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.
buzz has since moved to other Thai islands, and Koh Kood may be the next big
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org;
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.”
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
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
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
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