Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ko Wai (Whai) Updated

Taking it easy off Good Feeling Resort's budget beachside bungalows Ko Wai - that's big Ko Chang in the background.

Last visited February 2012

Ko Wai is a small hilly island about one hour by slow ferry (there are speedboats) south of big Ko Chang in the eastern Gulf.
Party types and comfort-travellers will hate this place - there are no specialist bars, clubs or restaurants, no roads, few tracks, no villages, no shops, no ATMs, - just 5 resorts, one a relatively recent and isolated midrange joint, the other 4 budget oriented, the flashest of which struggles to get above flash-packer. Some recent visitors have complained about the influx of daytrippers from Chang and the mainland each day, but these are easy to avoid and can in fact offer good variety.

Ko Wai in the far eastern Gulf to the south of Ko Chang and north-west of Ko Mak. Trat is the nearest mainland regional city (modified Google Earth image).

A copy of an aerial photo at Pakarang Resort in 1998 - the beach at top left is where Paradise Resort is located. Good Feeling resort starts at the pier on the right of this beach and continues around the corner of the coast halfway to the pier in the middle. This pier belongs to Pakarang Resort. The pier and beaches at top right are where Ao Yai Ma (Gran Ma Hut) is located. I reckon this shot must have been taken at the lowest tide of the year - there was not this much sand on both my trips - image Wikepedia Commons - khaosaming

Pakarang had a new image when I returned in 2012. Map nerds will hate how they have reversed things so that north is now straight down, but I guess it makes sense in orientating yourself when standing in front of the map - Ko Wai Paradise Resort is indeed to the right etc.
Note how the amount of sand has diminished markedly - maybe a full moon high tide after some wet season storm erosion.


THE BEACHES

With the exception of the new Ko Wai Beach Resort, all the beaches on Wai extend along the North Coast and are easy to access. You can walk from Paradise#3 to Gran Ma Hut#3 along a pretty good coastal track in under 45 minutes (modifies from Google Earth).
Might be clearer if you click image to expand.

Starting from the western end of the north coast:

Ko Wai Paradise's 3rd "unknown" beach. This is a good 250m from the resort's restaurant behind the main beach, but bungalows actually extend all the way to here. None of the daytrippers seem to find this gem - hell even some Paradise guests never make it here. Nice sand, some okay snorkelling off the beach.

Bungalows behind Paradise's 3rd beach. A German girl we talked to in the ferry got one of these for 300baht - okay, outside bathroom and breakfast non-inclusive but similar would cost you double in the Andaman high season 2012. If you want to get away from it all in an idyllic spot this would be hard to beat. Um, apart from Wai's Good Feeling and Gran Ma Huts.

Ko Wai Paradis'es 2nd beach is a little closer the restaurant which is behind the main beach in background. Notice proximity of bungalow to sand far right of pic.

Ko Wai Paradise's main beach. This is a fine beach, first off the arrival pier in background. Sand continues some distance into the sea, water is crystal clear and not too shallow at lowest tide. Snorkelling is pretty good here by Thai standards - and attracts a crowd of daytrippers from nearby Ko Chang. However this mid-afternoon 2012 shot shows relatively few people, perhaps they have moved on to Pakarang's beach because my 1998 stay at Paradise saw busy afternoons. German girl said there were lots of daytrippers from about 1000 to 1300. Interestingly there is a sign and chain on the main beach just behind camera saying PRIVATE GUESTS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT. In English script which might miss the mark considering the bulk of daytrippers are Russian. However the far end of the main beach seemed to have few people in busy 1998 and no daytrippers seemed to find even the 2nd beach.
Paradise's bungalows start behind the sand just this side of the jetty. Good Feeling's restaurant (which is a good place for a quiet and inexpensive meal when Paradise's is busy) is immediately on the landward end of the pier with around 3 of their bungalows on the hillside behind. The rest are some distance along the north coast behind the jetty.

I stayed at Paradise my first 2 visits to the island - more details down page.

Good Feeling's beach. This is maybe 250m further east-south-east of the arrivals pier along a track that is pretty rough with stones and tree-roots underfoot but well lit at night. There is maybe double the beach behind the camera with only half a dozen backpacker style bungalows - the type which tend to attract those long-term travellers. I remember walking down here in 2008 at full high tide and some of the bungalow piers were in the water. Bungalows all have bathrooms - 300 baht without breakfast high season 2012 makes them a third the price of similar places on say Phi Phi.
Snorkelling is okay off the beach and continues to be pretty good for a good 400m further on to Pakarang Resort's pier.


