Samui Pier Resort, Koh Samui, Thailand


A resort on a miniature scale, Samui Pier Resort hotel is located right next to the pier where travellers leave for Koh Phangan. The views out to sea and across to Koh Phangan are wonderful at sunset, and I was lucky to get a free upgrade to an upstairs beachfront room with a balcony. I spent plenty of time gazing out to sea and watching people arriving in Samui from the ferry or leaving for other islands. Sunset from my room

My room was very clean and pleasantly decorated, with air-con, a TV with some English language channels, free wifi, and tea and coffee making facilities. The bathroom was fairly spacious with a good hot shower. Thanks to the large tinted glass balcony doors I could actually see the sea while I was in bed, and drifting off to sleep to the sound of the waves outside was magical. Bedroom

The staff were helpful and the owner was friendly. My room rate did not include breakfast, and the restaurant was rather expensive compared to other nearby options. The hotel is on a main road, though all the rooms face the sea, and so it was easy to find places to eat. The minimarket across the road was well stocked. Samui Pier Resort beach

The hotel grounds are nicely landscaped grassy gardens, with a variety of sun loungers, sala shelters and other seats. The swimming pool is at least as small as it looks in the photos, however, and with more than a couple of people swimming it does feel overcrowded. Hotel ground and pool

Overall I was pleased with Samui Pier Resort. The beach is nice for walking along and I did see other people swimming, but being so close to the ferries, it’s certainly not the best. If you want a convenient location, with great views and a relaxing space, Samui Pier Resort is great.

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Buddy Oriental Samui Beach Resort, Lamai Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand


I booked into Buddy Oriental Samui Beach Resort for one night as a special treat. It’s out of my usual price range but for my last night on Koh Samui before a long journey, I wanted something nice. I had driven past Buddy’s and liked the look of it, in colonial style buildings with its own shops. This would be somewhere different to other hotels I have stayed at. Bedroom at Buddys

I checked in early and service was excellent. My garden-view room was upstairs and the colonial theme continued to the interior design of the bedroom. It had colonial-style shutters on the windows, a comfortable four-poster bed, old-fashioned pictures on the walls and even some old books on a shelf. A TV with some English-language channels, noisy but effective air-conditioning and tea/coffee facilities were provided, as was a minibar. The bathroom had a powerful shower, and free toiletries. Room service was fast and efficient and the menu had a range of local and international dishes, including Mexican food. Bathroom at Buddys

Buddy Oriental has two swimming pools, which is just as well because the beach was disappointing, neither good for swimming nor appealing for paddling or sunbathing. One swimming pool is located across the road from the beach in the hotel atrium, in the building that houses the guestrooms. I enjoyed swimming in this pool which was in shade for large parts of the day, meaning I didn’t need to use sun cream. There was also a jacuzzi hot tub beside the pool. The other pool was over the road by the beach and the hotel restaurant. That pool was crowded with sun seekers sprawling on sun loungers. Swimming pool at Buddys

Swimming pool 2 at BuddysThe colonial style makes Buddy’s feel different to other hotels I have stayed in, making it feel almost theme-park like. If I had wanted particularly to use the beach I would have been disappointed with Buddy Oriental, but for only one day I was content with the swimming pools and my luxurious room.

Beach at Buddys

Swiss-Garden Beach Resort and Spa, Kuantan, Malaysia


I enjoyed five days at this resort hotel on Malaysia’s mainland East coast. Taking the bus from Singapore up to Kuantan and getting a taxi to the hotel was straightforward, and much cheaper than flying. I had found Swiss Garden Beach Resort and Spa hotel while searching for holiday accommodation in Malaysia, accessible by land from Singapore. Although the hotel had mixed reviews on TripAdvisor we thought we’d give it a try.

Swiss-Garden Beach Resort and SpaThe resort hotel is laid out in typical Southeast Asian resort style, with the reception area, lobby and bar near the hotel entrance, and the restaurant downstairs. The swimming pool was pleasantly large and only got busy during the late afternoon when the Malaysian guests used it. We were there during the Malaysian school holidays, and the majority of the guests were Malaysian. There was also a children’s swimming pool and a large outdoor jacuzzi hot tub.

 

Our room was fine, though the décor felt old-fashioned. We had a bath with a shower over it, air-con, TV, and a balcony with sea view. Unfortunately the room we were given was an adjoining room, with just two flimsy doors between us and the next-door neighbours. When new guests arrived next door on our second day, and their baby cried for the whole night, we had to complain or it would have ruined our holiday. After trying to make us move to an inferior room, the hotel staff eventually agreed to move the newer guests with the screaming baby. The trouble that we had to go to in order to not have to repack and move everything in the middle of the night showed a poor level of service.

Swiss-Garden Hotel Room

The hotel restaurant, where we had breakfast every morning, and ate other meals on occasion, was very good. The breakfast buffet had a great range of foods, and the a la carte menu for lunch and dinner was also good. Outside the hotel, across a very busy main road, were two other eateries where we enjoyed eating Malaysian food.

