I almost didn’t go.
After spending three beautiful days on Koh Mak, I was convinced I’d found the best island in Thailand. It had everything you could need from a place to call paradise. The food was delicious, the locals were welcoming, the beaches were gorgeous, the views were spectacular, and there were hardly any tourists around. When you throw in getting to stay in one of my new favourite guesthouses — Bamboo Hideaway — I had a solid case for cancelling the rest of my plans in the country.
The one thing that convinced me to leave?
Knowing my next destination was supposedly home to the best beaches in all of Thailand.
How could I pass up on an opportunity like that?
My first impressions were surprisingly poor.
After arriving in Koh Kood, we were assigned to a songthaew with some of the most obnoxious travellers I’d ever come across. For the next half an hour, we wound our way down the west coast of the island to our guesthouse, listening to them shriek and snort as they ignored the views around them. I crossed every finger I had in a desperate prayer that they weren’t staying in the same place as us.
When we pulled up beside a fancy resort to let the shriekers out, I was blanketed in an odd blend of jealousy and relief.
Because, guys, girls and non-binary readers? The beach beside their resort looked incredible.
This beach would give the South Pacific a run for its money, and I was in awe of its pristine shores. It looked like a Photoshopped scene, all perfect white sand and turquoise blue water, and I immediately made a note to return.
Ten minutes later, we were pulling up outside Gumm Lonely Club. And yes, that is a random name for a guesthouse.
I had been convinced to book at Gumm’s after reading the incredible reviews online — a whopping 97% of reviewers on TripAdvisor give it 5 stars — and I couldn’t find a single criticism of the place. And while $60 a night is a little more than I was hoping to pay, when I saw the photos and read about how wonderful the place is, I was convinced to splurge.
From the moment I stepped foot in this chilled-out hangout, I was thrilled we’d decided to stay there.
Gumm and Jang, a Thai couple from Bangkok, converted this old fishing house into a homestay-guesthouse mash-up five years ago, and now offer three rooms for guests to stay in. We’d lucked out with the best one, as our room was the only one with a balcony and hammock over the water. As I padded around the jumble of deck chairs, hammocks, and benches, jazz drifted through the air from a record player and the river lazily passed by.
“Oh my god, I want to stay forever,” I said to Dave, and a woman lounging in a nearby deckchair let out a laugh.
“I’ve been coming back here since it opened,” she confessed to us. “Staying for months at a time. It’s paradise.”
We introduced ourselves to Gumm and our fellow guests, grabbed a couple of beers and some Penang curries, then settled down beside the water to take a deep breath and relax.
Later that afternoon, when we finally managed to drag ourselves from our roti-induced stupor, we wandered down to the nearest beach.
Fortunately, it was just 200 metres from Gumm’s, and when we reached it, there was just one other couple out on the sand. If you remember my posts from Koh Wai and Koh Mak, you’ll know this wasn’t a rarity in this part of Thailand.
Dave’s face lit up with excitement.
“This is the perfect place to do it,” he told me.
“You know! That thing I’ve always wanted to do on a beach?”
I racked my brains for ideas, then shrugged.
“Shave my head!” he grinned.
“Um, you have definitely never told me that before.”
While Dave ran back to his room to collect his clippers, I clambered into a nearby rope hammock that was swinging over the waves.
It was the perfect afternoon.
I discovered that beach hammocks are the best if you happen to be swinging in one at the perfect time, when you’re low enough that the sea continually splashes your back to keep you cool, but not so low that you’re on the verge of drowning.
I placed my hands behind my head and drifted off to sleep.
The following day, we set off in search of the best beaches on the island. The beach we’d spent the previous afternoon on had been nice enough, but I suspected there were prettier spots and I was determined to hunt them down.
Koh Kood is a decent size for a Thai island — it’s the fifth largest in the county — so, for us, getting around required donning our helmets and heading out on two wheels. We arranged to rent a scooter from Gumm for the day, then bumped our way over the gravel track to the island’s main road.
When I say main road, I’m making it sound as if there’s traffic, but the reality is, we saw about three other scooters and a single songthaew during our entire day of exploring. On an island that’s home to around 2,000 people, and where most visitors opt to stay within the confines of their resort, we felt as though we were the only people on the island who weren’t spending all day on the beach.
As we wound our way up a small hill, I let out a giggle when I realised we’d seen more monkeys than humans on Koh Kood so far.
We stopped off at Ao Yai viewpoint.
A working fishing village on the southeast coast of the island, Ao Yai is known for having great seafood, stilt houses, and the opportunity to see a super-local way of life.
