Can you ever spend too much time on a tropical island? Uh, no. So the trip continued on down from the popular gulf coast to Trang: home to some of the less frequented islands of Koh Muk and Koh Kradan – the latter also known as the most beautiful place on Earth.
As is customary in these parts of the world our bus dropped us off on the side of the road where we were swiftly picked up by a couple of motorcycle taxistas who, after some deliberation in Thai, seemed to think they knew where we wanted to go. We were hustled onto the back of two of bikes – bags still on backs – and before I knew it we were speeding and weaving through traffic despite my best and most dramatic hand gestures of “please go slowly, my bag is very heavy and I don’t want to hug you.”
Thinking we were headed directly for the port, we were instead dropped off at a local minivan. A further hours drive and we arrived and were greeted with… absolutely nothing. There are some upsides to travelling during the low season: accommodation is often cheaper, you are spoilt for choice due to low demand, and there are less tourists. While the downsides to travel in low season are: crappier weather, no one to share costs with, and no choice in transportation options because there are less tourists. Precisely what happened to us. After an hour of further hand gesturing, waiting and ice-cream eating a man got in touch with a friend with a boat and he agreed to take the two straggly backpackers back with him to the island.
Upon arrival, stubbornness took a hold, as it usually does, and we dismissed all offers of transportation to instead find our accommodation by foot. Looking to the left I saw pristine white sand, palm trees swaying in the breeze, and a multitude of identical little bungalows perfectly aligned along the waters edge. Looking to the right I saw (and smelt) a small fishing village, some rubbish gently lapping at the shore, and a multitude of scruffy animals scavenging for food. Sigh, it was never going to be left…
We rustled up a map and charged on straight ahead figuring we could walk to Farang Beach (Foreigner Beach) if we didn’t find something on the way. We had almost done a full loop of the inner island when we spotted another foreigner – likely to be the only other foreigner on the entire island – who told us to head on to Dada’s situated a mere 100m from where we had started out. Why didn’t we just turn right…
We spent the next day exploring the island with a local clambering through rubber plantations, swatting our way through the forest and finally popping out at the top of the hill at an abandoned bungalow someone once hoped would be a guesthouse. We continued down to a small beach cove that was completely littered with rubbish swept onshore by monsoons, and sadly left here until the bulk of tourists are due to arrive and the place is cleaned up by the locals.
Heading back we cut across the tidal mudflats which, in the right season, are frequented by dugongs that feed on the sea-grass, and (in all seasons) are home to a bizillion scurrying crabs – one of which measured up an unsuspecting Angelo and chased him! We declined an offer of another type of grass being smoked out of a handcrafted bamboo bong by some fairly cheerful locals and finished up the day drinking fresh coconuts from the deck of our guesthouse. Actually, the day ended with Angelo being chased yet again, but this time out of the bathroom by a scorpion – eeek!
A longtail boat took us to the shores of Koh Kradan – or should I say paradise? We jumped onto the blindingly brilliant, white sand and were once again greeted with nothing. But this time it was the good kind of nothing. No people, no rubbish, no noise save the relaxing sounds of waves crashing on the beach and my own exclamations of how I was never going to leave this place…
We scurried past The Sevenseas Resort ($400 a night – yeah, right) to find a resort a little more in our budget*. I say a little more: it was still too expensive for us, but for two days, meh. Surrounded by trees and run by a 72 year old Hawaiian guy named Wally, and with the only other guest being another 70-something-year-old Australian man we had a quick chat, dumped our stuff and headed out to our own private beach. For two days we didn’t see another soul except some local fisherman sleeping on hammocks and a couple of frisky dogs. We did nothing other than swim, and sunbathe, and swim and relax. Jealous?
Part of the reason we managed to have the island pretty much to ourselves is owed to the fact that some 95% of it is protected land and cannot be developed. Therefore, there are only eight or so resorts actually operating on the island meaning limited beds. There is no village, no shops, and according to our host, Wally, he and his wife are the only true residents on the entire island!
Unfortunately for us paradise came with an expiry date and I was dragged back to the mainland (not quite kicking and screaming, but close to). We continued south to Hat Yai for no other reason than to meet up with a Thai friend of mine that I met on exchange in Argentina in 2007. Our guesthouse was cheap, not cheerful, and it also happened to come complete with squat toilet – surprisingly the first I’d had to use since arriving. After a couple of disastrous attempts – I’ll spare you the details – I managed to manouveur the thing quite well.
A 24-hour sleeper train saw us all the way back to Bangkok and back to our favourite street food – pad thais, spring rolls and a mango shake on the side!
So, Angelo likes to make videos. Check them out!
*There’s only one ‘budget-friendly’ option to stay on the island – “Paradise Lost” – owned and run by Wally. A small bungalow with shared bathroom cost us 600THB a night, and food is a bit more expensive because, well, you’re on an island (200THB for a Thai curry, 130THB for a Padthai). To book you have to send him a text message +66895872409, and he’ll get back to you.