While I continue to recap the remainder of my endless summer, I’ve decided to jump out of chronological order and start sharing snippets of what I’ve been up to since I reached Southeast Asia this fall. Thanks for coming along on this roller coaster ride!
When Ian and I planned our getaway to Koh Samui this fall, we were all about playing full-stop tourist. However, I was a little stumped about what to do for the day we’d set aside to take a tour, sign up for a big activity or do some serious sightseeing. The weather in November is temperamental, which ruled out anything reliant on a heavy dose of Vitamin D. And with this being my fifth overnight trip to the island, I’d already seen most of the major temples and waterfalls — while I wasn’t opposed to seeing them again, I was curious to try something new. So I kept looking. And eventually, I stumbled upon Viator’s intriguing Drinks Tasting Tour. Considering we were mostly planning to spend our three days on the island eating and drinking everything in sight, it seemed like the perfect addition to our itinerary.
Because this was a true vacation and I was off the clock, I booked and paid for this tour myself and wasn’t planning to do a full write-up. But I had such an amazingly good time, how could I not? Yup, I love Viator so much that I use them even when I’m not on the job, and happily pay out of pocket for it. That’s pretty much my criteria for accepting any brand partnership, but it’s fun when I get to prove it.
We were picked up at our hotel at 10am by English expat Gavin, an eight year resident of Koh Samui. We’d spend a lot of time traversing the island by car throughout the day, but our chatty banter about life in Thailand on two neighboring but very different islands meant that it flew by.
Our first stop was Koh Samui’s one and only destination for island-made rum, Magic Alambic Distillery. Tucked in the Southeast corner of the island, Magic Alambic is a simple, rustic operation. There are no tours, just tastings, though Gavin did take us to poke around to see the big machinery in the back upon arrival. Opened in 2003, this rum haven is based on the traditional process of distillation from the owner’s homeland of Martinique.
Our tasting consisted of one straight and one lemon infused rum, as well as the house-made mixer syrup produced onsite; a secret recipe based in brown sugar and lime juice. The distillery used to produce almost a dozen flavors, though all but the two we tasted had been recently suspended due to technicalities of the ever changing local liquor laws. We loved chatting briefly with owner, Tony, a conversation which hinted at how frustrating producing alcohol in a conservative country like Thailand really can be. (Oh, how I would have loved to have sampled the coconut and pineapple flavors!)
While our tasting was included in the tour, shots are 50 baht a piece if you pop by on your own steam. We also took home a bottle of rum and a bottle of the house mixer, which were around 150 and 250 baht ($4 and $7US) each. There’s also an onsite French restaurant with dishes inspired by the West Indies, though rumor has it the place is closed on Mondays, so call ahead if you’re planning to have a meal here.
Next up was a visit to the only local Thai wine distributor in Samui. Thai produced wine is still relatively new and still seriously under-the-radar, though I predict it will only grow in popularity as Thai winemakers become more sophisticated in their techniques and residents and tourists alike become more interested in consuming local products and supporting local businesses.
To learn more, we stopped at a shop owned by a Thai woman named Nuch, a champion for locally produced wines. Again, as much as we enjoyed sampling the various whites, reds, and fruit infusions, our favorite aspect was listening to our hosts stories of business, booze, and life on the big island.
Technically the tour included tasting three wines, but I stopped counting and Nuch generously kept pouring. She was equally free-handed with her knowledge of the country’s vineyards and wineries. At the time we were just starting to plan a trip to Thailand’s Khao Yai wine region — a trip that we leave for this week! — and Nuch was a wealth of information. We left with two bottles; a gift for some friends and a gift for ourselves.
By this point we were definitely feeling merry, and so it was quiet perfectly timed that our next stop would involve a hearty lunch. Well, lunch and a DIY cocktail class. It was a booze tour, after all…
Now, let’s be honest here. When I book a tour that includes lunch, my expectations are usually pretty darn low. Sometimes they are exceeded, and that’s awesome, but usually they are not. When booking this particular tour, I expected lunch to be a few basic pad thai-like dishes at a nondescript roadside restaurant, and that would have been just fine. But what Gavin had in store for us? It was a full on game changer.
Ian and I looked at each other and cracked up when we pulled into Artizen, the stop for our lunch and make-your-own cocktail session. While putting together our list for all the places we wanted to eat and drink in Samui, the highly recommended Artizen had been high on the list. However, we had more restaurants on the list than available meals at which to eat in them, and so after much debate we’d decided to hold off on Artizen until next time. So imagine our delight at learning that we didn’t have to!
And thank goodness we hadn’t. The organic garden setting, the gourmet spread, the creative welcome cocktails and the fun experience of making our own with the restaurant’s owner — it all added up to a spot well in the running for our favorite destination of the day.
We had just one more stop in store, a visit to Koh Samui’s one and only beer brewery, Bees Knees Brewpub. While I’m not a beer fan, I sipped politely on the flight of four samples, and generously donated my full half-pint to Ian.
Bees Knees is right in the heart of Chaweng, and so as the tour came to a close around 4pm, we could choose to be driven back to our hotel or hang around Samui’s buzziest area.
We couldn’t stop raving about this tour to each other or to our booze-loving friends back on Koh Tao. At $72 per person, we felt like we got a great deal considering all that is included — rum tasting, wine tasting, beer tasting, cocktail tasting and making, and an extravagant lunch — and what you would pay in grossly overpriced cab rides if you tried to do it all yourself.
Yet Gavin went way beyond just a designated driver, and we truly enjoyed spending the day with him. His background in the food and beverage industry was palpable, as was his passion for supporting local businesses. Cheers — or as we say in Thailand, chock dee — to that.
I can’t recommend this day more highly for those looking to explore a different side to Koh Samui. Have you ever taken a booze tour on our travels?
While I am a Viator Ambassador, I independently booked and paid for this tour. Obviously, now as always, you’re getting my honest and unfiltered opinion.