Tag - koh samet

Koh Yao Noi


Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand

You don’t have to spend very long on Koh Yao Noi to start to feel like you have stumbled upon that elusive traveller dream “the best kept secret”.  Why aren’t there more people here you wonder?  While also secretly hoping they don’t suddenly arrive.  Even locals working in resorts and restaurants obviously built for tourists ask, “how did you find us?” with a touch of surprise in their voice.  Like someone who has decorated their home for a party but never actually sent out the invitations.
 
The answer to their question?  Well, how does anyone find anything these days?  Google!  Qualifying our search of the Phang Nga region with words like “remote”, “peaceful” and “away from the crowds” Koh Yao Noi is where we happily found ourselves.
 
Koh Yao Noi (meaning small long island) and it’s sister island Koh Yao Yai (big long island) are located in the Phang Nga bay between Krabi, to the east, and Phuket, to the west.  Koh Yao Yai is the larger of the two islands but Koh Yao Noi is the more developed and more tourist friendly of the two.  It covers an area of about 50 square kilometers.  Speedboat ferries leave Bang Rong Pier in Phuket around 6 times a day and will whisk you out to this tropical refuge within an hour.
 
Most of the accommodation is on the east of the island where perfect little sandy strips of beach look out across tranquil water to a group of impressive limestone karsts a few kilometers from shore.
 
The majority of Koh Yao Noi’s 3,500 or so inhabitants are Muslim.  Their attitude is open and moderate.  Many, but not all, of the local women cover their heads.  You will still be able to get a beer or a cocktail if you desire, though bacon with your morning eggs might be harder to come by.
 
While crowds of holidaymakers have inundated nearby Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga and Koh Phi Phi in the last decade Koh Yao Noi has escaped any significant development.  Tourism contributes to the islands economy but it’s not the only source of income.  Traditional industries like fishing and rubber plantations remain important.  Locals are laid-back, friendly and quick to greet you with a warm smile.  This feels like a very tight-knit, authentic rural community and you feel privileged to be welcomed into it.
 
So what can one do here?  Well it’s the type of place you can quite happily do very little.  Slow down your pace, quieten your mind and breathe in the beauty around you.  Let the days drift by with a bikini, a sun lounger and a good book as your companions.  Take intermittent dips in the warm ocean floating on your back admiring the changing colours of the karsts as clouds waft in and out.
 
You’ll more than likely get the urge to have a closer look at these nature-made monuments, and that can be easily arranged. 
 
Most accommodation providers will be happy to arrange boating excursions for you, but you might save yourself a few baht by booking directly with one of the local operators. 
 
Husband and wife Kong and Poom run Saferoh Tours close to Tha Khao Pier.  They offer a range of day-trip options to nearby islands in their traditional Thai dragon boat and can supply snorkelling and fishing equipment and/or a kayak on request.  Lunch is also provided on daylong excursions and you can expect tasty home-cooked delights like chicken with cashew nuts and crunchy tempura vegetables.
 
Your first stop should be Koh Hong, about a 20-minute boat trip from Tha Khao Pier.  “Hong” translates as “room” and refers to the islands large interior lagoon walled by towering limestone cliffs, which can be accessed by boat at high tide.  But this islands real gem is its picture perfect white sandy cove where clear turquoise waters reveal a dazzling array of tropical fish.  In fact you don’t even need your snorkel to see some of them as schools of little black and yellow fish swim around your legs in the shallows.  Koh Hong has a small picnic area and toilet facilities and although it’s popular with day-trippers remains surprisingly quiet considering it’s beauty.
 
Hopping in a sea kayak for a leisurely paddle is a great way to explore these archipelagos even closer up as you’ll be able to get into nooks and crannies your dragon boat can’t.  Around Koh Panak is particularly interesting to explore, as there are a number of sea caves you can paddle into. 
 
If you’re starting to miss the crowds take a daytrip to Koh Ping Kan (better known as James Bond Island).  This narrow pillar of rock has been attracting visitors since it starred alongside Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974.  A constant stream of boats pull in from Phuket and Phang Nga and it can be a bit of a shock to the system after the peacefulness of Koh Yao Noi.  In high season you’ll have to queue to get your photo taken in front of the famous rock.  Unlike the other small islands there are a number of stalls here selling jewellery and touristy trinkets (but surprisingly little James Bond memorabilia).
 
After your 007 pilgrimage it’s a short trip to Koh Panyee, a 200-year-old Muslim fishing community whose stilted homes rise out of the sea clinging to a rocky outcrop for support.  These days there are a number of large restaurants on the waterfront that cater to the boatloads of tourists who disembark for a look around.  There are also numerous souvenir stalls vying for your tourist dollar, but it’s an interesting little place and still worth a wander.  Check out the small floating soccer pitch built from old scraps of wood and read the community’s list of rules (and punishments).  You don’t want to get caught with a beer in your bag here – the fine is 5,000 baht plus a goat.
 
