Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ko kho Khao

Sunset from the pool bar at KOH KHO KHAO BEACH RESORT (THE KIB).

Many people are looking for an island with endless attractive beaches, some nice places to stay and yet few visitors - Ko Kho Khao fits this description. The facts it requires only 10 minutes to reach from the mainland and the departure pier is around 1.5 hours from Phuket airport are bonuses.

KKK is about 30km north of Khao Lak and 12 km south of Takua Pa, both on highway 44. Turn off the highway at Nam Khem village - the Nam Khem pier is another 3km away.

I found this pretty good map at Go! Koh Kho Khao. Note their division of the long eastern beach is different to mine. A bigger version can be seen by clicking the link.

KKK is a mid-sized island with a nice ocean beach running around 20km along the west coast before wrapping another 1km around the north-west corner. Most of the island is made up of sand deposits and so is relatively flat - however there are some hilly areas in the north-west and north-east. The latter even has a small waterfall. Much of the north and east coasts are mangroves with many twisting inlets.
KKK has only a handful of people. Main activities seem to be fruit, rubbber, oil palms and a bit of grazing but it is not an intensively farmed area. Fishing is of course important. Tourism is relatively low key. There are few villages - the main one is the pier village in the south. There are 2 or 3 other small bans which are more strips of a dozen or fewer houses and maybe a store lining the roadways.

Ban Pak Koh, the arrivals-pier town. That's the vehicle ferry at the end of the street, runs roughly hourly during the day depending on load. If you click this image to expand you can more clearly see the longtail shuttles to its left - these run more frequently, you will seldom have to wait for long. 20 baht per person and 20 baht for motorcycles. The gap to the mainland is less than 1km - takes less than 10 minutes by longtail. Few ferries of any type after dark but it is possible to charter a longtail.
The gap between the mainland and KKK is very sheltered and seems to be a parking place for various unused small ships. A couple of older ferries were being refurbished out of frame to the right of shot.

Pak Koh is a good little town for services. A number of restaurants, a couple of bars, a couple of tour operators, 2 small stores and towards the other end of town quite a big general store with prices not too different from mainland 7-11s. There was even an Indian tailor.
A songthaew taxi will take you to your island accommodation - we paid 100 to go to THE KIB less than 3km away, no doubt too much and able to be bargained down. Pleased with the ease of access to the island, I couldn't be bothered to bargain.

The east coast beach can be divided into 3 sections as seen on the map above:


This stretches for about 4km from the southern tip to near an eastwards turn in the beach I call THE CORNER.

There are 4 midrange or better resorts along here - from south to north ANDAMAN PRINCESS, THE TACOLA, KOH KHO KHAO ISLAND BEACH RESORT (THE KIB) and C&N KOHKHAO BEACH RESORT. The area has one budget place PRANEE RESTAURANT AND BUNGALOWS which I would describe as flash-packer standard.

South Beach looking south from opposite C&N resort. This shows about 3km of the beach - behind camera is a similar 1km until the beach starts to narrow the final 1km to THE CORNER. The huts past the sun-cabanas are the dining cabanas of 2 good budget beach restaurants. If you click to expand you can see ANDAMAN PRINCESS's fancy dining rooms ovehanging the beach near the south end.

THE KIB is about 300m closer to the south end than C&N. This is part of the main pool, backed by private pools for the joint's expensive Pool Cabanas. Further from the camera are Garden Cabanas and attractive blocks of more normal rooms.

We stayed in the latter on account of a special internet deal (I had no idea there was budget accommodation on the island) - very comfortable, service from staff excellent. Can't comment on the restaurant - our deal didn't include breakfast so we self catered - and ate most other meals in the excellent budget beach restaurants 150 m north. A real anomaly - the beer and soft-drink prices in the minibar were advertised as the same as the 7-11 type store in town. And they were - a small Chang beer for 25. Crikey!
Some hotel reviews criticised the public pool as disappointing compared to the Pool Cabanas'. Well, the former was not huge, but at around 25X10m, I thought it was adequate.
THE KIB is about 2.5km from town, either by road or along the beach and thru ANDAMAN PRINCESS. We walked both in about 30 minutes - only a few minutes ride on one of the hotel's hire-mopeds.

Midway between THE KIB and C&N are two excellent budget beach restaurants - nice food, very good prices towards what I consider the low end of budget restaurants and very efficient, friendly service. LAZY HOUSE is closest to the camera then COOL HOUSE . Lady Tezza had her best meal of the multi-destination trip at the former, BBQed fresh crab + rice + salad buffet for 120! (40 baht per 100g).
Out of shot to the right is KHO KHAO DIVING.

Pranee Restaurant and Bungalows is about half way between THE KIB and town - it would be about a 1km walk to the pier. The boss-lady told me she had some aircon bungalows for around 1500 front-row, 1200 at back - brekka not included. Concrete construction, looked pretty good. This place is not on the detailed map THE KIB gave me, so must be pretty new.


The section I call THE CORNER actually starts about 1km south of the curve in the beach. This is where the heavy erosion begins. In this zone you have 2 nice midrange joints - KO KHAO RESORT and the adjacent AMANDARA. Once past the corner the beach is probably wider than anywhere on the coast - suggesting the erosive currents run from south to north.

You can see the extent of erosion here very close to the turn in the beach - no beach at high tide and if you click to expand, lots of trees undermined and felled.

The erosion zone extends a good 800m behind the camera in the previous shot to just past this area which is the zone in front of KO KHO KHAO RESORT and (further from camera) AMANDARA. No beach at high tide here although there is a section of sand behind the sea-walls of these very nice resorts.
I'm not sure if this erosion is a wet season/early dry season thing which later disappears as calm weather rebuilds the beach - I have not read hotel-user reports criticising the beach here. But the wall is some years old indicating that temporary or permanent, this erosion has been occuring a period of years. Nice wider beach began behind camera within 200m at time of shot (late November, not that long after wet season when the waves and currents are at their stongest).

