Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ko Kut (Kood, Kud)

This is the old Ko Kood page - there is now a much better page with lotsmore info HERE.

Ko Kut has a string of nice beaches like this one, at Siam Beach Resort, Bang Bao.

Note - this is now the oldest non-updated page on this site - I visited in February 2008.
A lot of the basics would be unchanged but research I'm doing for my upcoming February 2012 trip indicates there are quite a few more resorts on the island and perhaps the road conditions have improved.
Will have a much more detailed island account up by mid-March, hoping to show all the main beaches. Should have been back earlier, but there are too many islands to revisit plus others I haven't stayed at yet.
This is why I like you guys doing TRIP REPORTS (see section in INDEX) - you can keep us up to date far better than I manage.

Ko Kut (Kud, Kood) is a fairly big, hilly island in the far eastern Gulf to the south of Ko Chang and Ko Mak.
Like Chang, it has a string of beaches along its west coast, most with one or a few tourist operations. But unlike Chang, Kut is largely undeveloped away from these beaches - we are talking mainly dirt roads, mostly unsignposted with the occasional small village or gathering of a few huts - and very laid back, both on and off the beaches. In fact, from the western point of view it is kind of a new frontier - western tourism has not been a big deal, most of the existing resorts relying on Thai middle and upper class package groups.
However things seem to be picking up with farang tourism and there are several places suited to both budget and higher-end western travellers.
Map image - - Bang Bao where I stayed is just under the bottom edge of the printing for Ao Ngarn Kho about three-quarters the way down the western (left) coast.

Tourist central seems to be the attractive and very nice Ao Khlong Chao. Here a small river entrance turns abruptly to form a nice lagoon at the back of a spit of sand which makes up Chao’s nice beach, and then turns inland again, under the “main” road bridge. The khlong is navigable for a few kms towards Khlong Chao waterfall, the last 800m of which must be done on foot.
River entrance from Bai Kood Shambala Resort. Across river on the right, the beach goes for about 800m directly away from the camera, and to the left the river forms a lagoon as it heads up the back of the treed spit.
A bunch of midrange and budget accommodation places have put themselves along this waterway, some with those cool restaurant platforms on piers over the water. This seems to be the area where the speedboats which most people access Kut on terminate after dropping people at other beaches. Speedboats tied up to a restaurant pier near the bridge at Ao Khlong Chao (image Panoramio-Bonazera)
Most of the backpacker/flash packer places seemed to be on the inland side of the bridge - the most distant from the beach would involve about an 800m walk. I didn’t check any of these paces but travel fish covers them pretty well
Fabulous sunset shot from Michael Braun-Panoramio of river area looking back towards mainraod bridge.

For you higher rollers, there was a nice newish upmarket place with a Disney or animal name right on the beach and another called Bai Kood Shambala on the southern side of the river entrance overlooking the lagoon.
The rather spiffy Bai Kood Shambala with the views seen 3 shots above. Actually travelfish says this joint also has some budget rooms.
UPDATE JULY09 - Shambala has been taken over by Away Resorts and is now Away Koh Kood and looks to have pushed upmarket.

The whole Ao Khlong Chao area seemed very uncrowded when I checked it - but it was mid-week. I think weekends and public holidays are bigger with the Thai package crowd.
The beach on the seaward side of the spit at Ao Khlong Chao - the river entrance is unseen at the far end.
Waterfall-freaks looking for Niagra on any Thai island are gonna be real disappointed but Namtok Khlong Chao is nice enough, involving parallel 15m drops into a big 50m pool and accessed by a real nice rainforest ctrack. And access is free - not the rip-off 200baht to similar falls on nearby big Chang.
I was a bit lucky. It looks like from this shot (image Panoramio-apaecezalt).....
…that the falls don’t run too well in dry season. But unusually it rained EVERY night (and briefly on two days) in my dry season February fortnight in the eastern Gulf and so a good flow was going over, as can be seen here…
This shot from above is of the smaller of 2 parallel drops into the big pool at the base of Khlong Chao falls

I didn’t get a shot from the immediate lower falls area on account the approach requires a fair bit of rock hopping. After surfing point-breaks most of my life I’m sick of going arse over turkey on wet rocks so I gave it the big miss. However about 100m up the main track from the lower access side-track are other short side-tracks which get you to the top of the falls. There are some nice pools up here to cool down in, although they are not particularly deep for good swimming like the lower one.

tools4fools was less lazy than me and got this great shot of one of the falls
I accessed the falls by turning my hire Honda up the (well sign-posted for a change) side road heading inland on the southern side of the main road bridge crossing the river. This passes those budget/flash packer joints mentioned before and ends about 600m from the falls. As said, the walking track is thru real nice rainforest.
I saw some people walking up from the bridge - it would take maybe 40minutes. Remember you can also hire long tails to go most of the way.

