When the islands of Thailand come to mind, many people automatically think to the southern islands, however, the eastern islands should not be overlooked, as their beauty is just as remarkable. My professor needed to reschedule my Wed class this week, therefore I had a few free days. Ally and I decided to take a break from the busy streets of Bangkok, and head to an eastern island, not far from Bangkok, called Koh Samet Island.
You can leave Bangkok from the Eastern Bus Terminal which is off the BTS stop, Ekkamai, close to my apartment. The bus took us to Ban Phe Pier where we then hopped on a ferry for a 40 min ride to Koh Samet Island. The island has developed rapidly over the last decade, and it wasn’t until 1981 that the government allowed anyone to sleep over on the island.
We reached the island just before dinner time and headed to our hostel. The hostel was called I-Talay and it was literally right around the corner from where the ferry lets you off. Cutest hostel ever. The outside was painted pink, blue, and yellow and the room was just as colorful.
Across the street was a motorbike rental shop, so we decided to rent one for a day to get around the island. Ally used to own a bike so she was good to drive. It was about $9 to rent for 24 hours. We drove the bike up to the beach for dinner and ate at this little place right on the beach. I don’t know the name of the place, most don’t have names displayed, if they even have one. There were these colorful triangular cushions on a small square table that we sat on, with another table on top for food and drink. I’d love to recreate this set up at home.
Unfortunately we were on the eastern side of the island, so we couldn’t see the sun setting. However, we could still see the sky change colors as it set, so we enjoyed this beautiful sky for a brief moment. Time should be frozen when the sun is setting, it all happens too quickly.
We both thought it was much deserved to have a cocktail, so I ordered a piña colada with my meal. Perfect choice for this relaxing evening. It was quite romantic actually and I wished my fiancé were here. No offense to Ally, I’m just not sure her cuddles would be the same. 😉
Around 8pm a small fire show began in front of our restaurant. It’s crazy how well they handle the fire wands, and I’m wondering how long they have been practicing. There were three of them swinging the fire around, and one boy had to be no more than 10 years old. Oh island life…learning to juggle fire as soon as you can walk. I started to imagine my family living on an island and Jack throwing fire around like this boy.
When the fire show was over we paid our bill and headed out up the beach to see what else was going on tonight. Unfortunately not much at all. The beach was deserted and there were only a few people at each place. Maybe because it was Tuesday? Ally and I had a beer and headed home. We’ve booked a snorkeling and sunset tour for tomorrow afternoon, but would like to enjoy some beach time first.
As planned, we started our Wednesday on the beach. First we found American breakfast, yes it is called this. Thais eat the same things they eat for lunch, for breakfast. There’s no scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and toast in Thai food. So they make it and call it American breakfast. Smart. My mouth is watering just thinking of bacon and eggs!
After breakfast we walked along the most popular beach on the island, Sai Kaew Beach, looking for a place to lay out. There’s a nice quiet spot just behind these interesting statues: a mermaid and a prince playing a flute. Apparently the statues are characters in a famous poem from the 1800s called “Phra Aphai Mani”, which featured this island in the poem. The statues sit on rocks between Ao Phai and Hat Sai Kaew aka Diamond Beach. So we are laying out on the Ao Phai side.
The sun was blazing today, and the water was like bath water which didn’t help much. We didn’t stay out too long as we were burning up. There’s some bars and restaurants along the beach so we decided to stop for a drink before heading back to the hostel to get ready for our snorkeling and sunset trip. Ally and I picked a random bar, and almost immediately after ordering our drinks, we were approached by a bunch of Thais asking questions for the Americans. The ladies were hilarious.
We arrived at the snorkel and sunset trip booking place at 3:45pm and sat for a minute until another lady pulled up on a motorbike and told us to hop on. No one had explained anything to us, which seems to be the way in Thailand, so I had zero clue what we were doing. But I’m learning that eventually it all ends up working out. So the 3 of us rode this motorbike to wherever. She took us to the same beach we laid out on today, and we walked through a bunch of restaurants until she found the right place. When a lady in the restaurant confirmed, she pointed us to the beach and left…with our vouchers.
We waited by the beach for a bit, I ate an ice cream, and I started to wonder if we were actually going to go anywhere this evening. We were the only ones waiting and no one was giving any direction. Finally, a man let us know we will take off in 5 minutes, and that was the first time I started to feel reassurance. Minutes later, 2 young Thai guys flag us to the boat (I guess the vouchers are unnecessary).
When we arrived at our first snorkeling destination, one of the Thai guys jumped in with his mask, and came back up saying “sea not clear”. Damn. I was really looking forward to some good snorkeling. He flagged us in anyways, and it actually wasn’t terrible. The water was a bit hazy, but things were still visible. Although, it did sound a bit more frightening swimming with jellyfish in hazy water. And when I saw my first jellyfish in the water, frightened I was.
I had heard that the clear jellyfish don’t sting, however I have no clue if this is true and don’t want to find out the hard way. This time of the year is prime for jellyfish. I am seeing them all over Hua Hin as well.
We went to one more place to snorkel and the journey there was interesting. The Thai guides showed us where the very large jellyfish hang out and they attempted to catch one with a basket. After 10 minutes or so of no luck, they gave up. They did however catch a squid. A dead squid. I didn’t realize it was dead until he pulled it in the boat and the smell was unbearable. I said “ewww, it’s dead” and he repeated “eww yeah dead” and threw it back in the water.
We came upon another beach on the west side of the island and parked the boat on shore there. This is where we’ll watch the sunset. Until then, more snorkeling. This location was much better. We saw some sea urchins, cool coral, clams, fish, and more jellyfish.
Our Thai guide kept picking up everything! He picked up the sea urchin, the clam, and even the jellyfish.
After snorkeling I decided to watch the sunset from the boat. Sunsets are my favorite. This one was a beautiful yellow orange color followed by pink in the final stages.
Once the sun departed we continued the boat ride until we went completely around the island and ended up back where we came from. We dropped off another couple and headed back to our beach.
For dinner tonight, we went back to the same beach we laid out on today. It was night and day difference from the previous night. There was already a fire show going on at Ploy bar so we grabbed a table there, which consisted of a mat on the sand, the same triangle pillows, and a low table. There were a ton of people out tonight and everyone around was eating, drinking and smoking sheesha (hookah) while eyes fixed on the fire show. This show was larger than last night; there were 5 guys and a girl performing. Ally and I ordered dinner and drinks, and later some sheesha.
The fire show started to get more entertaining as they set up fire limbo. Everyone was invited to come give it a try. I took my turn while the pole was still up high. They did keep lowering it and it was fascinating to see these Thai guys bend their bodies under the flaming pole.
When it started to sprinkle, we all took cover under the small covered area at the bar, and everyone mingled and shared stories of their lives in their country. This is one of my favorite parts of travel. I love to hear the stories of others.
Ally and I head back home the next day. The ferry left for Ban Phe around noon, so we showered, packed, and made a pit stop at 7Eleven for toasties and chips. 7Eleven is equivalent to QT back home, just without gas. Toasties are little sandwiches that 7Eleven will heat up for you, and my favorite is the ham and cheese one.
Ally and I made it back to Bangkok just in time for my night class, which meant our island getaway has come to an end.
Ko Chang is another eastern island just a bit further, that unfortunately we were unable to check out. It is actually the second largest island in Thailand and the largest of the Eastern islands. The island is gorgeous and known for diving, snorkeling, and jungle hiking.
If you are in Thailand, check out these Eastern Islands. You won’t regret it!