Back From Ko Samet

I just returned from Ko Samet in Thailand. This is my first visit to the island in approximately fifteen years, and wow has it ever changed.

About five days ago my girlfriend packed her new swimsuit , I packed my bags, then got my eight year old son all ready to hit the beach and off we went. First we went by taxi to Ekami bus station, the 40 minute ride, in the 2006 Toyota Carola with Air Con cost about three US dollars, then we jumped on the 5 dollar per person trip from the bus station to the pier which took us to Ko Samet.

The tickets for the boat were about $4.00 per person for the one hour ride, my son traveled for free. The trip itself was quite nice, very slow and casual with lawn chairs on the upper level for us to relax in.

All of this had so far been very familiar, the bus station hadn’t changed in a very long time, the buses were similar to what I was used to. They played a Thai Comedy DVD on the bus for our entertainment, which are not exactly my taste, but I must admit sometimes the slapstick humor made me giggle a little on the inside.

Once we arrived at Ko Samet from the pier, we were greeted with a view of some dilapidated concrete beach bungalows that may or may not have had residents in them, some were defiantly too far gone for most people to consider staying there.

After getting off on the Pier, I no longer knew where I was, I was faced with a winding concrete street up a hill, and storefronts all along the way, There were five truck taxis waiting to take people to their various destination, each one would sit about ten visitors, it was all very well organized and friendly, I must admit I hadn’t asked any questions at this point and was just following the crowd. On the taxi I asked some people where they were going and they named beaches I was unfamiliar with.

Normally I first read my lonely planet before I go to a place so I have some basic idea where I am going, but this time I thought, since I had been here before, and had two fluent Thai speakers with me, as well as my own very poor Thai I should be able to figure it all out…

Well I couldn’t I was confused. We were dropped after a short taxi ride in front of a cobblestone road, with lights and palm trees on it, and a big entrance way with a park ranger waiting there to take a park fee from each of us.

Now I was really confused, the last time I came here, we took a truck around the island and were dropped at a beach, there was no park entrance fee. I was suspicious we were being dropped at a resort entrance, with a cobblestone pathway , I tried talking to the ranger but his English was very poor, from his Thai I began to understand that most of the Island is a national park now.

We paid the entrance which wasn’t very much, I’m not sure if I paid the Thai prices or it was the off season or the guy gave me a break or something but it was about $6US for the three of us for five days.

We walked around a bit looking for the cheap rooms and I found the area was absolutely packed with tourists, it was a huge disappointment to me how this had changed, I found myself wishing I had gone to Ko Chang or even Pattaya instead. I went to the taxi drivers and told them this wasn’t what I was looking for and asked if there was some nice, quiet place we could go, they told me that around here I was lucky to find a room under $30 a night, I asked them if they could take me to the furthest away area, and they did, after a few minutes the paved road became mud, and we continued for about ten minutes on the dirt roads, to the very end.

We got off the truck taxi and headed down a path leading from the road. it was still quite busy, but not so bad, we dropped our bags and I let my companions know that I would be back in a while I was looking for a room for us.

Sunset in the tropics is very fast, you can actually watch the sun move down below the horizon, It was already twilight and soon would be dark, when my hiking over the rocks and through the trees found a little beach right at the end of the path, I will not share its name with you, it is one of my only little piece of paradise left. I’m sure you can really find it if you tried, I mean the three resorts on the beach are full of others that found it also. Its not hard if you try.

Anyhow we found a little bungalow just up the hill and off the beach, the for about $20 per night with no hot water or air con. I know this isn’t every ones cup of tea, but just so you know the luxurious ones with air con, televisions, satellites, nice balconies with expensive padded deckchairs etc are also on the beach, if you looking to spend a little more money.

I was quite happy with the bargain, and the quietness of the beach. 80% of the people staying there were Thai.

The people that ran this particular cottage did not smile at us, they were not overly friendly, there was a baby and its diaper was being changed right on one of the restaurant tables. Although my first impressions were poor, by the end of the four day stay they had warmed up to us quite a bit, and were all extremely nice.

The other guests of the resort were all very nice and friendly, their kids played with my son, as did quite a few Thai teenagers. (Generally I find Thai all very kind and nice to children, the teenagers are very much like a large group of good volunteer babysitters.)

One gentleman that makes and sells jewelry on the beach, made a very nice shell necklace for my son, and gave it to him for free, very kind considering he must have put a couple of hours of work into it.

Sometime on the third day I was able to find one landmark that let me remember where I used to stay, there is a mermaid on the rock that was there way back when, and I found the hill above the Muay Thai Gym and bars that I used to have a little cottage on way back when, on stilts on the rock.

All in all it was cheap, the people were nice, the beach was fantastic, and the rooms were clean.

Exactly what I was looking for.

Anyhow now we are all back in Bangkok, itching our mosquito bites and wishing we weren’t so badly sun burnt.

It was a good trip, though, I wish I could have afforded to stay forever.

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