The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Koh Samet–Bangkok’s Closest Paradise

Days 303-310, September 26-October 2, 2011

Koh Samet(or Samed, I’ve seen it spelled both ways) is a small island not too far away from Bangkok. It is actually the closest island to the city and thus a popular choice among Bangkokians to head over for a weekend away from The Big Smoke. The island isn’t very big, but for an introduction to Thai island living it does a pretty decent job.

And like most islands, it’s easy to get stuck and lost in the whole doing nothing vibe.

IMG_3626Getting to the island is a surprisingly stress-free and easy procedure. From the Bangkok Eastern Bus Terminal(Ekkamai) one simply needs to grab a bus ticket to Ban Phe, the small town where the ferry port is located. To make things even easier, at the bus terminal, there is a ticket window selling tickets specifically for Koh Samet, including the ferry ticket. It’s not necessary, but it’s convenient. And there’s no mark-up. You would pay the same price for the ferry right at the port. The bus to Ban Phe, which drops you off right across the street from the pier, was 157 Baht, while the return ticket with the ferry was 100 Baht. There’s no discount with getting a return ticket.

Buses run every hour from early morning to late afternoon and I was lucky to get to the bus terminal and buy my ticket just as it was leaving. While the free bottled water and snacks on the bus were certainly nice, having Thai karaoke blaring on the TV for the entire three hour journey was not nice.

IMG_3637At the pier, you are first directed to a lady at a long table attempting to sell you a room reservation for a bungalow. My advice, skip it. Cheapest she would go was 600 baht. I ended up finding a place, with the help of a Kiwi family, for 300 baht. From there, you buy your “entry” to the National Park as the entire island is technically one. 500 Baht there. But with the sticker you get, you get a free taxi ride to the beach of your choice.

The ferry to the island only ends up leaving once there’s a minimum amount of people on board. And the last one leaves for the island at 5pm so it’s best to grab an early bus from Bangkok lest you get stuck in Ban Phe for the night or fork over over 1000 baht for a private speedboat. On the ferry, I met a family from New Zealand. Hilary and Ken and their son Arron, who lives with his partner(gaydar clues in right there) in Bangkok.

IMG_3698We got the taxi to the main beach, Diamond Beach and decided to walk along the main road to find a place to stay. We passed many of the more popular places(places Lonely Planet suggested) and continued for about two kilometers to Ao Phai beach. With Arron being able to speak flawless [Bangkok] Thai, we managed to find some nice bungalows. As I stated above, mine was 300 baht a night(~CDN$10) for a fan room with private bath. The Air Con room was 700 Baht. It wasn’t right on the water, but it wasn’t a long walk either.

IMG_3652For the few days that the Kiwi’s were on the island, I basically hung out with them. We did the beach together, drinks in the evening, and dinner as well. We even, the next day, walked along the water further down the island in search of even cheaper places(or similar priced) closer to the water. No go on that. Cheapest bungalow on the water we found was 600 Baht.

Arron and I hung out even more when his parents hunkered off to bed, taking full advantage of IMG_3691the great happy hour special the beach bar closest to us had(Coin toss. You win, you get your drink for free. I had insane luck). The club, Silversand, even played surprisingly good music.

And I was a good boy. I didn’t pull any moves on Arron. He had a partner, remember?

When the three of them left back to Bangkok, I began a good four additional night stint on the island. It was very easy to sleep in and do nothing. Go for a late lunch by the water. Hike along the water’s edge to Ao Nuon, probably the quietest cove on the island that I came across. That IMG_3728was by far my most favourite beach on the island and went back there numerous times.

Unfortunately for me, I ended up getting a bit of an ear infection, most likely Swimmer’s Ear, while on the island and my last few days were spent out of the water. I took that opportunity to walk on the western side of the island which has very few beaches and is more of the cliff side of the island. It was beautiful though, with many different kinds of rock morphology cropping up.

I really enjoyed my stay on Koh Samet, except for the Swimmer’s Ear, and could easily have stayed longer. And where I was staying was perfect. It was quiet at night, but within walking distance of the best bar/club around, and not too far from some isolated beaches to kick back with a good book. The prices, as I learned, are quite a bit higher than on other islands in Thailand but its proximity to Bangkok is probably the reason for this fact. It’s still a cheap and easy escape from The Big Smoke.

And if you’re lucky, you might get some sun as well.

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