Sunrise on the north eastern side of the small tropical island.
From the Ban Phe pier, you take one of the hourly ferries which plods along slowly for about 40 minutes. There are fast boats that cost 350baht which I've never taken as they do not look relaxing at all.
In contrast to the 'tourist' ferry pier, life along the fishing boat pier is starkly different. The night before, we met several guys waiting 2 weeks to secure positions on boats only earning 100 baht per day (meanwhile) acting as security for their prospective bosses gear (they need to secure visas to work in Thailand and hope to be paid 10k baht/month. This particular group (not pictured) was about to return to Poipet to get those visas. It's a very dangerous type of work to get involved with as many who go out do not make it back to shore - so they pray that they have fair and trustworthy bosses.
Fixers settling up from the night before... I saw several motorbikes leaving the pier that morning with lone female drivers.
This being my second visit to this island, I was a bit surprised when they wanted to collect 20 baht for each person arriving - 'pier maintenance fee'.
In Thailand, someone is always figuring out a way to extract ever more from the legions of tourists that continuously flock there. This fee should be included into the ferry ticket cost. Granted the dock was updated and this large sculpture sits at the end of the dock - people have left all sorts of offerings to this God-like statue that is so large I got a strange feeling of vertigo, not from it's height, but from the depth perception of the arm reaching out toward us. Naturally, the mobile snap doesn't convey this.
This is my second visit to Koh Samet island which is near Rayong or just over an hour away from Pattaya. I made a costly mistake which I'll share with you to help you in case you want to visit in the future. We flew down from Chiang Rai that morning. Arriving at DMK, I figured we ought to just take the airport shuttle A1 (30baht) over to Mo Chit BTS stop and take a cab over to the Mo Chit bus terminal and grab a bus to Rayong. The other option is to go to the Ekkamai BTS station and walk across the street to the Ekkamain bus terminal which also has 'DIRECT' service to Ban Phe pier. Ekkamai is quite a bit further away from Don Muang airport (DMK) so I decided to just go with Mo Chit.
It was among my worst blunders while traveling in Thailand. They were only offering minivan service to Rayong. I'll spare you the other details - aside from being crammed into the rear seats, we finally arrived at Bus Terminal 1 in Rayong at dusk. After consulting with the GPS, I knew we had a ways to go yet. We took songthaew (truck taxi) over to Bus Terminal 1 and then another from Bus Terminal 2 to reach a spot next to the Ban Phe pier. Moral of the story, please go to Ekkamai Bus station and you're trip will be so much easier.
Fortunately, I'd already booked a crappy (pun intended) hotel so we wouldn't need to make the ferry crossing at night and navigate to our hotel in darkness afterwards. The most manly of lady boys escorted us to our room in high heels and a black mini-skirt. This provided a welcome break from the tedium of getting there.
When a hotel room sits with it's doors open, you should know it's because they're letting the sewer gasses dissipate. Not long after we'd checked in, the bathroom wreaked worse than any I'd ever had before. Reading the reviews after I booked it I knew what we were in for...
Sewer gas leaks out of shower drains and sinks in Thailand as most do not use a simple P-trap (plumbing device that prevents sewer gas from re-entering the structure). I came up with a decent strategy to mitigate the smell. One plastic bag set over the drain plus a bit of toilet paper and douse with water. This more or less seals the drain shut trapping most of the gasses. The procedure needed to happen in the sink as well. It doesn't really matter where you stay in Thailand, sewer gas is just a natural thing whether you step out from the Sheraton along the Chao Phraya river or a pier-side hotel in Rayong. You get used to it
Staying along the pier was interesting for me as a photographer, but would be a turnoff for most as this area is dingy and not likely the safest area to be walking at night as there are a slew of fishing boats moored there.
After sunrise, the selfie-fest really gets underway. This was on the eve of Chinese New Year so there were lots of larger groups visiting. After 9:30am, the non-Asian visitor take over the beaches and begin basking in the sun. Later around 4:30pm, the process reverses again (in general, the Asian visitors come out for a dip in the sea without the harsh sunlight). Mid-morning I noticed speed boats delivering tourists from Ban Phe pier right onto the beach. Easy prey for the Park guards to come extract the park entry fee of 200 baht for non-Thai, 100 baht for Chinese and 40 baht for Thai individuals which is good for the duration of your visit. This is a subject for another time - tiered race based pricing...
Reference: 35 baht = $1USD