Back on Koh Yao Noi the sun loungers beckon, but if you’re feeling a bit more energetic there are also opportunities to try rock-climbing, Muay Thai boxing, yoga or a Thai cookery class.  Or rent a scooter and seek out secret beaches down traffic free dirt roads.
If your idea of a perfect holiday involves shopping and nightclubbing this isn’t the place for you.  But if you want blissful relaxation combined with a bit of healthy activity, in a place that still has a firm hold on its traditional way of life, then this is it.  Locals are happy they’ve avoided the rapid development seen on other islands and are proud of the relaxed piece of paradise they have to share.  You get the impression they intend to keep it that way.
 
Leah Carri is an Irish freelance journalist currently based in Australia. She has kindly shared her experiences in Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com visitors. If you’d like to check out her blog you can see it here. Leah is currently available for writing projects and can be contacted by email.

KhaoSanRoad.com enjoys promoting the work of new writers and writers new to Thailand. If you would like to see your work on this site, contact us and we will see what we can do.

 

Eastern Thailand

Eastern Thailand
Eastern Thailand
Eastern Thailand

Eastern Thailand contains 7 provinces, situated to the south of Isan and east of the Central Thailand, between Bangkok and Cambodia.

This region of Thailand is particularly popular with visitors who wish to enjoy all the natural beauty and golden beaches of Southern Thailand whilst avoiding the crowds.

For many, the tourist destination of Pattaya provides an interesting diversion, whilst others head straight to the beautiful island of Koh Samet to enjoy all the benefits of an island holiday with less of the hassles.

The large island of Koh Chang is a great place to spend a few days and there are many areas of natural beauty located on the island as well as several smaller islands close by. This is a great place to go snorkeling and diving as there is plenty of pristine coral and colourful fish to see.

The town of Si Racha is well known for its deliciously spicy sauce and seafood, and while there visitors can visit the Sri Racha Tiger Zoo for the opportunity to cuddle the tiny tiger cubs.

For travelers who really want to get away from it all, the peaceful island of Koh Si Chang makes a great destination as it is virtually ignored by tourists.

Although the region is easily reachable by bus, there is are also small airports at U-Tapao and Trat.

Koh Samet, Thailand

Koh Samet, Thailand
Koh Samet, Thailand
Koh Samet, Thailand
Koh Samet, Thailand

Koh Samet is an extremely pretty island situated in Rayong Province, which is within easy reach of Bangkok. The island features 14 beautiful white sand beaches. Although a popular tourist destination and a major destination for Thai families on weekends, Koh Samet somehow manages to maintain the feel of a quiet remote tropical hideaway, especially during the week.

Although seemingly sleepy, there is still plenty to do on Koh Samet, especially in the evening when the beach bars come alive and there is loud music, drinking and dancing on the beach, especially on weekends or around the full moon.

Located in Rayong Province, the island is reached by a short ferry ride from the pretty port town of Bang Phe. Bang Phe itself can be reached in 2-3 hours from Bangkok’s Ekkamai bus terminal.

A good way to see all of the island’s pristine beaches is to hire a motorbike, whilst songthaews will take you just about anywhere you want to go. Another great option is to take a boat tour around the island. Boat tours can usually be combined with snorkelling or scuba diving trips.

The island largely consists of jungle in the center, and another great way to explore is to go hiking, while you can watch the sunset from dramatic cliff side locations along the south-west coastline.

There are evening fire shows at a few of the islands beach bars. They are usually held after 8 pm and act as a showcase for some of the talented locals. While on Koh Samet you can learn a new skill and show off to people back home by taking fire juggling lessons from one of the experienced fire jugglers.

Yoga classes are held daily at Ao Pay beach and the yoga teacher has been practicing yoga for more than thirty years. You can also ease aching muscles with one of many types of massages on offer.

Food wise, the island is famous for seafood, and some of the best barbeques are found along Ao Phai and Haat Sai Kaew beaches. However, you can also find just about any style of food that takes your fancy, from curries to pizza.

Many of the bars show movies and football in the evening and a good way to escape the heat in the middle of the day and chill out is to order a coconut shake and tune in to a cheesy western movie.

What to do in Thailand

What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand

In this exotically inviting land where the weather is usually hot and sunny, travel is easy and the food is delicious and plentiful, there isn’t really much that you can’t do. No matter what you are into, whether it be extreme sports, sunbathing, exploring, discovering a new culture or pure hedonism, Thailand is the perfect place to do it, whilst getting a tan at the same time.

Thailand’s temples – known as wats – are big, richly decorated and contain an interesting assortment of treasures. Every town has a large assortment of temples, with perhaps the highest concentrations in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya. Some temples not to be missed are Wat Arun on the Chaopraya river in Bangkok, Wat Po, also in Bangkok and Chiang Mai’s Wat Benchamabophit. Whilst in Chiang Mai, climb Doi Suthet to see Wat Doi Suthep, which offers stunning views over the area.

