After three weeks in Myanmar, we flew back to Bangkok to apply for our Indian visas in preparation to head west. After finally receiving our passports back after about ten days, we headed south to enjoy our (likely) last visit to Thailand. After island hopping in the Samui Archipelago during New Year’s, this time we opted for the west coast of Thailand for the islands in the Andaman Sea.
Since before this trip, I had extremely high expectations for beaches in Thailand, having seen numerous pictures and heard great stories about how beautiful they were. The experience in the Samui Archipelago was very nice, but didn’t quite meet those expectations. Sure, Koh Phangan was a party heaven with its full moon parties, Koh Tao was the best place to learn diving and we had a fantastic time with friends on Koh Samui; however, none of them were quite as idyllic as I had envisioned. Hopefully this time southern Thailand will blow my mind.
With a great number of island options in the Andaman Sea, we had to pick only a few selected islands to explore. We split them into two groups – south and north Andaman Sea, starting with the southern group first.
Koh Muk (Koh Mook)
We had a proper introduction to the small and charming Koh Muk. After an overnight train from Bangkok down to Trang, we took a typical Thai longtail boat to the island. Right from the start the view took our breaths away, from cerulean blue waters to limestone mountains a la Ha Long Bay style along the way.
For our first sightings of Koh Muk, we passed by the Sivalai Beach Resort, where a narrow white corner sand strip appeared out of nowhere from the turquoise blue sea. I could only imagine the 360 degree view of the water from there. I was already impressed and I could feel that my hopes were up for a beach paradise.
As our longtail boat wrapped around the contour of Koh Muk past Sivalai, I spotted a beautiful karst limestone mountain shooting high above the sea water. Right next to it was a short white sand beach – Farang Beach – where we would stay. The water leading up to the beach was so unbelievably clear and the whole scenery absolutely beautiful. We literally got out of the longtail boat and directly into the shallow water by the shore.
On the beach, there were only a handful of resorts and barely any people to be seen – we were so happy not to have to compete with crowds for this little piece of paradise. Our bungalow was surrounded by native forest and we were warmly greeted by a cute white cat that was waiting at our door, always begging to go inside our room. The interesting thing was that the cat had one blue eye and another green one – both in incredible enviable colours.
In the mornings, we woke up with the sound of monkeys jumping on our roof or running around outside our bungalow looking for food. They didn’t seem to be used to humans at all – I approached one of them one morning for a picture but it turned hostile. Baring its teeth, charging towards me and making noises calling for help, I found myself surrounded by other monkeys within seconds and was forced to run back into our room to avoid a possible confrontation.
On Koh Muk, everything was incredibly beautiful and untouched. There was no pressure to do anything at any particular time and we just enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere of the beach. During the day, we liked to venture through the rocky side of the beach, looking for wildlife. At night, we liked to just sit on the beach and marvel at the amazing orange colors of the sky during sunset. In Koh Muk, we felt like we were in another world, far far away.
After dusk, the quiet and unspoiled Farang Beach became even quieter and only the sound of frogs and insects could be heard in the surrounding tropical jungle. There were barely any lights around, which made the stars in the sky stand out.
It was probably the most clear night view of the sky that I’ve ever had – so much different than its city counterpart. Both Julie and I took some time to stargaze and take a few pictures. Unfortunately we didn’t have the right wide aperture lenses or tripod to photograph the dark sky and most of the pictures were blurred due to the slow shutter speed used.
If all this sounds like a perfect vacation destination, being on Koh Muk during Valentine’s Day made it even more special. Julie and I enjoyed our four-course dinner with a breathtaking sunset view. Nobody heckled us to buy anything, no one was drunk and partying nearby – Farang Beach and Koh Muk was perfect for a calm and peaceful beach experience.
Emerald Cave in Koh Muk
Taking a short longtail boat ride from Farang Beach, we visited the beautiful Emerald Cave, where a hole carved into the steep limestone led to a dark 30m long river into a secluded small beach. Swimming through the cave was a cool experience that proved to be hard without a flashlight – thankfully our guide knew the way!
The cave exit opened to a small crescent-shaped sandy beach that was flanked by huge and steep limestone mountains covered in green vegetation – a perfect pirate hideout! We enjoyed every second of our visit to the cave, as we knew it was a one-of-a-kind sight and no words or pictures would do it justice. I admit that had we been there by ourselves instead of along with the vast number of other tourists, the experience would have been even better.
In our initial itinerary for the islands, we had intentions of staying two nights on Koh Kradan, due to its title as one of the most beautiful and most scenic islands in Thailand. Unfortunately, the lack of housing options and high prices of the ones still available kept us from staying and we opted for a day trip instead.
From Koh Muk, we hired a boat for the day and headed to Koh Kradan. The trip between the two islands was short and pleasant and soon we arrived to one of the snorkeling sites in Koh Kradan. The water was so clear and the visibility was so good that we didn’t even have to put our eyes underwater to see the fish swimming through the colourful corals and around our boat.
When we did dip our heads into the water, we found ourselves immersed in marine wildlife, with fish and corals of all different kinds. There were fish with beautiful red fins and glowing blue and green colours, others with a strange orange / brown color mix. There were giant oysters opening and closing their glowing shells and black spiky sea urchins ready to pierce any careless prey on every corner of the rugged bottom surface. It was the best snorkel site I’ve ever been to with a great diversity of underwater life.
After we explored the site thoroughly, we moved on to another snorkeling site in Koh Kradan. This one was right next to the east beach, and upon arrival, we were absolutely blown away. During the low tide, the sea water retreated and the sand banks of the island extended itself for hundreds of meters, creating a spectacular shallow beach with crystal clear water. It felt like we could walk halfway to Koh Muk. Not to understate the beauty of Koh Muk or anything, but when we saw the beach on Koh Kradan, our first reaction was – “what the hell were we doing on that other island? We should have stayed here!”
Our boat anchored by the end of the sand bank, next to the reef so we could snorkel. Although the scenery was amazing, this snorkel site wasn’t as good as the previous one, as it was flatter and had less fish and variety of corals in general. No worry, it gave us the perfect excuse to just enjoy the water and the view. We stayed in the water for so long and could not stop marveling over just how clear and shallow it was, with pristine white sand under our feet. We didn’t want to leave!
Eventually we made our way onto the beach, where many trees created perfect spots with shade. We lazed around the hammocks and swings. It was hands down the most idyllic beach I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Our time in Koh Kradan was coming to an end, and we took a final walk back through the shallow water sand banks towards our boat. It was a long and somewhat sad journey back to (the also idyllic) Koh Muk.
It was hard to leave Koh Muk and Koh Kradan the next day to continue island hopping. Our time on the two islands and the images of the pristine beach with unparalleled crystal clear water will stay in my memory forever. I just hope that this paradise on earth remains untouched for many years to come and that someday I get to come back here to relive those perfect moments.