Is Bophut a restaurant masquerading as a beach?

How to find the cheapest room rates on Koh Samui?
Make a Private Deal and BOOK DIRECTLY with the hotel – cutting out all agents & commissions – is the surest way. But only some hotels guarantee to discount below the advertised online rates. We display all Samui hotels that give such a guarantee, in writing. See the Samui map page for the full list. We put you in direct contact with the hotel, and take no commission.

.

Bohput's Fisherman's Village has emerged as one of Samui's major attractions

In recent years the fame of this night entertainment zone has begun to overshadow the beach’s reputation for good quality beach resorts. This is literally an old fishing village converted into a small market, and there is no other place like it on the island. Yes, it’s quite touristy, but there’s enough local flavour to give a very pleasant ambiance that now draws visitors from all over the island for an evening of drinks, dining by the beach – or dining right in the sand – and shopping.
.

Bophut was just a fishing village till the 1990s, with a jetty that sometimes served inter-island ferries and daytrip or dive boats. Other than that, it was simply a strip of ramshackle wooden houses lining the beach for about 200 metres on both sides of the jetty and a couple of small local shops supplying the community with basics.
.
The first signs of change in Bophut were the postcards, hats, sun-cream and cheap summer clothing that appeared in the shops surrounding the jetty. Then, slowly, both the numbers of foreigners and the shops selling goods to them increased.
.
Foreigners liked those old wooden shanties with million-dollar ocean views, and began to rent and move in. The writer (then a print publisher) also rented one as a Samui office for a few years in the early 1990s. By year 2000 the die was cast: Foreigners and businesses to service them began to take over and transform the little village. Small hotels and other businesses were set up. Some came and went, but the direction was always towards more tourism and less fish.
.
For the locals, the timing could not have been better. By 2000 it was difficult to catch a fish in the surrounding seas, and local fisherman were reduced to a low income from catching and drying small squid. Drying racks adorned in patterns of squid were the dominant sight in the village, even encroaching on small bungalows when backpackers were few and squid were many.
.
The transformation took twenty years, and now we could call it virtually complete. There are no more commercial fishermen in Bophut's Fisherman's Village, although, with the old timers still hanging around the jetty by day, there are plenty of yester-year tales of the sea. With the ocean surrounding Samui virtually barren of fish, the locals greatly appreciated the timely arrival of tourism. Many of the original inhabitants have, not surprisingly, gone. Who could resist the temptation of the good prices for their beachfront properties that the tourism operators alone could justify and afford? In Thai rationale, if you can't catch a fish, why live by the sea? Thai culture puts extremely low value on lifestyles exposed to sun, salt and ocean.
.
Most of the current occupants of the village arrived with tourism, and are doing a reasonable job of preserving some fo the old architecture while modernizing somewhat.
.

Bophut village's nightlife; quaint bars & beach restaurants.

There are many seafood restaurants offering romantic settings on the sand in the evening. But there are many others also. One can find steaks, pizzas and imported salmon, hotdogs and milk shakes. The variety here runs from the ever-popular seafood and Thai dishes – generally with “tamed-for-tourist” spicing –- to standard international cuisine and a whole variety of new and funky foods. Expect to find Russian cuisine served in its own language. With restaurants opening and closing by the season we dare not give many specifics. What is great this year might be gone next year – for a whole range of exotic reasons that involve rental contracts, visas and work permits for foreigners, business jealousies and corrupt land title deeds.
.
There are a few funky boutiques and some regular tourist clothes here - mostly along the rear side of the strip. The beachfront is prime space, and almost entirely taken up by bars and restaurants. Cheap clothing and a few fake, brand-name items are on offer from the night time hawker stalls.
.
Many people on beaches far from Bophut think this Fisherman's Village is one of the island's better attractions, and worth an evening visit no matter the distance. Built for the tourist trade, it is of course distinctly 'tourist' in flavour. Yet like so many things created in this country, it also retains a distinctly 'Thai' atmosphere. You'll never imagine you are in Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.
.

Fisherman's Village: some places foreign owned & run

There is an Australian sports bar, and a British pub, and a British-run restaurant. An American ran a small beach bar on the sand for some years. And from high season to high season there are others in Fisherman's Village with various national flavours, suggesting that a foreigner is either owner or manager. Sometimes one can see or meet those individuals, most of whom have colourful stories about the great contrasts between just visiting and doing business in Thailand.
.
However, expats come and go regularly. Some do set themselves up carefully, legally and stay for years. Others, however, leave for home, or are pushed out for reasons that often result from bureaucratic or nationalistic jealousies. Many others set up bars and restaurants with great expectations, only to find their money haemorrhaging year after year.
.
If you come back looking for a restaurant you saw and enjoyed a couple of year ago, don't be surprised if the location is completely transformed, the restaurant is gone and nothing looks as it did. Change comes fast in Thailand's world of tourism, and Bophut's Fisherman's Village is at the vortex of such transformations.
.

The Wharf – new lifestyle plaza expands Fisherman’s Village size and options

Fisherman’s Village gained a significant new, modern extension in 2016 when a new lifestyle plaza, The Wharf, opened on its western edge effectively extending the zone of restaurants, bars and night markets by 100 metres. But it added more than that, for here the shopping plaza run well back from the beach, giving space for a whole range of new shops. It’s modern, and not quite in flavour with the original village, but its casual ambiance at night with outdoors dining and beachside bar is pleasant indeed, if different.
.
But the critical difference it made is positive indeed; it opened the first large car park to the area, solving one of this popular village’s major drawbacks.
.
The plaza shops are open by day, but draw few visitors at that time. As an extension of Fishermen’s Village, it sees its major influx of visitors from sunset onwards. A night market opens at the back of this, beside the car park, attracting both locals and tourists.
.

The expanding street market at the back

On two or three nights each week a vibrant street market opens behind the new shopping centre, The Wharf; check, for the nights it opens change with the seasons and demand. This services both the local community as well as lots of tourist visitors, so it’s one of the few places where you can find lots of local food a local prices. It opens around sunset and goes till about 10PM. As the photos here show, the colours are especially vibrant in the fading sunlight.
.
There’s a wide range of snack foods that tourists buy to eat on the spot, and main dishes that Thai families take home for dinner. There are a couple of temporary sit-down bars where you can buy a drink and eat what you’ve bought from the surrounding stalls. Otherwise head take your food and head for one of the bears right on the beach sands, or beside it. There are lots of open-air areas for eating and drinking here.
.
Predictably, there’s also a wide range of Thai-made souvenir type products that foreign visitors like to buy. The photos here show just a few of them.
.

Check out some of the many pages of info & photos that we offer on Koh Samui, and about all beaches in Thailand with beachfront hotels:

by John Everingham