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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.  Paris Follies Cabaret (tel. 087030-8280) makes for a rollicking evening with one-hour shows performances featuring cross-dressers and transgender performers. Nightly shows are 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm. Admission is technically free, but you’re required to buy a drink, which is around 300B.  

When it comes to cocktails, Ko Samui’s five-star resorts all have outstanding bars—especially the Four Seasons and the W Hotel. Hotel bars offer stunning views and have bartenders who really know their stuff. However, the prices typically match the million dollar views. For an affordable tipple, try the following watering holes.  

In party-centric Chaweng, there is something for everyone. Bees Knees Brewpub (www.samuibrew.pub; tel. 085537-2498) is best for suds enthusiasts with five homemade beers on tap, like the easy-drinking wheaty bee and a stout-like black bee (they’re more flavorful than local lagers, like Chang). The brewery is behind a glass wall in the bar. Ark Bar (www.ark-bar.com; tel. 07796-1333) is home to a loud but fun all-day, all-night (well, 1am) beach club where DJs play house music, and fire shows and glow sticks light up the night. Magic Alambic Distillery (www.fb.com/rumdistillery; tel. 091816-7416) produces agricole-style rums distilled from fermented sugarcane. Part of the experience here is the five minute distillery tour which includes a video on the distilling process before guests do a tasting at the open-air bar. Their coconut rum is a best seller and uses fresh coconuts from the island. The French owners serve up a nice selection of French and Thai dishes, making this a fun mid-day stop for lunch and a cheeky drink. Legends (tel. 081747-0937) proudly proclaims "no techno, no boy bands" and plays mostly classic rock and blues. It’s a bit of a hole-in-the-wall, but it’s a good place for cheap beer and people watching. 

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Lava Lounge in Lamai (tel. 080886-5053) has 79B drinks at happy hour from 4-9pm, and it’s a nice cocktail bar with a laidback island vibe. In Bo PhutWoobar (www.wkohsamui.com; tel. 07791-5999) at the swish W Hotel is a must-go place for sunset: the drinks are strong, and the music is upbeat house music, a welcome reprieve from the island’s bad cover bands doing Maroon 5 and John Denver. The island’s best-known bar is CoCo Tam’s (www.fb.com/CoCoTams; tel. 091915-5664) in Fisherman’s Village. It is the epitome of beach bar with swings replacing barstools, beanbags on the sands, shisha pipes with fruit-flavored tobacco, strong rum cocktails, and fun music. Fire dancers perform on the beach nightly, and the show is one of the best on the island.

On the secluded west coast of the island, Nikki Beach (www.nikkibeach.com/kohsamui; tel. 07791-4500) hosts fabulous parties and brings in a string of top-rated international DJs to keep the jet-setting crowd dancing all night. Nearby, Air Bar (www.samui.intercontinental.com; tel. 07742-9100) drips with romance. Enjoy breathtaking views and crafted cocktails made with local fruits, like a lychee martini. There is a two-for-one happy hour from 7-8pm and sushi and Thai tapas for light bites.

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.