Audiovisual Communication and Advertising and Public Relations. In the five years I spent at the university I learned to tell stories and make them profitable, but, above all, I found people to share them with. People like them, with whom I faced this new journey in the north of Thailand with a promise: to spend a few days on one of their islands as well. And Koh Samet would be the promised island.
The last time we spoke we had just spent a bright night enjoying Loy Krathong and Yee Peng, the popular Chiang Mai Lantern festival. This would be the last of our stops in the north of Thailand, but not of the country. One of the premises with which we faced this trip was to spend some time on some of its islands.
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Although internationally the Phi Phi archipelago, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and some others take all the spotlight, hundreds of islands dot the seas of the Thai Gulf. With such a good offer, it didn’t seem easy to choose a destination, but we always had three things clear: that it wouldn’t be too expensive to get there, that it wouldn’t be too touristy and that it would be accessible from Bangkok. And so Koh Samet appeared.
Table of Contents
How to get to Koh Samet
First of all, I want to make it clear that Koh Samet is NOT an un-touristic island, but tourism is mostly local and weekend, so if you get away from it in the off-season and find yourself a little more relaxed. Especially if you’re staying in the south of the island, although I’ll talk about that later. A little over 200 kilometres separate the aforementioned island from the Thai capital, from where several transports leave in this direction. You can take the Ban Phe quay in the province of Rayon as a reference, the starting point of the ferry to the island. To get there you can take one of the buses or minivans that leave daily from the Kaoh San Road in Bangkok or hire some private transport.
See transportation to Koh Samet from Bangkok
The bus or minivan tickets include the ferry ticket, and leave for just under 20 euros per person. However, once you arrive on the island, you will still have to pay something else: less than one euro for using the port (guiri tax) and six for the entrance to the national park. Yes, a good part of the island is a protected area so you have to pay that “toll”. By the way, keep that entrance like gold in cloth because you can be asked for it in the most unsuspected places. And if you don’t have it, you’ll have to pay for it again.
Returning to our story, we, being four, decided to do the tour in Grab (a platform similar to Uber’s very extended there) and we got the whole trip, including the ferry, for 21 euros per person. A little more expensive than a bus or minivan, but faster and more comfortable. The most sensible option considering that we had arrived in Bangkok after an eight-hour night bus ride from Chiang Mai. Another similar journey would have been criminal.
How to move through Koh Samet
It would be around 2pm when we arrived in Koh Samet, time to solve our next problem: internal transport. Actually, there wasn’t much to think about: we either took a taxi or rented a motorcycle. Although our plan for Koh Samet did not go much further than resting, playing and going on some excursions, we concluded that motorcycles would always give us more independence.
However, like everything else on this island, I can tell you that motorcycle rental is ostensibly more expensive than elsewhere in Thailand. So much so that we pay about 9 euros a day for each bike and, although you may not think it’s much, it is compared to what we pay, for example, in Pai. As you can tell from the photos, most rentals do not include a helmet. The reason they gave us: because there are no police there. Luckily, the main island road is in a decent state and there is not much traffic, so with caution you can get everywhere. As always, don’t forget common sense and insurance.
5% discount on travel insurance Iati
Where to sleep on Koh Samet
Interestingly, the most complicated road we encountered on the island was the one leading to our accommodation. Despite being a hotel of a certain level, the budget should not have been enough for asphalt.
One of the decisions that will greatly condition your experience at Koh Samet is precisely where you stay. This island is clearly differentiated into two parts: north and south. The north, which would be around the main dock, is the area with the most accommodation, food and shopping on the island and therefore the most popular area. Personally, I didn’t like it at all, but if you’re looking for a bit of a rager, it might be your place.
On the contrary, the south is the most peaceful area of the island and there the “only” thing you will find are good beaches, some things to see and a hotel offer of a little more level. In fact, apart from a few miles away, most of the hotels there are resort-type (I stress the type), so they are more or less charming accommodations located next to the beach. I’m telling you, you’re not going to find anything of an excessive level, but there are some great things at an affordable price. That said, here are some recommendations.
Despite the small size of the place, in Airbnb you will find a considerable offer of accommodation.
25 euro gift on AirBnb
If you settle for a bed in a shared room, 12 euros will cost you to sleep at Olly’s Bar and Hostel, one of the best rated hostels in the area.
See Ollys Bar and Hostel
One of the best lodgings that the island offers is the Samed Villa Resort, a quite category hotel for about 70 euros the double room.
View Samed Villa Resort
We stayed at the Sangthian Beach Resort, a nice resort located on the beach of the same name. Although the resort is nice, the level of your room will depend a lot on what you are willing to pay. From 50 euros a night you get double.
View Sangthian Beach Resort
After so many hours of travel, we arrived at the hotel with just enough desire to take a bath on the beach, eat something, have a beer in the light of a beautiful moon and rest listening to the waves from our room. Tomorrow would be another day.
