This past week we took our very first trip to the island of Koh Samet. To those who are not familiar, Koh Samet is an island in the Gulf of Thailand off the coastline of the Rayong Province. It was the closest island to our home and easiest venture with two small children. So, on a Wednesday morning we packed up the car and headed towards Ban Phe to park our car for the next few days and journey to Koh Samet by boat.
Upon arrival into the fishing village of Ban Phe we saw a sign that said “Car Park” so we pulled in and paid for three nights of parking (100 baht per day). The attendant was very nice and actually escorted us across the street to Municipality Pier to speak with a travel assistant about how we would get to the island. We were set on taking a ferry as we heard it was less expensive. The woman we spoke with kept asking, “Why not speedboat? Why Ferry?” We gestured, rubbing index and thumb fingers together, saying “Money!”. She made a quick deal. She would give us a speedboat that would leave right then and there for an additional 300 baht and she would not charge for our smallest child….ANNNNDDDDDD…. it would include a free ferry ride back. You’ve got a deal! (Normally speedboat’s can be 2000 baht for one way). We were shown to a queue area and were escorted to the boat within 5 minutes.
After a short 20 minute boat ride we arrived at our resort on Koh Samet island and were assisted in carrying our bags off the back of the boat, through the waves, and up onto the beach (no pier).
The resort we reserved was Tubtim Resort south of Ao Phai Beach. This was a great location with a peaceful/small beach. The bungalows were somewhat dated but perfect for us. Our room was equipped with a single king-sized bed, tv, small refrigerator, western toilet, and shower. Simple was all we needed as we came to get away, to relax. Our first afternoon was simply spent lying around the beach, sipping on a few beers, and a casual dinner at the resort. It was nice. We planned to do more exploring on Thursday, our second day on Koh Samet.
Thursday morning we got up early and enjoyed the breakfast provided by the resort. It was my idea to trek up the beach towards the main pier in order to see the island first-hand and eventually hit up some shops and restaurants as our resort was a bit secluded. The four of us walked the beach, jetties, and pathways up the coast of the island stopping every so often to break from the heat of the sun. Countless photo opportunities were seen. Around the north end of Tubtim (closer to the Pudsa Bungalows) were some amazing rock-stacking sculptures.
We passed countless food stalls selling coconuts, grilled squid/crab/shrimp/fish, fruit shakes, handmade roti, and some things I’m not even sure about. Most shops were stocked with ladies swimwear, hats, tourist kitsch, liquor, beer, and wine. We passed people offering beachside massages, handmade body wraps, henna tattoos, hair braiding, and sliced fruits. I considered getting corn-row braids for a minute… just a minute. We passed a gentleman offering parasailing, snorkel tours, and boat tours. He talked us in to getting a 2pm boat tour which he assured us was good for the kids as well. He assured us a boat would pick us up on the beach at Tubtim at 2pm. After a nearly hour long walk we finally made it to an area filled with 7-11 minimarts and restaurants.
We stopped in at the Funky Monkey Restaurant and Bar for an early lunch. After lunch we decided to catch a songthaew (a converted pickup truck with bench seating aka a taxi) back to the resort instead of walking all the way back. It was time to rest before our boat venture at 2pm.
We sat out at the beach around 1:45pm to keep an eye our for our boat tour. They arrived around 1:55pm. They set anchor and we waded through the waves to hop onto the back of the boat. The waves were a bit choppy so the boat was jostled all around during this time. We handed our daughter to one of the boat-hands first, he placed her up onto the back of the boat. My wife hopped onto the boat and then we handed my son to her. I followed while carrying my backpack and camera. To give you an idea, the boat appeared to be ran by a family. Our boat “captain” was probably a 16 year old. There was an older man who appeared to be maybe an uncle or friend, and there were two young children working as well (maybe ages 7 and 10). The boat was tossing us all around, at one point nearly knocking my wife over. We quickly paid them and they handed my wife and I two adult life jackets. We asked for children’s life jackets and they nodded at us and began moving. We were in route to pick up two more people from another beach before heading out on the tour. While picking up the other two, who were a thai/chinese couple, we asked again for children’s life jackets. The 7 year old girl gave us two more adult-sized jackets. Reluctantly, we put the oversized jackets on our two kids. This was my first feeling of uneasiness. We began whizzing through the ocean to our first stop. We continually “caught air” while in the boat as we coasted over large waves. There was a STRONG smell of diesel coming off the boat motor. Our kids were troopers, staying calm and collected as we traveled towards the first stop. Suddenly, the boat motor died while we were in the middle of the ocean, resuming after about 15 seconds. Oh CRAP. The boat “captain” gestured to the 10 year old to go inspect the motor, looking concerned. This kid jumped on the back of the boat and leaned his head down next to the RAPIDLY SPINNING BOAT MOTOR while we were FLYING over waves. He proceeded to grab the drip line/fuel line hanging from the motor and began to blow air into it to clear the line. I was worried the kid would either fall into the ocean or get injured from the motor propellers. He jumped back up front and grabbed a stick to probe into the line. The boat captain started checking under the boat floorboards to see if we were taking on any water. By this point, everyone in the boat just wanted to turn around and go back. The couple on the tour with us had equal looks of concern. After about 10 more minutes we were on the first island. From that point on, our day became more and more enjoyable. Haha. Hey, things are done differently in Thailand!
We visited a total of three islands, all with small stop offs with plenty of coral reef areas to see by snorkeling. The kids enjoyed walking around and wading in the water. Vendors on one of the islands sold cold drinks and beer, fruit, and ice cream. We found a few good spots for photo ops. By 4:30pm we were on our way back to the resort to close out the evening.
On Friday we decided to have a more relaxing day, as the boat ride on Thursday was a bit stressful initially with small kids. We went south on the island to see a few other beaches. We were initially looking for a mediterranean restaurant near Baan Thai Sangthian Resort. We were dropped off by a taxi at the main drop off point for Ao Sang Thian. We journeyed down a long path of tile to the oceanside and walked alongside the endless rows of beachside resorts looking for the restaurant. This area was much different that Tubtim. It felt nearly deserted when we were there. We rarely saw another person. It almost felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.
Occasionally we would walk up on a resort/bungalow with a few of the staff either sleeping or on their phones. They would see us and perk up to say “Sa Wa Dee Ka!” The sights here were stunning, pretty much as picturesque as it gets! We walked a good 20 minutes before asking someone where Baan Thai Sangthian was. They said we had passed it. What? We turned around. We gave up on the search and instead went to a place called “The Viking”. This chance stop off turned out to be a highlight of our trip. We had one of the best meals since on the island!
Afterwards we found about 7 hammocks under some low-growing trees to relax in and take in the ocean air and sounds. The kids went from hammock to hammock, playing. It was perfect. On our return visit to Koh Samet, this will be the beach we stay at. It was amazing.
On Saturday we made our way home via the ferry from Nadan Pier. We had wonderful time together as a family for our first trip to this island. I know we will be there a few more times while living here.