We had a look around, then I urged Dave back on the scooter. Koh Kood, after all, is famous for its beaches, and I was itching to see the best Thailand has to offer.
Our first stop: Klong Hin beach.
Damn, damn, damn.
We parked our scooter and walked down a small slope to a perfect beach that was fringed with palm trees.
It was spectacular.
I jumped up on to a rope swing dangling from a palm tree while Dave snapped some photos.
I mean, I know I’ve said over and over that I came to Koh Kood because I’d read it had the best beaches in Thailand, but I was still shocked by just how beautiful this place was.
And did I mention we had this amazing beach all to ourselves?
What even is my life?
Klong Hin was easily the best beach I’d ever been to in Thailand, and I just couldn’t get my head around why it wasn’t overrun with tourists. I believe it’s down to several things.
Koh Kood kind of seems like it could be a pain to get to.
Not many tourists bother to venture over to the islands near the Cambodia border unless they’re travelling overland across Southeast Asia. Its location alone makes it seem like it’s too much hassle to get to. In our case, we’d taken a five-hour bus from Bangkok to Trat, a 30-minute ferry to Koh Chang, a 30-minute songthaew across the island, and then a two-hour ferry to Koh Kood. It sounds annoying, but that’s mostly because we made it annoying, as we wanted to travel as cheaply as possible.
In reality, you can fly from Bangkok to Trat in an hour, and there are speedboats from there to Koh Kood that also take an hour. Koh Kood may seem like it’s a pain in the ass to get to, but it’s really not.
Koh Kood also has a reputation for being full of resorts and high-end tourists, keeping the backpacker crowds away.
Much of the accommodation options on the island are expensive resorts — Soneva Kiri charges an incredible $1,400 a night for a stay there — and it’s been branded as a popular destination for package tourists. But in reality, there are plenty of budget options on the island — they’re just not as well known.
You can get yourself a genuinely nice-looking tent for $12 a night on Koh Kood and the cheapest private rooms on the island go for $15 a night for a two-person chalet — both properties receive an average of 9+ on Booking. While there aren’t dozens upon dozens of cheap options, there are some and they do receive excellent reviews.
And finally, Koh Kood is rarely written about online.
I’ll be honest with you: I hadn’t even heard of Koh Kood before this year.
Thanks to starting a travel blog, and using it to fund a decade of full-time travel, I consider myself to be pretty well-informed when it comes to places on this planet. I’ve spent over a year travelling in Thailand, subscribe to over a hundred travel blogs, have read over 250 travel memoirs, and spend much of my spare time researching potential dream travel destinations.
And I’d still never heard of it.
Perhaps there aren’t many travellers on Koh Kood simply because there isn’t a huge amount of information about it online.
Our next destination was Klong Chao Beach.
Klong Chao is the most popular beach on the island, so I knew it would also be the most crowded, but this is Koh Kood, so we also knew it was hardly going to be packed.
We drove for another ten minutes, then parked beside the embarrassingly-named Tinkerbell Resort and meandered on to the sand.
What a surprise! It was another ridiculously beautiful beach!
There was definitely more people, as you can see from the photos but it was far from packed, and the beach was so lovely that we simply didn’t care.
This felt like the perfect time for a break, so we wandered inside — cringe — Tinkerbell Resort for a smoothie and a dip in their pool.
If it sounds like my life is simply too perfect and you’re hating me for it, hold those thoughts because our day of bliss was about to turn into one of tragedy.
While Dave and I sipped our mango smoothies, we toasted to yet another wonderful day in Thailand. It had been a joy to explore Koh Kood so far, and I knew we’d be reminiscing about this day for years into the future. I felt so fortunate that this was how I was able to spend a random Wednesday morning — that this was my job.
We finished our drinks and headed back to the scooter, ready to hop on and find even more paradise. Dave got on first, then twisted back to hand me his daypack.
I grabbed it with one hand just as his elbow made contact with my other. That would be the hand with which I was holding his phone.
I let out a gasp as Dave’s brand new phone clattered on to the rocky ground.
When I reached down to grab it, I winced.
The screen was smashed.
And I mean smashed.
His phone had been hit so hard that the circuitry underneath was exposed.
This was, for many reasons, a disaster.
Dave was travelling with a Pixel 2 phone, which at the time, had one of the best smartphone cameras on the market — it was so great that for this six-month trip around the world, Dave had decided not to pack a physical camera with him. We were now facing the prospect of two more months of travel with no way of him being able to record anything he did. This is kind of a problem for a travel blogger.
