(First look at Sai Kaew Beach from the ferry – Koh Samet)

I woke up at 9:30. Whoops. I was being picked up at 11:30.

I sent some stuff back to Japan at the post office. No problems really. A small box of clothes and a couple of souvenirs cost about 1000 baht (AUS$30).

It was all a bit of a rush to get everything packed, checked out and picked up by the bus service. I had some Pattaya cliches share the bus with me to Ban Phe to catch the ferry to Koh Samet. One was an Englishman in his fifties; overweight, with tatts all over his back, he didn’t wear a shirt at all along the way, and he had the Thai girlfriend accessory. Another was of similar build but at least he kept his shirt on. The last was a European gent. He must’ve married his Thai girlfriend as she was a bit older, and they had the mother-in-law in tow.

The driver took us through some of the back streets of Pattaya as we wend our way to pick up everybody. There were all sorts of poorly built apartments as well as some galvanised iron ghettos amongst the cheap guesthouses, bars and shops. If you needed a reminder that Thailand was still primarily a Third World country, then that was it.

The main road to Ban Phe was in much better condition than the one from Bangkok to Pattaya. We passed a lot of open countryside, but also a lot of light industrial parks and large discount centres. The vegetation was tropical, but very dry – a lot of brown undergrowth amongst the green.

We were dropped off at the bus office in town where we had to pay the entrance fee for the Koh Samet National Park. It cost 400 baht, but the Lonely Planet guide said it should be only 200 (apparently it had only just gone up). One of my co-travellers (the European gent) was getting quite steamed up about it but I couldn’t be bothered. It’s like haggling over a dollar. I coughed up and was escorted down to the wharf (which was a legacy to haphazzard repair work if ever there was one!) and to our transport across the waves.

The other passengers were a mix of types. There were the fifties gents with younger Thai girlfriends of course, but there were also families, couples, backpackers (like me), and small groups of friends.

The cruise across to the island was a little bumpy but no trouble for me. K would’ve hated it though. I thought we were being dropped at the main pier at Na Dan, but instead we were dropped off half way along the island at Ao Wong Deuan. Instead of what could’ve been a short walk to my resort loomed up as a 2.5 kilometre hike.

I got a taxi. Taxis on Koh Samet are green utes with hard seating on the tray at the back. Not exactly comfortable, but hey, better than walking! The track was pretty bumpy, but I was dropped off at my beach, so that saved a lot of time. I still had to weave in and out of the various beachside bars and restaurants to get to the Sai Kaew Beach Resort, but it was a good chance to check things out.

Check in was smooth and easy. I got a complimentary drinks ticket for their restaurant, but my internet research said that this restaurant was quite pricey, so I guess I wouldn’t be using that!

My bungalow was small but comfy. It was just a bedroom with a small atrium with the toilet out the back. The shower was outside the back door although it had a high wall around it for privacy. The ceilings were quite high which gave it some sense of space. TV worked (with decent reception), air-con worked, fridge worked (two complementary bottles of water per day), view worked. All good.

I went for a walk down the beach to grab some dinner. The beach was taken over by the beachside resorts and restaurants for the evening. One of them even had tables down to the waterline!

I ended up at Jep’s, a nice place which had soft lighting and groovy music right on the beach. I ordered nachos and a Thai dish – seafood with spicy basil. The nachos were pretty good but they weren’t kidding about the spice! I had to take some time after I finished in order to recover enough to walk back to the hotel. Drinking with the sand through my toes – it was all a bit hard to take in.