The Serene Shores of Koh Samet
We needed to be in Bangkok on Friday for another Doctor’s appointment (boring!) so decided to get out of the city for a few days. After much research, we booked a place on Koh Samet, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, a four-hour coach and ferry ride away. Was this going to be paradise or the pits?
As the ferry took us into Nadan Pier, excitedly, we could see our Villa off to the right, directly on the seafront with its red roof and cream plastered walls. But what we weren’t expecting was to see, at the end of the pier, a colossal bronze figure of a female ogress greeting us! What a weird stature. It turns out that she’s a character from a poem by a 19th-century poet Sunthorn Phu. We saw two other characters later from the poem; a mermaid who guided the main character, a Prince, to this beautiful island.
We checked into our accommodation. Yes, I think we're going to like it here, where we can relax on our bed or hammock with a view of the sea just a few feet away.
After hiring a brand new sunshine yellow scooter, we paid our 200 bahts each for entering the Koh Samet National Park, which covers most of the island. Zooming around the area, we could see on the map that there was a beautiful sandy cove at Ao Kai. We realised that we needed to walk through Samet Ville resort to reach it. Luckily no-one stopped us.
Wow! The beach was stunningly beautiful with white sand so fine it was like walking on icing sugar that miraculously didn’t dissolve by the crystal-clear sea. We found a quiet spot, and Tim kindly built me a sand chair to relax in. Paradise!
While I lazed in the sunshine reading a good book, with the occasional dip into the invitingly warm water, Tim was busy tidying the beach, moving fallen leaves from nearby trees, dead coral which had washed up on the shore and any other debris into a neat pile. After his “chores” he created his sand sculptures and joining me in the water. If I didn’t know him so well, I would have thought he had ants in his Samet pants!
As we left the resort to explore more of the island, we got chatting to Maurizio from Italy and Adrian from Holland. Within a short time, we were talking about all manner of things.
We’d planned to go to the next cove, but forgetting how tiny the island is (only 6.8 kilometres from top to bottom), we quickly reached the southern-most tip. Who should we meet? Yes, Maurizio and Adrian.
I guess there is some recent history to this part of the island. Buildings were half-built with more mortar than brick and another building had been knocked down. I had read that a few years ago The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) aimed to demolish illegal resorts on the island, so I wondered if this was one of the victims, or are they culprits?
The shoreline was rocky here, but we spotted a small sandy cove and made our way down. Previous visitors had been busy carefully constructing towers from rocks and tying rock chimes to trees. The place would have been wonderful it is wasn’t for the large rubbish tip in one corner. What a shame! Why cannot people take their trash home rather than spoil this natural area of beauty?
The four of us walked down to another cove and saw the same thing there, a large pile of black bin liners spewing out grimy garbage. We found a couple of brooms, and swept the bay, revealing white sand, but it wasn’t long before we got tired of this and the brushes transformed into guitars!
Maurizio spotted some weird fruit that from a distance looked like red pineapple, but up close were quite different. Does anyone know what they are?
We said farewell and hopped onto our scooter to carry on exploring. Disappointingly, we couldn’t get down to a few sandy bays highlighted on the map as security guards were stationed at the entrance of resorts located by these treasured coves. It was only guests paying premium hotel prices that had access to these beaches. I did some research and read in the Bangkok Post that “National park chief Arkhom Namkham said all beaches on Koh Samet are public property” Could a few back-handers be at play here? Surely not!
I will say that it was pleasant to drive around the island. There is not much traffic as visitors cannot bring cars to the island. Also, most of the roads were in excellent condition with speed bumps keeping speeds low.
We wanted to get to the west side of the island to see the sunset. On the way, we passed by the reservoir, which was looking somewhat depleted. Our little beach home had a notice informing us that water is scarce on the island. We could see why. With no natural water resources here, the reservoir is a vital water source to the islanders and ever-growing number of visitors.
It didn’t take us long to reach the gentle curve of Ao Prao beach; a rather upmarket area with terraces of hotels and fine dining for holidaymakers and wealthy residents from Bangkok escaping the frantic city and fritter away their well-earned cash. We walked to the end of the bay and a weird looking black and white bird caught my eye – I think it was an Oriental Piled Hornbill. In 2008 there were only a handful of these birds on the island. During our time here, we were privileged to have seen four. Perhaps the island has had a successful breeding programme.
Gradually the sun started to set. The big ball of fire slowly seemed to shrink and sink below the horizon with the sky turning from rich hues of orange to deep indigo.
What a contrast to Bangkok. So calm, beautiful and serene here in Koh Samet. Yes, we made the right decision coming here. It’s a shame we need to return to the vibrant, loud, super-charged energy of Bangkok so soon. Hey ho!