Story and Photos by Dave Stamboulis
Let’s face it, pristine tropical beach paradises in Thailand have gone the way of the dinosaur. Not that it’s surprising. Take a perfect white sand beach, throw in a few hundred resorts, a couple of full moon parties, and a few magazine articles touting the place as an undiscovered hideaway, and what do you expect. Perhaps it’s just a natural progression. And then there is Koh Kood.
Koh Where? Even a large number of Thais kind of wonder where I am talking about when I mention Koh Kood. Koh Kood is a long island that sits in the Gulf of Thailand to the south of Koh Chang. While Koh Chang has been turned into a developer’s nightmare, and even the sleepy isle of Koh Mak to its south now turned into resort central (following a Guardian article proclaiming it one of the world’s ten best islands), Koh Kood remains a wonderful urban escape, perhaps due to its out of the way location.
While one can easily reach Koh Kood in a day from Bangkok, it has always been considered a bit off the beaten track. One needs to get to Trat city first, either a 5-6 hour bus ride or hour flight on Bangkok Air, followed by a ferry or speed boat out to the island. The island has also been protected by its image as an upscale escape, which isn’t exactly true. While Koh Kood has been spared the backpacker excesses that plague Phangan and Phi Phi, it does have some decent home stays and lower end accommodation options, while at the other end of the spectrum, a lack of 24 hour air con (due to the island’s limited power supply) and the high price of getting goods and services all the way here from the mainland has kept the mega resort investors at bay.
What you will find on Koh Kood are some tranquil great places to stay and virtually zero nightlife, along with brilliant white sand beaches, plenty of them, fronted by some of the most turquoise and emerald bays to be found in Thailand. As commercial jet skis and other contraptions are banned on Koh Kood, you don’t find coves full of longtail boats waiting to whisk you here and there, and other than your resort’s transportation, a kayak is probably the best way to get around, and you will have plenty of coast all to yourself.
During my stay on Koh Kood, I spent several days occupying prime squeaky white sand as the only human resident, which after a decade of exploring Thailand’s islands and beaches I considered to be nothing short of miraculous. On one morning, I launched my boat up the Khlong Chao River, and was alone, save for the gibbon calls from the trees and vibrant bird life, surrounded by lush and dense jungle, and feeling a lot more like the Amazon than somewhere in modern Thailand. At the end of the hour long paddle was the Khlong Chao waterfall, source of the island’s water supply and a beautiful spot to while away the day, as the falls featured a large swimming hole at its base, and while not without tourists, was a spot blissfully devoid of the package groups I have learned to run from over the years.
Koh Kood didn’t look too different from when I first laid eyes on it some six years ago, arriving on the island during a long distance kayak trip in the archipelago, although there have been some changes. More resorts have been springing up, and the main “village” of the island, now has a tiny bar or two. The local owners of the serene Shantaa resort wondered aloud what would happen to their beautiful island, as investors from the mainland keep a greedy eye on paradise. But thus far, a proposed airstrip on the island has remained just that, a proposal, and at least for the time being, sleepy Koh Kood offers the best of what tropical paradise used to be.
Go: Koh Kood is reached from the Laem Sok just outside of Trat City. Buses go regularly from Ekkamai in Bangkok to Trat, taking 5-6 hours. Local travel agents sell boat tickets to Koh Kood (350-600 baht depending on speed) which includes transport to and from each pier. Alternatively, save some time with a flight on Bangkok Air to Trat (Bangkok Air)
Stay: Some of the best beach hideaways in Thailand are found on Koh Kood. The Shantaa Resort is a small locally owned hideaway, with a handful of villas tucked into a 30 rai verdant property fronting beautiful Ao Tapao beach. The food here is possibly the best on Koh Kood, and one can work it off by using the resort’s kayaks (which come free of charge) to explore the pristine coast. Shantaa comes from the Hindi word for tranquility, and this gem of a resort blends in seamlessly with the gorgeous surroundings. Tel: 081 817 9648, 081 444 1648 Shantaa Koh Kood Resort
The Captain Hook Resort is another Koh Kood beauty that beckons. Located on a secluded cape between a meandering stream and the beach, Captain Hook offers a comfortable escape into nature. The resort is surrounded by emerald water and feels like a fantasy island paradise as it sits by itself in a remote spot on the northwest coast of Koh Kood. Management here also run the Peter Pan and Tinkerbell resorts on the island. Tel: 02 966-1800-2, 081 826-1188 (Captain Hook Resort)