Koh Kood is the undiscovered Thai island you've been waiting for

Off the usual tourist trail, Thailand's fifth largest island is a tropical paradise offering pristine beaches, lush jungles and a 20-metre high golden Buddha.

  • Catherine Best
  • November 2019

I’m walking on a beach, a dimpled expanse of white sand squeaking beneath my toes. The shore is fringed by palm trees and nibbled by the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand. I stop for a second to savour the moment, gleeful that I have this impossible perfection all to myself.

Koh Kood, also known as Ko Kut, is the Thailand of decades past – a jungle-clad tropical paradise sequestering deserted beaches and traditional fishing villages yet to be consumed by mass tourism. The island, off the far south-east corner of mainland Thailand, is geographically and stylistically about as far as you can get from Phuket; an oar splash from Cambodia.

Although just 25km long and about 12km wide, it is Thailand’s fifth-largest island, and about a 60-minute ferry ride from Trat. There’s one main undulating road, squeezed between the jungle, and only a handful of hotels and guesthouses, mostly clustered on the west coast around the powdery white sands of Klong Chao Beach.

The Klonmg Chao waterfall in Koh Kood, Thailand.
The stunning Klong Chao waterfall is the perfect place for a dip.

Slightly inland, the Klong Jao River lures me upstream with the promise of a hidden waterfall. Scrambling over boulders, mud and frothing cascades, I arrive: the main cascades of Klong Chao waterfall tumble from a rock face into a large forest-fringed pool, its cool waters inviting me to jump into them.

Post swim, I’ve worked up an appetite so I head to Ao Salat fishing village. Macaques scrabble at the roadside as I step onto a rickety wooden walkway flanked by homes on stilts and colourful fishing boats. Most of Koh Kood’s 2000-odd residents eke out a living off the sea, fishing the bountiful waters that encircle the island. I peer into huge submerged nets alive with oysters and grouper and see great tubs wriggling with crustaceans. Seafood doesn’t get any fresher.

Nearby, the 20-metre high golden Buddha atop Ao Salad temple glints in the sunlight and is as awe-inspiring as its resident wax-moulded monk; so lifelike I can see the stubble protruding from his scalp.

I don’t have to go far to find my accommodation – charming eco resort Cham’s House opens in new window, at the end of a dirt road on the island’s south-west corner.

In the evening I submit to an exercise in limb and muscle contortion with a traditional Thai massage while rain pummels the roof. With a belly full of fish curry, I sleep like an anaesthetised bear.

The next morning, even though it’s raining, I head back into the water – this time for a swim in the hotel pool, a soup bowl-like basin overlooking the Klong Hin Beach. Fat globules of water drop from leaves against a chorus of barking frogs. That’s the soundtrack of Koh Kood.

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