While getting to Koh Ngai (Hai) was easy and cheap, leaving the island was a very different story! Since it was low season (therefore very little traffic to and from the island except on tour boats that would take you back to Ko Lanta) the opportunities to leave the island were very limited. Basically it all came down to “if and when” a local taxi boat operator wanted to take us to the next island . And the price was not cheap either… Of course they could basically charge whatever they wanted (despite our attempts to negotiate) because hey, it’s an island. You got here, but if you want to get off you’re gonna have to pay what they say to pay or not leave at all!
So it was one semi-stormy mid-afternoon that we decided to head out for Koh Mook (Muk) at the not so bargain price of 1500 baht. It was just Anna and I so of course the price was pumped a bit. Had there been more people going it would have been cheaper for the individual, obviously. Funnily enough however we did spot an older couple with a younger child who had arrived on the island in the morning and wondered whether they were staying or going on to Koh Muk. Neither myself nor Anna were brave enough to approach them to ask whether they were staying or going, but as it turned out, they were on their way to Koh Muk, so had we asked them we could have possibly gotten a cheaper ride there… In any event…
We loaded up on our private longtail taxi boat and headed out on the stormy sea. The two crew men (brothers- one driver, one look-out) were chatty and quite entertaining as we headed into what originally looked like a calm enough sea. Pah-ah-ti (wrong spelling but phonetically sound and means “sun” in Thai) was the older and more “experienced driving boats” brother. When we set out he said his younger brother needed more practice in rougher seas, so he let him drive first, but “not to worry, if the sea gets really bad I will take over”… The closer we got into the open sea, no longer that sheltered from the neighboring islands, the rougher it got. Anna wasn’t feeling so hot, but I didn’t mind it so much until Pah-ah-ti climbed from the front to the back to take over driving… Not a good sign!! The waves got larger and more turbulent. Sea water splashed over the sides and we were often hit with sea spray from the sides and front of the boat as it crashed into the oncoming waves. A couple of times it was a bit worrisome (especially when the engine noise of the boat suddenly changed to include an ominous clanking noise) but eventually we made it to the north side of the island and banked onshore.
The motor on the boat was killed and Pah-ah-ti hopped out with us to help us ask whether there was any accommodations available there. Being low season there too however, all the accommodations were closed and we were directed to go to the east side of the island to Coco Lodge. Back in the boat we went, however when the engine went to start, well, it didn’t… The brothers fussed over it for 10-15 minutes (mostly by simply hitting the side of the motor with a wrench) until deciding there was something very wrong with the engine and that they would need a mechanic. Thankfully the engine died when on land and not in the middle of the ocean when the odd noises started coming from it! And thankfully it was low tide at the time, so Pah-ah-ti, Anna and myself were able to walk (with bags in tow) around the edges of the island, through the sea gypsy village and over to Coco’s Lodge.
Pah-ah-ti bid his farewells and headed further into town to get parts for the boat while Anna and I settled into Coco Lodge. Now, throughout my travels in Thailand I had stayed at many very nice and cozy places that were also very cheap . But none had even come close to the quaintness, comfort, style and class that we found at Coco’s Lodge. The owner and his wife were unbelievably accommodating and the individual bamboo huts were immaculate and very comfortable.
I’m going to have to side track for a bit here just to further sing the praises of Coco’s Lodge. The location (right on the beach and a 5 minute walk to the pier) was superb. The food in their restaurant was absolutely delicious (from the massaman curry to the fruit pancakes for breakfast). When it rained (which was quite often during our time there) the owner or his wife would come around to the bungalows and offer us umbrellas. A cleaning staff cleaned our room EVERY DAY (something I hadn’t encountered anywhere else in Thailand). All palm trees located above each bungalow were completely bare of coconuts, so none could fall on the roofs! The beds were the most comfortable I’d ever slept on. The rooms themselves had touches of personal details (like seashells lovingly placed in the bathrooms as decoration) that made the place feel like home. The ever-increasing number of dogs that decided to live there during our stay were all friendly and lovable and while none actually belonged to the place, they would still give them food scraps from left over dishes. Any time Anna and I were chilling for a long period of time in the restaurant after eating (due to adverse weather and not much else to do) board and card games were offered to us for entertainment. In other words, just about anything and everything one could imagine needing in a place was offered there! And all of this hospitality came at only 500 baht per night!! It blew me away! I 100% recommend Coco’s Lodge for anyone looking to travel to Koh Muk!!
Moving on however, the main reason Anna and I picked Koh Muk as our next island stay was so we could visit the famed Emerald cave. Though we stayed on the island for the remaining time that Anna was able to visit (then I stayed on myself for another several days after she departed for Scotland) we never actually made it to the Emerald cave. This was NOT because we were too drunk or hung over to, but rather because the weather never cooperated and none of the tours were running there. See, to get to the Emerald cave, the tides have to be just right (low) and then you have to swim with a guide 80 meters through a cave until you reach the other end (the Emerald lake). So with all the stormy weather we had daily, even with the tides being low, it just wasn’t safe to swim through the cave and visit the lake… Or perhaps lagoon would be a better description? In any event, we did still enjoy our time there walking the island to the various points, enjoying cocktails on the beach (of course!) or just chilling at our bungalow, playing games and hanging with the dogs.
The island itself I will say was quite a conundrum. It too had been hit by a tsunami years ago and while some parts of the island had recovered nicely, other more inland parts were very shabby and trashy. One sea village a bit inland in particular had feet upon feet of trash piled under the homes (luckily on stilts) with seemingly no efforts or cares to clean up. I will admit when we first arrived on the island, neither myself nor Anna were really sure we liked the place. But alas, it grew on us. And while we still marveled as to why no efforts were put (in some areas) into cleaning the place up, I guess it just became part of the character of the island that eventually you just overlook. Last point, about Koh Muk: the beaches weren’t really all that to write home about. This may have been due to the bad weather stirring up the ocean waters so they didn’t look clear, but also there were some areas where there were warnings about strong currents. So needless to say not much swimming was really enjoyed while there. Oh yea, and while there aren’t ANY ATMs on the island, there is one coffee shop that will allow you to withdraw money for a 7% (or maybe it was 10…) fee. So just be sure you bring enough cash for your stay there!!
Sadly, it was time for Anna to get back on to mainland Thailand and head to Bangkok to get home, while I stayed on several more days catching up on blogging about our trip so far. My next destination: Ko Lipe!
P.S. As some may notice, most all pictures were taken on one of the ONLY sunny days there, lol!