The south-east corner of Ko Chang from Good Feeling's beach - I reckon this was shot with a wide-angle lens (which deepens distance) because the mountains are more dramatic live (image Panoramio-Hammarat)

Pakarang Resort's 2nd beach is next east. I shot this off the top of the National Park pavillion on Pakarang's pier - there is actually double the beach seen - behind the near rocks/palms. A pretty nice beach and only Pakarang guests find this one - the daytrippers who pile in from around 1400 to 1600 seem to miss it, the nearer main beach being so much more obvious from pier level.
Snorkelling is not too bad off this beach - best close to the pier, better IMHO than off the main beach.

Pakarang Resort's main beach from the pier. Nice sand kept well groomed. Crystal clear water which gets a bit shallow low tide but swimmable before the fringing reef (starts about 40m out) except at those lowest tides around full moon and no moon and then for only an hour or so around lowest tide (which could be at night depending on when you visit).
Coral and fishies so so on the reef (the former pretty mono- coloured), best close to the pier (actually just on the seaward side of the National Park pavilion).
I stayed at Pakarang latest 2012 trip - more details down page.

Coral on the fringing reef shot from Pakarang's pier, lowest tide. A good fish show along here at times.

Ao Yai Ma - Gran Ma Hut's main beach - is 10/15 minutes walk along the coastal track east of Pakarang. Pretty easy going these days - there is a small steep headland to cross but I noticed some steps had been cast to make this not the problem it was in earlier visit.
Once again a nice beach, one which doesn't get visited by too many other people. Water tends to be a bit shallow at lowest tides but no worse than Pakarang. There is a similar fringing reef and I think the snorkelling must be okay because one of the daytrip snorkelling boats out of Ko Chang moored off this and the two smaller neighbouring beaches each day.

Gran Ma Hut is maybe the most laid back resort on the island. Most bungalows are in the trees behind the beach. Restaurant is up on a small hill overlooking the pier through thick tree crowns. Fish pens at pier's end guarantee fresh seafood. I noticed both the speedboats and the Bang Bao slow boat were dropping passengers whereas in 2008 the bigger slow boat (Bang Bao slow boat was not running) avoided the pier at lower tides - a dude on my trip had to lug his quite big pack from the Pakarang pier.

Oops! Falling tree did a good demolition job on this bungalow. I wouldn't freak - falling trees tend to be a wet season thing when high winds, wet soggy soils, rotting wood and weight of water on foliage combine to bring them down. I'd be surprised if Gran Ma Hut stays open wet season - certainly Pakarang and Paradise close between mid-August and the start of October.

A little further east over a short section of rocks is Gran Ma's second beach - not too much sand here but when I came by in 2008 a daytrip speedboat had called in to take advantage of a much nicer beach. Maybe we can call this Ao Noi Ma (Noi means small).

Gran Ma's third beach is a little further on again - the most easterly beach on the north coast. I shot this from the end of the pier at the far western end of the first beach - I couldn't be bothered rock-hopping over there. Then I noticed a couple of Gran Ma guests walking around on a track behind the headland trees. Duh.

Ko Wai Beach Resort's (the new mid-range place) beach is around the eastern corner of the island on the south-east coast. Pakarang Resort didn't want to give me any hiking instructions because they thought I'd get lost (Lady Tezza was hoping I'd get lost) so I grabbed a kayak and checked it out. But because I knew the strongish easterly sea breeze would make for choppy conditions once around the island corner for this inexperienced kayaker I didn't take my camera in case it got a dunking. The beach is small (one guy told me it is artificial but Pakarang's early aerial phot0 which predates the new place shows a patch of sand there) but it looked okay - although I didn't see any guests in fairly busy mid February. Note this place catches the wind in dry season whereas the north coast beaches are fairly sheltered.
I couldn't find a pic of the beach I could pinch on the web - the resort's website has an anti-copying thingy. So you'll have to google it up for yourself. The place seems expensive compared to its appearance.


