Wednesday, April 14, 2010




Late afternoon sports and sun worshippers on Ao Phai - click image to expand.

After 3 nights in Bangkok we headed out for a week on Ko Samet. Cherdchai Tours has express buses from Bangkok's Ekkamai Bus Station to the town of Ban Phe, where boats leave for Ko Samet. The bus trip took 4 hours, no rest-stops, and cost Bt 157 each. The attendant handed out a bottle of water and a sweet bun as we pulled out from the station, and the trip was much more comfortable and safer than subsequent long mini-bus rides, though a fair bit slower.
The Cherdchai bus terminal at Ban Phe is across the road from Nuanthip pier (there are others), from where large blue ferries make the short crossing to Samet, Bt 50 per person. The next boat won't leave until 20 passengers have bought tickets, which at first was a worry as only 7 of us came across from the bus to this pier. There's an inexpensive restaurant and toilet facilities available, and it turned out to be no hardship to wait a half hour or so for the next trip. By the time our ferry actually finished loading, lots of late-comers had filled it, which meant the songthaews on the Samet side had plenty of passengers and could charge the minimum fare per person, which for us was Bt 30 to Ao Vong Duern. The songthaews stop just beyond the port for the National Parks officers to collect their Bt 200 entry fee from foreigners, money which is obviously not spent on the dirt tracks which pass as the road system on the island.

Entrance to Vong Duern Villa's second eating place - the Rockside Restaurant with nice views across the bay.

Vong Duern beach
has a number of bungalow resorts, we had tried to book Vong Duern Villa (at the far southern end) over the net, but only phone bookings are possible. So we chanced a walk-in, and were immediately offered a discount of Bt 200 on the website price of Bt 1200 a night, because we were prepared to stay 3 nights. Overall, still not value for money.

Our duplex bungalow was "rockside", close to the water and the restaurant. Noise wasn't a problem, except from the chorus of bullfrogs in the various water features about the property. On the plus side our room had a nice verandah with drying rails, aircon, hot water, a bathroom big enough so that the shower didn't soak everything else, fresh towels, water and toiletries daily, and a TV. On the down side, the bathroom didn't have a door, just a shower curtain, the aircon was noisy and dripped cold water on the floor, the bed was the hardest I've ever encountered anywhere in Asia, and breakfast was not included. The ceiling had strips of paint peeling off, and the woodwork showed signs of termite trails. The mosquitoes were fierce here and everywhere else I went on Samet, but after we taped the gaps around the windows and plugged the drainage holes in the bathroom, only opening one when showering, we kept things under control with our can of insecticide.
Our bungalow was much smaller, less attractive and well finished than the "rockside standards" on the website.
The resort had other more spacious and better presented bungalows, prices on the website.

Our rockside bungalow

Some of the nicer bungalows. These were in the "beachside" area - no beachside bungalow was actually fronting the sand which was taken by the slightly tatty beachfront restaurant and reception, a massage area, a new paved performance area and a snacks/drink cafe region - although some beachfront rooms are closer the sand than these. The "cliffside" bungalows were in a higher steeper area and similar in appearance. All bungalows seemed to have tree-filtered views of the ocean. There are bigger family size places.

The water at Vong Duern beach wasn't as clear as other parts of Ko Samet, but the swimming was pleasant and I had no fear of stepping on sharp coral or broken glass, which infests other places I've been to in Thailand (hello Ko Lipe). A few minutes walk either north to Ao Cho or south to Ao Thian found very nice swimming conditions as well. There are plenty of places to eat, my favourite was Vong Deuan Resort (various spellings abound for this area) which served its tea and coffee in large mugs, or a pot even, and whose prices were on a par with everywhere else, even though its accommodation was luxurious and expensive. A few mosquito coils under the tables in the evening would be the only improvement I would suggest; this was the first time I've ever seen a mosquito biting me through my clothing.

View from our rockside bungalow verandah.

Ao Phai. For the second part of our week on Ko Samet, we decided to go upmarket to Samed Villa, a short songthaew ride north from Ao Vong Duern. Having only a short distance to travel, we arrived too early for check-in, but our luggage was stored for us in a room with safe deposit boxes for our use, and we were offered towels and toiletries and the use of the facilities behind reception. This is a busy beach with lots of boat activity, but a safe swimming area is cordoned off right out front. The sea here was wonderfully clear and warm, with no nasties to tread on and decent depth not too far out.

Safe swimming

Samed Villa had plenty of sun lounges and umbrellas to use on the sand, and also lots of padded lounges under the trees around the rocks on the way to Ao Pudsa/Tubtim. This area was well served by massage/manicure ladies and wandering food vendors selling fresh fruit or more substantial meals. The volley ball net came out at low tide, and attracted quite a crowd of players and onlookers each afternoon we were there, as can be seen in the opening photograph. Tables, seating and fairy lights were set up in the evening for the beach barbeque, with food in all prices ranges. So good we had dinner here 3 nights in a row.

Our room at Samed Villa

Our room was the cheapest available, up the back, Bt 1600/night, with breakfast. This meant we were far from all the night life noise from neighbouring properties, but still only a minute's walk through the lush grounds to the sea. Our room was beautifully appointed and had none of the shoddy workmanship of lots of Thai building construction. The bed and pillows were divine, the big overhead fan was sometimes all we needed, though the aircon was efficient and silent, and as a tea addict, the water boiler, cups and refrigerator were much appreciated. All of the windows were screened, with an internal fly-screen door at the entrance, and the room had plenty of good lighting, a TV, safe, mini-bar supplies, and lots of towels. The front verandah was nice but a bit useless except for drying towels etc as there was only a bush view and the mosquitoes were bad, day or night.

Our room, back row.

The tariff included a generous buffet breakfast; there was a charge for in room wi-fi (Bt 0.5/minute), or for people like us without a laptop, the internet cafe was Bt 2/ minute, or Bt50/half hour. We charged our dinners to our room, and there was no fee for using the Visa card to settle our account on departure.

A few metres from our room was the boundary with Pudsa Bungalows. It was just as quick for us to go to the beach there as to the beach in front of our resort, making a nice change of scene. The first restaurant you come to has the usual fare at the usual cheap prices. In the opposite direction, our beach joined Ao Hin Kok and then the long White Sand Beach, with just a couple of small rock outcrops to walk around. Great way to walk off a bit of that buffet breakfast and see the many other (mainly Thai) holidaymakers. If you walk far enough, you can reach restaurants with shops behind. Goods had price tags and I found the sarongs at Bt100 cheaper than at places like Ko Phangan or Ko Samui.

Landscaped grounds of Samed Villa. Bullfrog heaven.

We left Samet via speedboat. Trying to get an inexpensive ride on a songthaew when there are only 2 of you is next to impossible, so it wasn't worth it to try to get back up to the cheap ferry when speedboats left from right in front of our resort for Bt 200 each. The trip was short and comfortable, not like some I've encountered elsewhere in Thailand.

Departing Ko Samet.

Back to the main Ko Samet page.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you nice article.
    your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
    I love here Surin Phuket This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
    And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
    Thank again.