KOH JUM: It took 3 attempts to find the island paradise that I had imagined: ¾ mile long soft sand beach, perfectly calm sea with tiny gentle waves creating a soothing aural background, small beach bungalow colonies featuring bamboo huts, rarely more than a handful of people on the beach or in the crystal clear water. I arrived here 4 days ago on the recommendation of a French woman whom I met on the boat to Koh Muk/Mook, my first foray into island living.
Each night on Koh Jum I’ve slept in a different place as I’ve sought the ideal bungalow. It looks like I might move again tonight in the same resort (using that term loosely) but into a more upscale bungalow. If I could only combine qualities from each of the 3 resorts I’d have the perfect spot. The first place had a fairly spacious room with built in shelves (but too far from the beach for $10). The second was right on the beach (40 yards from the water at high tide for $20) with a lovely porch and hammock (but no towel, soap, toilet paper, or mounted shower). The current place, called appropriately BAMBOO BAR and BUNGALOWS, has the most friendly and nicest guests (French and Italian). My complaint about this one revolves around my bungalow’s “stairs” which consist of 3 fairly narrow logs creating a ladder to ascend/descend the porch entrance and also one log to go down into the bathroom. The bungalows sit about 4 feet above the sand. The more expensive place has wider “stairs” and the bathroom is on the same level as the bedroom. Will probably splurge for the 500 baht place ($17) instead of the 300 Baht ($10) I slept in last night.
Well, this is probably boring you to death so let’s get on to more interesting stuff.
KOH MUK, my first island stop, also had a long, lovely beach but many more people than Koh Jum. Not crowded but definitely more populated. The highlight there was an all day snorkeling trip with a wonderful crew and excellent equipment to Koh Roc, a national park island. We had two long snorkeling opportunities while others made SCUBA dives. The water was perfectly clear and the variety of coral and fish was among the best I’ve ever experienced. At least 15 different species of colorful fish swam by and an amazing sea creature called Crown of Thorns intrigued me. The Crown of Thorns had a round purple body about a foot in diameter and 16 long legs or tentacles with huge black spikes radiating from them. Quite a sight! Definitely the most unusual creature I’ve ever seen underwater.
Koh Roc featured another amazing creature, this one on land. Two HUGE lizards fed off a pile of discarded rice and vegetables on the edge of the dining area. They reminded me of dinosaurs. The bigger one stood nearly 2 feet at its highest point and reached more than 4 feet from tip to tail.
Another adventure on KOH MUK consisted of spending my last night in a tent instead of a bungalow. My hotel reservation was for 3 nights and it couldn’t be extended. However, I wanted to go on the snorkeling trip scheduled for my last day. The dive shop called a resort on the other side of the island and all they had available was a tent. It wasn’t the fancy kind with toilet, sink, etc. like my sister enjoyed on her Thai trip for two nights. This was a basic dome camping tent. It fulfilled its purpose and my sleep was long and deep. Perhaps the fatigue from a day of snorkeling contributed to my good night’s sleep. In any case, it was thoroughly enjoyable and provided another adventure to my journey.
KOH LANTA offered accommodation for one night as I attempted to move from Koh Muk to Koh Jum. Turned out that the only boat to Koh Jum from Lanta left at 8 a.m., necessitating an overnight in Koh Lanta’s main town. Didn’t like it much but understand that there are many nice beaches and resorts dotting the island. No reasonably priced guesthouses had openings so I booked a room in a lovely modern small hotel built over the water. It cost 1000 baht ($34), the most I’ve ever paid in Thailand. Even in Bangkok, my hotels near the airport with TV, AC, etc. have only cost $20. Of course, you get what you pay for: big flat screen TV, AC, lovely modern décor, great bed with comforter, and my first hot shower in 9 days.
Prior to coming to these islands on the Andaman Sea (Thailand’s west coat), it was difficult to imagine how I’d spend my time “doing nothing” at the beach. It’s surprisingly easy! Usually I awake around 6 or 6:30 and take an hour long walk while watching the sunrise. Then the morning in the water, out of the sun by 11 or 11:30 to avoid the harshest rays. Lunch at a nearby restaurant or yesterday a 25 minute walk across the island through the jungle and past a small rubber tree grove to town for lunch and shopping (fruit and yogurt for this morning’s breakfast). Back in the water by 3 or so for a couple hours. Shower and dinner at a restaurant with wifi where I can also charge my laptop.
The last two nights at BAMBOO spent sitting around with other guests and visiting in English or Italian. English is the common language so most of the conversation is in that tongue. Two nights ago the owner made a massaman curry, a southern Thai speciality, for his guests and I joined them prior to my move here. The owner and a lovely French man put on a fire show after the delicious meal. They twirled and threw/caught long rods with fire at each end. AMAZING.