Koh Kood: Thailand’s Gentle Giant
This New Year I had the pleasure of escaping Chiang Mai just as it was filling up with Bangkokians and all their cars.
As I get older [Ed. Eye roll, he is 27!], my tastes steer further towards serenity, quiet and isolation when I hit the beach and this year I wanted to seriously get away from it all. Being high season, my budget wasn’t going to get me anywhere far or fancy and only a few islands came to mind when planning my escape; Koh Phayam, Koh Mook and Koh Rong Sanloem in Cambodia, where I visited many years ago and highly recommend. This year I wanted somewhere easy to get to, so I opened Google maps and began browsing. Scrolling up along the Cambodian coast towards Thailand, the first island I stumbled upon was Koh Kood. Largely overshadowed by Koh Chang just next door, I had no idea this island existed — but after a bit of searching I knew I had found a winner. Large, isolated, green, quiet and best of all…no 7-Elevens.
Getting there was relatively easy despite no direct flights to Trat from Chiang Mai. Our best option was to fly to Bangkok and transfer to Trat, or fly to Suvarnabhumi or U-Tapao airport and jump on a bus or hire a private car. We chose the latter. With the last boat leaving at 2.20pm, we were pushed for time after a short delay on our Chiang Mai – U-Tapao flight, but after landing and quickly jumping in a car we got to the pier in the nick of time. As the boat moored at the small pier on Ao Salat, we knew the nail-biting journey was worth every ruined cuticle as we caught the first shimmer of clear waters and pure white sands.
Koh Kood is a hidden paradise. Despite being the fourth largest island in Thailand after Phuket, Koh Chang and Koh Samui, the majority of the island remains untouched — dense jungles with just a scatterings of rubber plantations and research stations. There are only one or two main roads that connect the few small towns to the beaches and not much stays open after nine o’clock at night. Paradise.
The main town stretches between Ao Noi and Klong Jao — a natural river that meanders from a stunning waterfall in the heart of the island out to the beach. Island visitors who stay in the area often get around by kayak, venturing out to sea via the river or against the current towards the waterfall, surrounded by unspoilt mangrove jungles.
Peter Pan Resort sits between the river and the beach and is a great mid-range hotel to check out, but we chose to save some money and pitch up at a homestay just down the river called Baan Klong Jao Homestay. Our days were spent lounging in the sun, kayaking aimlessly and renting motorbikes to explore the beaches and jungles. If you are staying in town for the duration, it is advised you rent a motorbike as taxi fares can quickly add up, given how spread out the island is.
In the evenings the seafood becomes the star. The Fisherman Hut is by far the most popular place in town, and well worth a visit, but if you want the same fish at half the price, take the time to drive over to other side of the island to Ao Yai, a local fishing village that serves seafood straight off the boat.
As I sipped a cocktail at one of the few bars near the beach, Sunset Bar, I basked in the final orange glow of the sun as it sets over the waters in front of me, sand shimmering mesmerisingly in the dwindling light and I realised that it just doesn’t get much better than this. With not much to do but relax, it was a perfect getaway — and it felt even better knowing that just 20km away was Koh Chang with its dirty water and busy hordes of tourists, most of whom have no idea that that Koh Kood even exists. I felt pretty special!