Before leaving Bangkok to head out to some new countries and before returning stateside, we decided to explore some Thai islands that had been making a buzz in recent years — Koh Ngai and Koh Mook (also spelled Koh Muk).
Koh Ngai and Koh Mook are islands off the beaten backpacker trail. Both islands are perfect if you are looking for a quiet, remote, and romantic getaway. We could especially feel the isolation when we were traveling in early August as it was low season. This almost gave us both islands to ourselves. However, the other thing that low season can bring: Monsoons.
The day before we boarded our flight from Bangkok to Krabi where we would then take a long tail boat to Koh Ngai, we received the following message:
Dear Peter Fotheringham,
We are looking forward to see you tomorrow:) Anyhow, our
team’s checked a weather forecast and found that there is an
opportunity to have a monsoon in this area during 5-10 Aug.
But, as usual we don’t know if the forecast is right. At the
moment, the weather on the island is good, a bit cloudy, but
no rain, no wind
So with this is of situation, what we can plan for you are as
Tomorrow: we will send a driver to waiting for you at the airport.
Plan 1. If the weather is good, then he will drive you to the pier, take
a longtail boat to Koh Ngai as an original plan.
Plan 2. If the weather is not good and seem like boat can not run the
whole day. You can discuss with a driver if you want him help you to find
a hotel in Trang. Or if you want to go to stay somewhere on the beach
instead: Pakmeng beach or even Krabi, let’s discuss with a driver.
Peter and I weren’t sure what to expect when we landed but we kept our spirits positive. At the airport I also took a quiet moment to say a prayer for good weather with Ronald McDonald.
We landed in Krabi where we were greeted by our driver and taken to the pier. The weather was holding up!
We loaded our things on to the long tail boat (pictured below) and away we went. Piece of cake. Sun was shining down on our faces.
That’s the funny thing about monsoons — they come out of nowhere.
So the pep in our step, the smile on our faces — soon went away. Within about 20 minutes the rain came and it came hard. With that came pretty hefty waves. I have a fear of waves and drowning so this was basically like living out my worst nightmare in real life. People have asked if I ever felt scared while traveling — aside from a 7 foot tall Afrikaner grabbing my behind — this was it.
Water was coming at us from all sides over our little wooden boat in an angry sea.
I kept envisioning a wave hitting us and flipping the boat over. We would collide with a wave and the front of the boat would go up and then come crashing down with a big thud. This would cause me to fly out of my seat while I simultaneously gave out a muffled yelp. I was literally terrified. Other times the boat driver would allow the wave to hit us from the side flooding the boat which thankfully is porous enough for the water to easily drain out.
Usually I don’t get too shaken by things, but this time I couldn’t hide my fear. All Peter had to do was look at my eyes. This in turn of course stressed Peter out who kept trying to calm me and give me suggestions, such as “look out into the horizon.” As if seeing the wave approaching would be better than closing me eyes while white knuckling it in my seat. Neither worked. Neither approach calmed me down. At one point it all became so surreal that I actually thought I was in one of my nightmare dreams of drowning. The physical shaking of my body told me otherwise. For the next 40 minutes all I could do was bear down (like an Arizona Wildcat) and take it. Koh Ngai in the distance continued to get bigger and bigger until we were finally there.
Peter tried to tell me it wasn’t that bad but when we got to shore the lady who greeted us seemed very concerned. I informed her that what we just did — crossing the Andaman Sea — was “scary and dangerous.” She replied, “yes yes scary and dangerous.” Peter defended his position by explaining to me that she didn’t understand what I was saying because she didn’t speak English. He and I decided to agree to disagree on our individual perceptions on what just occurred. Either way you can’t fake that kind of fear.
Update: After bringing up this story to Peter after I blogged about it. He admitted, “No that was really scary. I was worried that we might face the same situation a few days later so I needed to be nonchalant about it.” Sometimes you never know what your significant other has going on in his mind. Peter is always a few steps ahead with his strategic mind.
We checked in and got settled in our room at Coco Cottage. We were two of about eight guests on the entire island.
The next couple days we covered the bases as you do on a remote island. We relaxed, ate a ton of Thai food, read, watched movies, and unwound. I needed to after the near-death boat ride.
Koh Ngai offers a long strip of white sand beach with limestone cliffs and sparkling sea views. We combed the beach as far as we could go in each direction.
After a couple days on Koh Ngai we were ready to move over to the neighboring island of Koh Mook. Well until this happened.
A monsoon had decided to show up the day we were to take a boat transfer to Koh Mook. Obviously no boats were running with that rainfall. We were stormed in at Koh Ngai. We were leaving for Bangkok in two days so at this point we weren’t sure if we would get there at all. The hotel staff wasn’t exactly up to par as far as an attempt to get us over to Koh Mook. ”No boats go” is all we could get out of them.
We were told that our resort on Koh Ngai would call over to the resort at Koh Mook, where we would be checking into the following morning, to have a boat sent. They seemingly never called so Peter took it upon himself to charter the hotel boat from his cell-phone and pay the roaming fees. Miraculously, they said they would come get us the next morning. None of the fisherman who own boats would drive but the resort at Koh Mook assured Peter they’d be there.
Our boat showed up and we loaded up our things. Then there was a stir amongst some of hotel staff who were shocked that we were able to secure a mode of transport. They wanted to get to the mainland and asked us if they could join our boat. Of course we obliged.
Than there was more stirring amongst some of the guests. The weather was about to turn and we needed to leave very soon to avoid another forming monsoon. We found out that some other guests at a neighboring resort, under the impression that no boats were available this day, wanted to hitch a ride once they saw our rescue boat. We nervously agreed as the small family packed their rooms. It took them about a half hour to pack. The monsoon was brewing even more and the staff on our boat showed signs of worry.
Than, out of nowhere, a French dude covered in tattoos and muscles struts over to the boat, chest puffed up as if he was about to jump into a cage fight and yelled, “Why can we not come with you?” Losing my patience I chimed in, “What do you mean? We’ve been waiting for everyone this whole time and telling everyone to join.” He quipped back, “ok, so now it’s fine?” I was just about to fire back in utter irritation when Peter grabbed my knee and shook his head saying without words that it wasn’t worth it. He was right. We were all lost in translation trying to escape the island. At a painfully slow pace the French dude, his wife and kid loaded their things but not before making a stink about the high-cost of the boat charter we were all sharing.
We made it to Koh Mook!
In the below pictures, chartered boat leaving with thankless Parisians on board. But bonus we landed dry this time.
Since we had been rained in on Koh Ngai we only had one night on Koh Mook. We checked in at the Sivalai Beach Resort and were decidedly pleased with the room and view.
If you are looking for a beach bungalow right on the sand with sea views at a great price, Koh Mook is your answer. The other nice thing about Koh Mook is that it’s a bigger island than Koh Ngai so there’s a bit more variety. The spa services were the first thing we booked.
We did a self-guided walking tour of the island which weaved through traditional Muslim fishing villages. We mazed through the island and witnessed all sorts of men and women doing various work. Some were sorting fish, others working on long tail boats, and some villagers had opened restaurants due to the rise in tourism.
Late afternoon we relaxed back at the resort where we took our last day of islands life at a leisure pace before it was back to the city. Peter spent a lot of time on a hammock.
In the morning skies were essentially clear and we were all set to take off, this time, on a motorized speedboat back to shore. On this excursion there was no excitement whatsoever (no monsoon or tatted angry man) which I was relieved and grateful for.
Up next: Back to Bangkok, quick work trip to Manila, then off to Japan. I couldn’t wait for our adventure in Japan. I had a feeling I was going to love it.
Much love and safety to you all. xoxo