Just 200 kilometers from Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand, the T-shaped island of Ko Samet is famed for its white sandy beaches, exotic coral and crystal clear waters. Ko Samet has developed steadily over the past decade or so, but it hasn't been the victim of over zealous construction which has hit the likes of Ko Samui (or even Ko Chang). The island is typified for its splendid beaches and white silky sand, surrounded by tropical coral reefs and crystal clear sea. Tourists can also enjoy a plethora of delicious cuisine and fine nightlife.
It's a popular tourist destination for Thais and foreigners alike. As Ko Samet is so near Bangkok, the island is ideal for those in the capital wanting to chill-out with their families for a couple of days, without having to go through all that rigmarole of having to travel down south. It's only a 2.5 hour ride to Ban Phe, where one can take a 20-minutes ferry to the island.
Even though Ko Samet is only a few kilometers from the mainland, the island with its micro-climate (the driest archipelago in Thailand) gets much less rainfall than the rest of Eastern Thailand. The rainy season is May to September but even then it still has significantly less rain than the other islands in Thailand. Tourists should, however, be careful of occasional storms.
It is believed that once upon a time, Ko Samet was the home of pirates and that until this very day there is still lost treasures buried somewhere on the island. Thailand's legendary poet Sunthorn Phu was the first one to put this island on the map when he set his classical epic there, Phra Aphai Manee "The Story of Princes, Saga, Mermaids and Giants".
Even though Bangkokians had known about the beauty of Ko Samet for decades before, the Thai government put this island off limits and restricted overnight stay there until 1981. In that year, on 1st October, the Forestry Department of Thailand declared Ko Samet and its surroundings to be a national park.
Getting around on Ko Samet: The island has only a single main road. Some parts are concrete and some parts are only a dirt trail. There are two methods to get around the island. The first is by songthaew (usually a rather well-worn pickup truck with two benches in the back and no roof), which costs 200 baht for a private trip, or between 20 and 60 baht per person for a full car, depending on which beach you are going to. This is a rather expensive method to get around the island, and the dusty roads can make it an uncomfortable trip. The second way is by renting a motorcycle. Signs advertise 300 baht per day or 100 baht per hour, but when you go to enquire about renting they will often say 400 or 500 baht per day. Insist on paying 300 baht. That is for mechanic moto. If you want to get automatic one, you will pay 400 Baht per day. You will usually be able to rent it from the hotel you are staying at. Leaving your passport or a deposit is not necessary or advisable.
Warning: It is advisable to hire motorbikes only from reputable hotels and lodgings. Stores renting out motorbikes or ATVs may attempt to overcharge you for repairs and labor should you damage the bike, even superficially. Initial quotes for repairs is often exorbitant and is way beyond the price of labor, parts, and repair.
You can also rent/hire an ATV/Quad/4x4 for 1000-1600 baht/day.
Bangkok — most return to the buzzling capital of Thailand
Ko Chang — more sandy beaches and jungle await
Ko Kut — undiscovered island, again with sandy beaches
Ko Si Chang — virtually no beach life, but a very relaxed atmosphere
Pattaya — den of sleaze trying to clean up its act