JUST 200 kilometres southeast of Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand, the small island of Koh Samet is fast becoming famous for its quaint, white sandy beaches bathed in crystal-clear waters and exotic corals.
Most of the island is a national park, a thick jungle interior crouching beside the low-rise hotels. Unlike other popular Thai islands such as Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, Koh Samet has not yet been the victim of major development and construction, and its tourism industry is only beginning to emerge.
The interior road around the island remains rutted and largely unpaved, and checking out the island’s gorgeous beaches — most of which hide in small bays and stretch some 200m — is done by foot, by using the wooded trails skirting the coastline.
According to Philip Cornwel-Smith, a British expatriate expert on Thailand and author of Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, Koh Samet is a popular weekend escape from Bangkok — it only takes three hours by land to get there, without any need of flying.
“Samet is the closest truly gorgeous tropical island to Bangkok, so it’s a favourite weekend break for urbanites, especially gays, many on return visits,” he said.
With Koh Samet’s famed beaches located along the eastern coast of the island, Cornwel-Smith said the island’s most gay-friendly beaches are Ao Phrao and Ao Tubtim.
Ao Phrao is also one of the quietest beaches of Koh Samet, and an upmarket beach with no budget options and incredible sunsets.
“[They have] lots of couples and groups promenading on the fine white beach and swimming to the pontoon,” Cornwel-Smith said.
However Ao Tubtim is often considered the unofficial gay beach on the island, while a bar over at Ao Phai is regarded as the island’s gaybar.
“The beachside Silver Sands disco in Ao Phai is heaving on weekends, when you can spot so many gays from the Bangkok scene,” Cornwel-Smith said.
There are various other things to do on the island apart from lazing on the beach or beach-hopping by foot. Scuba diving is fast becoming a popular activity, as well as boat trips around the island.
The small size of Koh Samet means it’s also easy to explore by bike riding or by hiring a motorbike/ATV, and it’s a great option to take advantage of in order to visit a few of the smaller more secluded beaches or the more naturally-forested areas further south of the island.
There are also several dining options, as well as a lots of bars and clubs to keep tourists occupied when the sun goes down.
KOH SAMET: HOTEL INFORMATION
Hotel: Sai Kaew Beach Resort, Koh Samet
Inclusions: Seven nights accommodation at the 3.5-star Sai Kaew Beach Resort in a Deluxe Cottage. Buffet breakfast daily. Return seat in vehicle and launch transfers Bangkok Airport to Sai Kaew Beach Resort. Two free nights: Stay for seven, pay for five. 20 per sent discount from a la carte menu of spa treatment at Sai Kaew Wellness Centre.
Price: $159 per person
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