free but you must buy a drink.
Fighting in Koh Samui
I got sponsored while Iwas in Koh Samui and fought 10 times during my 6 month stay; 7 times in Phetch Buncha and 3 times in Chaweng stadium. I can honestly say that I never got mismatched here, and this is the reason why; the promoters in Koh Samui work with the gym owners to make sure you get good match-ups. That’s if your gym owner wants a good match-up. Of course, there are a few tuk tuk driver bouts and alike but you need to be vocal with your gym boss and you should get the type of match-up you want. My gym owner always got me progressively harder fights and it showed in my record after leaving here with 6 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw.
Most of the opponents you’re likely to get paired up with here are ex-champions or average Thais. There are some Thais who come down from Bangkok from time to time who are top class too. There aren’t that many other foreigners fighting in Koh Samui due to the small amount of gyms but there’s a chance you’ll fight another foreigner too.
The promoter in Phetch Buncha will increase your money if you keep winning fights so if you’re here long term then there’s a little reward for you. He will always pay up too, unlike the promoters in Phuket. I’m unsure of the management or promoters at Chaweng stadium as it has changed a lot since I last fought there but I do know that Phetch Buncha pays its fighters more. Oh, and you also get in to fight nights for free if you fight.
I have some pretty fond memories of living in Koh Samui. It’s probably one of my favourite training destinations in Thailand because I think it has a balance of nice surroundings with the “island life” feel, and decent muay Thai training. I’ve said it a million times, but I think it’s really important to have both.
I would recommend staying in the area Lamai, or somewhere other than Chaweng. Chaweng is really built up and has a constant flow of traffic going through it and doesn’t feel like an island at all. People are generally pretty friendly in Koh Samui and don’t appear as fake as in places like Phuket, but this depends on where you stay.
If you’re thinking about training here then I would recommend doing so but for a limited time. At the end of the day, you aren’t going to get the experienced Thais you need to improve your game massively here, but there are some good trainers who you can learn a lot from. Also, it can get a bit boring if you stay for too long. I went a bit crazy after a few months as I felt a bit boxed in on such a small island, but I do like to travel about in general anyway.
Koh Samui is a decent all-round training destination. If you’re spending a few months in Thailand, mark it off on the map.
Stadiums host relatively good fights
Relatively easy to get around
Very relaxed way of life
Cheap training fees
Not a lot to do in your down-time
Relatively high cost of living
Some areas are a little too built-up
Limited number of gyms
Training partners are mainly tourists
Trainers take a more laid-back approachFollow MuayThaiScholar