I’d originally intended to stay at Ao Khlong Chao above, but when my speedboat from Ko Chang swept into the narrow but deep-set bay at Ao Bang Bao and I spotted the nifty looking traditional style huts of Siam Beach Kohkood Resort behind the rather excellent looking beach I though Whoa -This is the place for me! and bailed out at the rickety pier.
Siam Beach Resort's trad bungalows and nice beach look pretty sweet from the end of the pier.

Hur hur hur.... for the second time in 2 islands, all the huts in my chosen place were taken. But the nice manager put me in one of the big rooms in the family unit in “Siberia“. I call it Siberia because it was waaay over the southern side of the resort about 400m from the restaurant and 100m from the beach. It’s actually a block of 5 rooms built on piers over a small lagoon which looks pretty spiffy at higher tide levels, but they have taken no advantage of this - the balcony out back to take advantage of the lagoon view must have slipped the architect’s mind.
But this area is good news for families and bigger groups of friends. Most of the 5 rooms are about 10m by 4m, with either 4 or 5 beds, plenty of space for all those people’s gear and with big bathrooms. My room was slightly narrower at 3.5m and had only 2 beds - big soft ensemble jobs, ditto pillows. Shiny tiled floors but wooden walls not particularly soundproof. Quiet fan, lights a bit dim. Bedside table but otherwise storage on huge floor area. Huge tiled and concrete bathroom, basin, bidet gun, good water pressure. Towels, toilet paper, soap, comp water. No screens or mozzie net but not too hot at night despite closed windows. It was basically clean but looked to be not occupied for some time so needed a 3 minute sweep to clear dust etc. Pretty good value at 500b.

Mind you, the fan bungalows at the same price (they also has aircon bungalows at around 800) were real nice, have screens + mozzie net and most bungalows are front row close to the beach.
Fabulous wet-season shot from Bang Bao beach (image Ko Kood Resort)
The restaurant at Siam Beach Resort is the usual open-sided beachside job. Food was good to me, but then all Thai food is, prices seemed to be pretty normal and the service was quick, although English is not real strong away from the super busy manager. The Thai-Chinese owner is a bit brusque, but I have to say he’s a pretty good BBQ chef - every night I was there they put on a BBQ. I was a bit bucks-down and couldn’t afford the seafood, but for 130baht I had myself some excellent marinated pork+salad+huge potato-in-foil which goes down as my new best meal ever in Thailand.

A note which could be useful - Siam’s accounting skills are shakey, so pay your meals as you go instead of putting them on account. It took me ages to straighten out my bill on leaving.
Note there is a local guy who has set up a small restaurant on the inland side of the lagoon - he also had a couple of rooms. His place is accessed from the other side of the small bridge on Siam's access road.
There are 2 other bungalow resorts to the north of Siam on Bang Bao, The Beach Natural Resort and Ko Kood Resort & Spa. There was also a selection of huts along the southern headland just across the small river estaury the other side of Siam, but these looked to have been closed for some time.

Siam Resort claims to have the best beach on Kut and from what I saw when checking the other bays this is true mainly because there is still a strip of sand at highest tide.
Bang Bao beach at Siam looking north - see the introductory picture for looking south. The small entrance to the lagoon is just behind the camera.
At lower tide times it was even nicer of course, but all the other beaches I checked on the southern half of the west coast were pretty sweet at these times too.
I found swimming laps at lowest tide on Bang Bao no problem - it’s just a matter of going out a bit further.
By the way, the deep reasonably narrow bay is good shelter and was a popular overnight anchorage for a small number of yachts. One or two Thai fishing boats used it as a daytime anchorage before chugging off for some million-candlepower fishing each night - so don’t go completely naked on the beach Miss Sweden, the fishing guys deserve some sleep.
The long protective headlands make Bang Bao a good spot in the wet season according to Ko Kood Resort's website. (image Ko Kood Resort)

Actually the mix of travellers at Siam were interesting - only a few younger travellers, just one of those old-hand budget specialists in their 30s and 40s who were so widespread on nearby Mak, a couple of young families and quite a few mature-age first-time Thailand travellers apparently attracted by Guidebook tales of Kut’s relative quiet, good beaches and nice scenery. Well that’s what one nice Brit lady doing a Thai stopover from visiting her daughter in Perth told me. Ditto her friend whom she had met at Siam, except the friend had visited family in Bangkok.
There were no domestic Thai guests when I was there during the week, but the Siberia section I stayed in seemed set up more to their tastes (although the toilets weren’t squat).


