On my trip to Koh Samet. A month ago I was able to take a long weekend and visit Koh Samet, also romanized as Koh Samed, an island relatively close to Bangkok. That Thursday morning I hopped on a 8 baht city bus from my studio apartment in On Nut and went to the eastern bus terminal in Ekkamai and then got a one way ticket to the Ban Phe pier. While sitting in the fanned waiting room I realized that I had forgotten my passport at home, so I hopped on a motorcycle taxi and ran home to get my passport. By law I am required to have it with me at all times, but I did not show it once. I told the driver and ever other motorcycle driver in the area that was staring at me, that I needed to go to On Nut BTS, he nodded his head, proceeded to take me down Sukhumvit then made a weird turn that I wasn’t familiar with, I thought he may know a faster way, but after a while it became clear that he had no idea where he was going. As I was pressed for time this was annoying and I had to tap him on his helmet and use hang gestures to get him to go the BTS station, this was an awkward dealing, but he didn’t seem to mind. After getting my passport I went to the motorcycle taxi stand right outside of my apartment and told the driver that I needed to go to the Ekkamai BTS, he was younger and spoke more English, which made things much easier, we negotiated a price, he handed me a helmet (which was a first for me, but apparently required by law) and quickly got me to the bus terminal where thanks to the fact that Thailand (like many other countries and cultures to be fair) operate slightly behind schedule sometimes, I was able to hop on the air conditioned bus and sit there for another 10 minutes before we actually left the terminal.
After arriving in Rayong I made my way through the tented market to the pier. There were tables where rather pushy kathoey agents were making sleeping arrangements for tourists. Although it might give some people peace of mind to make arrangements before getting to the island I found that it wasn’t necessary. I have read that the island fills up quickly on weekends, but I was a bit early. The price for the ferry was 100 baht roundtrip, but there was an extra 200 baht farang entrance fee as Koh Samet is a national park.
After waiting for the required amount of people for the ferry to take off (20 people, regardless of time) we went across the sea to the island. After everyone was on the boat, another one pulled up beside us, the Thais on the ferry started to get on the other boat, one of the men was kind enough to tell me that the boat we were on was broken, so I got on the other boat.
I stayed at a place called Sea Breeze Bungalows. I felt that the location was great, the price was moderate, but the bungalow was a bit on the gross side. Now let me preference this by saying I was looking for cheap accommodations and so I didn’t expect too much, but the room was pretty gnarly. On a side note the man working at the counter in the mornings and afternoon was super nice and helpful, where as the woman working there wasn’t friendly.
After dropping my stuff off and inspecting the place for bed bugs, I went to check out the beach closest to my bungalow, I hadn’t eaten all day and was pleased to find a women selling noodles on the beach.
Koh Samed for all intents and purposes had nice beaches. The island seemed to appeal to folks living in Bangkok to come on the weekend to hang out by mellow waters and sit in a 100 baht rented chair (with an umbrella) for a day or two to escape city life. All the beaches are within walking distance of each other and don’t differ much though and I found that 4 days there was overkill considering that I didn’t do any diving.
The early mornings were the best times on the island. There was a nice relaxed, clean vibe. However, by the early afternoon when I witnessed other foreigners begin their topless sunbathing (which isn’t cool in Thailand where people swim fully clothed), or getting completely naked and changing into their swimsuits right on the beach (seriously?) I was a little put off (a common theme so far with my time in Thailand).
My trip was additionally tainted by an experience that I had been mildly dreading for weeks in Bangkok. One early morning I was walking along the jungle road back to my bungalow and two dogs on the side of the road jumped on me (perhaps playfully, but unprovoked and really aggressively) one of them was showing his teeth and growling and he bit my leg. Not hard and it didn’t draw blood just a pink scratch, but it was worrisome. They didn’t stop until I rather sternly yelled to the owner, who was watching from 300 meters away. I yelled out “HEY!” and the owner called them off (in English). She then told me “it’s okay, they are friends”, as if to tell me to play nice with her dogs. Her casualness to the whole thing really shook me. I was physically fine, but a little emotionally beat up. Because of the scratch I did end going to the Red Cross in Bangkok and get the rabies vaccine. It wasn’t too expensive and ironically it was right next to the school that I had been working at, it was just real, real.
All bummer ‘tude aside there were a few things that I found joy in while on the island. I did find a nice quiet little beach spot to hangout on that was quite enjoyable. I had to walk a bit to get there, which meant that it was less crowded. This beach seemed to attract families – all kinds of families and I found it a good beach to people watch.
Another thing that I quite enjoyed was the time I had breakfast at Jep’s Bungalows. It was pricey and the food was not amazing, but they were open early, the tables were right on the beach and they had both Thai and Western breakfast foods, it was more the atmosphere that I enjoyed.
Speaking of food I did in fact eat at two really good places while I was there. They were both expat owned places that I thought were pretty unique. I had dinner on Friday night at a place called Red Ginger, a Canadian/Thai owned restaurant. I was curious about this place because it boasts a goat cheese salad, that’s quite rare in these parts, so I wanted to give it a try.
The other place I was stoked on was Restaurant Mali. A place owned by a Swedish and Thai couple. I had a really good sandwich there, the woman owner was friendly and their little boy was adorable.
Saturday evening had a really fun vibe as loads of expats and folks from Bangkok arrived for the weekend. The place really came to life.
On Sunday I was joined by a Thai acquaintance that I met through working at the English camps in Bangkok. Her trip was short though and we both had to get back to Bangkok for work on Monday so we swam in our clothes, Thai style, grabbed a Chang and then hopped on the last ferry back to the mainland and took the 2.5 hours air-condition bus back to Bangkok.