I got lucky and clicked myself into an AirAsia buffet a few months back. This means that I can travel to any South East Asian destination where AirAsia flies for the price of an airport tax and a few other add on fees, cutting the cost of my plane travels by many many happily saved bahts.
And so it was that I was a tad bored and sitting with some friends the other day when I decided to ask them to pick me a destination. With an eeny, meeny, miny, moe, we settled on Trang, a province I had never been to before.
A bit of Googling, two weeks, two short flights and two thousand baht later, I found myself in Trang airport. I had arranged a car to rent and soon found myself singing happily to myself as I headed off onto the Trangknown.
Driving in Trang is a joy. The roads are wide and empty, the locals seemingly have no need for speed and the views vary from the erect battalions of rubber tree-lined plantations to spectacular sea vistas, adorably cute little villages to dense tropical jungles. I wended my way through this unfamiliar new scenery finally arriving at the rather murky and dirty pier where a long tail boat awaited to take me to Koh Mook, the promised Pearl of the Andaman.
With such a name, Koh Mook had a lot to live up to and as my long tail boat powered closer to the island, the sea twinkled and winked, beckoning me nearer to the island’s white creamy shores. I gazed at the strings of karst lime islets dotting the horizon and began to think that I had hit the jackpot.
I landed on the shores of Pawapi Resort, staff rushing out to give me something cold to drink the moment my toes burrowed into the soft white sand. I was to soon learn that Pawapi is currently the only resort on the island with enough guests to keep running at full service; like so many of us, paradise was also hit pretty hard by the pandemic. Even then, there weren’t more than about ten people there with me at any given time, which meant that I was spoilt utterly rotten by the lovely staff.
After checking into my beach front bungalow with its spacious balcony and sumptuous bed, I headed to the beach bar where I promptly introduced myself – and needs – to the staff, thus activating the supply chain of wines and dirty martinis which would arrive like a happy miracle in my hand every evening for the next few days.
The days passed by in idyll. A dip in the sea, a swim in the pool, a rented moped to explore the tiny island, a jaunt to a nearby reef for some world class snorkelling and even a visit to the breathtaking Emerald Cave.
Koh Mook has a population of 3,000 Muslim Thais and about a dozen resorts. The trees are heavy with hornbills, the gardens loud with the sounds of kingfishers and the sea a very pleasing crystal, teeming with translucent shoals of fish seeming in a constant rush. There isn’t a lot to do on Koh Mook, which is ideal for those of us looking to get away from all of the doings in life. I could go on about the poor living conditions of the locals, the lack of recycling, the occasionally pesky sand flies…but then let’s not dwell
on that. I did try to rile up some indignation and activism, but was soon lulled back into my bean bag and told to leave matters to the locals.
I spent my mornings gazing at distant islands, book in hand and straw in mouth, attached to a fruity drink. I spent my afternoons walking the beach admiring the outrageous number of beautiful seashells swept up on the beach by the lapping waves. I spent my evenings sipping cold drinks while bathing under the bright light of the moon, chatting up anyone who would spare me some company. I even ventured for a naughty midnight swim or two, floating under the stars and wondering how I got so lucky.
While so many people from around the world are waiting for the end of the monsoon to return to our beaches, we locals have it good. Resorts are still relatively inexpensive, cost of travel bearable, and best of all, there are no crowds, making for the perfect time to go south.
If you are worried about the monsoon, don’t. It rains, it stops.
Leaving Koh Mook was hard, but being the strong woman that I am, I managed to drag myself away from my spot on the beach and was soon waving farewell to Pawapi before returning to shore and jumping back in my rental, this time I was to explore the mainland.
Trang has someways to go to get its tourism up to the sophisticated levels of Phuket or Samui, but that is a good thing. I would much rather explore the untouched beaches of Trang than jostle for a day bed on a hectic beach in Phuket.
I stopped off at national parks where I found myself the only person on stretches of beaches that vanished seemingly into the horizon. I popped into a local market and sampled some of their local bites, most of which I had never heard of before and probably wont ever come across again. I discovered Pak Meng, a popular 16km beach with a seam of food stalls stretched alongside. This is where the people of Trang come to spend their weekends, drinking beers, playing guitar, flirting and frolicking…as Thais do so well by waterfalls, on mountain tops, along river banks and by sea shores across the country.
Trang town is probably not going to be competing with any major cities as a popular destination anytime soon. While its sleepy 1950s vibe is quite charming, it’s not terribly exciting. Trang appears to be a town of shophouses; Art Deco, neo classical, Sino-Thai, Sino-Portuguese, kaleidoscopic coloured, retro, rundown, funky, quirky and classic shophouses in all shapes, sizes, hues and conditions. Together, they are really rather fun and it was worth taking some time to just wander along the quiet streets poking my head into various people’s businesses. A pretty church appears to be one of the more popular check in spots in town and I was told to visit the local fresh market, where I managed to make my friends back home happy by buying them lots of fermented, dried and rotten fish as souvenirs.
Five days, solo travel, shoe string. I can’t recommend Trang more and THIS is the time to go.