Paradise Found


How is Ko Tarutao not more popular?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a massive part of me that definitely doesn’t want it to become more popular. What makes it so amazing, in fact, is that it is not very popular. It is remote, beautiful, and wild, and I absolutely love it.

So returning after thirteen years, you might think there’d be a bit of bad feeling about the changes? Not at all. The moment the boat turned the corner around the cliffs, the huge, white beach stretched in front of us and I was instantly transported back in time. The beach has not changed. Not one bit. And long may it remain like this. A National Park it should be protected from development like this.

Our stay in Tarutao was not as smooth as perhaps I would have liked. In fact, on our first night we were bitten to death by bedbugs (I had over 70 bites, our family total was over 300); as a result we ended up moving out of our rather nice looking bungalow into tents (where there were no bedbugs, but also no refund for us); then I had to return to the mainland for follow up treatment for an ear infection; just as we were getting into the swing of things Tettie had a bike crash (see Me and My Lucky Landings); it was only really during the last few days of our 10 day stay that we managed to have some proper ‘island chill out time’!

Despite all this, Ko Tarutao has always been, and remains, a very special place for me. I can’t quite put my finger on why. It’s somewhere in the shade of blue that deepens towards the horizon, the contrast with the white of the sand, and the complete lack of any buildings of any kind on the coastline. The eagles and other birds of prey soaring overhead, the wild boar, the monitor lizards and the call of the crickets, plus of course, our trusty hammock, all just seem to combine into some kind of island perfection that I find irresistible.

We left today. But I already know I’ll be back.

Squid Island

Sunset at Had Farang

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!”

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Lord of the Rings Meets the Andaman Coast

I’m ridiculously proud of my three daughters for reading the whole of the Hobbit (all completed age 7) and all of the first Lord of the Rings novel.  Jemima finished at age 7, before we left for the trip, Scarlett finished in Nepal and Evie fairly recently in Thailand.  (Actually, I can’t help but mention that Jemima has also now finished the Two Towers, how good is that?).

The story has really captured their imaginations.  “Do Gandalf’s voice, Daddy,” and, “Be Galadriel, Mummy,” are daily requests.   The storylines dominate their play, with the sound of Orcs attacking or Legolas firing a bow and arrow being the general background noise.

But I think my favorite way their new geek-chicness has manifested itself is through the sand sculptures they went off to create, completely unaided, yesterday.

Ferg’s role playing friends, you would be so proud.

The Shire

The Shire

Welcome to Rivendell

Welcome to Rivendell


This is Rivendell 1, before the tide came in

This is Rivendell 1, before the tide came in

And this is Rivendell 2, after the tide came in

And this is Rivendell 2, after the tide came in


Complete with Elven archer defending Rivendell

Complete with Elven archer defending Rivendell

Lazy Island Days

Another week, another island. This week: Koh Jum, our third island since we started island hopping down the Andaman Coast.

Our first two were at the north end of the coast (Koh Chang and Koh Payam), then after a stop on the mainland so I could go diving*, we missed out quite a lot of the coast to get where we are now. We’ve been to Samui and Pattaya and know for sure that it’s not overdeveloped resorts like Phuket and Koh Phi Phi we’re after.

It’s very relaxed here. Most of the farangs are older than us, and the pace of life is possibly the slowest of anywhere we’ve yet visited. There’s nothing to do but swim, walk up the 2km beach and eat. But, just as we’re settling in here, enjoying the stunning sunsets, friendly bungalows, huge, empty beach and bathtub-warm sea water, tomorrow we’re off again!

Sixty days on our visas doesn’t go far when there’s so many islands to visit. So tomorrow we head south again, getting up early to catch a longtail to a ferry, then a ferry to the Krabi on the mainland, a taxi into Krabi town, then a bus to Trang 100km down the road. We’ll spend the night there, stocking up on essentials like peanut M&Ms and red wine, before taking minibuses, ferries and longtails out to Koh Mook, one of our favourite places from our backpacking trip 13 years ago where we will slow right down for another five days.

All very exciting. But right now, sitting in a beach hut watching my girls play on the sand as the sun dips slowly towards the crystal seas, it all seems rather daunting. Island life has slowed me down so much that just walking to the sea to cool off or to the restaurant for a fruit shake can take half the day for me to muster enough energy.

Still, frenetic bursts of travelilng interspersing the lazy weeks of beach bumming makes this part of our trip seem like a series of one week Summer holidays, a new one starting every time the last one ends. And how can that be a bad thing?

* That implies I went diving on land, I didn’t. I just left Janet and the girls there and headed of to the Similan Islands.

While Daddy’s Away…

…The Girls Will Play!

Ferg’s off on a ‘live aboard’ 3 day scuba diving adventure to the Similan Islands, to one of the top 10 dive sites in the world.

We are consoling ourselves with a very, very nice resort* complete with swimming pool (with soft, fluffy towels provided), ‘posh’ bungalows (made of real bricks rather than woven bamboo), bungalow fairies (more commonly known as cleaners) and a huge, huge garden (coconut plantation) to play in.

We’re in Khao Lak, more package holiday than backpacker, but great for a few days of being alone in charge of 3 children.  There’s loads of facilities here, and lovely places to eat, so I think we will be very happy.

I’m hoping to make it to the beach at some point, I went for a run there before Fergus left, and it’s stunning.  But the resort’s so good and so different to what we’re used to, I’ll be lucky to get them past the front gates!  Ah well, maybe we should just chill out and make the most of it.  Happy days!

Our planned activites in Khao Lak

Our planned activities in Khao Lak – the stars are the ‘must do’ things

Our 'forest' where we have just had a picnic

Our ‘forest’ – the view from the bungalow door

Picnic time!

Picnic time



* We are in Phu Khao Lak Resort.  At 600 Bhat a night, it’s a total, total bargain – highly recommended

Koh Chang is Beautiful

by Evie

Koh Chang is beautiful. It has a big beach and a small beach with rocks in between. The beaches have a layer of white sand over the top of black sand and we like it because it’s soft. Mummy doesn’t like the sand because it’s sticky and a bit muddy. She had to wash our bikini bottoms seven times and it’s still not gone. We’re going back to the beach again today. Poor Mummy!

If you try to go in the sea, you get stings all over your body. We think this is because it’s too salty.

The sea has crabs in it as do the rocks and the flat sand. So watch where you’re going! The crabs have snippers but the ones on the flat sand are tiny. They get out of your way so Tettie is not scared of them any more.

From our balcony, I once saw two crabs running away from a larger crab. They went really fast. I don’t like crabs. I don’t even like pickled crabs or barbecued crabs. But worst of all are big, living crabs. They look scary.

We live at Koh Chang Resort which is on the rocks in between the two beaches. Our bungalow is in the sea when the tide is in but we don’t get wet because it is on stilts. You can hear the sea washing around underneath you. It makes me fall aslee… zzzzzz