Set on the opposite side of the island from Sai Kaew’s party strip, Ao Noi Na is a long stretch of sand on Koh Samet’s northern coastline that doesn’t even make it onto many tourist maps. Long, quiet and well-preserved, the junk-free shore and crystal-clear water could be from the Andaman Coast.
What to do
Though tourism’s scarce here, you can still rent boat tours and go parasailing. For a group of around 10 people, Hapaya Marine Sports (086-282-5949) charge B1,000 per person for about eight minutes of flying time each—expensive but incredibly fun. If the beach gives you cabin fever, most resorts offer island tours for about B500-600 per person that’ll take you snorkeling for manta rays just off the coast of Ao Phai, followed by watching the sunset at Laem Rhua Tak, a cape that’s only accessible by boat. Keep in mind that boat trips are usually an all-day thing, and planning ahead is suggested.
Getting around the island
The main reason you would want to stay on Ao Noi Na is that it’s quiet, but you can go knock back some cocktails on Sai Kaew pretty easily. Songthaew (pickup-truck taxis) cost upwards of B200 per ride, while it's B300 per day if you want a scooter to go explore the island at your own speed.
What to eat
Bar & Bed Resort
Don’t let the thought of fish and chips take hold of you. Western cuisine on Ao Noi Na is terrible, so instead stick with the Thai seafood joints. Samed Hideaway restaurant (www.fb.com/samedhideaway) is one of our favorite spots thanks to the steamed white snapper in soy sauce that packs a punch (B480). For some fruity cocktails and good bar bites, hit up Baan Ploy Sea (www.samedresorts.com/baanploy), an open-air restaurant built like a sala (Thai pavilion) with matching bamboo ceilings and a beachside terrace.
Where to stay
Bar and Bed
Baan Ploy Sea
You’ll find a number of fancy hotels to choose from. The young crowd tends to head for Bar & Bed Resort (www.barandbed.com) for its industrial-cabana look, as well as the modish Samed Club (www.samedresorts.com/samedclub). At Bar & Bed, sea view rooms begin at B4,701/night, while Samed Club’s romantic beachfront cottages can be had for B8,000 a night. If you prefer quiet and luxurious, next door to Bar & Bed is Baan Ploy Sea (www.samedresorts.com/baanploy), a boutique hotel that tastefully blends contemporary Thai design with rustic pale woods. You can book the deluxe seaview room for B7,350/night.
Rayong: Don't just wait at the Pier. Eat!
The best food stops before catching the ferry.
Ban Phe Market
Stop by this market for fresh seafood, whether that’s a half kilo of dried shrimp, a bucket of hoy kang or a whole sea bass just off the boat. Not in the mood to cook? Follow your nose to the stalls selling deep-fried soft shell crab or meaty goong thod.
Fresh fish and any-way-you-want-it crab are the specialities of this restaurant on Laem Mae Phim beach. The downside to such good food is the nightly crowd, which will likely keep you waiting 30 minutes for a table. 081-458-8253
This Thai kitchen rolls out specialities like a pungent and delicious kanom jeen (rice vermicelli and curry) in a garden beside Rajbumrung Road’s canal. For an idea of the mood, think bean bags, mats and hammocks stretched over the water. www.fb.com/happycamperrayong
Make a pit stop at this old Thai noodle house filled with Americana bric-a-brac; it’s a site of pilgrimage for many guay tiew lovers. 03-861-4160, goo.gl/XXaFW2
Soothe that sweet tooth at this stall down a side alley of Ban Phe with its rainbow spread of treats from bua loi to sweet sticky rice. 081-762-0369, www.fb.com/khokanomwan
Buses from Ekkamai to Ban Phe leave every hour and takes three hours costing B200. The ferry from Ao Prao Pier on the mainland to Aoi Noi Na on Koh Samet takes 30 minutes and costs B15. Call 03-865-1134.
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