For the smaller Ko Samet in Chumphon Province, see Ko Samet (Chumphon).
Ko Samet (เกาะเสม็ด), also spelled Koh Samed, is a small island in the Eastern Gulf Coast, within easy reach of Bangkok and Pattaya.
Just 200 kilometers from Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand, the T-shaped island of Ko Samet is famed for its white sandy beaches, exotic coral and crystal clear waters. Ko Samet has developed steadily over the past decade or so, but it hasn't been the victim of over zealous construction which has hit the likes of Ko Samui (or even Ko Chang). The island is typified for its splendid beaches and white silky sand, surrounded by tropical coral reefs and crystal clear sea. Tourists can also enjoy a plethora of delicious cuisine and fine nightlife.
It's a popular tourist destination for Thais and foreigners alike. As Ko Samet is so near Bangkok, the island is ideal for those in the capital wanting to chill-out with their families for a couple of days, without having to go through all that rigmarole of having to travel down south. It's only a 2,5 hour ride to Ban Phe, where one can take a 20-minutes ferry to the island.
Even though Ko Samet is only a few kilometers from the mainland, the island with its micro-climate (the driest archipelago in Thailand) gets much less rainfall than the rest of Eastern Thailand. The rainy season is May to September but even then it still has significantly less rain than the other islands in Thailand. Tourists should, however, be careful of occasional storms.
It is believed that once upon a time, Ko Samet was the home of pirates and that until this very day there is still lost treasures buried somewhere on the island. Thailand's legendary poet Sunthorn Phu was the first one to put this island on the map when he set his classical epic there, Phra Aphai Manee "The Story of Princes, Saga, Mermaids and Giants".
Even though Bangkokians had known about the beauty of Ko Samet for decades before, the Thai government put this island off limits and restricted overnight stay there until 1981. In that year, on 1st October, the Forestry Department of Thailand declared Ko Samet and its surroundings to be a national park.
Most of Ko Samet, including all the good parts, is part of Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park and thus has an entry fee. Thais pay 40 baht for adults, 20 baht for children (current as of June 2009); foreigners pay 200 baht for adults, 100 baht for children (current as of November 2009). This two-tier pricing policy is applicable to all national parks. If you can explain, however, that you actually live or work in Thailand, then you may not have to pay the "tourist" price. One excuse for the difference is that "Thai citizens pay taxes".
If your ferry arrives at the main pier and you take a songthaew to the beaches, there will be a stop at the main ticket checkpoint. If your ferry arrives at one of the beaches, an officer will collect the fee as you step out of the surf. Note that there is plenty of foot traffic in and out of the park to the 7-Eleven, ATM or other shops and restaurants and if you have no bags you can nonchalantly walk into the park without anyone checking your ticket. There is a road via the temple which avoids the checkpoint entirely. Note: some bungalows might give the impression that the entry fee is included in their booking, but it is not.
As Ko Samet is an island, you first have to drive to Rayong. From Bangkok, you can take Sukhumvit Rd (Highway No. 3) passing Chonburi, Si Racha, Pattaya, Sattahip and onto Rayong. The total distance to Rayong is approximately 220 kilometers. If you drive onto Highway No. 36 at Bang Lamung (before Pattaya), you'll take a shortcut inland and save about 45 kilometers (but the scenery is not as impressive).
Taxi services are available from Rayong. You need to specify Ban Phe since the pier at Ban Phe is at the lower outskirts of Rayong itself. The metered fare is approximately 1600 baht, but most drivers will want to go "off meter" for a fare ranging from 1500 baht (some drivers don't realize the meter is slightly higher) to 2000/2200/2500 baht. Expressway tolls of about 100 baht are additional. You can either grab a taxi from your hotel or guesthouse that is willing to make the drive on the spot, or pre-arrange a pickup from a taxi driver you like by asking for his cellphone number and calling to make a booking - the latter routine works best if you have a native Thai speaker to help you. Look for a later model taxi and do a quick visual check of the tires before committing to a trip. As a general precaution with all taxis in all countries, it's better to double up in a taxi with a friend on a long ride like this.
