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You want to visit the Thai island of Koh Kood (Kut) in the province of Trat? You will see many a waterfall on this tropical island. You could find great accommodation at Away Resorts. There are many boat options to get here and once you arrive, you could spend all day visiting waterfall after waterfall, ling Klang Chao.  


Koh Kood
Thailand's answer to going off the grid


"Small Thai islands in the 1990's, I recall from experience, had few people, intermittent electricity, and precious few things to buy.  They were great places to get away from it all.  Koh Kood is a 1990's Thai island at 2030 prices."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic


A British friend had been recommending I visit the island of Koh Chang since 2009. After I finally made it there with my family in October 2011, he upped the ante.  What was I visiting Koh Chang for when the ever more remote and untouched island of Koh Kood was but a short frolic away?  He boasted that Koh Kood was the best island he'd ever been to.    

Fast forward to April 2013.  The Thai water festival holiday of Songkran was approaching.  Wealthy Thais everywhere split for resorts or abroad.  My wife doesn't get many opportunities to travel and decided she wanted to relax on an island.  We'd revisit Koh Chang.   I mentioned Koh Kood to her and she agreed, without much convincing required, to split the vacation up with half the time in Koh Chang and half the time in Koh Kood. 

Koh Kood

A stray begging cat, lush jungle, and a cold beer on Thailand's easternmost island  All that's missing is a falling coconut.

Koh Kood is not a large island.  It's only slightly larger than 100 sq kilometers, twenty-five kilometers at its longest point and twelve kilometers at its widest.  The island can seem larger than it really is due to the lack of a comprehensive paved road network and round-the-clock electricity which can leave larges swathes of the island in darkness during the evening hours.  A small number of Thais and Cambodians have lived on the island for over a hundred years, but it's only recently that the foreign segment and affluent Thais have discovered the place as an oasis and a tourist infrastructure of sorts has sprung up to cater to them.           

    
The Lay Of The (Is)Land

Most of the accommodation you're likely to book is located on the western side of the island, southwest of the Klong Chao Waterfall.  There are additional accommodation possibilities in the southwest.  Interestingly, these accommodation centers are not where most of the locals reside.   Ao Yai in the southeast would be considered the capital if one were to be chosen, and it'd be a tiny capital at that.   Ao Yai just a small genuine fisherman's village.  People also live in Ao Salad, the location of one of the piers by which ferries sail to and from the mainland's Laem Sok pier near the provincial capital of Trat.  The minimal roads link these two population centers with the most populous tourist areas.  

map koh kood
You don't come for the discotheques and the drag racing

So two economies exist here: the local one that's been fishing, planting rubber trees, and cultivating coconuts for a century; and now, the tourist one.   The two economies have no reason to intersect often.  The west coast accommodations maintain their own boats and cart in supplies from the mainland; the east coast locals go about making a living like they always did before the tourist folk arrived.   Having said this, you will not be shunned and scorned should you travel to Ao Salad or Ao Yai.   You could do a homestay in one of the fisherman villages if you felt so inclined for a couple hundred baht.  Ten to fifteen dollars would be plenty to sleep in a room in a spartan fisherman's house.  Expect zero in the way of amenities. 

ATM Koh KoodThe Swiss executive assistant manager of the resort we stayed at, a former colleague of my wife's, explained that the island was seeking to keep its remote feel, at least for the present.   The 7 11's you'll see every few skips elsewhere in the country and which infested the once tiny island paradise of Koh Tao have been kept off Koh Kood.  You won't find an ATM on the island either, just an advertisement for a bank at the pier.  The lack of chain development and an economy based solely on tourism keeps prices on the higher side.  In fact, the most productive way to look at the island is to think that you're paying a premium for the isolation on a beautiful tropical island meant to stay that way.  Motorbike rental will cost you double what you'd pay on the mainland, and other items, if you can find them, will be 20-100% more expensive, depending upon where they're purchased.   Our resort enjoyed 24/7 electricity, but the ragged and aged resort welcome guide we found in our duplex bungalow mentioned that electricity was only available between 6 PM and 8 AM, so not too long ago, even four star resorts did not offer electricity all the time.  I would expect some of the lower cost places to not work their generators around the clock.  Lower cost here does not mean the old skool fan-cooled bungalows you commonly see on Koh Phangan for 300 baht or USD 10 to 11.  Expect to pay double and at least 1,000 baht for something with air conditioning. 