What to see on Koh Samet
And tomorrow arrived, this being the day chosen to go out and discover the ins and outs of the island (the only one we had complete). It’s a great tourist attraction, but you can still find things to see on Koh Samet.
Koh Samet Beaches
Like most islands, the best plan Koh Samet has to offer is probably in the form of a beach. And although, I had my doubts about the quality of them (I’ve been more than a little disappointed with the coastal areas of Asia), it really has some pretty good beaches.
What you should know is that most of these beaches are in the south and are part of some hotel or resort complex. That doesn’t mean you can’t get in whether you’re staying there or not.
Sai Kaew, Ao Phrao, Ao Kio, Ao Wai, Ao Nuan… and almost any other “Ao” you find on the map is worth a few minutes at least. Our hotel, for example, was located in the middle of Ao Thian beach. Judge for yourself.
Northern Koh Samet
As I mentioned above, the north of the island is the most exploited area and it’s the place you should go if you want to get a little atmosphere and go out. However, it is also the most crowded area and you will probably have to share your little piece of sand with a Thai family or with the flamenco-shaped float of a Chinese tourist. The reality is that we only saw it in passing, but it aroused zero interest in me.
The southern tip of the island
Even if we wanted to amortize the rent of our motorcycles to the maximum, no matter how many laps we wanted to take, the “islet” is barely 15 square kilometers, so without much effort we could ride it from end to end.
If you also dare to give it a good ride, know that at the southern end is the Cape Toei (Laem Toei), an interesting rocky landscape at least to take a couple of pictures.
Six Island Tour
When we visited the island from top to bottom, it seemed that the only way left to satisfy our tourist “gluttony” would be to go out and explore the surroundings. And what can you find in the outskirts of an island? Well, other islands. Actually, most of them are more islands than islets, rocks in some cases, and unless you have your own boat, you will have to visit them in excursion format.
About 20 euros cost us the boat trip with “food”, “snack” and water included. We would not be alone, among the crew and other tourists who signed up for the party we would be around 20 sailors. And with all of them, we would do this tour of the six islands.
Snorkeling in Koh Khang Khao
The first stop of this day would be to do a little snorkeling next to the “islet” of Khang Khao. And although I’m telling you that you won’t find Nemo under those waters, there are some interesting little fish around.
From the water, we move to the surface of the island, even if you don’t exactly expect a Windows desktop background.
In fact, despite its diminutive size, it was very sad to see the amount of garbage it accumulated.
I open parenthesis to comment that, in spite of the fact that in this return to Thailand I have not found as much garbage as in other journeys through Asia, Koh Samet was a new impact in this sense.
Both the main island and any of the islets we visited had the garbage as punishment. It is clear that coastal areas are particularly sensitive to this current problem. So, you know, #LaBasuraNoDaLikes.
Lunch at Koh Ku Dee
Going back to our story, we would dedicate the lunch break to Koh Ku Dee, an island a little more island than its neighbor below, but with quite a bit of grace. Some photo you can steal from him, I guess.
Posing in Koh Kham
A handful of other sparks have the island of Koh Kham, small…
… but with a good beach and considerable views to the also island of Koh Krauy. The first stop on the tour that was worthwhile.
More snorkeling in Koh Pla Tin
Although the excursion started quite weak, as the day progressed the level of what we saw also increased. So much so that our second and last snorkeling stop was one of the most beautiful moments of the day, not so much because of what could be seen underwater, but rather because of where we were.
Koh Talu, best for last
Indeed, the best for the end. Among all the things we saw that day, it didn’t take long for the island of Koh Talu to rank high on the list. No doubt the most interesting of them all.
Next to Koh Kham, this was the only island where I would have “repanching” a good time on the beach…
… but between the time I turned around and not, it was time to sail again. In general, I could tell you that your interest in this tour should be directly proportional to the money and time you have. If you’re covered in both, take advantage and get out there. If you go a little fair, then stay on Koh Samet, you don’t miss so much.
Say goodbye with a sunset
Once the mentioned journey was over, Denis, a dear German we met on the excursion, invited us to say goodbye to the day with him at this viewpoint…
… one of the best spots on the island to watch the sunset. In general, in such a narrow surface it is not difficult to find good views, although the most beautiful thing about a sunset is always the person you look at it with.
And when it comes to beautiful people, this trip takes the cake. These two weeks of discovering new corners of the land of smiles have not been able to have better company. Judit, Amaia and Celia, three of the best lessons I ever had at university, sharing with me a 100% Not Included trip. Although 2019 has been full of unforgettable adventures, returning to Thailand with friends has been like going back to the origins, as if this had been a continuation of that journey in 2014. Something tells me this won’t be the last plane we get on together.
I will end here the story of Koh Samet and this return to Thailand, although I will continue to complete the travel guide with new publications about the country. I don’t know how he does it but Thailand always comes to me at the right time. I guess there’s no bad time to come to this part of the world.
More useful information in our travel guide to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore