With a couple of days to spare in between traversing the neon lit expanse of Bangkok and heading to the green mountain city of Chiang Mai in the north, we pulled out a map to locate an island not too far from Bangkok.
After some flash research, we ended up opting for Koh Samet, an island known for it’s close proximity to Bangkok, it’s silky white beaches and clear waters, and it’s – as we discovered – dubious National Park status.
We only had three days on Koh Samet, and though we prefer to travel slowly as often as possible, I’ve got to say that unless you’re keen to just kick back on a white sand beach for a week, then Koh Samet can be easily covered in that time.
There’s only one road on Koh Samet
The overall lack of development and small size of Koh Samet means that there’s just one main road on the island. The road runs from Nadan Pier, where the boat from the mainland docks, down the eastern coastline. Like most travellers to Koh Samet, we decided to rent a scooter. Scooter rentals only set you back about 300 – 400 baht per day and give you the freedom to stop off anywhere you want along the coastline. The road is well paved too, so it’s a smooth ride.
Viewpoints and rocky outcrops along the coast
There are viewpoints and scenic spots scattered all along the main through through Koh Samet with endless photo ops and possibilities for exploring along the cliff tops. Lots of people stop for photos, but there are also some short trails along the rocks if you don’t mind clambering down a bit. It’s not flip-flop appropriate though, so make sure you’ve got some sturdy shoes on if you’re going to start exploring off the path; fortunately, we had our hiking sandals on when we were there.
White sand beaches and turquoise waters
If you can, avoid spending too long on Diamond beach, which is the most developed and touristy. The beaches around the dock area are much more well known than the ones further south, so it’s better to head that way. We met a guy who told us that he ignored everything around the dock and drove south until he found some tropical, secluded beach bungalows as soon as he’d arrived on Koh Samet. That was at Ao Lung Dam, which was pretty quiet, but if you keep scootering you can find even more secluded bays without any development at all. Even in rainy season it’s sunglasses and beach towel weather.
Where to stay on Koh Samet
Koh Samet has large luxury resorts, secluded beach-front bungalows and everything in between. Accommodation and food on islands is notorious for being more expensive because so many things need to be brought across from the mainland, but we managed to find a really good deal. As always, we wanted a budget-friendly place with quick wifi, and found a great place through Airbnb. The owner, Chris, happened to be from my hometown of Watford (it’s a small world sometimes), and was super helpful. Not to mention that his place is close to Antique Cafe where you can get delicious blueberry smoothies and a strong cortado if the owners are awake.
Koh Samet in rainy season
After one humid day and a the next scorching tropical sunshine, we were optimistic that rainy season wasn’t going to affect Koh Samet but the third day didn’t follow suit. Even though Koh Samet has far lower rainfall than any of the other Thai islands, we woke up to a tremendous storm, followed by a power cut, and no signs of it easing off. Nearly the whole island shut down in response to this storm but the winds were low enough that the larger boats were still going out. Is it worth going in rainy season? Well, as long as you don’t mind the chance of rain, then off-season does mean it’s less touristy and accommodation is cheaper.
How to get to Koh Samet
The journey from Bangkok to Koh Samet takes half a day. A four hour bus ride from Bangkok’s Ekamai station will get you to the small port town of Ban Phe, traffic permitting. From there, a rickety ferry brings you across to Koh Samet’s northern pier in about 40 minutes. The ferries leave frequently, even during rainy season.
Thanks to Cloggs for our hiking sandals that handled all kinds terrain and to Maui Jim for my sunglasses.*