Most of the people living in Bangkok think there are only two choices for a two-day weekend getaway without taking an airplane: boring Hua Hin, or noisy and dirty Pattaya. However, it is possible to find some beaches not so far from Bangkok that are still clean and not crowded.
This itinerary is best made in three consecutive days, visiting Sattahip area on the first day, and Koh Samae San and Koh Kham on the consecutive days. Koh Kham is only “open” for visits on Saturday and Sunday, so you will need to take that into consideration when planning your trip. Sattahip is also the right place to get a hotel since there are not many options near the piers that offer service to the islands.
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Useful information when going to Sattahip, Koh Samae San and Koh Kham
Getting there: take the shuttle van from the Ekkamai bus station (make sure to arrive there before 9 am).
Best hotel: Baan by the sea.
Best sunset point: the pier beside Café de Sea coffee shop.
Best sunrise view: your hotel room at Baan by the sea hotel.
Eating: at Café de Sea, nearby the hotel.
Pro tip: visit Sattahip during the last weekend of January and enjoy the festival.
Day 1. Sattahip
To get to Sattahip, the most straightforward option, if you do not have a car, is to take the shuttle going there from the Ekkamai bus station. The shuttle service starts early -with irregular schedules- and pauses around 10 am when people stop whatever they are doing to go and have lunch. Make sure you arrive at the station at least before 9 am if you do not like to waste too much time waiting.
Sattahip is a small coastal town thirty minutes South of Pattaya. It does not have the crowds, the lights, the bars, or anything else that Pattaya has. It is a place entirely for relaxing, renting a motorbike and exploring the surroundings. The highlights of Sattahip are tranquility –which most people living in Bangkok need every once in a while to not go crazy-, some unspoiled beaches, temples, beautiful sunsets, and the convenience of being near Koh Samae San and Koh Kham for two-day trips.
Baan by the sea
My favorite place to stay in Sattahip is Baan by the sea hotel. This seafront boutique hotel has wonderful views from the rooms, just see the picture below.
The hotel has a nice little garden, as you can see, where you can have the nice breakfast they serve for free. The whole place is nicely decorated and in sits a quiet street (yet, close to the main roads). Sometimes I just like to sit in the lobby and chat with the nice staff, who can also give great advice and useful information. They can rent a motorbike for you at only 200 THB per day.
Café de sea
The site is as quiet as it seems, but there are nearby nice coffee shops and restaurants with the same quiet vibe, but stylish too. I spent most of the time at “Café de Sea” coffee shop. They have a nice and wide choice of food, all very tasty and at a good price, and the seafront views are relaxing.
Wat Luang Pho Ei
Right in front of Baan Sattahip by the sea, there is a temple that is worthy of a visit: Wat Luang Pho Ei. I was there the last week of January, on time for the annual festival. There was plenty of food stalls, clothes sellers, two different scenarios with Thai traditional performances, etc. They were all very fun and interesting. If you can visit Sattahip during the last week of January, that would be a big plus. Also, worthy to mention, I was the only tourist in there the entire time and nobody was trying to sell me anything just for being “falang”.
Nang Ram beach
Once you are settled in the hotel room, and if you do not have a car, ask the reception for a motorbike (200 THB/day) and take off to explore the area. The more interesting attractions in the area are Toei Ngam beach (entry only allowed to Thai citizens) and Nang Ram beach (foreigners allowed). Teay Ngam beach is only allowed for Thais as Sattahip hosts several military bases and facilities.
HTMS Chakri Naruebet
Some areas are therefore prohibited for foreigners. The only Thai navy carrier is there and you can visit it inside and wander around the deck (again, if you are Thai), or take pictures from the outside (if you are not Thai). This carrier does not have airplanes to suit him anymore and has been for a long time no more than a tourist attraction. However, it is always nice to see a big ship like this in my opinion.
The beaches and the navy base are some 20-30 minutes by motorbike from the hotel. They are easy to find just following the indications in Google Maps.
- Here are some ideas on what to do when you visit Bangkok.
Day 2. Koh Samae San and Koh Kham
Koh Same San
The boat ride to Koh Samae San is only for ten minutes, but make sure you arrive at the Khao Ma Jor pier before 11 am. After that time, the next boat is not until 1 pm, leaving you with too a short time to visit the island. Boats run roughly every hour from 8 am to 11 am. The last boat returning from Koh Samae San is at 4 pm. The boat & island fee ticket costs 600 THB for foreigners and 300 THB for Thai nationals. You will need to be accompanied by at least one Thai (if you are not already a Thai, of course) in order to be permitted to visit the island.
Koh Samae San has been only in recent years open to the public, been entirely a military post until that time. The Thai navy still manages the island and there are no hotels or touristic facilities. That is fortunate, though, as there are not the usual hordes of tourists, dirt, and noise. The main activities to do on the island are some soft trekking and enjoy the sand and the snorkeling. The island is not breathtakingly beautiful, but Luk Lom beach is beautiful in its simplicity, and the snorkeling at nearby Koh Pla Muek (assisted by the ever-present Thai navy guys) is better than average quality.
Yet, the highlight for me is that the place is really unspoiled. Everywhere in Thailand, there are tour groups, bars, and the-wrong-kind-of-tourists doing the wrong-kind-of things. What makes this place special is that one has not the feeling of being in a huge “falang”-oriented theme park, but rather in the real world.
Bring a book, do not forget the sunblock, and you need nothing else. Snorkeling gear and a safe box to leave your things can be rented at the beach for 100 THB.
On our exploring the island we stayed at a small nearby cove and found some empty bottles and plastic bags abandoned. We did some cleaning and brought the trash back with us. Please, keep the island clean.
Koh Kham is a small island right beside Koh Samae San. The main thing you have to take care when visiting Koh Kham is that you can only do it on Saturday and Sunday. The rest of the week the island closes to visitors.
You can take the boat at the Khao Ma Jor pier. The schedules are irregular, so make sure you arrive at the pier at least before 10 am.
Like Koh Samae San, what you can expect in Koh Kham is the sun, clean waters, some tranquility and some snorkeling. Is that enough? I have heard of monkeys living there too.
Wish you nice trips.