Staying at Ko Wai Paradise

I wrote this after my second stay in 2008. The first was in 1998.
I like to stay at a different place when I revisit an island and I usually jump off the ferry un-booked, but this trip coincided with the leadup to Chinese New Year and mindful of how popular Wai was with weekending Thais on my 1998 visit, I chickened out. I was real keen on staying at Ao Yai Ma - Gran Ma Hut in the south of the island but the only phone # I could access was Paradise Resort, my accommodation first trip.
No problem really because Paradise is a pretty good place, on the nicest stretch of beach with fairly good snorkelling along the fringing reef, great views of Chang’s mountainous southern coast and other islands and value bungalows at 250 and 300. (UPDATE - some of the smaller bungalows were still 250 in 2012. Hell, I paid that in 1998 and was happy).

All the bungalows are outside bathroom jobs - split roughly equal between small 250baht jobs and bigger 300s. They start just west of the jetty, built on piers against the steep hillside right along the path heading west almost to that 3rd beach mentioned before. It must be the best part of 500m from bungalow #1 to bungalow #37. (UPDATE - more in 2012). No bungalow is more than 25m from the water. In the far western section the forest tends to overshadow the bungalows - the guys at reception referred to this part as “In the Jungle”. Looked pretty neat to me - the one catch - a fair walk back to the restaurant in the middle of the first beach.
Note there are 3 bathroom blocks along the way, and they were in fair condition and kept reasonably clean. Squat toilets. Good mirrors and basins.

Most bungalows are largely unchanged since my first trip except the timber has weathered into a greyish hue - and there are now more of them. In ‘98 they only stretched to the second beach, and now (2008) they go almost to the third. (UPDATE 2012 - they do extend to immediately behind the most distant beach). A lot of the newer ones are 300 jobs and showed a variety of designs - some with very extensive balconies. The 250s seemed to be cloned off each other.

Typical 250b bungalow. This is actually my '98 hut (this trip, my camera's backup batteries failed on Wai) - the only difference in 2008 is the wood had weathered to grey.

The 250 bungalows are basically a box with a double bed and verandah. Just enough room for 2 and their gear. No shelves, few hooks. The mattress was very firm, the pillows fluffy and the mosquito net was in good condition. No fan, no towel, no toilet paper or soap. (Update - this could have changed since 2008 - many LOS budget bungalows are providing soap and towels now). Light just bright enough for reading. Nice spacious veranda with those great beach, bay and southern Chang views. No hammock. Big outside trash bin only. Quiet at night - no long tails and the generator which is over near the restaurant cuts out around 2300.
Value at 250? Well yeah - you don’t get too many bungalows below 300 these days, particularly so close to the beach/water. Just about all of these have nice views, which made hanging on the raised veranda after a day of sun, snorkelling and swimming a pretty sweet way to spend some time.

This is a 2012 shot of my 2008 250 baht bungalow (dates can confuse but remember my camera was out of action in 2008). The interesting thing is it looks as if it has been refurbished - the timber is much less a weathered gray. Not sure if hammocks are now supplied - a lot of travellers bring their own.

Some of the more recently built bungalows west of the restaurant are bigger and a few share common verandahs and look to be suitable for big-family accommodation when combined.

The grounds were kept pretty clean - I noticed that 20 minutes after the last daytripper had left the main beach was spotless.

The downside is that Paradise is the daytrip beach and it gets real busy - at one stage I counted 5 small/medium Thai type ferries and 2 speedboats tied up at the pier and over a hundred people in the water, more than half with masks and snorkels.
The small pier at Paradise/Good Feeling can get pretty crowded (image Panoramio-mdeck_1999)
Good Feeling’s restaurant is actually immediately behind the pier on the eastern end of Paradise’s beach. The restaurant is a good place to eat because food was appreciably less expensive than Paradise’s. It was also one of the top people-watching places on the island - some daytrippers come for the full day but more arrive in shuttles as the snorkel/island trip boats do their round of locations - so there was always a line of colourful people shuffling past and boats putting in and casting off from the pier.

The daytrippers seemed divided pretty evenly between farangs and Thais. The Thais are always good value in their brightly coloured flotation vests and high holiday spirits - and with a majority of the farangs being Russian and quite a few of them similar Anna Kournikova bikini-babe/g-string girrrl clones to those decorating Ko Samet, a bit of relaxed people watching from my bungalow’s veranda was no hardship.
Another gratuitous shot of a Russian bikini babe (see Ko Samet page). Wait a bit - this aint no Kourni-clone, but she sure do look familiar - image Sports Illustrated

But if you want peace and quiet, no problems. For a start, there is a double sign about two thirds along the beach saying PRIVATE BEACH PAST HERE - RESORT GUESTS ONLY, and I was surprised at how many of the daytrippers were respecting this. Not all, but if you keep heading west at Paradise past the main 300m long beach there is about 50m of rock and then a second beach say 60m long. Then comes another longer section of rock and finally on the immediate far side of the low western rocky point is another tiny but very nice stretch of sand with quite good swimming and snorkelling off the beach. Paradise’s path with bungalows adjacent goes right along here, and no daytrippers seem to make the third beach.

