Step back in time.
Published/Last edited or updated: 25th September, 2016
Lying off the southwest coast of Ko Samui, out from the small fishing port of Thong Krut, sits the island of Ko Taen. Despite its proximity to Samui, this is an island the world has just about forgotten and if you were ever in need of a holiday from a holiday, this is the place.
Decades ago Ko Taen (you'll also see it spelt Ko Tan) was a humming little island, home to a couple of hundred families who primarily lived off the fishing industry. As Ko Samui grew in popularity though, the families slowly upped and left – attracted by greater employment opportunities and more modern living on Ko Samui (Ko Taen still doesn't have mains electricity) – and when we visited in mid 2016, we were told the entire island is now home to 27 permanent residents and we were the sole tourist overnighting on the island.
Yes, just a thirty minute boat ride from Samui we had an entire island to ourselves – we loved it.
Ko Taen has long been popular with snorkelling trips and daytrippers who visit mostly from Thong Krut, but there is also accommodation on the island. We stayed at Koh Tan Village Bungalows at the northern tip of the main beach, run my Meesak, a third generation Ko Taen local. There is another place to stay at the southern end of the same beach, to get there, follow the beach trail, past the abandoned wooden houses and you can't miss it. This second place was closed when we visited as it was being refurbished, but the restaurant was open for drinks and simple meals. In between these two places to stay is Au Bout Du Monde, a cafe and restaurant aimed at day trippers. Koh Tan Village Bungalows also has a good restaurant, with a surprisingly comprehensive menu for such an out of the way place.
In the past Ko Taen unsuccessfully tried to define itself as an eco-tourism destination, and it is difficult to see why that didn't work out. The island has no regular electricity, the main beach is quite beautiful with some decent snorkelling offshore, there are other, totally undeveloped beaches on the island, along with some beautiful mangroves on the eastern coast of the island and there is a decent trail of concrete roads and walking trails across the island. Yet there is nobody here!
While nearly everyone who visits here does so on a day trip, we encourage those with time to consider popping over for a night or two – this really is an antidote to all the over-development on Samui.
Aside from the beaches and snorkelling, walking across the island to the mangroves is highly recommended. There is a well maintained elevated concrete walkway that takes you all the way through the mangroves and finishes jutting out into the bay, The sunsets from here are fabulous. To get to the mangroves from Koh Tan Village Bungalows, take the road right by the resort that runs back off the beach. Follow it, heading away from the beach, till you hit the t-junction and turn left. Continue along till you reach a three-way intersection with a statue of pigs in the middle – turn right. Follow this along, do not take the right turn and you'll eventually reach the start of the mangrove walk running off to your right. From here it is self explanatory. From the guesthouse, the walk talks perhaps 30 minutes.
Back on the main beach, at the northern tip you'll see a small islet offshore with a tiny house on it. This was a meditation retreat for a long gone monk – we imagine it must have been pretty meditative when he was around. At low tide you can walk out to it but at other times some wading will be needed to reach it.
Longtails can be hired for snorkelling trips out to the reef and also across to Ko Mat Sum, an island just to the northeast of here that is home to an upmarket resort. You can also just spend your time hanging out, relaxing in the shade and enjoying the peace and quiet (at least when there are no day trippers).
One oddity about Ko Taen is there are no dogs on the island. None. They are not permitted. You'll notice the lack of dogs if you take a morning beach walk.
To reach Ko Taen you'll need to hire a longtail, either via Koh Tan Village Bungalows, who charges 1,200 baht for a return trip (contact Meesak directly to organise this), or via one of the fishermen in Thong Krut who may charge you a bit more – we paid 1,500 baht. You can just arrange for them to pick you up the next day (or week!) or just ask for their telephone number and give them a call when you are ready to return to civilisation – the boat trip only takes 30 minutes and there is a phone signal on Ko Taen. In rough weather, the boat ride can get quite hairy, so in poor weather, make sure you have a dry bag for electronics and so on – or wait till the weather clears.
The cost of the boat and the accommodation makes this perhaps a little pricey for a solo traveller for one night, but for more people, for a longer stay, it isn't too bad a deal. We really enjoyed it and would have loved to have stayed at least one more night.
Of course, if you don't want to stay overnight but would still like to visit, there are a number of agencies in Thong Krut who can put you on to a half-day trip to here. TK Tours offers such trips, leaving at 09:30 and returning at 13:30. Trips include snorkelling around Ko Taen – equipment included – and lunch on the beach at Ko Matsum, where you’ll have time for a bit of relaxing too. Trips to the two islands cost 1,500 baht per adult and 800 baht per child.
Au Bout Du Monde T: (081) 979 1770 http://www.auboutdumondekohtan.com/en/
Koh Tan Village Bungalows: T: (081) 968 4131, (087) 591 3021. firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.travelfish.org/accommodation_profile/thailand/southern_thailand/surat_thani/ko_samui/all/7963
TK Tours: T: (081) 895 1178 http://www.tktoursamui.com
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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