The bus from Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) to Ban Phe usually takes 3.5 hours, costs 157 baht (current as of July 2009), and terminates opposite the ferry piers. There is no direct service to Ban Phe from Bangkok's Mo Chit Bus Terminal - it only brings you to Rayong, from where you can take a songthaew (20 baht) to Ban Phe.
There are direct first class bus services between Rayong and Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport. If you take a regular bus from Pattaya or Sattahip, you'll need to take a songthaew or charter a tuk-tuk to the ferry piers.
There are also mini-vans that leave from Victory Monument in Bangkok's Phahonyothin district. They charge 250 baht per person and bring you directly to the ferry piers. This is a slightly nicer alternative to the larger tourist buses that depart from bus stations. The mini-vans drive faster than the tourist buses, but they also make several stops along the way in Rayong which makes the trip about the same time. Also, the ride is quite bumpy, so even reading a book is a challenge.
Bangkok Airways has operated a flight daily from Phuket and Ko Samui to Pattaya's U-Tapao Airport. For more information, contact Bangkok Airways at number +66 2265 5678 or contact a travel agent. From the airport, it is about one hour by car or bus to reach the pier. This way of transportation is only recommended for travellers from Southern Thailand.
Ferries from Ban Phe or Nuan Thip (they are about 1/8 mile apart, with Ban Phe to the north opposite a 7-11) to Ko Samet take around 30 to 45 minutes. Only buy a one-way ticket (50 baht), as there's no discount on round-trip tickets (100 baht) and you won't have to worry about losing it or finding that your ticket isn't valid for the most convenient return ferry. The ticket sellers state you must buy your national park ticket from them also.
Alternatively, there are two speedboat companies that operate from Ban Phe. Speedboat prices can range from 600 baht to NaaDaan pier to a few thousand baht for the outer-lying bays and beaches.
For the return from the Ko Samet public pier, take either the Nuan Thip or Ban Phe piers for your destination - it doesn't matter which one you departed from as they are only a short walk apart, and you might get an earlier boat back if you are willing to be flexible and return to a different pier. Both are served by songthaews: Ban Phe has an informal "taxi stand" in front of the 7-11 across the street with passenger cars used as cabs. It costs 200 baht for a ride from Ban Phe to the Novotel, quite a distance down the coast, in early 2009.
Getting around on Ko Samet: The island has only a single main road. Some parts are concrete and some parts are only a dirt trail. There are two methods to get around the island. The first is by songthaew (usually a rather well-worn pickup truck with two benches in the back and no roof), which costs 200 baht for a private trip, or between 20 and 60 baht per person for a full car, depending on which beach you are going to. This is a rather expensive method to get around the island, and the dusty roads can make it an uncomfortable trip. The second way is by renting a motorcycle. Signs advertise 300 baht per day or 100 baht per hour, but when you go to enquire about renting they will often say 400 or 500 baht per day. Insist on paying 300 baht. That is for mechanic moto. If you want to get automatic one, you will pay 400 Baht per day. You will usually be able to rent it from the hotel you are staying at. Leaving your passport or a deposit is not necessary or advisable.
Warning: It is advisable to hire motorbikes only from reputable hotels and lodgings. Stores renting out motorbikes or ATVs may attempt to overcharge you for repairs and labor should you damage the bike, even superficially. Initial quotes for repairs is often exorbitant and is way beyond the price of labor, parts, and repair.
You can also rent/hire an ATV/Quad/4x4 for 1000-1600 baht/day.
Catch the sunset from dramatic cliffside locations along the south-west coastline.
A fireshow at the renowned Ploy Thalee Restaurant/Bar on Saikaew Beach. They are held twice a night around 8.30PM and 10.30PM.
Most beaches are on the eastern side of the island. The beaches hide in small bays and stretch some 200 metres. From the north, there are Hat Sai Kaeo, Hat Hin Khrong, Hat Khlong Phai, Ao Phutsa, Ao Thapthim, Ao Naun, Ao Cho, Ao Thian, Ao Wai, Ao Kio Na Yok and Ao Karang. The only beach on the western side is Ao Phrao. One of the famous beaches is Ao Wong Duean in the middle of the eastern side. This beach stretches in the shape of an almost complete circle. Both Ao Wong Duean and Hat Sai Kaeo have very fine white sand.
