So after about 5 hours of driving from Ao Manao we arrived at Donsak pier for the Seatran ferry. If you have a car, this applies to you (if you don’t and are taking a taxi or car service or whatnot, you can skip this)…We did a few things wrong that would totally apply to that ol’ saying “if I knew then, what I know now” such as:
- We did not keep in mind it was a holiday weekend and pre-purchase our ferry tickets.
- We arrived late in the afternoon.
- We did not keep in mind it was a holiday weekend. I mention this again because I get really annoyed with myself for letting this slip.
Because of the above, we had to queue up for the ferry for almost FOUR HOURS! Also, we barely got in by the skin of our teeth as the folks who had queued up after us were not allowed on and this was the last ferry for the day! Suck to be them! I say that with a lot of sincere sympathy because that very well could have been us.
If you HAVEN’T pre-purchased your tickets, you will most likely need to queue up just outside the parking lot entrance if there is a line and then get waved in by security, drive up to the ticket booth and buy our tickets and then queue up again (see above photo).
If you HAVE pre-purchased your tickets you will drive in like all those lucky basta….I mean folks we saw go past us.
REGARDLESS, the driver (whoever that is) will drive the car in and the car passengers will need to go into the waiting area and board the boat directly when it’s time. If you’re driving, you’ll have to wait until they direct you in to drive on to the ferry.
The fares are very reasonable, it cost us around THB 820 (about USD $24) for four of us. Also, if you are driving and pay for the car (THB 400/USD $12), that fee includes the driver’s ticket.
The ferry is quite a big one so there is plenty of room to walk and easily find a seat! You can also get a massage on board if you want (although we didn’t, I was curious, but something about being vigorously rubbed in public doesn’t do it for me). There are snacks available and the toilets were moderately clean. The ferry ride was about 90 minutes and no one in our party vomited (yay!).
Once we arrived at Koh Samui the sun had set and we wearily made our way to our resort, Marine Bungalows on Chaweng Beach. Now, when I booked this resort I was being budget conscious and found this place on Tripadvisor. We were so affected by this place, I wrote a review on Tripadvisor. I’d like to share it with you below:
“Granted, traveling with our two kids (and a friend of theirs) we were attracted to the low price, location and the photos of the rooms showed rooms that were no-frills, but clean and well-kept. We arrived late in the evening tired and worn. Fortunately the resort restaurant was still serving so we grabbed some dinner and although slightly pricey (1,500 baht for the five of us) we reckoned we could always eat elsewhere as we were in the heart an area with many restaurants and cafes to choose from. The night gave everything a magical look and eating dinner by the evening sea was really quite lovely.
After dinner we went to our rooms and while we were briefly shown them upon arrival, upon closer inspection we were mortified. These were not the same rooms shown in the website or maybe they were…10 YEARS AGO! The sheets and towels were stained. there was a lot of duct tape holding things together and covering holes, and the rooms just had a bit of an “ick” feeling.” (I’d like to note, it felt like very bad deeds had been done in that room – I did not indicate this in my Tripadvisor review) “As it was late we decided to sleep and check out of the resort the next day.
The next morning the kids asked if they could swim in the ocean. They left enthusiastically and quickly returned grossed out. Our kids have had a lot of sea fun before and generally aren’t that selective and they have seen the good and the bad. This was bad. They said the sea was dirty and mucky and did not want to swim. This reinforced our decision to leave. We checked out at the front desk and while they offered us an upgrade for their newer bungalows at a higher price, we reckoned we could get better elsewhere. Also, the staff actually agreed with us that the rooms we had were old, worn and dirty. As we booked through Agoda we could not get a refund, but we were so put off by the resort that we were willing to take the hit.
Frankly, the staff did not seem that bothered that we were unhappy and I reckon it is because they get enough business with backpackers who are just looking for a place to crash when they are out partying – which is fine as I was in the same boat 20 years ago. I imagine they were able to book folks into our rooms as soon as we left. I really felt like they just stopped trying years ago and figured they have a good location and if the price is cheap enough – they’ll be fine.
While I totally get “you get what you pay for”, we have stayed in many low-budget places around the world and although no-frills and not fancy at all, they have been clean and well-kept.
So if you are just looking for a place to crash when you party all night, this could work for you. It’s like this – it’s all well and good in the evening when you are partying and having loads of fun. The room will do to pass out in, but like a bad one-night stand, when you wake up sober in the morning, be prepared for reality.
Also, be sure to keep your receipt for your room key deposit (500 baht).”
I’m guessing all the “glowing reviews” were from folks who ponied up for the fancier rooms. Although I was curious about someone who gave two different “glowing reviews” twice. Hmm… Also, Chaweng Beach is like a little city. In fact, it reminded us of Khao San Road in Bangkok, which would have been perfect for my husband and I over 20 years ago when we were backpacking, but not so much now. I know, we are lame.
After checking out of the Palace of Duct Tape, we searched for a breakfast place. As you can imagine, my husband and I were in no mood to be adventurous as we took a hit on our budget with this unexpected departure. We went to Aroma Cafe/Boutique located at Choeng Mon beach. It is a pretty space and you sink into cushy sofas and are surrounded by clothing, accessories and such for sale. When I think back to it, I can’t remember if I actually heard Enya playing or if that is the feeling the place gave me. Nonetheless, the staff were really friendly and attentive (although plainly speaking, we were the only customers). I guess they have a lot of folks who come in early (it was already about 10am when we arrived) as they were all out of croissants (the cheaper breakfast option). I have to say, the menu was a bit pricier than we hoped. Each of our entrees averaged about THB 240+ per person (not including beverages, which were about THB 100+ each if I remember correctly. It all came to about THB 1,500 (roughly USD $43). The food was good, the space was clean and the staff were courteous and attentive. It was just on the pricier side.