Plenty of other nice beaches on Kut, this is Ao Khlong Hin, one of the southern east coast beaches - image tools4fools
I hired the usual Honda (300b per day at Siam) to check the other beaches on the southern half of the western coast. It is about 5-6 km between Siam’s beach and the inlet at Khlong Chao to the north and there were two nice beaches along here, Ao Ngamkho and Ao Sai Dang, both of which looked good and had nice looking bungalow resorts. Actually that nice Brit lady said she stayed on Sai Dang in a resort more upmarket but only a little more expensive than Siam, but it had so few guests she shifted across to Siam for some interaction.

Going south of Siam are 3 further beaches, once again looking the equal to Siam at least when the tide wasn’t full, and with nice bungalow outfits that appeared to be in the flashpacker range (which is how I would qualify Siam, although I don’t think lower-midrangers would be disappointed in an aircon bungalow). I think I saw about 3 tourists total at these beaches.
You could feel a bit isolated down here, but all bungalows seemed to have motorcycles for hire and the roads although mainly dirt and stone were not too bad if you took it real easy on the more cut-up sections. Frankly, there are not too many attractions on the island away from your beach apart from the waterfall - I couldn’t see any specialists bars etc although I believe some of those places on the river at Khlong Khao put on karaoke weekends when the Thais are in “town”. Thais love karaoke, and as a group are as bad at it as any other nationality.

I did try to reach the south-east fishing village of Ao Yai for a look at the nearby Cambodian coast, but the road a few km in was so cut up on a steep downhill section I considered it past my limited riding skills and turned around. I’d rather rather swim than check the Cambodian coast and mountains anyway. Sorry I haven't any shots of the nice southern beaches, but my camera's batteries gave up the ghost.
I also rode up thru Ban Hin Dam, the only really decent sized settlement on the west side (maybe 2 dozen buildings) - when I passed thru the first time it was a ghost town, mid-day and no-one to be seen - coming back 10 minutes later half a dozen people were on the street. The road approaching Hin Dam is sealed, as apparently it is for the 15km across to the east coast fishing town of Ban Ao Salat, but I didn’t have time to go across there.

I’m a keen bicycle rider, but the nearest bicycle hire I saw was at a newish place (some sort of dive operator and ticket booking place from memory) about 400m north of Khlong Chao’s bridge on the main road and opposite that nice river-entrance midranger I showed in one of the pics above.
Seeing this is about 5 km from Bang Bao, it’s a bit of a walk up from Siam to hire one, but not very far from those nice accomm. places on the river. The bikes themselves looked in pretty good condition, a change from the usual Thai Island rent-a-wreck bicycles. What do you guys do to them??!! (sez tezza, who is always stacking pushies on crazy downhill kamikaze runs).
I saw a public songthaew once in lots of hours of walking and riding the roads and tracks, so I don’t think you should rely on this form of transport to get around.

One of the southern most beaches on the west coast - Ao Prao. (image davelliot)

From the mainland, most people come in by speedboat on account of the distance - I think there are a few slow boats per week from Ban Dan Kao near Trat into the pier east of Hin Dam, but you are looking at maybe 3+ hours compared to around an hour+ on the speedboats. Most leave from Laem Ngop near Trat and call in at Ko Wai and Ko Mak.
One leaves from further down the Trat coast at Laem Sok which is connected to Trat by reasonably frequent songthaew service.

The Island Hopper Service from Ko Chang wasn’t running this year, but The Bang Bao Boat outfit run a similar service with both a slow boat and a speedboat, once again calling in at Wai and Mak.
I came down on the slow boat, on account there is some pretty nice island and south coast of Chang scenery to take in. This really only runs as far as Mak’s Ko Mak Resort pier. There they transfer you across to a resort on the opposite coast where the speedboat comes in - the ride is thru nice country and the wait at the other beach is about 60+ minutes which gives you time to have a look at Mak’s southern coast - the beach is quite a nice walk if the tide is away from full or near full, particularly to the left. The slow/fast boat combo cost me 700 including shuttle from my Chang accommodation - I think the speedboat all the way is 900. Try not to sit up in the bow on the speedboat - the ride can be brutal if the sea is choppy.
Other Chang based speedboats also do this run.
Waiting for the speedboat transfer to Kut from Ao Khao beach on Ko Mak

Note the slow boat starts from Bang Bao at 0830 and the chill factor of the slight breeze caused by the boat’s movement had girls in strappy-tops and others in t-shirts pulling out jackets or towels for warmth.

For getting to Laem Ngop from Bangkok and nearer locations, see the Ko Chang page.

Note that in low season most places close and there are few boat services to Kut. Don't rely on any of the above to be available save the slowboat between say mid April and November.

I just found a link which has info about at least one place on Kut open wet season 08 plus some good info on the limited wet season transport to the island -

By the way, there are no banks or ATMs in the areas I visited. Siam Beach Resort had pay internet, no doubt quie a few other accommodation places are the same and Ban Hin Dam had a pay internet place.

Nice end shot from tools4fools' Ko Kut pix


If you are visiting Kut, perhaps you will be interested in nearby: