Photo: Beachside at Ao Tubtim.

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When you first step on to the grainier but still attractive beach of Ao Tubtim for the first time, it feels like discovering a totally different island than the one you experienced up on Haad Sai Kaew and Ao Phai. This sense of spaciousness and quietude is magnified when you head over the headland to the even more secluded Ao Nuan. Beyond that is the oddball of this trio, Ao Cho, though even it's worth stopping by for a leap off the wooden boat pier.

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Also known as Ao Phutsa, the cute little beach of Ao Tubtim is one of our favourites on Samet. With only two places to stay, it attracts a steady trade of regular visitors, foreigners as well as many Thais, and on weekends the accommodation can be packed. It's easy to see why so many Thai and expat Bangkokians have made Ao Tubtim their go-to holiday spot, returning year after year. Don't miss the chance to set up phallic looking rocks for good luck and vitality; the first of these curious sculptures were apparently erected on Tubtim by someone named Yut, way back in 1958.

Take the rocky drainage path that begins next to the southernmost bungalows at Tubtim Resort, and after a climb you'll reach the top of the forested hill that keeps Ao Nuan a secret to many (you can also get here from the main road). Clambering down the path to Ao Nuan, you get a feel for how Ko Samet used to be.

The secret to its seclusion lies in the fact that the only way to get here is by foot or boat, making the development that has come to many other beaches somewhat difficult. Some have complained that the only place to stay on this tiny, peaceful bay is overpriced, but it's the only spot on Samet where old school travellers can still find that irresistible 'out there' island experience.

Beyond the massive rock outcrop where locals often drop fishing lines to the south of Ao Nuan, another rugged trail leads over another hill and down to Ao Cho. Unlike its chilled out neighbours, Ao Cho has a cluttered, unkempt feel thanks to four particularly dismal places to stay.

It almost has the atmosphere of a hillbilly village. Rather than old tractors and pick-up trucks, it's run down jet skis, rowboats, rusty grills, faded signs and crumbling concrete horses all lying haphazardly under the shade of a colossal old banyan tree.

Quite frankly, some of the worst accommodation options on Ko Samet are located on Ao Cho. On the bright side, the stilted wooden planks that protrude from Ao Cho's centre make for one of the more picturesque piers on the island, and the swimming is excellent away from the boats.

One bonus of choosing any of these bays over other secluded spots further south is that, while quiet and isolated, they're not too far of a walk from the busier beaches. Even if you stay elsewhere, a day trip to these three bays is a must while on Samet.

 Browse places to stay in Ao Tubtim on Free cancellation.


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