A weekend in Koh Samet
Koh Samet: Sandy beaches and relaxation await, just a short(ish) and smooth(ish) drive from Bangkok.
To visit Koh Samet is to experience a true slice of Thailand. Quiet, gorgeous white sandy beaches and the sound of the sea on one hand. Four hour drives in vans with no air con across roads which are very much works in progress on the other.
In fairness to Koh Samet, it was our mistake on the travel front. If you stop reading this page right now, and let’s face it many of you will, then heed this advice. Go early. As in leave in the morning. Do not follow our seven step plan to failure:
- Leave work at noon
- Don’t check the minibus times
- Realise next van leaves at 2
- Sit in van for 4.5 hours
- Arrive in Ban Phe just after ferry finishes
- Pay 2000 baht for speedboat
- Arrive in total darkness
If you’re able to follow the exact opposite of those instructions, you should be fine.
Either way, however, be aware that it’ll take some time to get from Bangkok to Koh Samet. Also be aware that as of March 2019 the road towards Rayong is being completely rebuilt, so you’ll lose even more time and possibly a few teeth over the bumps. We only stayed on Koh Samet for two nights, but would recommend 3 to get a more relaxing break. It’ll stretch out the slightly long drive time and be worthwhile.
All that said, arriving at Koh Samet brings a sense of distance from Bangkok. Despite being just a couple of miles from the mainland, it immediately feels calm, relaxed and tranquil.
There are also fire shows which we can only presume were performed to celebrate our arrival, but were probably not.
Things to do on Koh Samet
There’s a bit of something for everyone on Koh Samet. We spoke to four Thai people before coming and Koh Samet was described variously as: a gay island, a hookup island, a party island, a relaxing island. We plumped for the latter of those versions of Koh Samet, because we are dull.
If you’re more of a party lover, Hat Sai Kaew is probably for you. They have a Batman-style search light so it must be a total rave at all times.
It’s possible to rent motorbikes for around 300 baht for a half day and hop between beaches is that’s your thing, and it looked great fun. There’s also a plethora of sea-based enjoyment. For instance, Parasailing, scuba, deep sea fishing and island tours can all be booked and arranged on any beach.
If, like us, you want to lay on a beach, bathe in clear, warm waters and generally flop around in the sunshine undisturbed, we can highly recommend Vongdeuan Resort. Ao Vongdeuan is a quiet beach without being completely cut off – there are a range of eateries, bars and a few shops to cover your needs. Vongdeuan Resort is tucked away at the end of the beach and so it’s particularly quiet. After a few weeks of Bangkok it’s bliss. We stayed in a small Thai-style house that was very pleasant, with the faintest whiff of a caravan park.
Overall, the main, and very strong, attraction of Koh Samet is to roll out of bed to sights like this in the morning.
Food and Drink in Koh Samet
Food is good and reasonably priced. The restaurant at Vongdeuan Resort was excellent, with tables laid out on the beach in the evening for a romantic candlelit dinner. Grilled seafood is a highlight here.
Further along the beach is a proper seafood barbecue which will be more expensive but smelt divine. Follow your nose and you’ll find good food, but be ready to pay more than in Bangkok as everything is shipped in. Apart from the fish, obviously or at least hopefully.
In the daytime, the heat will likely sap your energy and appetite. We were perfectly satisfied with a freshly made som tam and some grilled meats, sold by a lady walking along the beach.
More from Thai Spicy
Living in Thailand: Observations on life in Bangkok
Best restaurants in Bangkok: 30 of the best eats in 2019
Catching the sunset on Koh Samet
Finally, a fun feature of Koh Samet is that it’s a T-shape. This means that from Vongdeuan Beach on the east coast, you can walk to a sunset viewpoint on the west coast in all of five minutes. If you can brave the fist-sized cicadas that buzz ominously, there’s a lovely quiet spot to watch the sun go down over unbroken sea.
Overall, we had a lovely time on Koh Samet. With the perfect vision of hindsight, a longer stay and an earlier start would have saved some hassle, but it was still gorgeous. A beach break makes a great change from some of the more jungle-based adventures around Bangkok If you’re looking for an affordable and relaxing break from Bangkok, Koh Samet is a great choice.
Getting from Bangkok to Koh Samet
- For the easiest travel, take a taxi. Expect to pay 1800 baht each way, but leave at your own leisure and travel in comfort. Use the Grab app for the best convenience
- Alternatively, rent a car for the same benefits as above, if you can brave Thai roads. Rental Cars can get you a car for the weekend for just 2000 baht
- If you’re coming from the airport, your hotel should definitely be able to arrange a transfer
- For public transport – minibuses and buses leave from Ekkamai and Mo Chit bus stations
- They cost around 200 baht per person, but expect the journey to take 4 hours
- Timings are a little erratic; we expected an hourly bus but waited over 1.5 hours for our 2pm departure
- Inside the bus station there will be a small booth selling tickets to ‘Ban Phe’ or Ko Samet, also showing the next bus time
- On the return leg, minibuses leave roughly every hour from Ban Phe – or you can take a taxi by asking at the ticket booth