Gazing down the beach from Sai Kaew Resort, it’s hard to believe that just a few hours ago a good part of the shoreline was covered in dining tables, with hungry holidaymakers feasting on seafood and Singhas, live bands, dancing and karaoke (good and bad); not to mention the fire wielding acrobats who performed with little regard for their own safety, though did so unscathed.
But that’s the sort of place the Thai island of Koh Samet, and particularly this stretch of beach seems to be: a haven by day, where warm water laps gently onto white sands, and by night, a place to wine, dine, sing and dance to your heart’s content.
Koh Samet surprises in many ways however. Its beauty, though envisaged, still exceeds my expectations as we arrive from our short speedboat ride from the Thai mainland near Rayong. Coming in to the opposite side of the small island, we get a good look at the amazing properties that hug Ao Phrao Beach - namely Samed Resorts’ luxury Ao Prao Resort and Le Vimarn Cottages & Spa - and are suitably impressed.
As evidenced by its ‘no plastic bag and foam packaging’ rule, Koh Samet is also committed to sustainability. Apparently, those who even bring plastic bags onto the island are open to fines - so if you have one for your laundry, shoes or shopping, be sure to keep it out of eye’s view (or better still, bring a tote bag).
Though there is tourism, which explains the quality and quantity of resorts, restaurants and experiences dotted around the island, it isn’t what you’d call a mass tourism destination, in the vein of Phuket or Pattaya for instance. Surprisingly, few Australians get here too, so bragging rights await those who visit...
Perhaps most surprising about the island is its proximity to Bangkok. From the metropolis’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, the pier from which our boat departs for Koh Samet is just a two hour drive - so there’s no need to connect to any domestic flights from the capital.
At Sai Kaew Resort, where I’m staying, the splendour and surprises continue. Among lush forest, in an open air reception and lounge area, a delicious lychee/mint iced welcome drink, cold towel and warm ‘sawadee ka’ set the scene.
A short walk to my Deluxe Premier Room - which sits among tree-lined walkways in the resort’s Hip Zone - and the wonder continues.
Contemporary in design, my abode features sea-inspired touches and beautifully lit-timbers, along with an equally stunning bathroom that boasts floor to ceiling window through to the main room. Other in-room features include a large tv, work space, free wifi, espresso coffee and mini bar.
Outside, I’m just metres away from the Hip Zone’s 50ft luxury infinity pool. But there are also swimming spots in the Hub Zone, which boasts a swim-up bar, and in the leafier Hide Zone.
Breakfast, which is taken in the open-air, oceanside Zea Restaurant, features a range of Thai dishes like yellow noodles with minced pork, or fried chicken with garlic and pepper. But a range of delicious Thai sweets, largely made from sticky rice, is the highlight for me - along with the ever-obliging staff. Right next to Zea, Z Bar looks the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail.
Elsewhere in the resort, there’s the a cafe and gift shop, gymnasium, Saikaew Wellness Center and even free yoga classes for guests. And on its doorstep, all sorts of aquatic activities can be arranged, including spectacular diving and snorkelling trips to nearby islands.
Surprisingly, Koh Samet and Sai Kaew Resort offer something for everyone, from infants to the big kids at heart, from the reveller to the relaxer. Unsurprisingly, I’m loathe to leave.
Traveltalk was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
The writer travelled from Sydney to Bangkok (via Manila) with Philippine Airlines.
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