Shopping in Samui
There were times when backpackers would just chill on the beach during the day, occasionally getting up to grab some cheap food nearby and then later on head to Chaweng to party all night in soi Green Mango...
For daily shopping they went to fresh markets around Samui which were the only source of fruits, veggies, fish and local delicacies..
Samui grown up since then....Sometimes, somewhere on the south of the island we can still experience that slow pace of life, those lazy days and simple food which doesn't cost an arm and leg... But it still doesn’t hide the fact that those days are long gone and now our lives here are so much more comfortable.
These days Samui is a proud home to a few very big supermarkets such as Tesco Lotus, Macro, Big C and also hundreds of minimarkets such as 7/11 and Family Marts.
There is also a huge DIY supermarket called Home Pro ( equivalent of B&Q in UK) - a large home-improvement shop for all builders and garden enthusiasts.
All big supermarkets are located on Samui main ring road. Most of them are in Chaweng area, but there is one Tesco Lotus in Lamai and also another one in Nathon. There is one great supermarket called TOPS in a middle of Chaweng Beach Road, behind Al's Resort, very handy if you are staying in Chaweng.
They are very easy to find and they sell virtually everything, ie all sorts of food, clothes, shoes, luggage, kids/baby stuff ( apart from good quality baby food - only Heinz is available), things for your house, garden and car, so the only thing you may consider bringing from your country (apart from baby food if you need it) is your own face cream and good quality sunscreen lotion. They are more expensive here and poorer quality. You will survive with all the rest.
But I have to admit that it's one thing to come to local supermarket as a tourist, just buying a few bottles of beer, some bread, crisps, and other basic stuff...and completely different thing if you live here. When tourists come to Tesco, their usual reaction - WOW, they have everything here.
When I go shopping, I tend to have a very unhappy face and constantly ask my hubby - "where is this, and that, and why all the nice things are 3 times more expensive than in London?.."
Lots of things have a very poor quality, the best things are priced much higher than in Europe because they are imported. My favourite things like cheese and wine are hardly affordable, may be for special occasion only...Stainless steel from Home Pro becomes stained in a month because of humidity. Baby's stuff here is terrible - strollers break next day, high chairs and carseats do not exist, baby's food is inedible, no one ever heard about organic stuff, and the clothes are a joke! No wonder last time we came back from London we had 70 kg of luggage...
Tesco Lotus and Big C have pretty good Food Courts - simple thai food for very cheap prices . My favourite dish there is rice with a stewed pork and some marinated cabbage salad, cost 35 baht, or 45 with an egg, and it tastes actually much better than it sounds. Also there are different curries, salads, seafood, pastries, drinks on offers.
Tesco Lotus in Chaweng has a bowling alley and pretty good ( but very cold) cinema which normally shows at least one Holliwood blockbuster at the time, apart from numerous Thai movies. Also Tesco in Chaweng has a few food/coffee places - my favourite Japanese restaurant Fuji is there- absolutely yummy cheap japanese food, all kind of sushi, sashimi, noodle soups, salad and other stuff.
Black Canyon Coffee is our usual hangout after we've done our shopping and need a few minute to relax. They also do pretty good food. Cheap and quick. There are also Coffee World, KFC, pretzel place, Dunkin Donuts, Swensens ice-cream,and another good restaurant called MK - it's where you get your own pot on the flame and you make your own meal, you just order ingredients.
Big C also has a few restaurants and donuts/coffee places but for some reason it always looks a bit empty, that's why we always end up in Tesco if we need some atmosphere.
7/11 and Family Marts are your good friends if you need something when all major supermarkets are closed already or not open yet, or you just need a small stuff.
Great for buying water (cola, ice tea, milk - any drink really), hot dogs, chinese buns and dim-sums for a quick snack, toiletries, mosquito spray, cigarettes and beer. Also you can buy there a local SIM card for your mobile, or if you already have one - buy the pay as you go voucher to charge the money on your card.
We also pay all our house bills there in 7/11, which is extremely handy ( Thanks God for that - if everybody on the island went to Nathon water/electric/telephone companies offices to pay the bills - we wouldn't be able to move around Samui at all, apart from the night time- the traffic jam would be starting before 9 am and finishing after 5 pm, it's pretty bad already!
There are more and more minimarkets coming up everywhere, literally on every corner, every 50-100 m, like mushrooms after the rain...Way too many, but handy to be honest. They also normally have at least 1 ATM machine installed near the entrance, so you can withdraw your money there as well.
Occasionally you can find some surprisingly useful services - for example Tesco Lotus in Lamai has a great embroidery service - if you just want something to be embroidered on your clothes, or if you are messy eater like me and have an ugly oily/wine spot on the most visible place of your shirt/pants - it's a great idea to have something cute embroidered on that spot, and maybe your destroyed clothes will be recovered, and looking better than ever before. I tried this on my pants - have a beautiful flower there now, can wear the pants again after a year of considering throwing them away...
"Supersports" in Big C can restring your badminton racket, my hubby is a big fan of this service being a dedicated badminton player.
"Doctor Fish" ( or whatever it's called) in Big C - quick pedicure for those who didn't make it to the beauty salon.
Hairdressers "Hair Decor" in Big C - probably the most decent Thai hairdressers in Samui ( you still have to tell them what to do), if you don't have much time - you can have 3 treatments done at the same time - hair, manicure and pedicure. Great for the people on the go...
Bank AEON in Tesco Lotus Chaweng - the only bank which doesn't charge 150 Bt for withdrawing foreign currency from its ATMs. Great find - thanks to one guy from Tripadvisor, I wouldn't have known it otherwise...