Lady Tezza wrote this after our recent trip, but she's too lazy to become a T-fisher. And I'm too lazy to write my own:
Cherdchai Tours has express buses from Bangkok's Ekkamai Bus Station to Ban Phe , where boats leave for Ko Samet. The 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.
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.
(I'll do an ACCOMMODATION REPORT on TF's Samet page - Tezza).
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
(Samed Villa was a class act - I'll do a review on the Samet ACCOMM section - Tezza)
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.
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.