After 24 hours of travel & landing in Bangkok at 1 am, my first impressions of Thailand were something like, “Oh my god … I am really here.” “This is amazing .. it is so warm & there are people out!” “My god I can’t read any of the signs .. I am going to get lost.”
I woke up early on my first day & started my trip to Koh Samet, a beautiful Island Beach 3 hours drive south of Bangkok.
Koh Samet wasn’t on my original list of places to see in Thailand. I went because I was meeting my aunt from Poland there, but I am very glad I started my trip there. It’s a small island, with a beautiful beach & a friendly, laid back vibe. The perfect place to decompress & relax.
How I Got There:
- Skytrain: National Stadium Skytrain, Bangkok > Ekkamai Sytrain, Bangkok
- Bus / Van: Ekkamai Bus Terminal, Bangkok > Ban Phe Bus Terminal, Ban Phe
- Boat: Sri Ban Phe Pier, Ban Phe > Koh Samet Na Dan Pier, Koh Samet
On my first night I stayed at the Niras Bankoc Cultural Hostel in Old Bangkok ( Maha Chai Road & Bamrung Muang Road) & I decided to walk to the National Stadium Skytrain stop as it seemed close. I failed to consider that I would be walking for 30+ minutes in the heat with a 11 kg backpack. The experienced showed me I out of shape.
After some wandering around Ekkamai Bus Terminal, I found someone who understood what I was asking & found the counter where they sold van tickets to Ban Phe. A ticket for an air-conditioned van only cost me 200 baht ($8). The trip from Bangkok to Ban Phe took about 4 hours. At Ban Phe, one of my van passengers pointed me in the direction of the pier. A boat ticket with return cost me 100 baht ($4).
Lesson here is: Take 2 days in Bangkok to adjust before starting to travel.
First Time on a Boat
Before his trip I had not spent that much time on boats .. I didn’t really like them. When I saw the boat I was going to take my first thought was “Holy shit, this is tiny & I don’t know how I’m going to get on this thing with my giant backpack.” I got one, not very gracefully, but I didn’t fall into the water as I feared.
It wasn’t until I was on the boat to Koh Samet that it hit me … I was really doing it. I was really in Thailand, travelling by myself & on a boat with the locals. I was really on my grand adventure. I got a bit emotional on that boat, because I felt such joy & awe at the experience I was on.
Arriving at Koh Samet:
There are two things you should know about Koh Samet:
- If you are staying on Hat Sai Kaew beach you can walk to the pier.
- There is a 200 bath National Park entry fee for all foreigners.
So if you end up walking via the back road to your hotel like I did, you will unintentionally not pay the National Park entry fee.
I stayed at the Sawasdee Coco Resort which is right on Hat Sai Kaew beach & right next to the uber luxurious Sai Kaew Beach Resort. As soon as I got to the resort, I knew it was perfect. It wasn’t your typical 4 star, All-Inclusive beach resort. It was a budget resort, whose best feature was that it was right at the beach & I was only paying $59 a night to stay there. My room was a bit aged & simple, but it was clean, with air-conditioning & its own bathroom. The bathroom was a typical hotel Thai bathroom, the one where everything is basically in a small room, with no division between the shower & the rest of the bathroom.
The Making of a Beach Bum
I stayed for 4 days at Hat Sai Kaew beach. I had everything I needed – warm weather, a beach, plenty of affordable food options & company. I did spend some time in Koh Samet Village, especially in the mornings when the town was waking up.
On my third day I got to experience Koh Samet in its glory. With no clouds in the sky, the water was turquoise & it was hot. The water was so warm that it didn’t cool you off, but it was more pleasant to sit in the water than be on the beach.
I had no complaints .. really, none.
Everyday was Saturday
It felt like Saturday every day at Koh Samet. Nothing ever really closed & after sunset the beach transformed into a celebratory place. Instead of sunbathers, tables lined the beach filled with groups of people. I stayed out every night with my aunt & we were usually joined by someone from her group of Polish acquaintances.
I saw a lot of fire shows in Thailand, it almost gave me the impression that every Thai male learned this skill.
Leaving the Safety Net
I realized that while beautiful & idyllic, Koh Samet was too much in my comfort zone. I did have one errant thought about staying there for a month .. as it would be so easy. I didn’t. Koh Samet was the best place to unwind & re-energize before my month of travel, but it was not the best place for adventure.
It was time to go to Bangkok.