Koh Kood - Thailand's other island

As Phuket and now Koh Samui are increasingly overrun by crowds, lovers of sun, sand and solitude keep searching for new options. Peaceful Koh Kood remains an unusually tranquil retreat.

By Ron Gluckman / Koh Kood, Thailand

AS CROWDS FLOCKED TO PHUKET IN THE EARLY 1990S, word spread about a peaceful palm-shaded alternative. Lacking airport and served only by ferry, the beaches were pristine and serene – at least back then on Koh Samui.

The buzz has since moved to other Thai islands, and Koh Kood may be the next big thing.

Close to Cambodia, it is reached only by ferry. That keeps traffic low, and idyll at the optimum. Only a few dozen resorts are scattered around Thailand’s fourth largest island, which gets a tiny fraction of the attention of Phuket or Samui.

But that may change with the recent opening of the Soneva Kiri, bringing Six Senses luxury to this magical retreat. For now, it remains a great place to get away, and savor some laidback, Robinson Crusoe-style options increasingly rare in Thailand.

For Time Magazine, here are the 5 Things to Do on Koh Kood.

Indulge all six senses
Six Senses is renowned for lavish resorts long on pampering with fun, quirky features; its newest island retreat, Soneva Kiri (www.sixsenses.com, 66 3961-9800) playfully pushes the envelope. Stargazers can count the moons of Jupiter at a full observatory next to the chic ice-cream bar. New heights are also reached at the Treepod Dining – guests are hoisted aloft in a wooden platform with surreal service by waiters flying through the forests on ziplines.

Private Paradise
The ultimate luxury on Koh Kood is to deliciously do nothing! Around the island are scores of deserted beaches and isles. Koh Kood has no taxis, only a few trucks on the roads, but that makes it a breeze to travel by motor scooter ($8-12 per day). It also allows you access to some of the prettiest seaside scenery, since most roads are dirt tracks suited to two-wheel exploration. Boat outfits also offer trips to remote beaches or romantic daytrips to private islands.

Diving to die for
Over a dozen dive shops offer PADI courses, plus snorkeling excursions starting at $30 for 4-5 hours, including lunch. Andy Wade runs the Activity Center at Away Koh Kood (scubamonkey007@yahoo.com; 081-154-2670), offering custom trips to 52 surrounding isles. Sharks, Eagle Rays and radiant tropical fish are plentiful, says this veteran of a decade at dive shops around Thailand, but the real thrill is dropping down a ledge and seeing nobody else in the water. “Here, you get to dive in the environment you want, whenever you want, alone.”

Jungle exploration
With only a couple thousand residents, this entire island is a nature retreat. By motorbike, you can roll through rubber plantations to swim at Nam Tok Khlong Chao, a three-tiered waterfall. Boat trips among the mangroves are also popular (sunset trips offer the spectacular sparkle of fireflies). And deep in Koh Kood’s lush green interior are the famed 500-year-old Makka and Chaieak trees.

Feast like a king
Koh Kood’s tiny tourist flows cannot support the German bakeries common on Phuket or Samui, but dining here has unique flavor. Try rich curries and tangy seafood at Koh Kood Beach Resort (66 2630-9371) with billion-dollar ocean views over the rocky west shore of the island. Locals uniformly praise the food – and views – at Mangrove, an aptly-named riverside eatery on Khlong Chao, overlooking mangrove thickets.

Or splash out for a six-course extravaganza at Benz’s, a traditional wooden Thai restaurant straddling Klong Yai Kee. Six Senses’ Thai chef Khun Benz concocts a daily menu inspired by her finds at the local fish and produce markets (about $100/person plus drinks, booking via Six Senses – see above. Like Treepod, non-guests welcome if space is available.)


Ron Gluckman is an American reporter, who has been roaming around Asia for over 20 years for a variety of publications including Time Magazine, which ran a version of this story in June 2011.

Words and Photos copyright RON GLUCKMAN

To return to the opening page and index

home.jpg (5606 bytes)

push here