Hat Sai Kaew (Diamond Beach) One of the most beautiful and most popular beaches on Koh Samet, Hat Sai Kaew is 1 kilometer long and 25 – 30 meters wide. The name speaks for itself, Hat Sai Kaew, which literally means Crystal Sand Beach, is a nice beach filled with activities. From dusk to dawn, visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, jet skiing, windsurfing, riding on a banana boat or even partying at night.
Accommodations provided include bungalows and villas.
Ao Noi Na, which is located near Hat Sai Kaew, has different ambience. It is quieter and therefore more suitable for those looking for a truly relaxing experience on the white, clean sandy beach.
Ao Hin Khok is separated from Hat Sai Kaew by a small rocky sea point where a mermaid statue is located. The beach, which is half the size of Hat Sai Kaew, is famous for its strangely shaped rocks. There are inexpensive bungalows/huts located along the beach, and also value-for-money restaurants providing fresh, quality seafood dishes.
Ao Pai Located close to Hat Sai Kaew, Ao Pai is therefore quite crowded small beach. For visitors interested in sunbathing, it is the beach locating between the crowded beaches and the quited beaches. There is a restaurant locating quite to the end of this beach called Samed Villa Restaurant, here you can find delicious Thai and European cuisines especially their BBQ.
Ao Put Sa is a small bay on Koh Samet which draws repeat visitors intent on relaxing. Suitable for those who are tired of crowded beaches and nightlife activities, Ao Put Sa offers a quite retreat that reunites visitors with nature in its crystal clear waters.
Ao Tub Tim, which is set in a tranquil atmosphere, is located near Ao Put Sa and is well known for its white sand and clear water. Ao Tub Tim has a small, cozy resort in a well decorated compound.
Ao Nuan is located near Ao Put Sa and is a perfect hideaway for holidaymakers in search of tranquility.
Ao Wong Deuan is the second largest beach on the island (the first being Hat Sai Kaew). Ao Wong Deuan attracts tourist groups during both the high and low seasons due to its beautiful white sandy beach and good accommodations. On top of this, good seafood restaurants with nice views are also available.
Ao Thian (Candlelight Beach) Ao Thian’s topography is painted by rocky beach in which some nice spots for skin diving are available. This beach is very quiet and free from group tours with bungalows and resorts available around the beach area.
Ao Wai is located within a short walking distance of Candlelight Beach. Shaded by coconut trees, the beach is a quite, scenic and serene spot for sea lovers.
Ao Kiu Nok This bay is a perfect secluded den for those planning to keep their distance from the busy, crowded beaches and vibrant nightlife. From Aow Kiew Nok, visitors can actually walk to Aow Kiew Nai which is the ideal spot to see the spectacular sun rise and sun set.
Ao Karang The best place to experience the traditional lifestyle of the residents of Koh Samet is at Ao Karang where there also are a number of seafood restaurants providing fresh seafood dishes at reasonable prices.
Ao Wiang Wan is on the west of Na Dan Pier, a large bay where lots of sport activities such as fishing, etc. take place.
Ao Phrao is one of the quietest beaches of Ko Samet. Located quite far away from the lively nightlife of Ko Samet; Ao Prow is preferred by travelers who quietly enjoy the deep blue sea and white sand in the sunshine. Ao Prow has a long white sandy beach which is ideal for swimming.
How to get there: Four operators; namely, Nuanthip, Si Ban Phe, Phe Port, and Saphan Pla, around Ban Phe offer shuttle boat services between their ports and the main port of the island. All operators charge a flat rate of 100 baht per person for a round trip or 50 baht for a single journey. Boats can leave anytime when more than 20 passengers are waiting. The service is available around the clock, seven days a week.
