Having toured many of Thailand’s off-shore islands but not Koh Samet, I thought it a good idea to do so, especially as it is accessible from Bangkok by road and ferry in about four hours door to door from a city hotel.
I this case my hotel was the Rembrandt on Sukhumvit Road, one I had stayed at before. A little about this hotel before my journey south. Under new management, it was good to witness the still highly motivated and loyal staff, the obvious satisfaction of guests and just how the few changes had done nothing to diminish its character and benefits of location. It still gets a 9 out of 10 from me.
Picked-up on time, luggage loaded, the driver set off and in under 3 hours I was standing on the pier at Rayong ready to board my chosen method of crossing the few miles to the island. On this subject, there are many choices…slow, easy going wooden boats…a high speed fibreglass catamaran… speedboats of differing sizes, privately hired craft and even your hotel/resorts own speedboats. Costs do vary widely from around 120 Baht to 1500 Baht and more.
After some internet searching, I had selected the Samed Villa Resort as my base for seven nights.
Best now to describe its features, its good and its not so good.
Located midway on the east coast of the island, it is bounded closely by other hotels and varying styles of accommodation.
With some 200 guests housed in individual bungalows (choices from sea or garden view or larger family units) space is at a premium indeed. The very small beach area was certainly crowded on each of the days I was there (mid February). Sun loungers are of the plastic variety and not very comfortable.
The adjacent hotel, with perhaps even more guests and row upon row of plastic loungers, does make the small sandy swimming area one where a person is likely to bump into another after a few strokes.
I had chosen a sea view bungalow, each of which have a balcony with two padded, easy chairs. It had everything one could expect…mini bar…safe…extremely comfortable bed…wide screen TV…high quality toiletries…marble floors…piping hot water from a high volume shower head and efficient air conditioning.
What it did NOT have was a reliable WiFi system, although the resort’s advertising did feature this facility for free, it constantly failed. This problem was to be experienced throughout the entire hotel area – inside or out. For those like myself, who’s stay was only partly leisure and who needed to be in constant contact worldwide, this was indeed a serious issue. At one point, I contemplated having to check-out and find other accommodation. However, the management, when made aware, did provide another ‘senior staff only password’, which did help although not cure. Other guests I spoke with, some of which were there on business matters, were equally frustrated.
Now the word ‘Resort’ does normally conjure up in one’s mind, a place with many normally expected facilities. Samed Villa Resort, however lacks most of them. No swimming pool, no choice of restaurants, no sporting facilities other than kayak hire.
The one restaurant does manage to cater in a timely fashion, for guests both at breakfast and dinner, although the choice of where to sit and enjoy its offerings is a lottery. The breakfast buffet was perfectly acceptable, catering for tastes both eastern and western and with two chefs manning the egg station, waiting a minute or two for your choice to be cooked, was never a problem.
The dinner menu was extensive, guests seated outside on terraces and on the beach. The table staff worked very hard to maintain an acceptable level of service and could not be faulted either as to their skill levels or pleasant interaction with diners. All dishes I sampled throughout the week were as good as hoped for…no grumbles there!
One real downside however was the nightly barbecue….a very limited choice indeed, falling well below what could be expected of such a resort. Wine, of course, like everywhere in Thailand, was very expensive but I was pleased to note that local beer brands were always available at a reasonable price.
The grounds of the resort – although small in area – were well maintained, pathways safe and kept clean.
As to the island itself…difficult to find the right words. A mere few yards outside of the hotel the scenery changed dramatically. Roads and pathways broken and dangerous…litter everywhere, nook and cranny or on grass verges. The few ‘taxis’ (pick-up trucks) charged outrageous fees for even short distances and holding on as they bumped and clattered through the narrow, potholed roads was hard to do.
Left and right one saw rubbish piled high, unfinished building projects, plastic film clinging to trees. Pools of stagnant water, tumbling walls, waste items of every kind littering unkempt ground. The entire coastline of this area is overcrowded with hotels and accommodation of many type. Certainly, I found Koh Samet a real disappointment when compared to the likes of Koh Chang…and that’s a pity because it could, if given the right attention, be a good ‘getaway’ from Bangkok for citizens and tourists alike.
It did sadden me when these negatives spun around my mind as I sat aboard the slow, wooden ferry boat, making its way back to the mainland. But, as has always been my wont, ‘I tell it as it is’.