Koh Mook, Thailand – In Search Of The Perfect Beach
February 15, 2015 – February 18, 2015
Still in search of Thailand’s perfect beach we packed our bags and left our little beach bungalow on Koh Yao Noi behind. We headed to the closest pier to hop aboard the next longtail to the mainland, to continue our quest at our next island destination. We traveled further south and east towards Malaysia, to Thailand’s Trang Islands, a promising archipelago of small picturesque isles. After some intense research, which included random pointing at a map and some light reading, we decided on the island of Koh Mook. There we hoped to find some striking towering rock cliffs, vibrant turquoise water, great snorkeling and of course our perfect beach.
From Koh Yao Noi we took a longtail ferry to the mainland near the city of Krabi, Thailand. From there we traveled by bus for a few hours to the city of Trang, which is well known in the area as a foodie’s paradise. From Trang we bought a van/boat combo ticket which took us from the center of town via minivan to another pier and longtail boat ride to the island of Koh Mook just off shore.
Our longtail transport dropped us off at the long pier on the north side of the island. Most of the local island population lives in a village on the north shore and you can spot several high end resorts there as well. But this side of the island is flat, the water crowded with boat traffic, and a familiar muddy tide flat stretched out from the island to greet us. We wanted the towering pillars of rock rising up over a long white sandy beach, the kind of place you see in all the photos! To find it we traveled by moto-taxi to the south end of the island.
The smelly muddy tide flat of the north end of the island makes a poor welcome for anyone checking into their expensive beach resort there. Our recommendation, skip it and head to the south side instead.
Arriving at the south end of the island we were relieved by what we saw. A white sandy beach cove opening up on bright green water, This side of the island was also not very crowded, much better looking and offered a wide variety of budget bungalows near the beach as well. We checked in to the Mayow Guesthouse, which offered private bungalows w/ bath, for only 400 Baht (US $12.00) per night. They also had a great restaurant and were only a 5 minute walk from the beach, as they are situated just behind the midrange resort which is right off the water. Again we did not bother to make any reservations as we have found repeatedly that options are plentiful and walk-ins often get better rates than those booking online.
Tip: Instead of booking rooms ahead of time, we typically research a few options in the area and just show up and check them out. There’s almost always an opening somewhere, usually at all of them, and we typically get quoted much lower rates than those booking online, at times as little as half the price. While December and January are the busiest months for the island, February when we were there is still fairly high season, and there were still plenty of options available.
After dropping off our bags we grabbed our beach towels and bathing suits and went to explore the beach, and to find out what kind of little umbrellas their drinks hide under at the beach side watering hole. The bright green water was warm, the beaches uncrowded, and the views were great, there was even a decent snorkeling spot just a dozen yards off shore on the left side of the beach. Apparently top-less sunbathing is common here as well as we noticed several tourists sans tops each day.
Our Bungalow Wildlife Preserve -or- Creepy Crawlies in the bed!
Some of the small budget bungalows on Koh Mook were supposed to be pretty primitive and old. When researching where to stay we heard stories about people finding animals nesting in the walls of their bungalows. We chose ours because we had read that it was one of the better ones. Just after checking in the first day we noticed a huge hand sized spider sitting in a web strung across the path to our bungalow. It never moved for four days but it was high enough off the ground that we could duck under it. Our first couple nights in our room were uneventful, but on the third day we returned from the beach to find a huge spider on the wall in our room. A different kind than the one outside but equally enormous and scary. I was tasked with ‘taking care’ of it, and quickly set about my mission, I tried to swat it, but it saw me coming and shot across the wall faster than either of us had ever seen a spider move before. At one point it saw me coming and jumped from the wall onto a cabinet, that’s right this spider could run fast AND jump. It also was not afraid of charging us either! After about 15 minutes of chasing this huge speed racer around the room, and sometimes it chasing us, it finally ended up on the underside of our bed. That made for an interesting night, which was not helped by the large toad which came in through a one inch gap at the bottom of our rooms front door, and started hopping into our backpacks making noise. The next day we returned from the beach to find a big fat lizard on the wall. The walls are woven reeds and it was very noisy as it ran all over the walls away from us, but unfortunately never towards a door. It sounded like someone banging on the walls as it would run around the room. Finally we just gave up on it as well and left it alone. At least we didn’t see the spider again, at least not until the morning of the last day when we were packing up our clothes, Krista found it under her stuff.
Next time I think we’ll stay in a bit higher end bungalow…
The secret of Emerald Cave -or- A great place to hide Pirate Booty!
One big draw to the area is the famous Emerald Cave which is a large sea cave just around the corner from the beach. Hundreds of tourists arrive via boat each day from other islands to explore the sea cave, but since we were staying on the island we could just rent a kayak and explore it at our leisure. The popular time is mid day so go early or later in the day to avoid the crowds.
Emerald Cave is about a 30-45 minute paddle in a kayak from the beach, you can also hire a longtail for a couple hours if you’re not up for paddling. The only way to get inside is to swim in, and it is best done at low tide. Tying off our kayak at the buoy out front, Krista volunteered me to jump in and test the waters first. I jumped in, and after testing my splashing about skills, let Krista know the water was fine. Sufficiently tricked she jumped in as well. The water is a bit cold near the entrance to the cave, but really not that bad and definitely worth the swim. Outside the sea cave doesn’t look like much, but after swimming in with our headlamps on we found that it opens up into a large cavern and continues back a hundred yards or so down a dark twisting passage. To find the secret at the other end you have to brave swimming in the dark (headlamps or flashlights help) until finally it opens up to the sky in a beautiful cliff lined cove. There’s even a little beach there with a few palm trees surrounded by towering vertical cliffs. When we arrived there was no one around and we had the whole place to ourselves for at least ten minutes, again go early or later in the day when the crowded tour boats aren’t there. Legend has it that for hundreds of years pirates would come to this little secret cove to hide their treasure!
Once you’ve hidden, or dug up your treasure, you’ll have to get back in the water and swim back out to your ship. Unless you’re a helicopter pirate I suppose…
Around the corner from the Emerald Cave entrance there is another small cove and beach which is only accessible by water or by a long trail through the jungle. We paddled over to check it out and again had the whole place to ourselves for at least 15 minutes this time. Bring snorkel gear as there’s good snorkeling along the steep cliffs on either side of the cove.
In all we spent four nights on Koh Mook and spent a lot of that time relaxing on the beach and playing in the water. There’s also some great restaurants on the island and good inexpensive food can be easily found. Altogether Koh Mook turned out to be one of our favorite destinations in Thailand and definitely one of the best islands, aside from the bungalow wildlife. But was it the perfect beach we were looking for? Close but not quite, it had nearly everything you could hope for in a perfect beach, spiders, lizards and pirates!(Oh My!) It even had some white sand, but we felt Thailand’s islands had more to offer, more that it just hadn’t revealed to us yet. We wanted to see a picture perfect postcard beach and with only one more stop left in Thailand to find it, we boarded a longtail and headed for a nearby island, which we could see across the water, called Koh Kradan. Maybe there we will finally find our perfect beach!