Nov 25 2011
You have some time to kill before a big trip, or a weekend to spare. You want to stay near Bangkok but get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Ko Samet is in no way an overseas destination island — that is, if you’re travelling to Thailand for the first time and want a beach getaway, don’t make Ko Samet the only stop on your list. But Ko Samet is an easy bus and ferry ride away from Bangkok, with clear waters, sandy stretches, and lots of nighttime fun. The name “Samet” comes from the flower-bearing Cajeput trees, which are in abundance all over the island and known for their healing properties within aromatherapy.
Ko Samet attained national park status in 1981, but you would never know except for the 400 baht entry fee you must pay upon arrival. The teardrop shaped island is densely populated with hotels, restaurants, bars, and even fire throwers at night. While the northeastern strip is packed (Hat Sai Kaew beach being the most developed), the western and northern parts of the island are relatively quiet. If you want some beach time peace away from the thick of it all, try Ao Phrao. The whole island is only eight kilometres long and filled with dense forests in the interior.
Distance from Bangkok: 200 km
Total travel time: 4 hours
From Bangkok, take a bus from the Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai Station) directly to Ban Phe in Rayong. Buses leave hourly from around 5:00–20:00, and are three to three-and-a-half hours long (157 baht, including air-con, water and a snack). You can also take a two-and-a-half hour bus from Ekkamai to Rayong leaving from 4:00–22:00 (140 baht), and from there take a short songthaew (around 30 baht) or motorcycle to Ban Phe.
From Pattaya or Ko Chang, minivan services are available to Ban Phe. If you decide to spend the night in Rayong, you can easily find accommodation to break up your trip. Though the beaches are not developed and transportation difficult to come by, there are actually quite a few sleepy beach towns on the mainland popular for Thai vacationers, including Laem Charoen and Hat Mae Rampeung. For other vacation destinations outside of Bangkok, look here.
Alternatively, you can hire a private taxi for around 2,500 baht to take you directly from Bangkok to Ban Phe to cut down on travel time. Buses are also available from the Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal to Rayong and minibuses from Victory Monument directly to the ferry piers (250 baht). However, travelling from Ekkamai station is the most regular and reliable route.
Nuan Thip Pier at Ban Phe (it’s impossible to miss) services ferries to Na Dan, the fishing village and de facto capital of Ko Samet. The ferries should leave hourly and cost 50 baht one-way, 100 baht roundtrip from 8:00–16:00, 30 minutes from pier to pier. You will also have the option of purchasing a round trip ferry ticket along with your bus ticket in Ekkamai, but do so at your own risk, as the verification is the size of a stamp and as thin as toilet paper, and easily lost inside a packed backpack. There is no discount for buying a ferry ticket in Bangkok or roundtrip at the pier. Ferries from Ban Phe also depart to Ao Wong Deuan (3 km southwest of Hat Sai Kaew) on a less regular basis for 120 baht roundtrip.
If you are getting in late or are travelling with a large party, it might make more sense to take a private charter, accommodating up to 10 people, leaving at all hours of the day and night (1,200 baht to Na Dan, depending on demand, and other beaches on the island upon request).
Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai Station)
Sukhumvit Rd, near BTS Ekkamai
T: (02) 391 8097
Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit)
Kampheng Phet Rd, a short taxi or public bus ride from BTS Mo Chit
T: (02) 576 5599
Victory Monument Mini Bus Station
Phaya Thai Road, near BTS Victory Monument
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