West coast town is government admin centre for Koh Samui
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Nathon town on Koh Samui’s west coast is not much more than a big village with some official buildings, two big jetties, a few small hotels and lots of shops. But this is Samui’s administration centre, the seat of district officials and police. Once it was far and away the island’s major urban centre, but that distinction has moved to Chaweng , where tourism has boosted a few beach bungalows among the coconut palms into a pulsating mini metropolis with a single purpose – to satisfy the beach holiday desires of endless swarms of tourists.
Tourism has indeed brought changes to Nathon – prosperity key among them – but it is surprising just how typical of a small Thai town this remains. Any visitor to Samui eager to see something of Thailand beyond their beachfront hotel should plan for an hour or two exploring the narrow streets, markets and waterfront of Nathon.
In addition to the various admin centres like district office, electricity and police buildings Nathon is notable as a major entry-exit point for the island, with the biggest of the two ferry companies, Seatran, operating large car ferries from one of the downtown jetties. Tour busses also join the never-ending stream of commercial and construction vehicles on and off these ferries, carrying Thais and tourists to and from Bangkok. The other company, Raja Ferries, operates from a jetty well south of town just before Lipa Noi Beach. In busy seasons each company runs a huge, 60-car ferry each way each hour through the day.
Nathon’s layout is simple, with just two major roads running parallel to the shore – with traffic running one-way in opposite directions – and several small lanes connecting these two. You can walk the entire town – or perhaps we should call it a village here – in about half an hour.
The waterfront is the focus of town, and the place where visitors like to sit, eat and drink while watching activities on water and land. Not surprisingly, sunset is a great time to be in Nathon, for the sun falling over the water often sends the sky into spectacular fiery spasms that multiply as they reflect off the ocean.