Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ko Samet

Wednesday was a holiday in Thailand called Makha Bucha, which celebrates the Buddha's first sermon to his disciples. Schools were closed, giving Sarah and I just enough time to take a little trip to Ko Samet. There are many beautiful islands in the Gulf of Thailand, but Ko Samet is fairly popular for both Thais and tourists because of its proximity to Bangkok. Sarah's talked about the cost of living in Thailand {cheap, cheap, cheap}, and I thought it would be fun to use this trip as another example.

First, I wanted to orient you as to where we are, and where we're going. Here's the big picture::

And zooming in on that red box, here's the trip we took::

$4.00 one-way bus ticket::
Sarah lives in the city of Chon Buri, from there we hopped on a bus for a 2 hour ride to the port city/town of Bon Phe (pronounced Bon Pay).

$1.50 round trip ferry ticket::
From Bon Phe, we catch a ferry to Ko Samet. There are a few scheduled rides early in the day, but as evening approaches, you have to wait for the ferry to fill up before it will leave. For us that meant waiting about 40 minutes until they had 20 passengers. The key to traveling in Thailand is to always carry a book. We were happy to sit on the dock and read while we waited, and the timing couldn't have been better because we took off as the sun was setting and the moon was rising.

$12-36 bungalow
Once on the island, we found a bungalow for the night. Although it's nearing the end of tourist season here, visits to Ko Samet were still in full swing. We like to travel on a shoestring, but since we hadn't reserved a room, the cheaper bungalows were sold out, so we had to fork over $36 for a bungalow with a private bathroom and air conditioning. It was still an amazing deal, but for the second night we transferred to the bare bones bungalow. It's just a mattress on a platform with a mosquito net, a fan, and a shared bathroom. Some would consider it too bare, but we love it::

An additional perk of paying for the more expensive bungalows was breakfast on the beach!

$1 beach chair
After breakfast, we walked along the beach and reserved our chairs for the day. Rather than carry your own chairs to the beach, it's common outside of the US for there to be chairs and umbrellas set up along the beach. You find a location you like, sit down and pay for the spot. The chairs are yours for as long as you want them ~ a couple of hours or the whole day.

$1.30 coconut on beach
All day long you'll find vendors walking the beach selling food {fruit, bar-b-que, ice cream}, fabric items {sarongs, bags, wall hangings}. In the picture below, you can see how the food vendors operate; they have two large baskets of food that are tied to a long piece of bamboo and balanced across their shoulders. Around mid-morning we bought a green coconut, enjoying the water from inside and then scraping out the fruit for a snack.

$12 fish & $1 banana apple smoothie
Once we had worked up an appetite for lunch, we walked down the beach to one of the restaurants and ordered a steamed white snapper and an apple-banana smoothie to share.

$7.50 massage on beach
Massage is popular throughout Thailand, even on the beach. In the shade of the trees behind our beach chairs, it was easy to find a masseuse with a menu of options {anything from a foot or hand to full-body massage}. After you lie down on a blanket in the shade, you pick your massage {we both choose the 60 minute head and shoulder massage} and relax.

$14 drinks and free internet
Sarah knew of a bar with wireless, so we stopped in to get online and enjoy a few mojitos.

$6 dinner for two
After yet a few more hours of relaxing, reading, and swimming it was time for dinner. It didn't take us long to walk along the beach and find a menu we liked. Most of the restaurants serve seafood and a variety of Thai dishes, and there are a few that will cater to the tourists, serving pizza and burritos. We opted for the traditional Thai, splitting chicken with cashews and a green curry.

$3 dessert
Two dishes of coconut ice cream to complete our island adventure.

The next morning we were up with the sun and on the first ferry out of Ko Samet, heading back to Chon Buri for Sarah's afternoon lesson.

In total, here were our expenses for the trip:
$16.00 bus tickets {$4.00 one way times two people to Bon Phe and back}
$3.00 ferry tickets {$1.50 round trip per person}
$36.00 bungalow
$12.00 bungalow
$2.00 a couple of beach chairs
$1.30 fresh coconut snack
$13.00 fish and smoothie lunch
$15.00 two head and shoulder massages
$14.00 drinks
$6.00 dinner for two
$3.00 coconut ice cream!

$121.30 is our grand total for a one day-two night trip to Ko Samet for two. With everything in one list, it's easy to see where one can splurge {$14 for four drinks} and where the cost of Thai living is really affordable {$6 for dinner for two}.

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