Saturday, January 14, 2012

Thailand (2011): Koh Samet


We return to Pattaya on November 22, at night, and we remain there for two days. On November 24, in the morning we take a bus to Ban Phe where we board the ferry to the island of Koh Samet. We'll stay there until December, 1st.
Koh Samet – written also as Ko Samet or Ko Samed – is one of the most popular islands in the Gulf of Thailand. It's more popular among Thai people than among tourists from the West because of its relatively short distance from Bangkok – you can get there in 3-4 hours. Both factors outweighed that we chose this place and not for example Koh Phi Phi, known as the Bond island.

Getting there

*Travel agencies in Bangkok and Pattaya offer organized trips to Koh Samet; the journey takes 3-4 hours; cost: 200-400 THB; you can buy an option a ferry ticket included.
*You can go by yourself by bus from the East Bus Terminal in Bangkok to Ban Phe (it takes 4 hours) or go to Rayong and from there to Ban Phe by songthaew or bus. Also from Pattaya you need to go first to Rayong and hence farther to Ban Phe because there's no direct connection.
*From Ban Phe, from two main piers, from 8.00 until 17.00, every 15 minutes ferries should depart for Koh Samet, sometimes more seldom if there are less tourists. It's best to choose the ferry which has some people aboard and but a ticket after getting on board (the cost is the same as in the counter). You need to be careful to take the right ferry heading for the beach you want to go to.

Ferry from Ban Phe to Koh Samet
Ferries look as if they remembered the times of old, they seem older than the grandfathers of the young coxswains. It's surprising how they still function...

After you've arrived you can take a songthaew or... go on foot. The island is not big and you can reach every beach in more or less a quarter to half an hour. On your way there you can learn some topography of the island. But such a walk at noon, in the heat, on terrible road and with a heavy suitcase is not a pleasant one.
Ticket to the national park
*The island is in fact a national park and you have to pay to enter. The fee is 200 THB per person. You have to have your ticket on you because the park staff have the right to inspect you. Thus, even if you go to Ban Phe and leave the island, you can always come back with this ticket, without having to pay once again.
*There aren't many stores on the island. Most tourists go shopping to the self-service and well-stocked 7Eleven, next to the checkpoint to the national park.
*There are several ATM's on the island, at 7Eleven stores. However I didn't notice any exchanges there.

Self-service 7Eleven
Thereare adozen orso beacheson KohIsland. Thelargest onesare: HatSai Kaeo,Ao HinKok,Ao Phai,Ao TubTim and AoNuan. Butif youexpecti broad,extending formiles, sandybeaches you'llbe disappointed.The beachesare verynarrow andshort, crossedby rockypaths andcliffs. Thecliffs arevery picturesqueat sunset.They lookstunning inthe pictures...Most touriststake alsopictures nearthe statueof Mermaid.This terriblething seemsto beset herejust forthat purpose,but inmy opinionit's farfrom beingbeautiful.

Ao Hin Kok
Accommodation is fairly well developed, there are mostly small groups of bungalows. In the high season it's difficult to find a hut with a bathroom and air conditioning for less than 1200 THB. Rooms can be rented from 500 THB but they are usually tiny rooms with a fan and shared bathroom.

Jep's Bungalows
We chose Jep's Bungalows, not too cheap, but for the price we got a comfortable place to stay, with breakfast-buffet – really rich.

Afternoon coffee on the beach
You can eat in a dozen or so establishments that are located along the beach and the main road crossing the island. You can get a dinner for 200 THB as well as for 1000. Coffee, nescafe-like costs 40 THB, and a real coffee from the machine – 80. Beer costs 80-120 THB.
Guidebooks advice against mosquitos. We didn't notice any invasion of them but in the evening it's good to have something with DEET.

In my opinion, Koh Samet is a place suitable for not more than a week's rest. We planned to spend here 11 days but after a week we began to be bored to death. Besides swimming and sunbathing on the beach, going for a coffee or a beer, and several tours, there's not much to do here. On the other hand, there are some advantages: the island is ideal for rest and relaxation. You won't encounter here hordes of German and British teenagers, drinking until late to techno rhythms and throwing up anywhere. On weekends the island is full of the groups of Thai youngsters or whole families, however the locals don't stay till late and aren't so noisy as the youth from Europe.

One of the beaches in the afternoon with rock uncovered by the outflow


Many agencies propose additional attractions while on Koh Samet. Following there are a few words about the most popular ones.
*Seven islands adventure tour. The speed boat takes you to the island of Koh Kudi and then a visit to turtles farm on Ko Mun Nai is scheduled. From there you head for Koh Mun Klang. Two next islands are Mun Nok and Koh Talu where you can admire beautiful scenery. Time: 10.00-17.00; price 1200 THB (includes snorkeling equipment, lunch, fruit and soft drinks).
*Coral island, four islands. Tour by a speed boat to Koh Kudi, Koh Kham, Koh Plateenand and Koh Talu with their beautiful beaches. Return to Koh Samet and a visit to fish and turtles farm. Time: 12.00-17.00; price: 600 THB (includes snorkeling equipment, fruit and mineral water).
*Discover Koh Samet island. Tour by a speed boat around the island. Snorkeling on Ao Phrao beach. At the end a visit to fish and turtles farm. Time: 12.00-15.00; price: 400 THB (includes snorkeling equipment, fruit and mineral water).
*Sunset trip. A boat takes several people on a trip around the island. On Ao Phrao beach they have time for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, admiring sunset. Time: 16.00-18.00; price: 400 THB (includes snorkeling equipment, fruit and mineral water.)

Picturesque rocks on one of the beaches
As I already mentioned, we were supposed to spent here 11 days, but we leave after a week. In the meantime, to have a little break from the sun we decide to make a trip to Ban Phe. What a waste of time! We geot tired to death, the heat is high and there's really nothing to do in the town, apart from walking to and fro along the main road and peepping into some shops with souvenirs and mobiles.
From Koh Samet we head for Pattaya from where we take a bus to Bangkok. There we'll spend the last days of our holiday – one day we'll spare for a tour to Ayutthaya which once was a capital of the country.

Songthaew - a popular means of transportation in Thailand
To get to know the island better we decide to look for a bungalow on foot

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