Samae and Monkey Beach

Samae Beach lies to the west coast of Koh Lan or Koh Larn depending on which guide you are reading.

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Koh Lan as I will call it, is a stunning island situated 7km off the coast of Pattaya, Thailand. It measures 4km by 2km, with its highest peak reaching 180m.

The island, sometimes referred to as The Coral Island has a hilly landscape, mostly covered by forest or woodland and features a number of awesome beaches.

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Getting there could not be easier. From Pattaya’s Bali Hai Pier, there are a number of ferries which will take you to one of the designated beaches for anywhere between 30 and 100 Baht for a return ticket. These ferries are often old but they are seaworthy and will have lifejackets available should the need arise.

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Seating is very much archaic in design, and often will be nothing more than a bench or a 1960s deckchair but they do the job.

The ferries travel regularly from around 07:00 till 18:00 but you should confirm return times with the operator before departing. Travel time is between 45 minutes and one hour depending on which beach you have chosen as your destination. Do not worry if you arrive at a beach and discover it is not for you, for there are Taxi Bikes and Baht Busses available at all landings.

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If the ferry is not your cup of tea, you can splash out on a speedboat, which will have you at your destination in around 15 -25 minutes. These are more expensive especially if travelling alone. You can expect to pay between 2000 and 3500 Baht, according to the size of the boat. The smaller ones are cheaper. You can of course share the cost with others and bring the price down somewhat.

You will not have to look far to find a speedboat operator for they are everywhere from Bali Hai all the way along Pattaya Beach. Often they will have people selling trips on the path on Beach Road or at the Pier.

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The only considerations are, can your back handle the journey as you bounce along the waves at intense velocity or indeed, can your stomach? If you suffer from spinal problems or travel sickness, this is not the means of transport for you and you should use the leisurely, unhurried ferry.

Once you arrive on the island, there is a multitude of events to take part in from Scuba Diving to Parasailing. From Banana Boats to Jet Skis or even under water walking.

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I arrived at Samae Beach, but realised it was not the location for me. It was engulfed by parasols four deep and a hundred metres or so long. The sand was good as was the water but as a photographer, I was there for something different. Monkeys.

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So we jumped on a couple of Taxi Bikes to Nual Beach, often referred to as Monkey Beach or Monkey Island. I was told that you can purchase bananas and walk to the edge of the beach to what the locals called “The Jungle” and feed the monkeys. Now I have seen images of monkeys sitting on people’s shoulders, whilst munching on the yellow fruit but in four hours there, I never saw a single monkey.

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Now I was far from lazy in my search for the fabled creatures. I actually scaled a 1 in 3 hill, which had a rope to help haul yourself up the steep hillside but never spotted a monkey.

At the other end of the beach, I followed narrow paths through the dense undergrowth but again, not a monkey in sight. At this point I lost heart and gave up, choosing to head to the remote rocks below me and focus on scenic shots.

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So there I am, photographing the nearby Nual Beach and in the distance, the city of Pattaya, when a snorkel appears in the waves in front of us. A girl emerges and heads towards us and shouts “Nom – what are you doing here?” Nom being my girlfriend of course.

I was dumbfounded to say the least, for the scene would not have looked out of place in a James Bond movie.

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It turns out that the lady of the deep, was in fact a friend of Nom’s that I had met once in a bar in Rompho but her appearance had slightly altered from that evening – hence I had no idea who she was.

We carefully negotiated the rocks and forest back to Monkey Beach, where we enjoyed our lunch and a very welcome ice cold beer or two at one of the resort’s restaurants.

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Once fed and watered I gave the hillside a final check for the mysterious monkeys but alas they were nowhere to be found.

We decided to travel back to Samae Beach by Baht Bus, which we were informed would cost us 50 Baht each. The journey to Monkey Beach by Taxi Bike had been 100 Baht each on two bikes, so it seemed a fair deal.

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However having sat in the sweltering heat for 25 minutes waiting on the bus to depart, I could take no more. We got off and asked the only Taxi Bike Driver available to take the two of us to Samae.

When we arrived, the elderly driver asked for 100 Baht. So basically he was either taking me for free or the other two had overcharged us.

I thanked the driver and gave him the 200 Baht it has cost us travelling in the opposite direction. He was grateful for the tip. He also informed us that the monkeys only appear on the mornings, preferring to nap during the day, taking to the shaded woodland to avoid the heat.

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So what else did I notice apart from the lack of monkeys? Well – there are the the roads. They are narrow and constructed on block paving blocks.

They are also incredible steep in places with some treacherous bends.

Anyone can hire a motorbike. You don’t need a licence or even prove you can drive a bike. Just pay 200 Baht and you will be give the keys to a motorbike. The lack of skill on the testing conditions of the islands roads was clearly evident as riders wobbled as experienced taxi drivers passed them.

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Many bikes do not have number plates or tread on the tyres. There are no police so no need to worry or so I was told.

This was my second visit to Koh Lan, having visited the main port of Nan Ban Village four months ago. I would consider going back but staying overnight to get a glimpse of those damned monkeys.

Watch this space.

Let me explain the photos from the top. The first one is taken from the ferry at Bali Hai Pier. Next is the floating restaurant “The Oriental Princess” again from Bali Hai.

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As we set off for Koh Lang, I took the image of Pattaya from out at sea. Then we have a yacht that got precariously close to the ferry, forcing the skipper to shut off the engines to allow the yacht to pass in front of us.

There are a few of the speedboats used to transport visitors around. These pass the ferry at great speed as the slower craft toddles along with not a care in the world.

A young lad and his father,  slowly make their way down the precipitous hillside following a failed attempt to locate the monkeys.

Then we have a view from the rocks towards Monkey Beach and the cliffs, where the much sought after creatures are supposed to dwell.

Our friend Honey emerges from the water following a bit of snorkelling, which is followed by a chap exercising in the shallow waters of Nual Beach.

I took the one of Nom deep in the forest as we did our impression of Tarzan and Jane whilst the one below is of her and Honey as they chatted with Monkey Beach in the background.

The remainder are shots on the return journey of various crafts that I spotted along the way.DSC_2229.jpg

 

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