Koh Samed – Just 220 kms from Bangkok and a full ‘Island Experience’
Koh Samed is a surprisingly interesting island, it’s ‘down-to earth’ in a nice way, reasonably priced, wonderful beaches and variety of activities to keep you occupied for several days.
Just 220 kms from Bangkok there are 2 main Ferry Terminals for the variety of boats that ply their way to and from the island. As always at Ferry buildings there are a myriad of people that will all help you park your car and obtain tickets. There are the larger, semi-regular ferries that cost THB.80 each way. There is a fast ferry from Ban Phe that costs THB.150 and takes just 10 minutes. Alternatively, there are speed boats that will whisk you to the island in 15 minutes. A private speed boat costs around THB.2,000 and there are also shared speed boats offering a variety of deals. Ours cost THB.250 per person, return. Quite a deal but this is during Covid restrictions.
Arrival to Koh Samed is to the busy terminal at Nadam Pier. Rather a futuristic design dominated by the impressive Phra Aphai Mani Ogress statue. Expect a bit of organised chaos as you arrive as lost tourists and commercially orientated locals create a perfect compound for confusion! Registration is essential as part of the Covid restrictions. Either your name and telephone or use the Thai Chana App to register. Then you pass through a sanitation shower. All foreigners pay a THB.200 entry fee as the island is part of a National Park. Your ticket is valid for 5 days and can also be used on some of the nearby excursion islands. Once you have completed this cacophony of sound you arrive at the car park where eager Songtheaw drivers await to take you to your destination. There are only two forms of transport on the island either these converted pick-up trucks or motorbike rentals for 300 per day.
The main urbanisation is to be found just as you leave the terminal. Na Dam consists of one main street with many shops, restaurants, motorbike rentals, a medical-centre and guesthouses. There are three 7/11’s located on this street in addition to a small, Thai style food court. Follow this road straight and it will take you directly to White Sand Bay/Saikeaw.
White Sand Bay is the nucleus of the island. It is a long, crescent beach with soft white sand and lined with restaurants and bars offering deckchairs, umbrellas and natural shade. Whilst each restaurant tries to have its own character, they are all very similar and larger foreigners may find the traditional Thai deck-chairs rather uncomfortable. Towards the end of White Sand Beach, close to the @Koh Samet sign is the fashionable Sea Sky by Seya offering comfortable bean bags, a range of amazing mocktails and of course many backgrounds for the inevitable selfies. Get here early as it is popular, but it is one of the most comfortable places on White Sand Bay.
Travelling around the island is relatively simple. Motorbikes are available everywhere and you will just need to leave some ID as a deposit. Costs per day are between 250-300 THB. The roads are not wide and are generally in reasonable condition. The only vehicles on the island are the Songtheaw pick-up trucks and other motorbikes. It is a nice island to explore with one road leading South and one to the west.
The Beaches. If you are looking for a beach that offers everything then stay on White Sand Beach/Saikaew. The sand is beautiful and the water clear. Most of the beaches are on the East with some in the North. The variety is vast from Luke Yon Bay where you can be virtually alone to the lovely Ao Phudsaw with 2 cool beach restaurants. On the West of the island is Ao Prao. It is a lovely beach but dominated by the resorts along its length. On a motorbike you will discover other coves that offer white sand and great photo opportunities. To the South the coast is quite rugged with lovely view-points but no suitable beaches.
Where to stay? Koh Samed offer a wide range of hotels, and guesthouses suitable for all budgets. There are a number of exquisite resorts but this time we opted to try the lower end of the price spectrum. Sunrise Villas caught my eye with excellent ratings. It is a ‘quirky’ little resort squeezed in between a small road and the sea. The bungalows are semidetached and surprising well equipped with a good bathroom, Air Conditioning, safe, kettle and fridge. A big bonus was the screen door keeping the mosquitos out yet enabling the sound of the waves. It is located just a few steps from the Ferry Terminal and sitting on the terrace you have a lovely view of the ferry boats arriving and departing. It’s just a short walk into the ‘town’ and also walking distance to White Sand Beach. The entrance is rocky and un-even so if you have mobility issues then possibly avoid. We loved our stay at just THB.750 per night.
Another property that caught our eye was Blue Bay Bungalows located directly on the beach at Ao Pudsaw. The bungalows also look comfortable, and this has the advantage of a beach café and sun beds. Currently available at 1,250 THB per night.
The reviews of small properties in and around Na Dam are very good and the prices extremely reasonable. Not on the beach but not far away. There are a number of Bungalow resorts located on White Sand Bay/Saikaew Beach. Prices are a bit higher and generally the reviews are not as high. However still good value for money and on the beach!
One of the small challenges that you may encounter on Koh Samed are Sand Flies. Called Pung or Lin Talay these voracious insects live in wet sand are especially found on less populated beaches. You will not feel them and the itching starts a few hours later. It’s had not to scratch and these little bites soon turn into bright red sores. They are annoying but not threatening. A visit to a pharmacy will result in some anti-histamines to stop the itching and some local skin lotion. Unpleasant but not a lot you can do to avoid them!
Overall, I was most impressed with Koh Samed. It is not as famous as some of it’s contemporaries but offers a very genuine island experience without the hype. It’s big enough to explore and so easy to get to. Value for money, friendly and wonderful beaches. Probably try to avoid at weekends but lovely during the week.
Enjoy Koh Samed.