A Quintessential Thai Island Experience Without The Crowds
PHOTO: High Season Pool Villas. (Photo by Josh Lew)
It’s no secret that some of Thailand’s islands have become overcrowded. Several, including the popular Koh Tachai, have been shut off to tourists completely because of ecological damage.
Where can travelers go to get the quintessential Thai island experience without having other tourists get in the way?
Getting off the map
With a blend of high-end resorts popular with moneyed package tourists and modest guesthouses and homestays, Koh Kood (sometimes romanized as Koh Kut) has yet to experience the kind of boom that has changed the country’s most popular islands.
Koh Kood, in the Gulf of Thailand within eyeshot of Cambodia, has all the requisite ingredients: beaches, warm water, virgin jungle, quiet fishing villages, waterfalls and narrow roads that require cars to pull over to the shoulder when they encounter oncoming traffic.
High-end resorts reduce tourism traffic
Koh Kood has two large resorts that, in particular, help to give its tourism scene a high value-low volume dynamic. The sprawling Soneva Kiri, a sister property of Soneva Fushi in the Maldives, is an eco-resort with huge pool villas. The new High Season Pool Villas and Spa is a more traditional five-star resort on a prime stretch of beachfront.
A sprawling eco-resort
Soneva Kiri embraces the remote feel of Koh Kood. Guests arrive from Bangkok on the resort’s private prop plane. The property is so large that golf carts are needed to cruise between villas and common areas.
There is a Six Senses Spa at Soneva that offers massages in eight treatment rooms. In addition to these, the spa, which operates independently from the resort, has a watsu pool, yoga and Pilates, and consultations with the resident Ayurvedic doctor.
A surprising highlight: food
The restaurants (and the food they serve) will be the biggest highlight for most Soneva guests. For dinner, the most attractive venue is the View, which features sunset panoramas and refreshing breezes. The seasonal menu here pairs locally grown ingredients (many produced in the onsite gardens) with Western cooking styles.
The Dining Room features a daily breakfast buffet and occasional Thai street food buffets in the evening. The adjacent So Chilled and So Chocolate are ideal for indulging at any of time of day. So Chilled is an ice cream parlor that features 60 flavors, all made onsite. So Chocolate is an air conditioned room where gourmet chocolates are laid out for guests to try.
Benz, situated in a traditional stilt house in a mangrove forest, has a much more intimate setting and a set menu of Thai specialties.
No need to leave your villa
Soneva Kiri has 36 pool villas, which range in size from one to six bedrooms. Because of the large, open air common areas and the fact that the bedrooms are set apart from one another, Soneva’s larger villas are ideal for families or groups traveling together. Some of the larger villas also have water slides that drop into the infinity pools.
In-villa dining options mean that it is possible to never have to leave your villa (if you choose not to).
High Season’s villas are not as spacious as Soneva’s, but it is easier to navigate (golf cart not required) and the buildings have a more modern, more intimate feel. The resort’s best trait: every guest is a few footsteps from one of the island's most beautiful stretches of sand.
All villas have their own deck and an infinity pool or plunge pool. Massive bathrooms with rainfall showers and modern amenities like Wi-Fi, flat screen television and climate controls bring a five-star level of comfort to each villa.
The three Beachfront Suite Pool Villas are ideal for families and anyone else who wants to step out of the door and right onto the sand. The 130 sqm Grand Pool Villas and smaller Deluxe Pool Villas are also near the beach and near the unique Galaxy Salt Pool, a saltwater swimming pool that the resort claims is the largest pool on the island.
High Season has eateries that serve Italian and Thai cuisine. The open air Beach Bar and a cafe/bakery called the Coffee Terrace are also options for drinking and dining. Candlelit meals can be served on the beach and in the elevated beachfront Bird’s Nest.
The onsite spa features a menu of holistic treatments using organic products. The four treatments rooms are equipped with sauna, steam rooms and private shower in addition to massage tables.
Connecting to “the world” via speedboat
High Season does not have a private plane like Soneva, but it can help guests arrange the 30 mile trip from the mainland via private or public speedboat.
Empty beaches and adventure
The beach is certainly the star of the show on Koh Kood, and people who come to see the sand (and dip their feet in the warm water) have plenty of choices even if they don’t stay at Soneva or High Season. Some of the island’s public beaches are essentially deserted most of the time. Compared to the most popular beaches on islands like Samui and Phuket, they are deserted all of the time.
SCUBA diving and snorkeling trips can be arranged through resorts or through smaller family-run dive shops like Koh Kood Divers.
The Klong Chao Waterfall requires a short hike, but the trip is worthwhile for the scenery and for the chance to dip your feet (or your whole body) in the pool at the base of the falls.
Solo travelers might enjoy a stop at one of the island's fishing villages. Some of these places have started to embrace tourism by offering boat tours and snorkeling trips and operating seafood restaurants, which actually have some of the freshest seafood on the island if you happen to come during fishing season.
If you go out on the island looking for nightlife, you will be disappointed. However, Koh Kood has all the other ingredients that draw tourists to Thailand’s more popular islands.
Because it lacks a commercial airport and because of the unique mix of modest and high-end properties, the island should stay relatively traffic free for the foreseeable future. That’s good news for travelers who want an island experience in Thailand but don’t want to contend with the crowds.
More by Josh Lew
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