 

The beach, where sun loungers and shelters were supplied, was often completely empty, and I enjoyed gazing out to sea. The strip along the beach was not full of resort hotels, as is common in Southeast Asia, but was tree-lined, with only a couple of other hotels visible quite far along the shore. This made it feel more like a real place, rather than some tourists-only area.

Kuantan Beach Malaysia

We swam in the sea. Although there was a red flag flying throughout our entire stay, we saw another woman in the sea, which appeared calm, and decided to go for it. It turned out to be perfect for swimming. Although it wasn’t too shallow, we found we could go quite far out while still being able to touch the sand with our feet, and swim easily. I have rarely been in sea that is so well-suited to swimming.

Bira Beach (Pantai Bira): White Sand Spoilt by Litter


A friend’s opinion that Bira was the most beautiful beach in Indonesia secured my decision to visit as the endpoint of my South Sulawesi trip, which had taken me north to Tana Toraja and to the city of Makassar.

Bira Beach, a few hours drive from Makassar, has become one of South Sulawesi’s most popular traveller haunts, with domestic and international tourists coming to enjoy the powdery white sands and crystal clear waters.

White sand at Bira BeachTourism = Litter

Unfortunately, as happens in many places that become tourism’s new best friend, the main part of the beach, where the road finishes abruptly at the seashore, was covered in litter. Plastic bags, food and drink containers and other random objects had been churned up by the waves and dumped on the beach, and the situation did not change during our three-night stay.

Rubbish on the beachYes, the sand is some of the most powdery soft white sand I have ever set foot on, but the need to constantly watch my step to avoid treading on broken glass rather spoilt the moment.

The sign on the right tells people to keep the beach clean. Beside it is a pile of litter.

The sign on the right tells people to keep the beach clean. Beside it is a pile of litter.

A Changeable Sea

On our first day the sea was relatively calm; people buzzed back and forth on banana boats dragged by speedboats. Other boats anchored near the beach, with passengers from nearby islands alighting. I swam in the sea, and as long as I avoided the boats, it was pleasant for swimming.

On day two, however, the waves were bigger and it was impossible to do proper swimming. Sunsets along the beach were beautiful, but not of the sun-dropping-into-the-ocean type.

I found that walking further along the beach, away from the hubbub of Bira with its souvenir stalls and rubber ring hire shops, led me to cleaner sand with fewer people, and I swam there on day three.

Not a Peaceful Idyll

So, Bira is definitely not the peaceful idyll that some guidebooks and people would have you believe. It’s a small but bustling tourist place, with plenty of places to stay and eat, and lots of shops to buy your Sulawesi t-shirts.

With this kind of under-planned tourism, where places just sprout up to cope with demand, there is often a lack of thought for keeping an area clean and pleasant. I hope that this issue will be addressed by the local businesses who rely on a steady stream of beach-going visitors. And for the time being, I suggest avoiding Bira – there are plenty of better beaches in Indonesia (here’s one example).

South Sulawesi in Pictures 5: Bira Beach

Gallery

This gallery contains 10 photos.


Having been told Bira Beach (called Pantai Bira in Indonesian) was some kind of idyllic white sand paradise, I was disappointed. However, once you ignored the rubbish that litteres the central section of the beach, the sand was indeed powdery … Continue reading

Hotel Sapolohe, Bira, Sulawesi: A Large Stilt House with Sea Views


Having quickly moved hotels after a ghastly experience at Bira Beach Hotel, we found Hotel Sapolohe just up a side road, away from the Bira’s main drag, but right near the beach.

Hotel SapoloheStay in a Stilt House!

The hotel itself was a massive house on stilts, which instantly appealed to me because of architecture alone. We paid Rp. 350,000 for a deluxe room with sea view, a TV, air-conditioning and hot water, but not including breakfast. We bargained to get this price, which we considered on the expensive side, down from Rp. 420,000.

The room was tastefully decorated and we stepped out on to a communal veranda looking out to the beach. There were no other guests during our two-night stay, so we had the veranda to ourselves. Set up on a cliff and upstairs in the stilt house, our position was high above the beach and we enjoyed looking out to sea. The hotel has direct access to the beach through a gate at the bottom of the garden.

BedroomThe Other Details

The bathroom had a bathtub with a shower over it, but there was no plug for the bath or the sink, although we tried to request one. The bathroom fittings, unlike the bedroom, were quite old and worn but perfectly usable.

There was no housekeeping or room service of any kind. Since the hotel wasn’t serving breakfast for guests, there was nowhere to buy food or drinks at the hotel, but it was only a short walk to find a range of eateries. (Of particular note was the delicious freshly cooked food at Salassa Restaurant, along the main road going away from the beach.)

We were told that a new owner had recently bought Sapolohe and was planning to redevelop it, but it wasn’t clear what would happen or when.

Sea View from our RoomFor a Sea View on Stilts

Overall, Hotel Sapolohe is a good option for a quiet break, away from the central area of the village and overlooking the sea. I enjoyed the feeling of staying in a stilt house and the sea view from up above everything was fantastic.

Bira’s hotels are a mixed bunch with many friendly options up the main road away from the sea. If you’re intent on a sea view while still being close to the village, and you don’t mind paying a bit more, Hotel Sapolohe is a good choice.