Driving through Koh Samui, it seems like more of a city and less of a little island. They have shopping malls and some mega stores such as Tesco Lotus and Makro (for Americans, think Costco or Sam’s Club). It’s really a developed island and folks I have spoken to who either grew up in Thailand or are long-term expats say that it isn’t quite the little bit of paradise it used to be and I can understand that. This is after all, the island where they have the Full Moon Parties. So if you are looking for peace and quiet, you’d most likely have to seek it out.
It was during breakfast we did more research for another hotel/resort and found Easy Time Resort located in the quieter southern coast of Koh Samui. While we were feeling a bit nervous, once we arrived at Easy Time our concerns vanished. We were able to book a two-story bungalow at a very reasonable price (THB 2,600/USD $75) and it was perfect for our group of five. The bungalow was very clean and well kept. Although they don’t have a beach, there is a swimming pool and they provided us with a map of nearby beaches to go to. The owner was a wealth of knowledge as she is a European expat who has lived in Koh Samui for over 10 years.
Breakfast was an additional THB 250 (USD $7) per person, which was fine for us as we were only there for two days. The breakfast was not buffet, it was continental style with juice, coffee, toast, fruit and your choice of “main course”. It was certainly satisfactory and the facilities were very clean. I did see other cafes/restaurants nearby that serve breakfast if you are looking for variety.
The only drawback is that it was not exactly on the beach and you can’t walk to other restaurants or cafes; however, it is a short drive to other restaurants and bars. This is certainly a place I would highly recommend to folks with kids who want a little peace and quiet.
After checking in, we headed to the beach. The resort owner said that we could park up at most beachside bars/restaurants on the west side and hang out at their beach. We drove for about 10-15 minutes and stopped at I-Talay Nasai & Restaurant, parked up and set up at their beach (we had a couple of folding chairs and an umbrella). Not wanting to be too cheeky, we did order drinks and snacks from the restaurant and they brought them to us. Be aware that you will pay premium prices (e.g. THB 30 for water at the restaurant while at the store it is THB 5-10), but as we had access to their lovely beach and their staff was certainly friendly, it was all good.
After soaking up the sun we headed back to the resort, and the kids apparently hadn’t had enough of the water and jumped into the pool. While I know every kid is different, our kids are happy as clams whenever we are at a hotel with a pool. They somehow can’t get enough of it. This vacation was no exception.
For dinner, we went to T.K. Restaurant located right by the sea about 10 minutes drive from the resort. It was a lovely location, service was good, restaurant was clean and the food was quite tasty; however, I would caution on ordering a whole fried fish. While I understand paying for the whole fish by weight, it was probably the most we have paid for a whole fried fish during our 2.5 years living in Thailand – THB 700 (about USD $20) and it wasn’t that big. Anything else on the menu should be okay as the prices are clearly indicated. It’s only when you pay by weight you have to be wary.
The next day, we left the resort around 9:00 am in search of a long tail boat to take us to Koh Tan and Koh Mudsum. Two smaller islands with some beautiful beach and good snorkeling. We were told that most restaurants also doubled as tour operators and you could get a deal for around THB 3,000 (around USD $86) for four hours or maybe barter them down. My husband had other ideas and decided to find out where the boat owners actually hung out so he could cut out the middleman (note that my husband speaks a decent amount of Thai). This was successful as he was able to secure us a boat with some snorkel gear for THB 2,000 (about USD $58). The boats and their owners were just off of road #4170, I think it may have been Tong Krut Pier.
Off we went! It took about 30 minutes to get to Koh Tan where we stopped at an area near Koh Tan to snorkel. Visibility was quite good and we were able to see a lot of fishes and some stingrays. The snorkel gear he had on hand consisted of masks and snorkel (no fins), which was fine for us. If you are looking for new gear and someone to guide you through the process, you should go with an official company with all that fine stuff; however, we were fine just being taken to a good spot and going off on our own.
We snorkeled for around an hour and then he took us to Koh Tan for lunch. Although we had brought our lunch and waters, we did end up getting a bit more to eat and drink at the little cafe on the island, which is just as well because I think the boat drivers are able to get lunch from the cafe if their passengers eat there as well. The prices were not absurd and the smoothies and snacks we had were good. Also, they have very clean toilets behind the restaurant. We spent about 45 minutes on the island, while it’s a nice place to take a break, there really isn’t any pretty beach to hang out at near by so after eating and bathroom break there isn’t a whole lot more to do.
After our break at Koh Tan, we headed to Koh Mudsum. It was about 15 minute ride on the boat and we were greeted with a beautiful picturesque beach. We parked up and my husband and the kids went snorkeling. While it wasn’t ideal for snorkeling (there wasn’t a lot to see), they still had a good time. I opted for sitting on my banig under a big tree and reading my book. There were beach loungers available for THB 100 (about USD $3) and a refreshments stand if you fancy. We stayed at Koh Mudsum for about one hour and then headed back.
Upon returning to our hotel, you guessed – the kids swam for a few hours. I swear, the pool and the beach and they could care less about you.
For dinner we were determined to find something a little more budget friendly. I had read some reviews about Imchai so we thought we would give it a try. By no means was it fancy, but it was clean, the food was delicious and it was very reasonable. We had three Pad Thais, two steamed rice, one vegetable dish, Tom Yum Goong, fried rice and beverages all for about THB 700 (about USD $20). I would caution to get there early as they fill up quite quickly.
The next day was our day of departure back to Bangkok by way of Ao Manao (Prachuap Khiri Khan).