I haven’t really done classic backpacking Thailand, so far. I spent time in Bangkok without ever getting close to Khao San Road, never planned my route to go through Phuket, and originally hadn’t even considered going down to an island.
But losing my wallet meant delaying my Chinese visa application, so I would need to spend a couple extra days near Bangkok while it got processed. So a quick Google search for ‘beach near Bangkok’ suggested Ko Samet. Or Koh Samet. Or Koh Samed. I still don’t know, and nor do the islanders themselves from the contradictory signs I saw on the island. Either way, two days on an idyllic beach seemed exactly like the relaxation I needed after the fuck up of the arrival.
But that was before my dear friends at the Chinese Visa Centre in Bangkok told me that, actually, regulations changed just recently and that it now takes three weeks for a tourist visa to be processed for someone in Thailand as a tourist, making me an angry, emotional and stressed-out mess.
Then I went to the beach.
The trip to Ko Samet is really easy: I bought a return bus ticket to Ban Phe from the Ekkamai bus station, together with a return ticket for the ferry from Ban Phe to Ko Samet for 393BHT altogether. It’s a four-hour ride, the bus has AC and you get given a bottle of water. Truth be told, it’s worth it for the AC enough.
Ko Samet is a relatively small island that doubles as a national park, Khao Laem Ya – Mu Ko Samet. It’s small enough that it’s walkable – you could probably do it all over a day. I only had two nights on the island, so I decided to spend my full day doing very little walking. Rather, I had breakfast there:
Then a few hours later, I headed to the main beach and walked down the coast until I settled on this bit of Ao Phai for a dip, tan and snooze:
Terrible, I know.
Ko Samet isn’t one of the big party islands, but it’s supposed to have a bit of a nightlife still. So I went wild… and had a grand total of one beer. That is the only alcohol I have consumed on this trip so far. Would you believe it? (I wouldn’t, and yet).
I made a friend at the hostel who had rented a motorcycle for his time on the island, so on my second night we went around the island to catch a bit of the sunset.
Shortly after this was taken, these fire-throwers did a trick that involved throwing burning embers all over the place – all the way into my top. I have marks to prove it. Thailand is where my luck goes to die.
Here, like in Bangkok, religion is omnipresent. There are shrines dotted around – in between two shops, at the end of a beach, all always crowded with bottles of sodas, juices and plates of fruit – and suddenly a bigger temple. I rarely saw the young bowing to them or praying at the temples, though. In Bangkok, I actually noted that some of the shrines were also… Pokestops. I wonder what Buddha would say about that.
Going to Ko Samet?
- Take the Cherdchai bus from Ekkamai station to Ban Phe, then a ferry from Nuanthip pier to Nadan pier. You will have to pay 20BHT when you arrive to pay for the maintenance of the pier.
- Entry to the national park costs 200BHT for foreigners, which you have to pay as you get near to the entrance to the main beach, Haad Sai Kaew. If you’re staying on the main road between the ferry terminal and said entrance, and enter without carrying a rucksack or suitcase, chances are you won’t have to pay the fee.
- Budget a little higher than on the mainland. Islands are for tourists, with matching prices.
- Tours are organised to take tourists to the island’s various beaches by boat over the course of one afternoon, or to island-hop to Ko Samet’s neighbouring islands. Prices are 400-600BHT. I can’t comment as to whether they’re worth it, as I chose to plop myself on the beach and stay there.