For groups of at least 7 persons, Nuanthip Boat (0 3865 1508) offers a shuttle boat service to other bays as well, such as Ao Wong Duean (120 baht each) and to the last bay Ao Pakarang (200 baht each). Si Ban Phe Boat (0 3865 1902) also runs a scheduled boat service during weekends between Ban Phe and the main port of Samet. The hourly boat service from Ban Phe runs from 8.00 a.m. to 6 p.m. In the return trip from Samet, the boat leaves at 10.00 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. The company also offers a speed boat service at 1,000 baht a trip for 12 people to the main port, or higher rates for other routes. A parking service on the main land is available.
Ko Kruai, Ko Kham, and Ko Pla Tin (เกาะกรวย เกาะขาม และเกาะปลาตีน) These islands are some 600 metres north of Ko Kudi. With coral reefs, tourists can enjoy fishing here. A rental boat service is available at the port in Ban Phe. Ko Kudi or Ko Kut (เกาะกุฎี หรือเกาะกุด) The island is on the east of Ko Samet, six kilometres from the mainland. Ko Kudi totals an area of 63 rai. A nice beach and coral reefs make it a nice place for a hideaway. Nearby islands are Ko Thai Khangkhao and Ko Tham Ruesi. Without accommodation, the national park office on the island offers a tent for rent at 200 baht per person/ night. Pitching a private tent requires paying a fee of 20 baht per person/night. For more information, call Tel. 0 3865 3034, or in Bangkok at Tel.0 2561 2919 and 0 2561 2921.
Ko Thalu (เกาะทะลุ) Some 6 kilometres east of Ko Kudi, the island is another scuba diving site among coral reefs. The island totals an area of 69 rai, most remains lush forest. While high cliffs occupy the west, white sandy beaches occupy the east and south of the island. Ko Thalu is a habitat of seagulls, flying fox, and turtles.
Tourists visiting Ko Kudi, Ko Kruai, Ko Kham, Ko PlaTin and Ko Thalu should rent a boat from Ban Phe or Ko Samet. They should prepare food and water, as there is neither facilities nor food supplies available on such islands.For more information, please contact Ireland Tour co.,Ltd., Tel. 0 3865 3055-9
Seafood, seafood, and seafood, some of the best barbecues are found along Ao Phai and Haat Sai Kaew beaches. But there's also meat and veggie curries as well as Western favorites like pizza, and a bakery that makes fresh bread at the Naga Bar and Bungalows on Ao Hin Khok. The best burgers on the island can be found at Saffron, while Jep's Restaurant offers cooking you'll still be missing a year after you leave - try the chicken and cashew nuts with steamed rice. Almost every hotel and bungalow operation has its own restaurant but it's only the movies that differentiate them. Many also set up tables and chairs at night for dining on the beach.
If you are relaxing on the beach during the day there are plenty of hawkers selling fresh fruit, BBQ chicken wings, dried squid, papaya salad (can be extremely spicy) and even ice creams at reasonable prices.
Also if you need a break from Thai cuisine a number of the restaurants along Haat Sai Kaew make excellent club sandwiches. They also offer western style breakfast. (eg. bacon and eggs, yogurt or breakfast cereal)
In town (Na Dan), there are two smallish, more traditional Thai eateries that serve good quality Thai food at fairly cheap prices. One is located across the road from the 7/11 near the national park entrance, and the other is just a few shops down from the same 7/11. Both have menus in English.
If you're jonesing for some sticky rice and other country fare head down to Ao Wong Duan.
If you are after a traditional Thai breakfast there are a couple of ladies who set up their mobile eatery daily next to the Tourist Police checkpoint that services Haat Sai Kaew. They serve boiled chicken on rice (khao man gai tom), fried chicken and rice (khao man gai tort) or rice porridge (jok) for 20-30 baht. The food is fresh and they do a brisk trade serving locals as well as a few tourists.
Gecko Bar - at the end of Ao Phai beach next to Silversand Resort, does an excellent barbeque with chicken steaks smothered in mushroom sauce and sizzling beef and chicken hotplates. Between 100 and 200 baht, these meals are definitely good value, try the fries or the competitively priced barbeque.
Joe's - next to Ploy Thalee on Saikaew Beach, this newly redecorated restaurant has one of the best value barbeques on the island - large kebab, corn, potato and salad for around 100B.