On top of that, the Pixel phone isn’t manufactured in many countries, and in none of the ones that we were going to be visiting, so there was no way he would be able to get his phone repaired either. There wouldn’t be any authorised repair shops, and any dodgy repair centres wouldn’t have access to the parts needed to fix it.
And in the very short-term, we were using his phone to navigate Koh Kood and suddenly had no idea where we were on the island. We didn’t even know if we’d be able to make our way back to Gumm’s without getting lost.
We thought about giving up.
Neither of us were feeling in an exploratory mood anymore. It felt pointless to scooter aimlessly around the island when all we really wanted to do was head back to the room and order a couple of Long Island Iced Teas.
In the end, though, our love of travel won out.
It usually does.
We decided to spend the rest of the day doing we’d do if we’d been travelling decades before, without technology. We hit the road in a random direction and waited to see what we came up against.
A gigantic tree was the unexpected answer.
Koh Kood is home to several enormous trees that have been tucked away in the rainforest for hundreds of years, and funnily enough, they had been the next stop on our planned itinerary.
They were fairly impressive — y’know, as far as trees go — and we spent the rest of the afternoon scrambling around the island’s interior in search of waterfalls and more giant trees.
Back at Gumm’s, we were overjoyed to discover he had just what we needed.
A big football match was on that evening, and he’d decided to barbecue up a feast for all his guests. Despite Dave and I having close to zero interest in football, it was a fun evening with everyone spent huddled around an old laptop, watching the game, drinking and smoking, chatting about travel, and, in mine and Dave’s case, attempting to forget about the terrible event of that morning.
That evening was yet another reason why I was so happy we chose to stay at Gumm Lonely Club, and I can’t recommend this guesthouse enough.
We chose to spend five days on Koh Kood in total and — yes, I sound like a broken record at this point — I wish we could have stayed for longer. Just like with every other island I’d visited on this Thailand trip, I had fallen in love and didn’t want to leave.
Gumm’s guesthouse was one of those places where it was impossible to feel stressed.
There was always relaxing music playing from the turntable, books to read, and hammocks to lounge out in. And while we could have set off on the scooter for another day of beach-hopping, we were far more content to laze beside the river and soak up the relaxed vibe instead.
Our next stop after Thailand was set to be Brunei — a destination I was certain would pale in comparison to the time we’d just spent on Koh Kood.
But flights were booked — expensive flights — and we couldn’t change our mind now.
Had our plans been more flexible, we would have likely hopped the border into nearby Cambodia, returned to Thailand with a fresh stamp in our passports, and repeated the past two weeks again.
What to Know Before You Go
Where to stay: As you can probably tell from this post, I absolutely adored my stay at Gumm Lonely Club. This was one of those guesthouses that you find yourself talking about forever — Dave and I are even talking about returning next year as a side-trip to our annual flight to Australia. The only real downside to staying here is its location — public transport doesn’t exist on Koh Kood, so if you can’t ride a scooter, you’re either going to have to hang out at Gumm’s for your entire stay or charter a songthaew to take you around the island.
You’ll want to book really far in advance, as there’s only three rooms and they get booked out quickly.
Getting there is easy. I mentioned above that it’s super-easy to get to Koh Kood, if not a little time-consuming if you’re trying to do so on a budget.
You’ll want to make your way to Trat by bus or plane, then jump on a ferry/speedboat to Koh Kood. You can choose to island-hop your way there via the Koh Chang island chain, stopping off in Koh Chang, Koh Wai, and Koh Mak, as I did, or head straight there.
A note on scooters: As with most places in Southeast Asia, it’s easy to get your hands on a scooter, and you don’t need a license to rent one. I realise I’m always pretty blasé when I talk about Dave and I hiring them around the world, but I do want to stress that riding bikes in Thailand is dangerous and backpackers do get seriously injured. I’m sure you’ve seen the GoFundMe campaigns in the past.
It happened to an old friend of a school friend last year, and I saw all the crowdfunding and the desperation to get them back to the U.K. — all of which could have been avoided if they hadn’t jumped on a scooter without a license.
If you don’t have a motorbike license, you will not be covered by travel insurance if you get into a nasty accident and need to be airlifted home. It’s part of the reason why Dave decided to get his license in Australia a few years ago — now, we’re fully protected by insurance.
But, of course, regardless of all that, you need to get travel insurance if you’re going to be travelling in Thailand. I use and recommend SafetyWing. It costs just $1.50 a day.