The road across the mountains
Koh Samui’s bigger than you think. Most of us who live here just know its outer perimeters. A few roads poke into the mysterious interior only to come to a disappointing end. Others are tracks requiring 4×4 vehicles and military-grade driving knowledge.
Just one concrete road crosses the entire island. It’s beautiful, unfrequented and offers a look at a world few visitors ever get to see.
Get ready for an amazing journey!
However, a bit of preparation is called for. You can drive the 15-kilometers in about half an hour. A small motorbike is a good way to do this, but beware of automatics; the brakes can stop working on long descents. You’ll also need to be very experienced as there are blind bends and steep slopes. With both combined. The flat land has its own dangers – watch out for patches of sand that can unseat you before you know it.
Traveling by car? Make sure yours is road-worthy and OK on very steep hills. You may need to turn off the air-con in order to get more power.
Basically: don’t get yourself into trouble, as many people do on this road. If you’re walking the distance, think about heatstroke and dehydration. The road is ideal for sport of any kind, as there’s so little traffic – but there are few opportunities for getting water and snacks. If you go alone, make sure you tell someone where you’re headed.
The road cuts through the eastern side of the island and connects Maenam with Lamai. It’s clearly signposted from either end.
From Maenam: turn towards the hills and follow soi 1 past the immigration center and simply keep going.
From Lamai: turn off the ring road at the lane that goes to Tamarind Springs Forest Spa, then keep going and follow the signs.
The first and last portions of the road, no matter which end you start from, are flat and traverse coconut plantations and fields.
When the land starts to rise, it does so unexpectedly: steep slopes lead up to the island’s central highlands. The road eventually takes you through a pass, but that’s only after you’ve negotiated some of the island’s steepest roads.
When you see the gradients, turn back if you’re in doubt – you’ll already have had a very scenic drive. Continue and you’ll need to keep your eyes on the road at all times.
The mountainous sections begin on the Maenam side with a steep section and blind bend immediately before Jungle Bell and then, immediately after you’ve passed this restaurant, a frightening ascent.
From the Lamai side, once you have gone 200m past Geko Gift Shop the road immediately becomes steep.
So the big question is: which is the easiest way to drive: from Maenam to Lamai or from Lamai to Maenam?
Maenam to Lamai has a single short, scary hill climb, which is enough to make many people consider approaching from the other side. Apart from that and the single blind bend it’s relatively easy.
From Lamai the hilly section is very steep and long. There are quite a few blind bends but no gradients that make you think you’re attempting the impossible.
On the way
Close to the watershed, and roughly half way across the island, you can get a glimpse of both the north and south coast at the same time, and close to this point an unpaved road takes you to to tranquil Khun Si Waterfall.
Close to the Maenam side of the watershed, there’s a parking spot with great views.
Food and Drink
Jungle Bell offers a range of Thai food and drinks. On the Maenam side The Mosque Tropical Garden, has good quality Halal food, and a couple of kilometers before you arrive at the ring road, Sereena Restaurant, which offers quality Italian food.