KOH SAMUI & KOH TAO, GULF OF THAILAND

KOH SAMUI & KOH TAO, GULF OF THAILAND

Our unforgettable week in these amazing Thai islands: here’s how to get there, how to move from island to island in the archipelago, what to do and where to stay.

As usual, since we have been living in Vietnam for more than one year now, every 3 months we have to take a forced holiday, leave the country and come back in order to get a new Vietnamese visa. Not too bad! Truth is, we obviously love this, knowing that we have to plan a new trip every now and then keeps our minds and imagination always busy dreaming of new places to discover!

This time we are not going to a new country, we are actually returning to one we already been to few times, perhaps our favourite country in southeast Asia: Thailand! Still, we are going to see some new places. After visiting wild northern Thailand last year, Phuket previously, and Bangkok several times, now it’s the turn of the gorgeous islands in the Gulf of Thailand.

koh samui koh tao ferry

Ang Thong National Park

Chumphon and Surat Thani are the closer coastal cities from where ferries leave daily to connect the islands in the Chumphon Archipelago. The most famous names are Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan.

HOW TO REACH KOH SAMUI

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HOW TO BOOK YOUR TICKET
  1. If you are already in Thailand, head to the train station and get your ticket, although booking in advance is highly recommended for sleeper train tickets.
  2. Book online on baolau.com, a nice and clear website which allows you to use all the main global credit cards. Prices are fair, same as you’d find at the train station, you will only have to pay a processing fee (around 2$). You will receive your e-ticket straight to your e-mail, just print it out and show it before boarding.
    FOLLOW OUR BAOLAU BOOKING TUTORIAL HERE
  3. Book in advance on 12go.asia and collect your ticket at one of their offices. 12go.asia is a reliable agency that operates in southeast Asia: as they partner with the Thai railway system, they will have tickets bookable from 60 days before the traveling date. Once you complete your order, follow the instructions on where to collect your ticket (normally at their office at the train station)

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Surat Thani is an important transport hub, it is reachable not only from Bangkok but from Malaysia and Singapore too, so if you are flying there, consider also this options. Ferries leave from Surat Thani to all the islands including Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan, with different stop order depending on their schedule.

HOW TO REACH KOH TAO

 

NOTE: always keep in mind that in case of bad weather and storms, delays and cancellations will affect your journey. It is recommendable to leave some hours if not a day between your last ferry trip and your next flight.

Back to our experience in Koh Samui.

BANGKOK

Although not so far in kilometers, getting to Koh Samui from Da Nang, Vietnam, will be a long journey for us: we leave on a Saturday morning flying to Bangkok via Ho Chi Minh City, we will spend half day in Thai’s capital city. Since our last stay, sadly beloved King Rama IX has passed away after a 70-year long reign, starting a 365-day long mourn throughout all the country. As we walk along the Chao Phraya river and around the Royal Palace, we notice that all public offices workers wear in black.

bangkok to koh samui train ferry

Wat Arun, Bangkok

At sunset we hop on a taxi-boat to enjoy the view of Wat Arun and the rest of the riverside. We have a delicious pad-thai for dinner and we call it an early night, aware of the early wake up call expecting us tomorrow.

KOH SAMUI – DAY 1

Our flight should leave from Bangkok’s secondary airport, Don Muang, at 8am. Of course it is late, about one hour. We reach destination Surat Thani, were they move us on shuttle buses to get to the pier. We are flying with low cost carriage Nok Air, who provides the fly&ferry service for good fares (60usd/1way). The ferry boats are nice and wide, modern with AC and a bar. The view approaching the island is rewarding, you really get the holiday feeling. Eventually we dock at Koh Samui, it is nearly noon. A van takes us to our hotel Lamai Coconut Beach Resort on Lamai Beach, we are craving for a dip in the pool. The rest of the first day will be pretty much all about chilling and relaxing, while on our 2nd day we have an excursion booked to Ang Thong National Park, a group of 40+ islands and islets.