As well as spectacular scenery, Thailand’s islands and beaches offer a good opportunity to take part in diving and snorkeling, the clear blue water offering glimpses of colourful coral and fish. Koh Tao is rapidly becoming the most popular island for diving and snorkelling, whilst Koh Phi Phi and Phuket are also popular. Other water ports available include sailing and windsurfing. At many places, bungee jumping and rock climbing are the order of the day, whilst paintballing offers a good opportunity to let of some steam.

Thailand has some beautiful golf courses, some designed by skilled international golfers. Muay Thai is the national sport and no trip is complete without watching a match or even training and competing yourself.

The amazing landscape makes Thailand a great place for walking and trekking, the hill tribe villages to the north making a great stop over or a three or four day trek.

Many come to this deeply spiritual country to learn about meditation, and there are numerous meditation courses available. Whilst here, you can also learn the ancient art of massage or join yoga classes on the beach.

Thai food is some of the best in the world, and you will find some outstanding restaurants, offering everything from international style dining, dining aboard river cruises or simply eating at a tiny table on the street.

The spas and saunas are also a great place to unwind and be pampered; whilst for many cosmetic surgery and cosmetic dentistry provide the opportunity for self improvement. Also, there are plenty of chances to indulge in a little retail therapy.

Thailand has a great selection of outdoor markets, floating markets, stores and shopping centres. Do not miss Bangkok’s Chatuchak market, MBK, Paragon or the night bazaar at Suan Lum, whilst Chiang Mai’s Night Market draws visitors from all over the world.

For people wishing to take in some culture there are some interesting museums, art galleries, exhibitions and displays of Thai dancing. Thailand also has some interesting theme parks, shows and zoos such as Sri Racha Tiger Zoo.

There is always something to see and do in Thailand, and the numerous festivals can add colour and life to your holiday, especially if you are lucky enough to be in the country during Songran or Loi Krathong.

There are plenty of opportunities to get in touch with nature in the national parks, such as Khao Yai where parts of the movie The Beach was filmed or Koh Samet, where the outstanding natural beauty has led to its being preserved as a national park.

Whatever you decide to do, there never seems to be quite enough time, and it is almost certain that Thailand’s charms will draw you back time and again.

Coming Together on Koh Samet

Coming Together on Koh Samet
Coming Together on Koh Samet

For passing tourists, the island of Koh Samet might seem like a small-scale version of its southern neighbours, Koh Samui, Phangan and Tao. However, this bustling beachy island should not be overlooked. Any Thai long weekend will mark a boom in Samet’s tourism. Students, young professionals, and urban-weary Bangkok residents make pilgrimages out to the island in search of sand, sun and fun. For Western travelers, this means an opportunity to holiday like Thais, with Thais, sharing SangSom buckets and bungalow accommodation with Thailand’s most diverse mix of beachgoers.

Unlike other Thailand beaches, where your interactions with natives may be limited to bargirls and tuk-tuk drivers, Samet is a place to meet peers looking for tranquility by day and parties by night. If you’re keen for a beach holiday, but still hoping to take a few steps off the Western tourist path, Samet might be your Eden.

From Bangkok, the beaches of Koh Samet can be reached by an easy 4-hour bus-ferry-taxi trip. While travel agencies throughout Bangkok will easily coordinate a package trip, the journey is a simple one. From Ekamai Station, travelers will be dropped directly at the pier in the coastal town of Bang Phe. From here, the island is an easy 30-minute boat ride away.

The beaches of Koh Samet vary from bustling to secluded, and its narrow, 2-road layout provides easy navigation. However, motorbike enthusiasts should note that outside the busy northern part of the island, the roads start to resemble motorcross courses in their uneven rockiness. Novice bikers might be better off traveling by taxi, or else choosing one beach and parking their rucksacks there. 
    
Those looking for quieter beaches are best heading south, where coral reefs populate the secluded sands of Ao Kiu and Ao Wai. More social-minded travellers are best off staying in the north. On the northeastern tip, Hat Sai Keaw and Ao Phai are Samet’s most popular beaches. Here, the scene is clean beaches crowded with a great mix of people; university students, young families, and intrepid backpackers swim and sun among vendors selling sarongs or fruit, henna tattoo artists, or masseuses patrolling the beach.
  
Here, beachside restaurants compete with extensive Western-friendly menus and nightly movie screenings. Come nightfall, parties ignite along the beach. Share cocktails in buckets at Naga Bungalows’ bar, or dance til all hours at the ever-popular White Sands Resort bar. Day or night, people-watchers will delight in the mix of Thai and foreign vacationers, traveling families and backpackers, couples and singles. This variety makes Koh Samet a unique Thai travelspot; diverse crowds are proof of the island’s diverse attractions. Divers, snorkellers, campers, partyers, relaxation-seekers, scenery buffs can all leave Samet satisfied.   
  
Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.