The final leg of our journey had to be somewhere near to Bangkok and would preferably be somewhere that had a good chance of being dry. A beach would be an added bonus.
It came down to two places, the first was Chiang Mai about a day out of Bangkok in Northern Thailand. It is a jungle destination and somewhere most backpackers looking for a slice of genuine Thailand head for. The problem is, Chiang Mai gets hammered by rain in the monsoon season. Floods are common and a dry day is a rare occurrence in September. The other choice was Samed (Koh Samet) a tiny island only a few km long and less than a km wide off the Coast of Rayong, which is on the South Coast beneath Bangkok. It is about a 4 hour journey if your connections meet. It has beaches, and is the single driest place in Thailand year round. In fact, right now there is nowhere in Thailand that is drier. Samed gets so little rain per year they have to ship water to the island.
It was no brainer and so we got the BTS (Sky Train) to Ekkamai which is the Eastern Bus Terminal of Bangkok. The bus to Ban Phe, which is the pier for Samed cost 157Baht for me and then 113 for the kids. After a bit of negotiating I paid for just one child.
The bus took Three and a half hours and kicked us off opposite one of the many piers at Ban Phe. Competition is a great thing and so the boat price is a mere 50 Baht one way, I managed to get both kids on for free. Sat on the worlds dodgiest pier I realised the boat was going nowhere until there were at least 20 people. Thankfully a tour group turned up and within no time at all the 30 minute crossing was over and we arrived at Na Din Pier on the North end of Samed. We had left our bags in Bangkok and o only had a day sack and my camera so any stupid prices for a taxi and we’d have walked. As we paid 10 Baht each to get to Hat Saikew, the main town (if you can call it that) I realised about a minute later when we got dropped off we should have walked. In fact we id walk it later and it took about 10 minutes maximum. We got ditched at the entry point and because Samed is part of a National Park you have to pay entry, its 200 Baht for Adults and 100 for kids. I paid it, but soon realised you could so easily get away with not paying it. I never got asked for our ticket once as we leisurely sauntered in and out of the checkpoint.
The way round it is that when you get dropped off, head for the 7/11 and hang about in there deciding what beer to get as all the other tourists pay their fee. When they have disappeared, literally just walk straight in.
Pre booking accommodation on Samet is near impossible unless you want to shell out for one of the resorts at the South of the Island, prices are about £100 per night. So we just turned up, within no time we saw accommodation being advertised for as little as 300 Baht per night (£6) I mean Sai Kaew is not big, it is a sandy little track/road with a handful of places. It’s like something out of Robinson Crusoe if you look in the right direction. We managed to get ourselves a little condo on the beach for 700 Baht. It started at 1500. For some reason hotels still put their keys on display behind them. For any traveller after cheap digs this is a gift. There was maybe one or two spaces and thirty odd keys. This usually means one thing – The place is empty. That’s always a good thing and so after a few minutes we had the rate at less than 50% but when you consider it’ll have been marked up to begin with, we probably got a 1200 baht room for 700 baht, which isn’t bad. But that would never happen at the weekend, every weekend Thai’s head for Samed en mass and demand far outstrips supply, so much so that prices on the island rise substantially at the weekend.
Samed is basically a rocky island full of coves which are graced with small but stunning strips of talcum powder’esque white sand. The seas are turquoise and warm and if I’m honest, Koh Samet is like Koh Samui, but without the faults. Samed is tiny and largely undeveloped, but there are small enclaves of development. Prices are as cheap here as I’ve seen in Thailand and because it is so quiet it gives for some perfect relaxation, the sky is clear blue and the sun a gorgeous thirty degrees. At night the few beach front locations turn into BBQ parties, whilst people swallow fire and do performances, the days catch sizzles away on the BBQ. The beach is illuminated by oil lamps and the sound of reggae pumps out. Oh and its free wifi pretty much everywhere.
I imagine this is what Samui was once like. It is my favourite Thai island, it just seems to be such an ‘all-rounder’
We had planned to explore the whole island in the following days, but we made a quick exit as explained in the next post.