The Scooters of Ko Samet Upon arriving at Ko Samet you will instantly realize that you will need a motorbike or a scooter if you would like to fit in. Not only do the narrow streets and small parking places accommodate this efficient mode of transportation, but the beach atmosphere and laid back Thai lifestyle […]
The Scooters of Ko Samet
Upon arriving at Ko Samet you will instantly realize that you will need a motorbike or a scooter if you would like to fit in. Not only do the narrow streets and small parking places accommodate this efficient mode of transportation, but the beach atmosphere and laid back Thai lifestyle seem to fit right along with the two wheelers. You have probably also noticed already in Thailand that an entire family can fit on one small scooter and even the bumpy pot hole filled streets of this popular tourist destination. The motorized scooters whizzing down the streets will either keep any wondering eyed tourist on their feet or quickly remind them who owns the street. Get in the way of one of these crotch rockets barreling towards you and you will be praying it is not another tourist behind the handle bars. That is, the locals seem to be more than experts behind the wheel, and why wouldn’t they be. Thai kids are literally brought up flying through the streets on the laps of parents, on the handlebars, standing on the front of scooters and with no helmets. No wonder they are expert navigators winding their ways in and out of traffic, dodging tourists without hesitation and sliding into parking spots.
Ko Samet itself is not the quiet beach backpacker town it was once herald as. Prices are inflated, beaches are crowded and streets are packed. But all is not lost. Even though Thailand’s closest island to Bangkok is going through a major growth spurt, fun in the sun can still be had under reasonable circumstances. Staying in one of the growing number of guesthouse a little ways off the beach can be more reasonable in terms of price. Finding a clean place to stay with a hot shower, fan, WIFI, and refrigerator for $17 is not uncommon. You can find all of this off the main street going towards the beach. A recommended place to stay with all of these specifications is Miss Tim’s House, located down the ally across from my recommended place to eat, the Red Ginger which is owned by a Canadian expat. Booking a place online before you go is highly recommended as you might end up paying much more for a place and you also don’t want to be walking the main stretch with your luggage in either the blistering heat or the often heavy rain. Our recommended online booking agent is agoda as they usually have the best prices on rooms and even 50% off some rooms. Using the Agoda website to book rooms online throughout Asia is also recommended as most hotels will have customer reviews and you can pay with paypal which always makes things easier.
Even though the beaches in Ko Samet are packed with vacationers mostly from all around Europe and many from Russia, the fine white sand and clear water dazzles. The Russians can definitely provide for some great people watching and beach entertainment with their bleach white skin burning in the sun, awkwardly short or non existent bathing suites, and their abilities to suddenly and shamelessly take beach glam shots of each other.
Getting to Ko Samet can be a little confusing and falling into a tourist trap is almost inevitable. Even a seasoned traveller can be charged a little extra and not even notice it. The best way to not pay the “white person with the tank top on” fee is to take the direct bus to Ban Phe that leaves from the Eastern Bus Terminal in Bangkok. If you leave from the Airport bus terminal you will be left almost 30 kilometers short of Ban Phe and dropped off at a taxi waiting on the side of the road that the bus driver called for you (for a commission). Then the taxi driver will gladly take you to the “ticket booth” to the ferry that charges you double (and he gets another commission – we saw the money transfer while we were handed off). In short, you can pay the “tank-top tax” and have a good vacation and not worry about it or you can save a couple bucks and do it the harder way. Don’t buy a round trip ticket. It is the same price and you will be stuck using only one ferry service if you do.
Nightlife and Eating
Ko Samet has a plethora of restaurants that all pretty much have the same items on their menus. As mentioned before, the Red Ginger restaurant is a good alternative to the others and has a good atmosphere. Going to the beach and sitting at one of the “lay on the beach” style restaurants is highly recommended and your chances of finding veggie and western food options greatly increase. The prices are not as inflated as one might think, and the night lanterns and fire-twirling kids create unparalleled atmosphere. There are also many bar options that line the beach and even a bar with a boxing ring for weekend Muay Thai fights. This bar is located past the large statues down the beach (they are hard to miss).