Koh Samet - The island of the mermaid legend!
My journey started in London Heathrow as many peoples do. I’d trolled through every site possible to get the best ticket – and on friends recommendations, and price of course I chose Qatar. An airline that claims not to disappoint, 5 star alliance, the air stewardesses kept reiterating over the intercom and it really was, in every way. I arrived into Bangkok around midday on Tuesday 7th April – a surprising 6 hours in front of the UK (I thought it was 8) so far I haven’t felt the dreaded black cloud of jetlag. For my first night’s stay I arranged to revisit the Khao San Road, a place filled with so many incredible memories. Walking through even at midday you could sense the craziness of the atmosphere. Tuk Tuks at every turn, hundreds upon hundreds of stalls selling everything you can imagine, from clothes, to electronics, to fried insects (the most impressive being the scorpion and tarantulas). For anyone that has visited it is a combination of Vegas, Ibiza, Magaluf & the Greek islands rolled into one. Travellers from every country, people of all ages (yes even babies) – strolling, running…some even dancing their way through the crowds. As the sun sets it becomes a place to party, and for some a place of new experiences and debauchery.
Even after my 15 hour flight I managed pool time on the roof top of my hotel, followed by a long overdue catch up with Mario, a dear friend that I previously worked with for years. I was so happy to hear that he changed his flight back to London, it meant we could spend some time together – and experience parts of Thailand together. Mario had met alot of people on his pilgrimage around South East Asia, and so it was nice for me to be able to meet them and spend time. The time spent was on the Khao San mainly, and as previously described it didn’t disappoint. Whiskey, tequila, dancing on tables and late night visits to the 7/11 followed by 6am bed times. All part of the fun.
Thursday 9th April 9am and my bus to Koh Samet, an island just off the coast, about a 3 hour bus ride and boat – what that actually means in Thai terms is an extra hour added onto that and a lot of toilet stops/711 stops. 7 Elevens in Thailand are an institution and if you’ve never been in one, or indeed tried one of their ham and chee toasties – you must. You haven’t lived if you haven’t grabbed one out of the fridge, had the staff heat it up and taken a big bite into one at 3am. It’s the London equivalent of a late night Maccas or “dirty” kebab, but at around 40 bhat (under a pound) – it’s a lot easier on the wallet. On Koh Samet I decided to pre book a hostel, which is unlike me – normally I just arrive and pick somewhere, but I knew I had to be prepared as it’s a short trip and Olly’s bar and hostel had great reviews online so it seemed a no brainer. The hostel itself is quaint – small, simple, has a nice bar/lounge area on the street front so a good amount of people watching can be done. The rooms are equipped with everything you need and the closed pods adds some privacy for those who like to have that element whilst sharing a dorm with other travellers.
Koh Samet in itself is a truly beautiful island. Its meaning in Thai is “The island of the cajeput tree”and it feels very untouched and very Thai. Like many islands, they are reached by ferry which usually means (if you’re a tourist) lying out on the top of the boat to catch a premature sun tan before tackling the baking hot beaches on dry land. On docking, the traveller or local is met by what I can only describe as a huge Ogre statue protruding out of the sea. (See Pic). From my knowledge of the Thai legend surrounding Koh Samet, it is meant to be representative of a mermaid – but to me it simply looked like Princess Fiona from the movie Shrek.
Stepping off a ferry in Thailand with a heavy back pack in tow is always a challenge – but once your feet touch dry land and start to carry you through the small lanes of the island – adventure and adrenalin surges through, and you’re met with an idyllic paradise.
As previously stated Olly’s hostel was my accommodation of choice. The price, location and atmosphere is everything a solo traveller could ask for. The island in itself is small and has a very different vibe to the southern islands. There are very few western backpackers, the atmosphere is more Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. The white incredibly smooth sandy beach of Hat Sai Kaew is lined with bars and restaurants, as well as sun loungers and umbrellas. To some that is enough, personally I prefer a quiet beach, out of the way, and with such great knowledge from other travellers and locals I found the perfect spot. In between Jeps accommodation/ restaurant & Silver Sands restaurant was my spot (Ao Phai). Turquoise blue waters lapping up against the shore cooled you down after a dedicated day of sun bathing and lunch/quenching my thirst was always welcomed by the smiley sweet waiters of Jeps.
At times I couldn’t quite believe my view whilst sitting back and chilling… a Thai translation being “Sabai Sabai”. The sand drenched coastline is home to another very famous statue on the island….the Thai man and his mermaid glistening under the sun in the distance. A mermaid this time, that represented beauty and an old Thai legend whereby she saves Prince Aphai mani from the sea and takes him to Koh Samet (See Pic). This island felt like a little bit of me.