Indian Summer - Samed's only Indian restaurant is on Ao Noi Naa at the Baan Phu Paan boutique resort. Whilst it is located a fair way from the majority of the tourist beaches, the trip is well worth it for a delicious Indian feast served on the resort's private pier. (open from 5PM)
Although Ko Samet is not a renowned party island, Haat Sai Kaew and Ao Phai do get their fair share of backpackers, and therefore have their fair share of parties. Everyday on Ao Phai flyers are handed out from the different bars that advertise the drink specials for that night, and might even give you a free drink. Biggest nights are generally Thursday-Saturday, when more of the backpackers and expats come to the island.
The main bars along Haat Sai Kaew are:
Lima Bar: a small bar thats still getting started, but does excellent cocktails - try the chocolate martini. Located at the end of the village road, next to Buddy Bar.
Ploy Bar: a large, generally Thai-style night spot that often has live acts and some manner of sideshow games. Located in the middle of Haat Sai Kaew, a big establishment, you can't miss it.
Sunrise Bar: a small, newly opened bar located on the 'mermaid headland' at the bottom of Naga hill, this bar is a nice spot to relax with a drink in the late afternoon, or chill out and enjoy their selection of guest DJs.
...and along Ao Hua Khok / Ao Phai are:
Naga Bar - At the top of 'Naga Hill' between Haat Sai Kaew and Ao Hua Khok. Once 'the' bar on the island, it has gone downhill somewhat in the last few years, but still a good place to hang and enjoy cheap drinks and a few games of pool with locals and tourists alike.
Tok's Little Bar - A small thatched hut serves as the main bar for this laid back, chilled out drinking spot located next to Naga Bar. They generally have good drink specials and a different theme for every night, so grab a bucket and chill out on a mat on the beach. Occasionally has some fireshows and special parties.
Silversand Bar - at the opposite end of Ao Phai to Naga Bar. Arguably the most popular bar on the island, Silversand brings in the largest backpacker crowd, and is generally where everyone ends up at the end of the night. The bar boasts quite a big dancefloor and generally the best fire shows on the island.
Gecko Bar - located just next to Silversand, this small but personal bar offers a superb selection of specialty cocktails and icecream sundaes, as well as pool tables and movies. You can't go past the bar's signature cocktail, the 'Beach Bar Coffee'.
Baywatch bar, AO wong Duan, . Popular bar for foreigners and Thai on AO Wong Duan with very relaxed chairs and an extended cocktail list to enjoy those long Thai nights. Currently they are expanding having rented the space from the bar next to them.
The local special can be reproduced as follows:
one child's sandbucket, small
one pint Mekong whiskey
one can Coca-cola or Pepsi
one bottle Thai Red Bull
one scoop ice (Optional, most hardcore people can make the ice from tap water, which guarantees a massive hangover.)
one to four straws
Place all ingredients in sandbucket and drink via straw. Repeat until the sandy beach rises up to meet you.
There's also the usual assortment of Thai beer - Chang, Tiger, San Miguel, Leo, and Carlsberg. Prices are significantly higher than on the mainland, but most bars have some form of happy hour. Alternatively, there's always the option of buying a 6-pack and sitting on the beach; for non-drinkers there are tropical fruit drinks.
Most of the accommodation centers around the beaches on the east coast; try to arrive on the island as early as possible to have the best selection to choose from. Tourist season on Ko Samet is generally from November till February and from June till August, at which time finding vacant accommodation can be a challenge. Also, beware of weekends and public holidays - the island then fills up like crazy!
The northern-most beaches of Hat Sai Keaw and Ao Hin Kok have many bugalow operations with typical Thai concrete bunker-style rooms. If your room doesn't have air-conditioning it can get a little hot during the day. At the very northern end are a few upscale resorts. At beaches further south you'll find the bungalows ranging from dismal shacks to four-star, air-conditioned mini suites.
Unless you've made the mistake of booking your room with the touts back at the dock you'll find a place by strolling down the beach. As this island becomes more and more popular it's getting harder to find rock-bottom prices. On some beaches you can expect to pay 600 baht for the basics. Most of the accommodation is first-come, first-served and the cheaper bungalows tend to go fastest. High-end establishments usually take reservations by phone, fax, and via the web.
