On some islands, you beach hop. On Ko Samet, you cove hop. Today, we visit five distinct coves without setting foot on a lick of blacktop.
We started the day at our bungalow on Tubtim beach. The plan was to see how far we could get walking the footpath along the sea before it either ran out or we got tired of cove hopping. Turns out, you can get very far on Ko Samet just walking a combination of footpath and beach — nearly the length of the island’s eastern shore.
On the map above, the red dotted line marks the major footpaths on this part of the island. The distance from the top to the bottom of the map is about one mile, one-quarter of the total length of Ko Samet.
A short distance up and over a small headland, we arrive at Ao Nuan — a five minute walk from Ao Tubtim, but a world apart. Ao Nuan is the smallest cove we’ll visit today, with one rustic resort spread out over the hillside — the type of place Lori and I would usually jump at the chance to stay at, and may very well have if we had been able to get a better sense of the place online. If we return in the future, it would certainly be on our shortlist.
The footpath from Ao Nuan to the next cove, Ao Cho, was the longest and most difficult connection of our day. The trail cut back up into the jungle and we found ourselves completely overcome by huge army ants along the trail, or, if we paused for even a second, dozens of huge, man-eating mosquitoes. The stretch was so bad, we decided that we’d bypass it on the way back via the main road, which took a bit longer but was the right choice.
Ao Cho has a nice, mid-sized, tree-lined beach. Out of all the beaches we visited this day, it had the most tropical feel, with palm trees, a few funky eateries and a disused dock jutting into the cove. The water was still and a deep aqua-marine, even under overcast skies, and the beach was quiet and sparsely populated with visitors.
Wong Duean Bay
A short walk farther along the path brought us to the bustling bay of Ao Wong Duean, serviced by what appeared to be a variety of ferries and private-hire boats, both the fast and slow.
This beach was perhaps the least picturesque of the day, but had far more amenities on offer than the others. Wong Duean seems to be for those escaping the party scene of the north but who still want restaurants and other services at their fingertips.
Up and over another winding path and a short while later we are deposited at the paradisiacal little cove of Ao Thian.
White-umbrella lined, the white sands and aqua-marine surf color of Ao Than beckon visitors to shed the comforts of the north for a slice of Riviera-style vacationing in the south — and come they do, in droves, apparently. At midday, we sat at the lovely little eatery overlooking the water, watching boatload after boatload take guests away, making way for wave after wave of newcomers.
All the while, Noe was busy making eyes at a certain young lady at a nearby table.
By the time we had finished our soda waters (our stomachs were still a bit sour from a bout of bad Penang curry a couple of nights prior), we decided we had gone as far south on the island as we’d want to today and were ready to start making our way slowly back to Ao Tubtim via the footpath along the water, save for a bit of a detour around the killer ant and mosquito section.
Back at Tubtim, the sun was shining, and the trees had cast a nice, big shadow over the beach — a perfect excuse to set up shop and do what we had been itching to do all day — hit the water!
This was Noe’s first real experience with sand. He was a bit apprehensive at first, but took to the fine, powdery awesomeness pretty darn quick. He especially loved getting his feet buried and smashing down every sand tower I made within eyesight.
He also managed to make another friend…
Not content to hang out on the sidelines while daddy kicked around in the water, it became quickly apparent that he’d just have to come along for the ride. Despite his poker face, he couldn’t get enough of the water, and likely would have stayed in the rest of the afternoon and evening if we didn’t mind becoming prunes ourselves.
We had spotted this place the day before, and thought it looked worth a try. They have a pretty extensive menu, which made it difficult to decide what to order. All we knew for certain was that we wanted seafood. After a good long while of staring at the menu, we realized there were a collection of ready-to-grill plates up at the counter. We made our choice and were rewarded with one of the most delicious seafood platters we’ve had…
…in addition to a beautiful sunset.
On our way back to our bungalow, we stopped to have a drink at Naga Bar, which Noe loved for obvious reasons.
He loved it so much, in fact, he left his mark in neon paint.