One fine morning, I found myself making my way from Koh Samui to Koh Tao, doing the usual island hopping which many not unlike me do. After packing my bags and leaving the hotel, I felt like I simply couldn’t wait to venture out to the idyllic scenery: Palm trees lining the cerulean shores, which the classical Thai boats float over.
I booked a minivan pick up from the Koh Samui airport. After landing, I exited to the main hall and there was a small booth labeled “Samui Accom”. With my suitcases in hand, I rolled over excited, and at the same time slightly apprehensive. I had heard great things about this operator from other travelers, but you never know what may happen during a vacation.
As I approached, and after I showed the staff my voucher, I was given a green sticker. For the first time in a confidential amount of years, I really felt my childhood return. The lady sitting behind the booth pointed to a line, not so far away, which was a pickup point. Eventually, a minivan picked me up after ten minutes of waiting. The pier was ten minutes away from the airport
Stick me in
After arriving at Bangrak pier I noticed the swarms of people. Some were lathering themselves with sunscreen, others were adjusting their sun hats, or simply waiting in line (on their phones, of course). Everything was going so smoothly so I was prepared for a really relaxing adventure.
I showed my voucher at the check in desk and they gave me yet another sticker, one which said “Koh Tao”. I stuck the stickers to my shirt. The ferry is one which makes stops, this one pausing at Koh Phangan, before eventually getting to Koh Tao. It’s a two and a half hour ride. During the stop, passengers are both picked up and dropped off.
You may ask, is there a point to this abundance of stickers? The answer is yes! The stickers are for seating purposes, for the staff to differentiate between passengers, and for the luggage.
About the luggage, I noticed that it’s very important to pay constant attention to where your suitcases were being placed. The reason for this is mainly the heavy crowds. I can imagine a small human getting lost between the groups, so a suitcase disappearing wouldn’t surprise me either.
I had a gap in between my minivan and ferry rides, so I managed to buy a bit of food. Adjacent to Bangrak pier is a local market where you can get local Thai street food and fresh produce (veg and fruit). Eating fresh, Thai pineapple sounds super good right about now…
Help! I need somebody …
One thing to consider about Bangrak pier, in case you have any difficulties with mobility or for families with babies, I noticed that the staircase up to the pier is very, very steep. For me, it was no issue getting up the ramp and stairs, despite the slight strains to my forearms while lugging my suitcase up. I can see how it may be difficult for others. With proper planning and contact with the Seatran, it’s not difficult to solve this issue.
At the pier, there’s an information office which can help you with any ferry-related issue. Honestly, many of the staff members communicate with broken English. Nonetheless, they try their best, and with various hand movements and key words, you will be able to get what you need.
I felt that there were multiple benefits to the minivan + ferry service. Firstly, the airport pick up definitely made everything so comfortable. I didn’t have to worry about booking rideshare through apps, haggling, or figuring out my location. Everything was planned beforehand and I promptly arrived at the pier, leaving me with ample amounts of time to arrange myself before departing to Koh Tao.
There were also multiple different departure times during the day; I chose the morning time frame. One last tiny detail which I considered useful: there is a small kiosk on board, which you can buy snacks and drinks from in case you’re feeling peckish.
All in all, there was really no other option to consider, and rightfully so. You have to cross waters, so the bus + ferry combo is a simple choice to consider where you don’t even have to think about how to get to the pier. After you hit the waters, it’s smooth sailing.
Upon entering the ferry, and before I fell sound asleep, I began analyzing the various amenities the boat offered. Walking past the tens of rows of the indoor seating, I looked for the bathroom. There was a bathroom on the ferry, so no need to worry. However, it would honestly be quite helpful to bring your own roll of toilet paper.
There is also a large television screen in the cabin, but the seats were so comfortable that I fell asleep for the full journey length. In the cabin, the windows are shaded. In order to see the view, (the sparkling waters under the strong sun) you may need to go up to the upper deck.
Eventually, the ferry came to a smooth stop at the pier in Koh Tao and my eyes opened to passengers jumping up to collect their things and rush out to the start of their vacations.
I cannot stress enough how lovely the crew members were. Generally speaking, Thai people are very hospitable. They simply and very visibly want to help you out, and they will never try to hassle you. The staff helped me with my luggage, directed me to where to sit, and gently gave me my luggage at the end of the trip. One staff member even helped me with my luggage, taking it down from the ramp onto the platform.
After all of the helpful service and kind gestures, I managed to get past the vast crowds and onto the platform. Instantly, I felt like it was only me and the island in front of me. Of course, this could have just been my excitement to try every tropical fruit possible and sunbathe endlessly. After coming to my senses, I realized that the pier was actually quite far from my accommodation in Koh Tao.
I was not prepared for it when I arrived, and I just assumed I would take a taxi. Weirdly enough, there was a guy standing with a sign of my hotel. I approached him cautiously and saw he was holding a clipboard with names.
I wondered, “It’s kind of weird”, as I didn’t know how he got that information. I assume the resort knew they had a check in, at this particular time. I think that many other travelers also don’t expect such services to be provided, but it is a wonderful surprise.
At the end of it all, it took fifteen to twenty minutes of driving to get to my hotel. Koh Tao is more remote than all of the other islands in Thailand. I spent my days there simply strolling, lounging, and swimming. The waters are so beautiful, and if you climb up to a view point you will get a stunning sight of untouched, Thai nature.