The restaurant serves good food. I noticed the prices were maybe 20-30% higher than nearby Good Feeling and more distant Pakarang in both 2008 and 2012 trips.
Thorntree regular Callippo gave me this info about Pakarang: "Pakarang's restaraunt is now better value, the food being much better than Paradise (it always had a better menu). It must be the daytrippers - too tempting for Paradise not to up the prices with a captive daytime market". When I called in at lunchtime latest trip to check prices there must have been 130 daytrippers getting stuck into their set meal. Maybe a good time to head for one of the other restaurants for prompt service.

Ko Wai Paradise's restaurant in 1998


Paradise's restaurant 2012 - not greatly changed.



Staying at Pakarang Resort
For my latest trip I decided to stay at Pakarang - mainly on account it has a website and can be booked online (when I travel with The Bride I rarely have the courage to jump off the ferry unbooked). Lady Tezza hauling bags around in search of a vacancy aint a happy camper.

The southern half of Pakarang Resort from the top of the National Park rotunda on the pier.

Pakarang is a surprisingly big place with a wide range of rooms and bungalows (about 50) which range from flashpacker to budget. It has a big pier with a very fancy 2 storey rotunda type thingo - part of the adjacent National Park Oceanic Research outfit, which par for the course for Thai government instrumentalities, has the flashest buildings on the island and the usual bunch of guys sitting around doing nothing. Oh yeah, and big concrete tanks full of seawater and turtle hatchlings.

Chez Tezza at Pakarang
This is what they call a big wooden bungalow. Plenty of room for an extra single mattress alongside the existing king sized bed. This mattress thin but reasonaby comfy. Fan, cold water. Clean and in good condition. Insect screens seemed to work, so we didn't set up the net. Nice big verandah for checking the beach and distant Chang view (most of Pakarang's bungalows are front row - the few second rowers are staggered and higher up slope so they also have a view).
At 1000 baht (2012 high season) not great value compared to smaller fan bungalows at the other resorts, but overall this was one nice place - our second favourite of the 7 resorts stayed at on our Feb/March Thailand trip (first was Boutique Raft Resort at Sai Yok north of Kanchanaburi). Budget travellers will find better value in Pakarang's 600b small bungalows.
Aircon bungalows are also available.

This motel-like block and a similar one further south seemed popular. It has some interconnecting rooms (fan and aircon) good for big families. I think they also may have been used by overnighting Russian island-trippers out of Pattaya - both were running 100% our first night.

The Russsians are coming! Each afternoon around 1400 four or five daytrip boats would dock and a bunch of Farangs (mostly Russian) would descend on Pakarang's restaurant and main beach. Interestingly a good 2 dozen or so would walk south on the coastal path under our bungalow verandah from which this is taken - I'm not sure if they were heading for the turtle tanks 2 minutes on or Gran Ma Hut's nice beach 10 minutes on.
I'm not against daytrippers - they certainly add colour and ensure a good turnover of food etc in the restaurant so it stays fresh and cheap.
But 1630 they were gone.

Part of Pakarang's big restaurant. Good views, service and food. Prices seemed typical of budget bungalow restaurants although the 65 baht club sangas with chips and 40/70 baht small/big Changs are lower than average. There was a computer for guests' use (not free) and wi-fi for those with their own laptops in the restaurant.


TREKKING

This is one small island with very limited tracks. You can walk from Paradise’s third beach in the NW along the coastal track past Good Feeling and Pakarang to Granma Hut’s third beach in the NE in 45 minutes no sweat (track 1 on map).


When down at Gran Ma's bay, there is a rough track which climbs up over the hill to a small rocky cove on the south-east coast (track 2).

Back at Pakarang you can walk up past the garbage dump benind the bungalows and go over the hill to a bigger but nondescript southern coast bay (no real beach) and return on another track which follows a fence-line to end up at Good Feeling’s seaside bungalows. Some nice rainforest and rubber tree vegetation along here, not much else (track 3).