Whoa! I found this great short on Google Earth a day after first publishing this page. Wave is smashing against KKK Resort's/Amandara's sea wall - if you click you can see part of the concrete side wall right-background. Wet sand is the stuff BEHIND the sea wall. Despite blue sky this has to be wet season - you do not get waves like this in the Andaman dry season. (image Panoramio - Bonazera)


The section I call North Beach runs 11KM from THE CORNER to the north-west of the island and then another km or so along the north shore facing Ko Phra Tong.

There are 2 midrange joints along here - PARADIS and OCEAN BREEZE 1 (both looked okay, the latter a bit more upmarket) and 2 budget places - HAR PLA and SUNSET SEAFOOD.

NORTH BEACH shot from near THE CORNER. 11km of gently curving, mostly deserted beach.

HA PLA BEACH RESTAURANT is towards the southern end of NORTH BEACH. Tent will cost you 300 - the place had 5 rather nice looking fan bungalows under construction in late November 2010 the owner said would be finished for peak season - 1200baht. This is shot from the restaurant which was a pretty nice place for a lazy beer.

Talking of nice places for a lazy beer, this was shot from SUNSET RESTAURANT less than 500m from the norhtern-most point of the beach. Girl in shot told me she was staying in Takua Pa, had jumped on a moped for a daytrip down here. Sure found a sweet place.

SUNSET RESTAURANT had 3 traditonal thatch fan bungalows with bathroom for 700 and 2 bigger ones with hot water for 900. I reckon this will be the place I head for next trip.
Immediately south, work was going on on some flasher places looked like they were lower midrange- about 50% finished. Not part of SUNSET RESTAURANT.


KAYAKING RESORT - In the far north, not far from SUNSET RESTAURANT is a side road to the left which leads 1km or so to WANG KLONG KAYAKING AND RESORT. This place is spread out beside a mangrove tributary and looked budget/flashpacker to me. There was no-one around except an old geezer sleeping so I didn't get prices.
Shot from the restaurant at WANG KLONG KAYAKING - fish pens, launch area for kayaks and at back-right the start of a short mangrove boardwalk. The tributary goes 1km to the open channel between Ko Kho Khao and Ko Phra Ton.

BAN MUANG MAI PIER - A short distance south of the turnoff to WK KAYAKING is another turn to the left which goes for 6km or so to the northern pier in the north-east of the island. This road is mainly dirt, one of the few I experienced - but not tricky to ride. Ban Muang Mai is simply a collection of maybe 10 houses along the road near the pier.
Apparently there are a 800m mangrove boardwalk and a forest walk up to TONTHONG WATERFALL (90 minutes one-way), both of which start close to the pier but I didn't have time to check them.
The northern pier - click to see more clearly Ko Phra Ton immediately north of KKK. The pier was deserted - I could hear one guy banging away under an upturned boat but that was it. It is about 4 km across to Ko Phra Tong's southern pier, but the gap is less than a km at its narrowest top of shot.


Touring the island by motorcycle is a relaxed way to see the place. This is the main north-south road which starts at the ferry and ends at SUNSET RESTAURANT. It is well paved as were most of the side-roads I took. Apart from one other guy, these were the only tourists I saw away from the village in a good 5 hours of touring. This was shot not too far from the north end of the island. That's a tsunami warning tower - those roadside boards with an excellent island map were distributed pretty widely.

NATURE TOUR - back towards centre island is a bicycle/nature route with a bird-watching tower.

KAYAKING - there are several kayaking piers on inlets in various places suggesting this may be a popular activity with locals from Takua Pa.

ARCHEOLOGY SITE - towards the south not that far from the arrivals pier and the east coast are the ruins of MUEANG THONG ANCIENT VILLAGE - apparently the sheltered waters to the mainland side of KKK were a popular stopping-over site for traders between the middle east and China in the C13th. The last km or so of the route turned sandy so I gave it a miss on my hire-moped.

DAYTRIPS - most of the resorts and travel agents in the village can organise trips to the SIMILAN and SURINS. Both are about 70km from KKK.
KO PA is much closer - a 45 minute run in a longtail leads to a sandy island with fringing reef - the joint is apparently okay for sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling.
KO PHRA TONG immediately north of KKK can be toured on a trip offered by TARO TRAVEL in town. This may be most poeple's only chance to visit this similar but even less developed island. I gave it a miss - at 2400 it seemed a bit dear and I hope to stay a few days there in March 2011.
No doubt most resorts/agents could put on a KKK Island Tour for people not confident on motorcycles.

This is our departing longtail approaching the mainland. Songthaews from the pier depart maybe hourly for Takua Pa. Buses from Takua Pa bus station go to most places south and east of Bangkok. We got one direct to Krabi via shortcut backroads which avoided Khao Lak and places close to Phuket.
You can charter a songthaew from the pier to Takua Pa but the cost is around 400 which is a bit rich for a 12km ride. We got an aircon van from THE KIB to the island pier, their own longtail and another waiting KIB aicon van to Takua Pa for 500 all up - still a bit expensive but removing all waiting and other hassles.
If you see mistakes or have extra information, please fire them in below. If you have questions, please ask them on THE FORUM which I check most days. I only visit individual island pages occasionally.



Sbipk said...

Thank you nice article.
your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
I love here Surin Beach Hotel This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
Thank again.

Ted said...

A good resource for Koh Kho Khao is http://www.KohKhoKhaoHotels.com which is the new GoKohKhoKhao site. It has good drives, more on the beaches, info about the restaurants, some info about Baan Nam Khem and the tsunami memorial. Lots of good stuff.