If you happen to follow us on Twitter or Instagram you’re probably aware that one of the places we’re currently exploring is Ko Kut (also Kud and Kood) in eastern Thailand — you’d know that because we’ve been posting pictures of glorious beaches more or less non-stop since we got here.
Ko Kut is one of the last Thai islands we were yet to visit and if there was ever an example of keeping the best for last, this is it. The island is absolutely stunning and we can’t think of another Thai island with as many beautiful beaches as this one — and on Ko Kut many of these beaches are largely undeveloped.
It’s a bit of a curious place — traditionally one needed to generally visit on an organised tour and the price included full board. Independent travellers did visit, but they were few and far between. When Travelfish researcher Mark Ord visited in 1991, he recalls, “We slept on the beach, then realised all the locals had malaria so we got out quick. The next night we had a run-in with Cambodian pirates. It wasn’t funny.” Ahh, those were the days.
Today the malaria has been largely banished and the pirates run the Khmer government. It is far easier to visit independently and the roads are actually pretty good. Tour groups (mostly Thais out of Bangkok and Russians via Pattaya) remain a mainstream part of the business in some parts of the island, but there are a growing number of places to stay that are focused on independent travellers.
There are no 7-elevens, no ATMs, internet is rather patchy and most shocking of all, there does not appear to be a single tailor shop on the island. Yes, this truly is heaven.
What there are though are beautiful beaches — lots of them — and you could easily spend a week (or two) here visiting a different beach each day. The water is so amazingly clear that it immediately brought the Maldives to mind. And while we’re yet to do any proper snorkelling (saving that for the second week) we hear it isn’t too bad.
Backpackers will find accommodation a little more expensive than they’re accustomed to — especially if they want to be near the beach, and the food is generally more expensive (but portions are often enormous) and motorbike hire (at 300-350 baht per day) is double the cost of the mainland. But on the upside the beaches more than compensate and if you’re planning on staying more than three days it is cheaper to rent your motorbike in Trat and bring it over on the ferry — that’s what we did.
People with a bit more baht to burn will probably find the standard of accommodation more pleasing and there are a few especially tasteful places on the island, but overall the island feels like it is slowly transitioning from a tour-based holiday scheme to something more individual-based and this is reflected in some of the accommodation.
The one issue really is that it’s a bit of a hassle getting around. If you’re not willing or able to ride a motorbike you’re either going to be doing a lot of walking or you’ll be chartering songthaews — which at around 1,500 baht a day, add up fast. You can hitch on the resort songthaews hustling guests to the ferry and back, but this is an inexact science and overall the roads are not heavily trafficked.
If you do decide to ride, bear in mind that the roads, while mostly concreted, have some quite challenging sections — either badly rutted or extremely steep with a fine sand cover — the latter, taking a novice by surprise, could end a trip very quickly and very miserably. Be careful and always wear a helmet.
A couple of places hire bicycles, but Ko Kut is pretty hilly and cycling around certainly didn’t appeal to us. Your other option is to do a snorkelling trip which will allow you to see some more beaches.
Or you can just move places every few days — that will give you a good excuse to give the island the two weeks it deserves. Interested in jumping on the bus right now? The Ko Kut coverage on Travelfish is badly out of date … we’ll be fixing it after a few snorkelling trips. In the meantime Agoda has limited coverage for some of the fancier places on the island. Their rates for Baan Makok (hint, hint) are competitive!
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 10th December, 2014.