It rained on our arrival from Koh Chang and did not subside until 1:30 PM.  The next day, the rains poured till 2 PM.   This weather was not conducive to motorbike rides on wet roads.   We secured a kayak from our resort and journeyed along a beautiful and quiet mangrove estuary.   I could've docked the kayak along a pier near the terminus of the estuary and hiked about 600 meters to the Klang Chao Waterfall, but my wife was in no mood to walk anywhere.  I was happy enough to have convinced her to get into the kayak and did not belabor the point.  Back in our room, she did a quick image search for the waterfall with her iPad and waved that in my face.  "Now we've seen the Klang Chao Waterfall," she laughed.  Over dinner, the Swiss manager verified that Klang Chao Waterfall is one of the best waterfalls in Asia, rivaling in scope and magnificence Niagara Falls and Victoria Falls.  All right, that would be a gross exaggeration.  He said Klong Chao was the best on Koh Kood, but that waterfalls he'd seen on another Thailand island, Koh Samui, were superior.

There's a moral with that waterfall.  You don't come to Koh Kood to be blown away.  You come to get away.  We contented ourselves hiking on a narrow trail to a nearby beach where my wife fed the fish swimming along the rocks.  One night we walked a kilometer northwards, with only the light from my headlamp to guide us, to dine at a primitive pizzeria where moths gathered in large numbers around the dim lights.  You don't grimace at these kinds of experiences.  You revel in them, because in another ten years, if Koh Kood doesn't keep development at bay, the island will be filled with swank air conditioned pizzerias and every square foot of the island will be lit.   

Getting To and From Koh Kood

boat Koh KoodWe went from Koh Chang to Koh Kood. This was not a cost effective option. All the boats leave from the pier at Bang Bao.  [See Laem Bang Bao on the Koh Chang map here] You've got two options. You can take a speedboat or a slow boat. The speedboats officially leave at 9 AM and noon and stop off at all the islands along the way. First stop is Koh Wai. Next, Koh Mak, Koh Kham, and Koh Rayang -- all of these are within a stones throw of each other. The last stop is Koh Kood. These are priced at 900 baht if you're going all the way to Koh Kood. At more than $30, for a 90 minute trip, this is considered pricey in Thailand. This price includes transport from your hotel on Chang to the pier, a 60 to 100 baht value depending upon where you're staying. We biked ourselves to the pier and thus trimmed 50 baht off the final fare.

Our speedboat was full of Russians and all of them disembarked on the various islands along the way. Our boat left Koh Chang late, but we still managed to arrive on Koh Kood by 11 AM. The speedboat waits around Koh Kood for another 30 minutes or so before heading back to Koh Chang, stopping off at exactly the same islands to pick up the people who were dropped off on the way over.

There is a slow boat, too, leaving at 9:30 AM and noon, which costs only 600 baht, still a nice chunk of change given the distance. The slow boat really doesn't travel much slower than the speedboat, but it does stop on Koh Mak for a two hour layover. You then catch a speedboat the rest of the way to Koh Kood. This less expensive option makes perfect sense if you wanted to see Koh Mak anyway.

It's actually cheaper to get to Koh Kood directly from the provincial capital of Trat. From Trat Market, you are provided free transport to Laem Sok pier at 11:30 AM. The slow boat to Koh Kood, which only takes two hours, leaves about noon. Cost is just 350 baht or about USD 12. The speedboat costs almost double, at 600 baht, but doesn't get you to Koh Kood much faster. The speedboats depart Laek Sok at 9 AM and 1 PM. Once they get to Koh Kood, they wait 15 to 30 minutes and then head back out to Laem Sok.

On the morning we left Koh Kood, it was pouring outside and my wife preferred to take the slow boat. It's larger, has a lower aircon compartment, and provides ample protection from the rain. Upon arrival at Laem Sok, all of us were shuttled to the sheltered ferry ticketing office. Our ferry ticket included shared taxi transport from Laem Sok to Trat central, but when arrived in the rain, transport options were nowhere to be found, and none of the operators provided an explanation.  We waited around the ferry ticketing office for more than an hour before a tuk tuk carted us to the bus station.  You have a choice to be dropped off at the minibus or standard bus station.  You should not have to wait more than an hour to catch an express bus to Bangkok.


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