There is a sign around about Paradise’s #20 bungalow to Sunset Viewpoint - this goes steeply across to a narrow rocky inlet on the south-west coast which indeed is nice for sunset viewing and not bad for swimming if you are experienced in entering and leaving water in sometimes choppy conditions off rocks. Don’t leave your return too late - thick vegetation and a steep sometimes tricky track makes for no fun when it gets dark (track 4).

In 2008 there was a sign+map on the back wall of Paradise's restaurant showing the location of these tracks. Hopefully it is still there, but I forgot to look latest visit.

As I said, there is supposed to be a track from Pakarang to the new Ko Wai Beach Resort, but Pakarang were not too keen to tell me where it started. I had a look but nothing seemed obvious unless it goes off track 3 above which I last did in 2008 before the new resort opened.


GETTING THERE

FROM THE MAINLAND
Pakarang Resort’s
slow boat, a small ferry, delivered to all 3 piers on Wai in 1998 and 2008. It left Laem Ngop around 1500 and returned around 0800. I went back to the mainland on this boat - it is reasonably comfortable (much more so than the best seat on a speedboat) and the views of the south and east coast of Chang and the smaller nearby islands are very nice. I think the trip was a bit under 2 hours.
However it stayed tied to the pier the full length of my 2012 stay which suggests the speedboats from the mainland are the go these days. Maybe Parkarang's ferry is used to haul food and other supplies these days.

You can get a speedboat from Laem Ngop and I think from the Leam Sok pier which is further to the south-east from Trat (but closer to Wai).
Mr Ball’s KO MAK.com speedboat information is good for speedboat times as is his info on getting to Trat/Laem Ngop from Bangkok and Leam Sok from Trat.

FROM SURROUNDING ISLANDS.
Speedboats and slowboats come from Bang Bao on Ko Chang - the slowboat goes on to Ko Mak and the speedboats also connect Mak and the more distant Ko Kut. Bang Bao boat is one outfit and Google will find others like Kae Bea Hut speedboat. Once again Mr Ball's website has good info on times etc.

The Bang Bao slow boat ("wooden boat") out of Bang Bao on big Chang. A pretty relaxed way to get to Wai compared to a sometimes bumpy, wet speedboat. Less than half the passengers left the boat at Wai - the rest continued to Ko Mak. Like virtually all boats out of Chang, this one does a free shuttle connection from accommodation to the pier at Bang Bao on Chang's south-west tip.

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If you are visiting Wai you might consider nearby:

KO MAK

KO KUT

KO CHANG

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If you see mistakes or have extra info, please post below. If you have questions, please put them on the Forum, accessed via the Index - I don't get to check each island page each day but I try to check the Forum when not travelling.

7 comments:

Juci said...

hello! do you know any e-mail adrees of Koh Wai Paradise Reosrt? I would really need it! Thanks ! bye, Judy

tezza said...

Just noticed your question Judy. Sorry, I keep forgetting to all places for their cards with contact info etc.

Juci said...

it's ok, thank for your answer :)

Andy said...

I used to go there annually. It was my mecca. Now times have changed, coming back from Australia, having a job that doesn't allow much of a holiday. Now after reading your article, I was just contemplating quitting this job and going there for a month to make up for the time I haven't been there. Should be worth it!! November, here I come!! Do you still have Noi or Kob's number?

crad said...

I miss Wai and haven't been for 2 years since I decided to go to Philippines more than Thailand. The're just lovely people and they do remember you. Paradise don't even charge for the kayaks and life vests if you get some when you've been going a lot. When I got the bill at the end about the 3rd time I'd been there, I noticed they hadn't charged for them and brought it to their attention. They looked at me like I was stupid. They said don't be silly we know you, you don't have to pay for that. Pure class.

crad said...

I miss Wai and haven't been for 2 years since I decided to go to Philippines more than Thailand. The're just lovely people and they do remember you. Paradise don't even charge for the kayaks and life vests if you get some when you've been going a lot. When I got the bill at the end about the 3rd time I'd been there, I noticed they hadn't charged for them and brought it to their attention. They looked at me like I was stupid. They said don't be silly we know you, you don't have to pay for that. Pure class.

Simon LOIZON said...

Hello
Do you know if Ko Wai guesthouse are open on july?
Thank's Simon