Koh Samet

Koh Samet Rayong

Koh Samet Rayong

How to go Koh Samet you can take the 1st class bus from Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) to Ban Phe Koh Samet.

Koh Samet is a small island in Rayong Province, within easy reach of Bangkok. There's also one another smaller Koh Samet in Chumphon Province. Anyway place to visit we mentioned is Koh Samet in Rayong which located at Eastern board of Thailand, 179km by car from Bangkok. It consists of 3,552 square km area and 100 km of beach connect to the gulf of Thailand. The 10 islands group is abundant with marine resources. It contains many oddly shaped islands and rocks. The largest island is Koh Samet which is well known in South East Asia.

Koh Samet has superb beaches and relaxed atmosphere. Less than seven kms off the coast of Rayong Province in the eastern Gulf of Thailand, it combines the allure of a tropical paradise with reasonable proximity to Bangkok.

Koh Samet has been known as a safe anchorage for sailors since at least the 13th century and in the 19th century its sheer beauty was the inspiration for the literary masterpiece of Thailand's most famous romantic poet, Sunthorn Phu. In the 1970's it was 'discovered' by Thai teenagers and young couples seeking a weekend retreat from life in Bangkok. In spite of its protected status as part of the Khao Laem Ya - Samet National Marine Park the island has developed into a resort destination much loved by both Thais and foreigners. Episodic attempts by the authorities to evict the developers have not yet dislodged them, and bungalow accommodations are available all over the island.

More than a dozen coves and beaches provide visitors a range of choices from campsites on secluded, deserted beaches to bungalows with all the modern conveniences in more settled and gregarious communities.

Koh Samet is not overly renowned for its parties (unlike Ko Pha Ngan) or its diving (unlike Ko Tao), but it has both convenience and quietness in its favor. It's a popular tourist destination for Thais as well as foreigners for its proximity to Bangkok.

Most of Koh Samet, including all of the good parts, is part of Khao Laem Ya and Mu Ko Samet National Park and has an entry fee. Thais pay 20 baht, foreigners 200 baht for adult, and 100 baht for a child - a classic example of Thai dual pricing. If your ferry arrives at the main pier and you take a songthaew to the beaches, there will be a stop at the main ticket checkpoint. If your ferry arrives at one of the beaches, an officer will collect the fee as you step out of the surf. Note that there is plenty of foot traffic in and out of the park to the 7-Eleven, ATM or other shops and restaurants and if you have no bags you can nonchalantly walk into the park without anyone checking your ticket. There is a road via the temple which avoids the checkpoint entirely.

The 1st class bus from Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) to Ban Phe usually takes 3.5 hours, costs 178 baht, and terminates opposite the ferry piers (there's no direct service to Ban Phe from Moh Chit - nearest alternative is to Rayong, from there you can take a songthaew to Ban Phe). If you take a regular bus from Pattaya or Sattahip, you'll need to take a songthaew or charter a tuk-tuk to the ferry piers. Minibus services go straight to the piers.

Ferries from Ban Phe to Ko Samet take around 30 to 45 minutes. Only buy a one-way ticket, as there's no discount on round-trip tickets and you won't have to worry about losing it or finding that your ticket isn't valid for the most convenient return ferry. The ticket sellers may also offer to sell you the national park ticket - don't bother.

Alternatively, there are 2 speedboat companies that operate from the Phe Pier. A speedboat prices can range from 600B to NaaDaan pier to a few thousand baht for the outer-lying bays and beaches.

The nearest airport fielding commercial flights is U-Tapao, just east of Sattahip - about 45km from Ban Phe - however it only has flights to Ko Samui and Phuket.

There are direct 1st class bus services between Rayong and Suvarnabhumi Airport (the new BKK).

There are two methods to get around the island. The first is by songthaew (usually a rather well-worn pickup truck with two benches in the back and no roof), which costs 200 baht for a private trip, or between 20 and 60 baht per person for a full car, depending on which beach you are going to. This is a rather expensive method to get around the island, and the dusty roads can make it an uncomfortable trip. The second way is by renting a motorcycle. Signs advertise 300 baht per day or 100 baht per hour, but when you go to enquire about renting they will often say 400 or 500 baht per day. Insist on paying 300 baht. That is for mechanic moto. If you want to get automatic one, you will pay 400 Baht per day. You will usually be able to rent it from the hotel you are staying at. Leaving your passport or a deposit is not necessary or advisable.

