There are various reasons why Rayong province's Koh Samet is one of the all-time favourite islands among Thai holidaymakers. Of course, I have a few of my own too, for example, the fine sand there is unmatched and, unlike other popular islands, virtually all the beaches are accessible to the public; the sea is among the clearest in the Gulf of Thailand; it's not very far from Bangkok, and accommodation is affordable.
Oh, one more thing _ it's great for mountain biking!
Have a look at the accompanying map and you'll see the road that runs along the length of this elongated island. This dusty road is not only the main transport route between the resorts along its course and the main pier at the top of the island, but also a popular trail for hikers as well as other tourists exploring the island on rented motorbikes and ATVs (all-terrain vehicles).
For those who love long-distance riding, this island road may seem unsatisfying at first glance. But you'll never know how much fun it is until you try it. Oh, did you notice that I mentioned there are ATVs for rent on the island? That should give you a hint about the trail conditions.
I got a chance to visit Koh Samet again a couple of weeks ago. As usual, my spouse and I stayed at a resort at Ao Wai, a cove located in the more peaceful southern part of the island. The beach there is my favourite because it is full of shady trees which allow you to sit and relax on the cool sand underneath the canopy any time of the day. And that was pretty much what we did the first afternoon after we arrived.
My ride started the next morning. Soon after breakfast I set off from the resort to the dirt road and hit south. It's less than 3km to the Forest Protection Unit at the southern end of the island.(Yes, Koh Samet is a national park. Don't ask me why there are so many resorts on the island. That's another story and it's a very, very long one.)
Anyway, this is the toughest section. The hills in this part of the island are the steepest. And with the road surface covered with a thick layer of dust, they are also the most challenging. You need to maintain proper balance of weight on both wheels during the ascent, otherwise you'll suddenly lose traction and end up disgracefully dismounting from the bike and pushing it up instead of riding to the top feeling like a champion.
Well, I had my feet touching the ground once or twice going up those tricky slopes. But I felt like a victor, anyway.
By the way, if you noticed it in the pictures, you'll see that I did it with a 24-inch wheel dirt jump bike. I'm sure an XC rig with larger wheels would do much better on these climbs. But every ascent here is followed by a descent that is as steep. And the reason I brought the dirt jump bike was that I wanted to enjoy the down slopes to the fullest. The smaller frame meant better handling going downhill and that gave me the confidence to ram down at full speed.
In about 45 minutes, I finally made it to the Forest Protection Unit. They have a small stall selling beverages and the iced lemonade I ordered was super refreshing. After the break I went to the back of the unit to enjoy the panoramic view at the southern tip of the island.
From there I could see nearby islets as well as the entire western coast of Koh Samet where the sunset-watching spot is located. Yes, it was on my itinerary in the evening.
After a while I rode back to my base at Ao Wai to have lunch with the lady. And set off again later in the afternoon when the sun is less strong. The northward ride was as much fun. The climbs may not be as difficult but the distance covered is longer. Along the way, I also ran into a few local riders.
I didn't drop by at other resorts this time. But if you do, you will find a hiking trail along the eastern shore. It's not ideal for riding, though, because at many points you'll have to carry your bike up the rocks.
Once I reached Hat Sai Kaew, the popular beach on the northern end of the island's eastern shore, I decided not to go further. I found a nice open-air restaurant so I dropped by and enjoyed a chilled time with a cup of latte and a piece of chocolate cake before riding back to Ao Wai where my spouse was waiting.
My timing was perfect. As planned we went to the sunset-watching point together.
She walked. I rode my bike, of course.
GPS info (Phae): N 12 37.236 E 101 25.494
Trail condition: Dusty dirt road with short yet exciting ascents and descents.
Distance: The unpaved section of the island’s main road is about 7km long.
Getting there: Ferries to Koh Samet leave from a number of piers along the shore of Phae. Boat operators may charge extra for the bike.
Parking: There are several places in Phae where you can leave your car overnight for a fee.
Food & drinks: You can find lots of restaurants on main beaches like Hat Sai Kaew and Ao Wong Duen. Every resort also runs its own restaurant.
What your family can enjoy while waiting: How about some of the Kingdom’s best beaches?
Accommodation: The island offers all types of accommodation for visitors. I recommend you stay at a resort that has its own boats and parking lot on the mainland.
Well, see you here again next Thursday. Until then, if you have questions, news or biking insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to email@example.com or go to "Freewheel Bangkok" community page on Facebook.
Pongpet is Life's travel editor and a bike freak.
About the author
- Writer: Pongpet Mekloy
Position: Travel Editor