Struggling with pathetic Wifi signal here at Samet Pavillions so Ill have to add pictures later.
We decided to travel to Koh Samet because the weather here has been better than any other Island in Thailand. It appears they have a micro climate which keeps it dry and warm when every where else is horrible.
So we took a Taxi from the Chatrium Apartments to the Eastern Bus depot ( Ekkamai) in Bangkok, and bought two tickets for the ‘Big Bus’ to Ban Phe which is where the Pier for the Ferry to Samet departs.
There are different Buses available (including an express Bus) and Minibuses so our research got a wee bit complicated but the BIg Bus has space for suitcase’s (whereas the Mini buses don’t and you have to pay for an extra seat for your suitcases) plus they have an on board toilet.
When we got to the bus station there were several booth’s (desks or counters) with the name Samet (our destination) emblazoned on the front. Im assuming they will all take you to the same place but some are the Minibus providers.
However, BIG BUS is clearly labeled as you go through the front doors on your left hand side.
I did approach the Information desk and ask for some sort of clarification but the lady didn’t speak much English so Im none the wiser.
We bought two return tickets to Samet and two return ferry tickets from Ban Pae Pier to Na Dan Pier for 780 Baht which seemed a reasonable price?
We were told our bus left from Gate 9 so we sat there and waited. There were plenty of Cafe’s and snack bar’s available so you wont go hungry and its not a threatening environment so you wont feel nervous either.
After a while we were allowed to load our bags into the locker on the side (which we obviously didn’t do properly as a lady came along and did it again later) and then board the bus.
We sat in the wrong seats (check your ticket they are numbered) and had to move but all the seats have good leg room, recline really well and I found them extremely comfortable. I slept for two hours and only woke up when a lady needed to sit in the window seat next to me.
I hadn’t expected additional stops but there was one at the end of Sukhumvit Rd, another after an hour and a half then one more pick up and two drop offs. Whether these are scheduled I don’t know as they were all used by locals.
The air conditioning is a bit fierce and I suggest carrying a blanket or scarf so you can cover up to avoid the worst of the drafts. The nozzles are adjustable but you cannot dictate what a fellow passenger will do with their jet of air and you may find it coming straight at you.
There are no luggage racks in the bus so you keep your bags with you or put them in the space at the back of the bus but then you cant watch them.
I didn’t check the toilets which I should have done as a good travel writer but during our trip no one used them.
We arrived at our destination after 3 1/2 hrs drive which is within the 3-6 hours estimated depending on traffic.
The coach dropped us in a car park and we had to walk across the road and through another large car park where we could see the entrance to the Pier. Ticket’s had to be produced or bought at a Booth and there was a Lady Boy trying to sell Hotel accommodation.
Walking up the wooden pier was a bit awkward with our suitcases as the wheels kept catching between the planks and had to be partly carried. No one offered any assistance and it seems to be that Porters appear and snatch your bags from you only when they aren’t needed but there are none to be seen when its hard going.
Once at the end of the Pier I decided I needed the toilet so I made the walk of shame back down the pier and across the car park where I paid a lady 5 Baht for the privilege of going into a shit hole.
This toilet was a hole in the ground with a bucket of water and a jug.
Now I’m not prudish but my knees don’t bend that far, so I was forced to sit on the floor with my Bum over the hole.
Not very dignified but needs must.
Luckily I came armed with hand wipes and liquid hand wash as the taps failed to deliver any water and the soap decanter had long ago been vandalised.
So what was I paying my 5 Baht for you might ask?
Well, bugger all really.
Back on the pier we were told to board a ropey old wooden boat that didn’t really look sea worthy (and probably wasn’t) if put to the test.
But These are things you have to accept when traveling like Taxi’s with no seat belt’s and drivers who can drink a can of coke, text and pick their nose whilst steering a cab, all at the same time.
So between us we managed to lift the suitcases down the steps and up over the side of the boat where they were stored for the 40 minute trip to Samet.
It was quite pleasant, the sun was shining, sea blue and there was a cool breeze. It all seemed so idyllic.
When we reached the pier on the other side we were met with some rather strange statue and a much more modern port than I’d been expecting.
Pulling our bags we were stopped from leaving the port building by a Lady who simply Pointed.Following the direction of her well trained and honed finger there was a Booth where we were expected to buy a ticket each (20 Baht) to:- “Help restore the Pier”
This was the second rip off of the day.
The first was when we tried to get some money from an ATM only to find that all ATM’s in Thailand now charge 200 Baht for the privilege of drawing your own money.
