Koh Samet Island
'Thailand's Oasis ?'

While Koh Samet Island in eastern Thailand was apparently used by the Royal Thai Navy for target practice, this amazingly beautiful  island now resembles a virgin oasis.  Indeed, this T shaped island has become a popular holiday retreat for both Thai and overseas visitors for several years now; being located only 200 kilometres to the southeast of the bustling city of Bangkok. 

Being situated just 7 kilometres offshore from the Rayong province coastline (i.e. from the port of Ban Phe) and within the Gulf of Thailand, Samet Island measures approximately 13 square kilometres in size.  

Any remnants left behind by the Thai Navy have since been removed thus Samet Island now resembles an untouched oasis with heavily forested hills and it has some of the best Thai beaches to be found; each with clean white sand. 

BACKGROUND

The beaches on Koh Samet include Had Sai Kaeo Beach, Had Wong Duan Beach, Vongduen Beach, Saikaew Beach and Ao Phrao Beach.   Indeed, this island is so pretty that in 1981 it was incorporated into the Khao Laem Ya National Park.  

OIL SPILL

However, on July 27 2013 a disaster hit this island in the form of an oil spill which occurred in the Gulf of Thailand.  A Thai company called PTT Global Chemical which was drilling for oil was transporting heavy crude oil along its pipeline approximately 20 kilometres off the coast when it lost  some 50,000 litres; which then drifted across and onto a 300 metre section of Ao Phrao Beach (see images below).

Fortunately, the company took immediate blame for the incident and  sent 10 clean up ships and an army of staff to clean up the spill.  In September of 2013, a Bangkok Post news reporter visited Ao Phrao Beach and said that she could not see any trace of the spill at least with the naked eye.  The island is said to have recovered quite well although 20% of the coral reefs in the path of the oil spill were affected.  Despite this, tourists have been retuning again to enjoy all that this island has to offer. 

THE BEACHES TODAY

The main reason people come to Koh Samet Island is for its beaches (which today look fantastic) and for some rest and relaxation.  The island has 14 white sandy beaches that are surrounded by turquoise colored waters and healthy coral reefs where marine life such as manta rays and turtles reside.

ACTIVITIES

Thus snorkeling, diving, swimming and sun-baking are all popular activities within these areas of Samet. Like other parts of Thailand, street venders are often out selling their goods especially within the resorts and along the more popular beaches on the island, so just remember to barter as it is expected.

However, as this is a national park, camping is also allowed on certain parts of the island and tents can be hired for around 200 Thai baht.

THE TOWN

As Samet is not an overly commercialized island, the main street on the island which is located along Saikaew Beach, has a fairly limited selection of shops (although is does have a 7-Eleven), internet cafes, restaurants and bars (although the nightlife is very subdued). While the island has a post office, a medical centre, pharmacy and a police station, it does not have any banks however there are a number of ATMs so it is easy to withdraw cash.

As there are a number of paved and dirt roads on Koh Samet Island there are scooters and quad bikes available for hire if you wish to explore the island on a petrol powered bike.

Due to the growth in popularity of this island there are a number of different styles of accommodation on Samet ranging from bungalows and guest houses, to the more up-market resort's that have air-conditioned villa's, swimming pools and other luxuries such as day spa's, massage and health centres where you can also learn to paint, dance or take yoga classes.

GETTING THERE

The two easiest ways to travel to Rayong within eastern Thailand are by plane or bus. Air-conditioned buses depart daily from the eastern Ekkamai bus terminal in Bangkok between the hours of 4.30 AM to 7.30 PM. The journey takes approximately 3 hours. The other option is to take a domestic flight from Bangkok to the U-Tapao International Airport which is located in the town of Sattahip within Rayong province.

Located close to the Ban Phe bus terminal is the Ban Phe Pier and harbour (which are situated approximately 20 kilometres from the Rayong town centre) which are located adjacent to the towns small fishing village.

Public ferries and privately owned speedboats and longboats transfer passengers over to Nadan Pier on Samet Island. Boats depart daily between the hours of 6 AM to 5 PM and the journey takes between 30-45 minutes.

As Koh Samet Island is part of a national park a 200 Thai baht entrance fee is payable on arrival to the island.

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