KOH SAMUI – DAY 2

In the morning we are driven to a smaller pier where all boat trips leave and return. The organisation is good, every group is assigned a different colour and boats leave promptly towards their destination. Basically everyone does the same stops but in different orders. Many activities are featured, including kayaking, scuba diving, hiking to viewpoints, or just relaxing on the white sandy beaches. The views are just amazing, the water is emerald around the islands, and all this beauty really gives a feeling of being in a paradise. We let some photos give you the best idea.

koh samui Ang Thong how to go

Ang Thong National Park – from viewpoint

 

Bangkok to Surat Thani train bus

A Million Travels @ Ang Thong National Park

 

We come back in the late afternoon and go for dinner, our eyes are still shiny from today’s sights.

 

Surat Thani Koh Samui ferry

Snorkeling in Ang Thong

 

Ang Thong Koh Samui ferry boat

Wild beach

KOH TAO – DAY 1

The next morning, we are going to Koh Tao, where we will spend 4 nights. We head back to the pier and face the crowds again, while we get addressed to the right craft. April is peak season here in the Gulf of Thailand, tourists come in massively. After one hour and a half we finally reach Koh Tao, the smallest and most northern island of the archipelago. It is busy as well, but not as much as Koh Samui.

Our accomodation is a lovely rented house owned by a brilliant Norwegian man, which explains the name Viking House. It is located a little bit uphill, a 5 minute drive to the main beach. The view from up here is stunning, enjoying the sunset from the swimming pool is wonderful.

Viking House Koh Tao book online

Viking House Koh Tao

First thing we do is renting scooters, which are almost a must unless you are staying in a resort and don’t intend to move around. Koh Tao is very nice to ride around, many up and downs will lead you to secluded beaches on all the island’s perimeter (bicycle may be an option too). The main beach, Sairee Beach, lies on the western side of the island, while the eastern and southern parts offer beautiful beaches scattered along the several bays.

KOH TAO – DAY 2

Indeed the following day we ride our scooters to reach a couple of them, starting from Tanote Bay on the east side: a beautiful beach, not so crowded, with easy access to snorkel and see the abundant sealife.

Koh Tao how to go

Tanote Bay Koh Tao

We have lunch by the bay too, and leave later in the afternoon heading southwards, in order to reach Shark Bay, which is known to be the best spot to see sharks in Koh Tao. The way down here is not that easy, steep stairs lead down from the road straight to the rocks, and there’s basically no beach, just a very small area to lay down. As a consequence the place results quite crowded. We do see some sharks, although we had to swim quite far from the shore to spot them. Going back up to the main road, we reach a nice high spot to enjoy the sunset.

Koh Tao ferry Koh Samui

Sunset, Koh Tao

At night, options for dinner are numerous, especially on Sairee Beach and Mae Haad Pier area. Sairee Beach is more like the backpacker area, where hostels and party places are, whereas resorts, private houses and villas occupy the rest of the island, both inland up the hills and along the coast.

KOH TAO – DAY 3

On our 3rd day in Koh Tao, we have a diving&snorkeling trip scheduled. Booking such activities is easy as diving centers pop out everywhere, offering services with multinational guides. Our Spanish hosts are very nice and friendly, and the day goes on smoothly, although diving and snorkeling can be very tiring activities, especially with a wavy sea! We dive in two different bays, swimming for about 1 hour in each, and we are able to witness the various and colorful flora&fauna that populate the sea bottom, including a fairly big shark too!

Getting back to the island, we realize it’s Songkran’s eve. Songkran, held between 13th and 15th April, is Thai New Year’s Day, which is usually celebrated by young people splashing water to each other, and here on this island the festival is at its wildest version: everywhere we go, no matter what we are wearing or holding in our hands or carrying with us, we get soaked from water buckets poured on us, hit by water bombs or shot by water guns.