Except Citibank’s which don’t charge and there are three of them in Bangkok, one on Sukhumvit Rd.But we didn’t have time to go there before catching the bus so we paid.
The charges made by my ever helpful bank (Lloyd’s) are mounting up and I might do a separate rant on that later.
So we ‘helped restore the pier’ and then found a Taxi to take us to our hotel (which was maybe 5 minutes drive away) for 40 Baht each. This required us sitting in the back of a Toyota Pick up truck with 5 other people and our bags.
We’ve travelled like this before in Thailand. The secret is to sit up straight, that way all the shocks are managed, slouch and your spine will snap in half!
Sting number Three.
Because Samet is classed as a Nature reserve The Government charge each tourist 200 Baht to come here. So we were stopped by four men dressed in military uniform at a checkpoint on the road and they demanded payment. The family from Nepal who were sharing our Taxi didn’t understand and refused to pay until I explained and then they reluctantly paid up.
At our Hotel there wasn’t a porter to be seen so we managed to drag our bags up and down several sets of steps and along miles of covered walk ways to the reception where swarms of porters immediately tried to grab our bags for the 3 metres journey across pristine tiled flooring to the desk.
At check in we were surprised to be asked for a 3000 Baht deposit which I was told would be returned to me when we left, if there were no breakages or loss (apparently the loss of a towel will cost me 300 Baht).
If I paid in cash they would return this amount upon departure, however if I used a card, they would not return it for 2 weeks?
I wasn’t best pleased with this, they had my credit card details, they had photo copies of our passports why would they need a separate amount for breakages. This is the first Hotel to ask for this in nearly seven weeks.
I suggested this wasn’t in Bookings.com contract but she produced a copy of the on line site and sure enough, hidden in the small print there was indeed a reference to having to pay this amount, though it didn’t explain about the delay for using a credit card.
We had of course no choice but to pay the amount in cash but I’m Still not happy about it.
Our room is quite pleasant and we will, Im sure be comfortable here.
The Hotel itself seems quite nice though the lay out is obscure. Like there was a crease in the initial drawing’s which have caused it to be spread out over different levels.
It’s advertised as 40 metres to the beach and I would say its less than that from our room. Walk past the Pool (not as big as the promotional photo’s suggested) down a ramp and your on the beach, which is a cove.
Walk along the headland a few metres and there is another cove. This we think is repeated all around the island.
There are beach bars along each cove, though they aren’t the hyper trendy types we found in Danang these are tin and thatch shacks with old home made wooden tables and chairs.
Mozzie repellant burners smoked away gently under each table adding an incense smell to the evening. There was the sound of music some where in the distance, people were having a few beers after a long day on the beach. The sun is starting to disappear behind the palm trees (were on the East side of the Island) and the sun beds were being replaced by white plastic tables and chairs outside the more expensive hotels and complexes.
There were lots of Bungalows which are for rent along the beach front, from wooden shack’s with tatty curtains and a hammock on the porch to very modern brick build affairs which I suspect cost a fortune.
Each is tucked into the undergrowth shaded by palms.
After a quick drink, we returned to our room and changed into our swimming costumes with the intention of having a late afternoon dip, but we got distracted by a bar that had sort of, soft lounging mats on wooden platform’s.
This looked inviting and the offer of ‘2-4-1’ happy hour persuaded us to stop for a drink.
We watched the Moon come up over the Ocean, it was beautiful. I was almost forgetting about all the Mishaps of the day. Starting to chill.
Two white wine’s were ordered (150 Baht each) and although they were apparently South African they tasted like Retsina from Greece.
The happy hour deal we were told was for every two drinks purchased we got a third one free. So we were surprised to be presented with a bill for 900 Baht when we decided to leave.
When we questioned this the waiter told us that white wine wasn’t included in the happy hour offer.
Reminding him that he had told us otherwise on at least two occasions he said. “OK” and charged us 600 Baht.
That little encounter over we went back to ‘Our Beach’ and chose a table where we ordered some food. Jaki had the best Green Thai Chicken Curry and I had some Grilled meat with about a ton of lettuce.
A whole allotment supply of greens on one plate, none of which were eaten.
When we paid up we tried to put the meal on the Hotel bill but apparently this was Samet Villas and we were Samet apartments so we had to use yet more of our cash.
It seemed best to call it a day, we know when were beaten so we slipped off to our room where Jaki started her nightly Mantra before i had even cleaned my teeth.
At least there are some things you can rely on.