It’s a little while since we moved on from Koh Mook (which translates as Squid Island in Thai), but it we were all rather sad to leave it behind – until we got here to Koh Libong, it was definitely our favourite island.
We stayed on Had Farang, the same beach where Janet and I spent several weeks last time we were backpacking. At that time – in 2000 – the wide, curving, white-sand beach ended with a stack of boulders to the south and an impressive sea cliff to the north; behind, it was backed by a large, empty coconut plantation; and all the bungalows were hidden behind the tree line at the very edges. It really felt like a desert island. Apart from a single longtail that was generally moored in the harbour, you could easily imagine that you had the whole island to yourself.
This time around, although the beach remains the same, the coconut plantation has been cut down and replaced with the brash, new “Charlie’s Resort” with its swimming pool, beach umbrellas and a cocktail bar pumping out Ibiza dance hits. And there are now so many longtails at the water’s edge that a section has had to be cordoned off for swimming.
Yet, despite the changes, we all still loved Had Farang. Crowded as it is, the beach remains beautiful and is big enough to accommodate the increased numbers. The views re still stunning, the water still clear (and unlike Koh Jum, actually cooler than the air so it feels refreshing when you jump in after baking in the tropical sun). Watching the sunsets in the evenings at Chill Out Bar (far enough along not to hear Charlie’s cheesy music), it was easy to see why we’d loved it here before.
Plus there were new discoveries. We passed a small massage hut on the way to and from our little bungalows. In the day we would stop there to admire the grimacing faces of farangs on the painful end of a joint-wrenching Thai massage, and in the evenings, we would duck down underneath and marvel at the hundreds of hermit crabs which congregated there. They were charming, each with its different scavenged shell; clumsy, hairy legs protruding from underneath like Jim Henson glove puppets.
We also had several fun activity days. We wandered across the island through rubber plantations, touching and stretching the rubber as it oozed from the trunks. We hired sea canoes and explored the cliffs to the north. And, best of all, we hired a longtail and guide to take us into Emerald Cave, a hidden cove only reachable at low tide by swimming through pitch-black tunnels. Emerald Cave was only rediscovered using satellite imagery but had once been the home of pirates and smugglers. It was also one of the main inspirations for The Beach. Check out the girls’ reports of the trip here, here and here.
As I finished writing, I asked Evie what her opinion of the island was. Her reply was simple: “I absolutely loved Koh Mook!”