Koh Tao Songkran

Celebrating Songkran in Koh Tao

It’s inevitable, so we just join the fight, get some buckets and get soaked! Even later when going to dinner the fight is still on and of course we get wet, the party will continue until night on the beach, and all day long tomorrow too. It is really fun, everybody laughs and has a good time, locals and foreigners come together to enjoy the festival. At the end of the day we are exhausted and get back to our house, our swimming pool with a view is the perfect place to relax and retrieve energies.

KOH TAO – DAY 4

Another must do in Koh Tao is certainly going and seeing the breathtaking view at Koh Nang Yuan island. A group of 3 tiny islands, which have become famous for the sand strip that links them during low tide, and magically vanishes under the crystal waters when high tide comes up. Koh Nang Yuan is easily reachable with taxi boats leaving from Sairee Beach pretty much anytime, just negotiate the price per person (100-200 baht) or hire the boat (500-1000 baht), addressing the businesses along the beach. A good idea is leaving after lunch, spending the afternoon there (the beach is well furnished although a bit crowded) and getting back at sunset. Once there make sure to reach the viewpoint to get a sight like this!

koh samui koh tao fly ferry

Koh Nang Yuan Island, Koh Tao

And swim/walk in the lovely waters around, you can practically appreciate the sea bottom just standing outside the water, as it is literally transparent. (We got to see another shark wandering very close to us).

Koh Nang Yuan is now a private island, and the owner “generously” allows visitors on it provided they pay a 100 baht tax each. This doesn’t sound very nice, but at least the area is kind of regulated so that it doesn’t get ruined and most of all it is kept clean.
 

Traveling through southeast Asia we have seen many unbelievably gorgeous places, but too many times we witnessed piles of waste and garbage thrown everywhere like they don’t care. Truth is, they actually really don’t care, as they are not educated to recycle. This happens especially in countries as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, which are still not developed enough about recycling and protecting the environment. Although Thailand is busier and some places are easy to reach for every kind of tourists nowadays, at least they learnt they have a true paradise to offer to the world, and they are slowly becoming aware they have to protect it.

KOH SAMUI – LAST DAY

Getting back to our stay, unfortunately it is almost over. As we didn’t want to have an eternal last day moving from Koh Tao to Koh Samui, Bangkok and back to Vietnam, we opted to spend one more night in Koh Samui at Mermaid Hotel, a convenient place close to the airport.

koh samui how to go ferry

Samui Mermaid Resort

 

ferry koh samui bangkok

Sunset at Koh Samui

Once more we are moved like puppets from vans to ferries (the organisation is confusing but somehow works) and here we are back on the main island. In the morning we reach the laid back airport of Koh Samui, a mix between a resort and a shopping mall, with swimming pools, shops, fountains, palm trees and yeah a runway on the side. Next stops: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, Ho Chi Minh City and then back to Da Nang at around 5 pm.
And again we had an amazing time in Thailand, the combination of white beaches, emerald waters, awesome food, friendly and smiling people, makes this country absolutely welcoming. Even though Thai islands are often very busy, what they offer is always worth to experience.

Kop khun ka Thailand, see you next time!

HOTEL – WHERE TO STAY IN THAILAND:
  • Q6 at 6 Hostel, Bangkok: cheap basic hostel, close to river and Royal Palace area;
  • Hansa Bangkok House: friendly guesthouse on the riverside, great value for money;
  • Lamai Coconut Beach Resort, Koh Samui: modern rooms&bungalows, swimming pool, amazing front beach location;
  • Samui Mermaid Resort, Koh Samui: with fantastic infinity pool right on the beach, good location very close to the airport;
  • Viking House, Koh Tao: private house with swimming pool, great view from the hill in silent location, very friendly and helpful Norwegian owner.
     

 

TRANSPORTATION – HOW TO REACH KOH SAMUI & KOH TAO:

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RENT&FEES:
  • Ang Thong National Park excursion: 2000baht/person, all included;
  • Scooter in Koh Tao: 250baht/day; 100 baht full tank;
  • Snorkeling day in Koh Tao: 1100baht/person;
  • Diving day in Koh Tao: 2400baht/person, all included.

 

 


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