Koh Samui has a large expat community, with the majority being from the UK, France, Germany, Scandinavia and Russia. The island has several good schools, and boasts the UK affiliated International School of Samui to cater for both the expat family needs as well as those of wealthier Thais. Most locals can speak a fair amount of English, being exposed to so many foreigners, and with tourism being the island's main income. Samui offers all the modern conveniences, with supermarkets such as Tesco Lotus, Big C and Macro. The island has a bowling alley and cinema, five hospitals, and an abundance of optometrists, dentists and pharmacies. It does not at this stage have the large shopping malls of Phuket. With all of these western influences, Samui may no longer be considered 'real Thailand', but there are still areas of culture to be found. One only has to attend a buffalo fight, bird singing competition, or authentic Muay Thai fight to see where the locals congregate in their free time.
Samui has a number of excellent viewpoints, though you'll either need to be on a tour or have your own transport to reach them. The most popular is Secret Garden, a large sculpture garden off the Airforce road towards the centre of the island. Built by a fourth generation Samui native who died a few years ago, the sculptures are based on the Buddhist scriptures and are certainly worth taking a peek at. The big selling point here though, are the stunning views. Other viewpoints include Woodlands Resort and the Yod Khao Restaurant. Both are marked on maps of the island. A road constructed in 2010 now joins Lamai to Mae Nam. From Lamai, it leaves the Ring Road near Tamarind Springs, and from Mae Nam, turn left at the bridge opposite My Bar. This road winds through the jungle, banana and coconut plantations and over hills, offering spectacular views as well as scenery from old Samui, as it is not yet developed along the road.