On calm and pastoral Ko Sukorn, water buffaloes outnumber the locals, and locals far outnumber the travellers. The not-so-easy-to-reach island is home to a slow-paced Muslim community that subsists mainly off agriculture and fishing, with tourism a distant third. Many of the few travellers who make it here settle in for extended stays, soothed to the bone by the time they leave.
The dark-blue water off Sukorn’s shores doesn’t strike the idyllic sapphire and turquoise shades that you’ll see at some of Trang province’s other islands, like Ko Kradan and Ko Muk. You also won’t find dazzling reefs, luxury resorts or speedboat ferries. But if you seek to lose yourself in a hammock while unwinding into a rural island lifestyle, Sukorn will not disappoint.
The word sukorn means pig: apparently, a lot of wild boars once roamed the roughly 30-square-kilometre island in the Andaman Sea. Alternately known as Ko Muu, which also means “Pig Island,” the name is ironic. You won’t see any pigs on Pig Island, and pork is not an option on the mostly halal menus. You will however see plenty of goats and water buffalo grazing the fields, often accompanied by white herons and butterflies.
Most of Sukorn’s hilly northwestern terrain is blanketed in rubber trees, their splotchy trunks dripping white latex “sap” that’s tempered into sheets, hung out to dry and transported by boat to be turned into tires or shoe soles. Shallow-water fish traps and mangroves line much of the eastern seafront, sharing space with longtail boats nudged up to simple homes standing on stilts over the silt.
Home to a busy mint-green mosque and the island’s largest cluster of wooden houses draped in flower bushes and birdcages, Baan Saimai is the island’s main village and where most travellers arrive from the mainland. Traditional Muslim ways of life persist here and at the smaller villages; do be respectful by not showing too much skin as you explore.
Rice fields, coconut groves and watermelon patches reach into Sukorn’s flat southern reaches, often stretching right up to the greyish-tan sand that rims most of the west coast. Many of the beaches reveal shallow water and considerable rocks for a long way offshore, but Haad Lo Yai is suitable for a swim at any time. Though it hosts three of the four resorts, this wide stretch of fine sand stays nearly empty even in peak season.
A narrow, 17-kilometre cement road encircles almost the entire island, cutting northwest from Baan Saimai to a cliff-top pavilion with great views to Ko Libong, the mainland and smaller islands dotted in between. With only a few fluffy green hills protruding from the otherwise flat landscape, Sukorn is ideal for a bike ride.
Those up for more of an adventure can arrange a boat trip to Ko Lao Liang, Ko Takieng and Ko Phetra, all undeveloped national park islands with powdery white sand, clear water and coral reefs. A day trip to all three costs around 3,000 baht (for the boat, not per person) and — take our word for it — is absolutely worth it. If you’re not up for the boat trip, you can still gaze out at the trio’s vertical limestone cliffs during one of Sukorn’s notably marvellous sunsets.
A small police office and medical clinic are located near the pier in Baan Saimai, but anything serious will require a trip to Trang town, located 60 kilometres north of the Sukorn ferry pier in Baan Tasae. While a few hole-in-the-wall shops sell basic necessities, there are no banks or ATMs on Ko Sukorn. Slow WiFi is available at all four of the resorts, and the cell signal is strong throughout the island.
Ko Sukorn’s high season runs from November to April, though rooms are rarely full. Some resorts close for all or parts of the rainy season, when very few travellers visit.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 17th October, 2016.