Jep's, A Hua Khok, offers clean, nicely designed fan and air-con bungalows from between 800 - 2000 baht per night. A favourite among Thais, this establishment fills up very quickly on holidays.
The Lost Resort, Ao Phai (up the road from Silversand), an old, ratty hotel owned by a British expat, this resort offers triple-share rooms with attached bathrooms for about 1000/night. The small reception/restaurant area does some breakfast, but much better options are available on the beach.
Lung Dam Bungalow, located on Ao Lung Dam (a one-hour walk south on the beach from Na Dan), has very basic bungalows in the 300-500 baht range. It's on a small bay that is excellent for swimming. The restaurant has excellent service and is one of few on the island that is open early for breakfast. This beach is not accessible directly by road; unless you arrive directly by boat, you must walk on the beach for at least part of the way.
Naga, bamboo huts with fan and mosquito net for 400Baht (was 400 then changed to 500 during the week - April 2009). A favorite among backpackers.
Nuan, located at Ao Nuan is quite a bit out of the main beach areas, but great if you are looking for some deserted areas on the island. Get a bike and drive down on the gravel road. A bit hard to find, just go down to the beach and walk along. A small bunch of bamboo huts, with mosquito nets and a fan. Comes with an almost private little deserted beach. Prize start at 500 baht/night wit shared outdoor shower and toilet.
Papa Roger', 12/60 Moo 4 Koh Samet, located before 7-11 White Sand beach entrance. Fan room shared bathroom 250 bath. Tel:66-038-644033, Hand phone:66-084-1022516. Email:email@example.com
Sea Breeze, Ao Phai (behind Silversand), is a dingy little place offering fan bungalows with attached bathroom from about 400 baht/night, about as cheap as you will get, and in a fairly decent location.
Silversand Resort, Ao Phai, though becoming more upmarket everyday, Silversand still offers a few decently priced fan bungalows with attached bathroom for around 600 baht.
Tok's Little Hut, A Hua Khok (sometimes part of Ao Phai), offers fan and air-con bungalows with individual bathrooms from between 300 and 800 baht/night, depending on proximity to the beach. The bungalows are not necessarily pretty or overly clean, but if you want cheap they're fairly good value.
Ton Had Bungalows, Ao Lung Dum, is a collection of wooden huts, very close to the water, on a rocky beach. The rocks are an advantage as no speed boats dock there so it's the place to have some peaceful and quiet atmosphere. The facilities are basic, bordering on the run-down, but still charming. Fan rooms, 800 baht for 6-8 people, A/C rooms 1,200 baht. Tel: 0877833262.
Tub Tim Bungalow, Ao Tub Tim (AKA Ao Phudsa), is usually reliable and has rooms in the 600-1300 baht range. It's in a quieter area, although at night you might find the sound of bar music drowns out the lull of the ocean waves.
Most accommodation operations on Ko Samet offer a variety of different types of rooms, most of which fall in the mid-range category. If you are willing to spend between 500 and 1500 baht/night, you shouldn't have any trouble finding accommodation, no matter what beach you are on. A few such places are:
Sai Kaew Villa, has clean and serviced bungalows and some concrete bunker style accommodation starting at 700 baht (fan, w/o breakfast) up to the 3000 baht price range (A/C) set amongst well groomed gardens. Their large dining and evening beach restaurant on Haat Sai Kaew serves good food and the staff is friendly. They are also a two minute walk from the Seven-Eleven and internet shops.
Samed Club Resort , situated at Ao Noi Na, Rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, bathroom amenities, mini-bar and fridge with two complimentary bottles of water daily, IDD telephone and satellite TV.
Tarn Tawan, located on Ao Cho, is a clean, pleasant spot with decent bungalows, friendly service, and excellent food. The air-con bungalows are good value.
Bangkok - most return to the buzzling capital of Thailand
Ko Chang - more sandy beaches and jungle await
Ko Kut - undiscovered island, again with sandy beaches
Ko Si Chang - virtually no beach life, but a very relaxed atmosphere
Pattaya - den of sleaze trying to clean up its act
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