[The Sea of Sunset]
“This is the land the sunset washes,
These are the banks of the Yellow Sea;
Where it rose, or whither it rushes,
These are the western mystery!
Night after night her purple traffic
Strews the landing with opal bales;
Merchantmen poise upon horizons,
Dip, and vanish with fairy sails.”
~ Robert Frost
Koh Samed, the nearest island to the chaotic sprawl of Bangkok, is deceitfully difficult to reach, but once on the small island, its idyllic charm casts a spell that promptly erases any memory of the exhausting journey.
Following the longest mini-van ride of my life (3 hours that turned into 4 hours, then 5, as the driver picked up passenger after passenger along the side of the road and dropped passenger after passenger in remoter, rural areas in what seemed like the middle of Thailand), we were dumped unceremoniously, bags and all, onto the pier.
“Speed boat? Speed boat?” yelled vendors at multiple stands, waving brochures and gesturing animatedly to tourists wearily descending from mini-vans and buses. Caught up in the crowd, we found ourselves in front of “Mrs. Pink Boat Tour and Speed Boat” table. Aptly named, the elderly Thai woman was dressed head to toe in bright pink, complete with a fuchsia feather waving jauntily in the little breeze provided by the plastic fan on the table.
“You go Samed?” she pointed at us, hot pink fingernail bobbing up and down.
Yes, we nodded. Yes, please. Just take us there already.
“For you?” she peered at us from the tops of her cat-eye glasses. “500 baht, there and back. You keep ticket. You come back to here.”
Fine, okay. We nodded again, too tired to haggle the price down any further.
“You can provide a taxi back to Hua Hin?” my friend inquired, noticing the large yellow and green sign proclaiming all the various forms of transportation the esteemed “Mrs. Pink” offered.
“Yes, yes, we do. Yes, very cheap, very good price,” a middle-aged Thai women, dressed in offhand Bermuda shorts and an oversized t-shirt, interjected vigorously. “Yes, you reserve here. We take you back. When you go? You go Hua Hin? When? We reserve for you.”
“How much for each of us?”
Our query was answered with a flurry of rapid Thai between 3-4 women at “Mrs.Pink’s” table. After quite a bit of debate, the middle-aged woman re-surfaced.
“1000 baht each.”
We debated. “Honestly, the mini-van ride over was so terrible that I would do it,” my friend offered. We agreed. It was pretty steep, but all things considered, a ride back to Hua Hin from the pier was easily a 4-5 hour drive. $30 for a 5 hour drive? We made the executive decision and booked the taxi.
Transportation finally set, we were ushered down the dock and onto a cramped speed boat driven by what we were pretty sure was a 10-year-old boy. Unperturbed by any sort of passenger queasiness, he fearlessly steered the boat straight into rougher waters, passengers and bags jolted up and down precariously in the back of the boat. We stopped at the main dock first, a significant pier made notable by a large merman statue holding a trident in front of him in defense.
After a short break, we were off again, speedily rounding the corner and gaining short bursts of air after hitting bright blue wave after wave. Maneuvering the boat skillfully into the cove, our driver killed the motor and motioned for us to hop out of the boat and straight into the water. Holding our bags over our heads, we waded in the clearest water I have ever seen onto a blissful stretch of beach.
Koh Samed is a hidden gem for several reasons: one, unlike its more popular southern neighbour islands, it is tucked away and not as populated by tourists; two, it is a small place, and you can easily explore every part of the island in a day or two; three, the island maintains a rugged quality punctuated with little beach-side resorts and restaurants. The resorts never feel too invasive on the overall scenery of the island, and I loved the natural feel of traveling from one cove to the next in search of a place to eat or just chill and swim.
Here are some places we loved on Koh Samed:
Samed Pavilion Resort // The breakfast buffet at this beautiful resort was one of the best I’ve had. Just a walk down from the beach, the space also offers a spa and gorgeous tiled pool.
Lima Coco Restaurant // Located on the sunset side of the island, this restaurant is hidden away in the quieter, romantic part of the island. You can dine straight on the beach and watch the sun set slowly in the distance. Order: Pad Thai with Shrimp (comes wrapped in an omelet).
Naga Bar // This fun spot is one of the few bars on the island, and it offers a chill place to sit and enjoy a drink while overlooking the beach. At night, the scene maintains its laid-back beach vibe, but the middle of the space becomes a dance floor, peppered with overhead neon lights.
Be sure to check out: Mr. Judd’s jewelry and nearby art-work on the beach.
I’d love to hear from you! Have you been to Koh Samed before? What kind of beach scene do you like – long stretches of sand or little hidden coves? Where in Thailand would you like to explore?