A Week on Koh Samet

This was our first trip to a Thai island and we were excited to get away from the big city of Bangkok with its heat, noise and confusion. 

We disembarked the ferry from Ban Phe to be greeted by a gigantic bronze mermaid statue emerging from the sea (Read more about our journey from Bangkok here). This mermaid has quite a look about her...pretty terrifying! 

Our hotel, Runa Runa 'the best guesthouse' was located in Samet village, easily walkable from the ferry pier. Luckily, we travel light (with Osprey Farpoint 40 backpacks), so walking was fairly easy. We immediately noticed the small, family-run shops and restaurants, and many, many mopeds! No high-rise apartment blocks so far, which was worlds away from where we'd come from in Bang Na, Bangkok. The climate was tropically humid and we soon worked up a sweat trying to find our guesthouse, which was surprisingly hard to find.

We followed our offline map to where we thought it was but ended up in a local's garden! Luckily, a helpful Spanish lady showed us where their office was; on the main strip but tucked away between other shops, bearing a discrete sign that was hard to spot. We took off our shoes before entering, which was time consuming (on travel days we wear lace-up trainers, as they're too big to fit in our bag. On our next trip to Thailand, we're coming with slip-ons!). We got the key and paid a 500 Baht deposit. Then we were shown to our room, which was quite far from the office down a little street, where locals were hanging out by their street carts watching tv, and stray dogs where trying to get morsels wherever they could.

Our room was basic but spacious. There was a fridge with a couple of bottles of water in it, little bottles of shampoo and soap, toilet paper and tea and coffee facilities (hot water was free of charge upstairs!). It had a fan and a standard Thai-style wet room bathroom. Pretty good for the price of 3,388 Baht/£79.72 for 7 nights.

We went out to explore the area. There were restaurants, massage parlours, a 7 Eleven, some small shops, and lots of dogs lying around. Motorbikes and songthaews zipped up and down the main street. We kept walking, going past the check-point for the national park (part of Koh Samet belongs to a national park). Tickets are 200 Baht for adults and 100 Baht for children for unlimited entry (they don't check tickets all the time, but there are always uniformed men at the check-point).

Past the check point, the path narrows and you come to the main beach; Hat Sai Kaew. It was just after sunset and this beach looked really beautiful.

The sand was white and squeaky underfoot, and the water crystal clear. There were quite a few big bars along the beach, all advertising fire shows and happy hours. Although it was the beginning of November and no one was around for a party, except for us and a few Chinese tourists.

The next day we searched for the cheapest 'backpacker' prices. Koh Samet, it turns out, is quite pricey. We found 'Chili's', a restaurant in Samet village which served quite reasonable Thai dishes and big portions too. A couple of pad Thais came to 160 Baht.

7 Eleven prices were higher than the mainland too- toasties were 29 Baht compared to 25 in Bangkok! If you are after western-style food, expect to pay a lot more. During our stay we found cheaper places. Our favourite was a congregation of street food carts down the Soi by Chili's. Here we found Thai dishes for 60 Baht, which was really reasonable. We tried a spicy gai pad prik gaeng (spicy chicken curry), and were given extra chilli as a challenge- aroy!

We had a week to explore the island and decided not to hire a moped. The island is so small, you don't really need one. It took us 40 minutes to walk to the western beach, Ao Prao, and an hour and a half to walk the coast to Ao Lung Dam on the southern end of the island. We found we couldn't walk to Ao Wai (the most southerly beach) along the coast. Walking was great and pretty easy but bring closed shoes, bug spray and lots of water!

The beaches were really beautiful. Our favourites were Ao Lung Dam for its lack of people (except for a few locals and a small bunch of people staying at one resort, who thought we were staying there too) and Ao Hin Khok's 'Silence Beach', where there weren't too many people and no alcohol/smoking was allowed. However, it's sad to say that litter is a big problem on this island. On some days we had to walk really far to find a rubbish-free area of the beach. Plastic bags, bottles and other flotsam are to be found all along this islands idyllic coastline. The most surprising perhaps was at Ao Prao, the island's most upmarket area where the shore is lined with expensive resorts, where we found a washed-up syringe. It certainly didn't make us feel good.

You can find really beautiful areas with no litter, away from the touristy parts, but it will take time to search them out. We didn't go to any of the big beach-side bars, but there was one little bar that took our fancy on the rocks of Ao Phai, called Sabaidee Bar.

This place exuded far-flung castaway vibes. Floor cushions and low-slung pallet wood tables looking out onto waves crashing over rocks looked like a slice of paradise to us. Butterflies floated overhead and happy 'hour' was from 4-7pm. We came back here a lot for gaa-faah yen (iced coffee) and Leo yai (large Leo beer).

Despite some environmental issues facing the island, we loved our week on Koh Samet. We discovered pockets of beauty and calm on an island that is a package-tour haven. We tried to reduce our impact by declining plastic bags ('mai sai tuung ka/kap' means 'no bag, please') but plastic bottles were a problem. We bought a lot of bottled water as you can't drink the tap water there. The best thing to do is buy a large bottle which will last longer than smaller bottles and recycle them wherever possible. It's interesting that the island has national park status and tourists are charged a high entrance fee, yet we saw no evidence of the money being spent on any sort of conservation. We wondered where all the money could have been going. 

When our week was up, we took a minibus and ferry to the easterly island of Koh Chang (read about our journey here!). We were excited for our next Thai island adventure.

Have you been to Koh Samet or are you planning a trip there?
Let us know what your trip was like in the comments!

Watch the vlog of our trip here:


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