tl;dr version: We went to Koh Samed and spent 3 days (one of them Christmas) drinking Mai Tais on the beach.
Fortunately for us, the bus station to Koh Samed was located near the Skytrain, right off the Ekkamai stop. You can see the bus station from the train. As we approached the station, we were greeted by several drivers, the last of which was a taxi driver who, after being told we were taking the bus, showed us to the correct window. The Thais are consistently the friendliest and most helpful people I’ve ever met.
We took the bus to Ban Phe, which has a ferry to Koh Samed, and we purchased both at the same time. If you’re going to Koh Samed, look at what beach you’re staying on; some beaches have direct ferries from the pier, rather than taking the long route we did. It may even be cheaper. The bus provided water and snacks for the ride, which was pretty awesome. You don’t find service like that in the US :).
The bus ride itself was interesting. I would definitely recommend to anyone who goes to Thailand to take a least one trip out of the city. The countryside is absolutely fascinating. Bangkok itself and Thailand as a whole is a combination of old Third World-y housing and Western development. Simply staring out the window during the bus ride was enthralling. I wish I had taken pictures, sorry.
Along the bus route, we stopped a number of times to drop people off on the side of the road; not at a bus station or at anything organized, but just in random locations in random towns. I guess they give rides to people who need them.
We arrived in Ban Phe and crossed the road to the pier. Before we got on the ferry, there was a window we had to stop at. There’s a 200 Baht per person fee to enter Koh Samed, which is a national park. We almost thought it was a scam, but fortunately, there were other Americans with us who knew about the fee in advance.
Getting on the ferry, like most things, was interesting; they don’t really provide any safety or anything, or even a ramp to walk on. They just kind stick a plank off the dock into a window and you just hop through. I was pretty sure I was going to fall in the ocean, with my huge backpack on my back, but I made it, and we went to the island.
The trip across was beautiful, and we shot the breeze a bit with the American couple with us before we landed. Once we got there, we were supposed to take a “taxi” to our resort, but the taxi was basically just a pickup truck with seats in the bed, and we had to drive over dirt roads with lots of potholes to get to our resort. I held on tight.
We got to the resort and checked in, and we were blown away by the view from our cabana. The cabana itself was just a bedroom and bathroom, but we did have a porch, upon which sat a little black cat, who was very friendly. We unpacked, played with him a bit, and then went off to eat an early dinner before getting some dusk swimming in. The water was warm and very salty, and I spent a lot of the vacation just floating on my back.
That was Christmas, don’t forget, and that evening was spent lounging in a beach chair, drinking Mai Tais on the beach as we watched Chinese Lanterns float off into the distance.
The next day was pretty much spent swimming and eating. There are a number of people walking up and down the beach, selling fruit, water, margaritas, and chicken. It was interesting, though, because the bars along the beach don’t shoo them away or ask them to leave. In fact, one person wanted to order chicken from the bar, and they actually told him to buy food from the beach guys (they didn’t have chicken at the bar).
For dinner, every restaurant buys from the day’s catch, and they lay it out on ice on a big table on the beach. You go up to the table, point to what you want, and they grill it up for you right there. The restaurant we went to also have these tables without seats, exactly – the table was in the center, with a fully wrapped around bench (if that makes sense), will pillows that allow you to lay next to the table, rather than sit in front of it.
The end of the excursion was uneventful – we swam in the morning, ate breakfast, took the jeep-taxi back to the ferry, and returned home on bus that took us out. I did stop and pick up the white hat you see below in the market by the bus station. They do have a lot of weird snacks – mostly dried seafood. Once home, we relaxed and shared a few Facebook posts before retiring to bed.Edit this post on GitHub.