At any given time, the Chaweng strip is certain to be disrupted occasionally by roaming pickup trucks with crackling PA systems blaring out advertisements in Thai and English for local Thai boxing bouts. Grab a flyer for times and locations, which vary.
Many of Samui's hotels and resorts have cultural shows featuring Thai dance that can be magical. If you like sequins and glamour, Samui puts on some entertaining katoey (drag queen) shows as well. Christy's Cabaret (tel. 08167-62181) at the north end of Chaweng puts on a gala extravaganza of high camp that's free of charge. Come well before the show starts at 10pm to get a good seat, and be prepared to make up for the free admission with a purchase of a cocktail.
For bars and discos, Chaweng is the place to be. There are classier clubs, such as Mint Bar, in Soi Green Mango, which hosts international DJs in a stylish setting, and the fashionable Q Bar up on the hill, a little remote from the main center. Solo Bar, on the beachfront road in the center of Chaweng (next to Starbucks), throws the best party Samui has to offer every Friday from 2pm to 1am, with free barbecue. Because it has DJs spinning great sounds, a pool table, and six plasma TV screens showing major sporting events, people tend to gather at Solo early before going on a walkabout, reconvening later at Solo Club just behind (part of the same enterprise), which stays open till dawn.
A somewhat dubious legend among a certain crowd in Chaweng is the nearby Green Mango, which bangs out cheesy house music while commercial sex workers cruise for foreign business. Just Jonno's (tel. 08578-99451) is a bar/diner at the entrance of Sala Samui Resort in Choeng Mon that provides a refreshing alternative to Chaweng bars. Appealing less to grungy barflies and more to yuppies, it fills a much needed gap in this isolated corner. It plays cool house music in the evenings and offers a free Full Moon BBQ with English-style beef burgers cooked by Jonno himself.
For live music on Chaweng, go no farther than Beatles' Bar, in Fisherman's Village, which sees gatherings of local expat musicians, or Coco Blues Company, on Chaweng Beach Road, a popular blues club-cum-restaurant with New Orleans-style atmosphere. Irish-owned/managed Tropical Murphy's, across from McDonald's in south Chaweng (tel. 07741-3614), is a slice of Ireland, with an authentic pub atmosphere, a full range of beers, and good tasty British grub. Live music on the second floor boosts the ambience but doesn't hinder conversation.
On Sunday afternoons, be sure to truck on over to the Secret Garden Pub, on Big Buddha Beach (tel. 07724-5253), for barbecue food, cheap beer, and a succession of local and guest musicians performing blues and rock songs. The crowd is more or less evenly split between tourists and expats, and it's all very relaxed and family friendly. There are also accommodations available at the attached bungalows.
Over at Lamai Beach, there's everything from beer bars of the sleazier variety to mud wrestling, lady Thai boxing, and a few decent music venues. Fusion breaks the mold with acid jazz, funk, soul, and drum 'n' bass nights; and down at Sub Club, decent DJs, a good drink selection, and professional dancers (not go-go girls) whip the crowd up into a frenzy till the small hours. Sports fans may be impressed by the gigantic screen that looms over the beer garden here. Bauhaus has cheap drinks and holds foam parties and attracts football fans to its screens in high season.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.