You can also rent/hire an ATV/Quad/4x4 for 1600 baht/day

* Catch the sunset from dramatic cliffside locations along the south-west coastline.
* A fireshow at the renowned Ploy Thalee Restaurant/Bar on Saikaew Beach. They are held twice a night around 8.30pm and 10.30pm.

* Hiking

* Boat trips - should cost around 600 baht and can include snorkeling, fishing, a visit to the fish farms and floating restaurant, or a tour around the island

* Snorkeling/diving

* Yoga, ask for yoga at the Sea Breeze restaurant at Ao Pay beach. There is a yoga teacher who has been doing yoga for thirty years. He also does different types of massages (deep0tissue, aroma-therapy, relaxation etc). Contact Bapa at Sea Breeze restaurant for all kind of yoga, (different levels, group or private) and massages.

* Traditional on almost every South-East Asia beach, Ko Samet has started featuring "Full/Half/Dark Moon" nights - not be confused with the massive Full Moon Parties on Ko Pha Ngan or other parts of Southern Thailand - here they are simply an excuse for drink specials, which are present every night of the year anyway

* Drink the local speciality, a SangSom bucket, which is a toxic mix of Thai whiskey, red bull and coke, served in a kids sandbucket with lots of straws

Ko Samet doesn't have much in the way of shopping beyond basic beach accessories (sarongs, T-shirts, etc).

Most hotels have some books to trade or rent, and there are a growing number of hawkers selling books too.

Seafood, seafood, and seafood, some of the best barbeques are found along Ao Phai and Haat Sai Kaew beaches. But there's also meat and veggie curries as well as Western favorites like pizza, and a bakery that makes fresh bread at the Naga Bar and Bungalows on Ao Hin Khok. The best burgers on the island can be found at Saffron, while Jep's Restaurant offers cooking you'll still be missing a year after you leave -- try the chicken and cashew nuts with steamed rice. Almost every hotel and bungalow operation has its own restaurant but it's only the movies that differentiate them. Many also set up tables and chairs at night for dining on the beach.

If you are relaxing on the beach during the day there are plenty of hawkers selling fresh fruit, BBQ chicken wings, dried squid, papaya salad (can be extremely spicy) and even ice creams at reasonable prices.

Also if you need a break from Thai cuisine a number of the restaurants along Haat Sai Kaew make excellent club sandwiches. They also offer western style breakfast. (eg. bacon and eggs, yogurt or breakfast cereal)

In town (Na Dan), there are two smallish, more traditional Thai eateries that serve good quality Thai food at fairly cheap prices. One is located across the road from the 7/11 near the national park entrance, and the other is just a few shops down from the same 7/11. Both have menus in English.

If you're jonesing for some sticky rice and other country fare head down to Ao Wong Duan.

If you are after a traditional Thai breakfast there are a couple of ladies who set up their mobile eatery daily next to the Tourist Police checkpoint that services Haat Sai Kaew. They serve boiled chicken on rice (khao man gai tom), fried chicken and rice (khao man gai tort) or rice porridge (jok) for 20-30 baht. The food is fresh and they do a brisk trade serving locals as well as a few tourists.
[edit] Mid-range

* Gecko Bar - at the end of Ao Phai beach next to Silversand Resort, does an excellent barbeque with chicken steaks smothered in mushroom sauce and sizzling beef and chicken hotplates. Between 100 and 200 baht, these meals are definitely good value, try the fries or the competitively priced barbeque.
* Joe's - next to Ploy Thalee on Saikaew Beach, this newly redecorated restaurant has one of the best value barbeques on the island - large kebab, corn, potato and salad for around 100B.

* Ao Prao Resort. Very posh resort on the west side of the island. You might even see some of the Thai glitterati lounging about - if only you could recognize them.
* Samed Villa - located on the Ao Phai headland behind Silversand Resort, this stylish resort offers excellent steaks and mouthwatering seafood.
* Indian Summer - Samed's only Indian restaurant is located on Ao Noi Naa at the Baan Phu Paan boutique resort. Whilst it is located a fair way from the majority of the tourist beaches, the trip is well worth it for a delicious Indian feast served on the resort's private pier. (open from 5pm)

Although Ko Samet is not a renowned party island, Haat Sai Kaew and Ao Phai do get their fair share of backpackers, and therefore have their fair share of parties. Everyday on Ao Phai flyers are handed out from the different bars that advertise the drink specials for that night, and might even give you a free drink. Biggest nights are generally Thursday-Saturday, when more of the backpackers and expats come to the island.

The main bars along Haat Sai Kaew are

* Lima Bar: a small bar thats still getting started, but does excellent cocktails - try the chocolate martini. Located at the end of the village road, next to Buddy Bar.

* Ploy Bar: a large, generally Thai-style night spot that often has live acts and some manner of sideshow games. Located in the middle of Haat Sai Kaew, a big establishment, you can't miss it.

* Sunrise Bar: a small, newly opened bar located on the 'mermaid headland' at the bottom of Naga hill, this bar is a nice spot to relax with a drink in the late afternoon, or chill out and enjoy their selection of guest DJs.

and along Ao Hua Khok / Ao Phai are:

* Naga Bar - At the top of 'Naga Hill' between Haat Sai Kaew and Ao Hua Khok. Once 'the' bar on the island, it has gone downhill somewhat in the last few years, but still a good place to hang and enjoy cheap drinks and a few games of pool with locals and tourists alike.

* Tok's Little Bar - A small thatched hut serves as the main bar for this laid back, chilled out drinking spot located next to Naga Bar. They generally have good drink specials and a different theme for every night, so grab a bucket and chill out on a mat on the beach. Occasionally has some fireshows and special parties.

* Silversand Bar - at the opposite end of Ao Phai to Naga Bar. Arguably the most popular bar on the island, Silversand brings in the largest backpacker crowd, and is generally where everyone ends up at the end of the night. The bar boasts quite a big dancefloor and generally the best fire shows on the island.

* Gecko Bar - located just next to Silversand, this small but personal bar offers a superb selection of specialty cocktails and icecream sundaes, as well as pool tables and movies. You can't go past the bar's signature cocktail, the 'Beach Bar Coffee'.

* Baywatch bar, AO wong Duan. Popular bar for foreigners and Thai on AO Wong Duan with very relaxed chairs and an extended cocktail list to enjoy those long Thai nights. Currently they are expanding having rented the space from the bar next to them.

The local special can be reproduced as follows:

* one child's sandbucket, small
* one pint Mekong whiskey
* one can Coca-cola or Pepsi
* one scoop ice (Optional, most hardcore people can make the ice from tap water, which guarantees a massive hangover.)
* one to three straws

Place all ingredients in sandbucket and drink via straw. Repeat until the sandy beach rises up to meet you.

There's also the usual assortment of Thai beer - Chang, Tiger, San Miguel, Leo, and Carlsberg. Prices are significantly higher than on the mainland, but most bars have some form of happy hour. Alternatively, there's always the option of buying a 6-pack and sitting on the beach; for non-drinkers there are tropical fruit drinks.

Most of the accommodation centers around the beaches on the east coast try to arrive on the island as early as possible to have the best selection to choose from. Tourist season on Samet is generally from November - February and June - August, at which time finding vacant accommodation can be a challenge. Also, beware any public holidays, the island fills up like crazy!

The northern-most beaches of Hat Sai Keaw and Ao Hin Kok have many bugalow operations with typical Thai concrete bunker-style rooms. If your room doesn't have air conditioning it can get a little hot during the day. At the very northern end are a few upscale resorts. At beaches further south you'll find the bungalows ranging from dismal shacks to four-star, air-conditioned mini suites.

Unless you've made the mistake of booking your room with the touts back at the dock you'll find a place by strolling down the beach. As this island becomes more and more popular it's getting harder to find rock-bottom prices. On some beaches you can expect to pay 600 baht for the basics. Most of the accommodation is first-come, first-served and the cheaper bungalows tend to go fastest. High-end establishments usually take reservations by phone, fax, and via the web.

Always ask to see the room before taking it. Many rooms will have minimal bedding so you might want to bring your own sleep sack or sarong. Towels, soaps, toilet paper, etc. may not be provided in basic bungalows but should be for sale cheaply somewhere close by.

Always check that the windows on the room have well sealed mosquito screens. Dawn and dusk are the times that the mosquitos are out and about. It is well worth buying a mosquito aerosol spray and giving your room a blast before going out for your evening meal/drinks. Personal mosquito sprays or lotions are also recommended whilst you are out in the early morning or evening. Also if your room has an en-suite close its door as this will take away one water source for the mosquitoes. Also sleeping with a fan panning over the bed while you sleep makes it harder for any mosquitoes that you may have missed to actually land on you.

Always take a padlock and key with you if staying at some of the cheaper establishments. Some bungalow doors can be opened with a knife in seconds, and robberies, though less common than in the past, are still present.