Thailand’s always been a backpacker’s dream. Wonderful, friendly people with smiles on their faces selling deliciously cheap street food amongst gorgeous scenery is a winning combination. Twenty years ago, a few simple beach huts adorned the coastlines of the little-known islands of Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui. Inside each £1-a-night hut was a person looking for an escape from the Western world. And boy, had they found it.
Fast forward to 2014, and the once-paradisical islands loved by those early backpackers are now no longer the secret they once were – and while these islands make a great base for first-time travellers, there’s so much more on offer than the traditional Full Moon Party and cheap whisky buckets. Here we share 5 hidden Thai islands, but shh! Don’t tell too many people, OK?
This little island, located near Malaysia’s Langkawai, is home to around 500 Sea Gypsies. The island is so small it doesn’t even show on Google Maps. There are no cars, it has few street lights (take a torch) and you can walk around it in about an hour. Head on over to Pooh’s for cocktails and movies on traditional Thai mats. If you don’t mind splashing out (by Thai standards) on a wooden stilt bungalow complete with hammock, you need to stay at Castaway. Each room faces a white sand beach, and the chef at the bar knocks up amazing Thai food. There are no ATMs on the island, and only one boat a day runs during low season. A few bars have dance music playing, but it’s lights out at 11pm.
Koh Bulon Leh
If the quiet calm of Koh Lipe is still too much for you, then take a speedboat over to Koh Bulon Leh and spend your days trekking through the jungle, snorkelling in the crystal clear waters and snoozing on the beach. You’ll be dropped off at a resort (a longtail boat will transport you from the speedboat to the shore as there isn’t a pier) but there are a few other places to stay with better rates and bungalows, so have a wander around and see what’s on offer. Walk-in prices generally depend on demand at the time, so try to haggle for the best price. It’s a long way off development of any kind, so all touring must be done on foot. You’ll need mozzie spray, and watch out for snakes in the grass!
If you’re more of a people person, then Koh Jum is a good alternative. Located next to Koh Lanta, which can easily be accessed by boat from Koh Phi Phi, the island has around 1,500 people living in a few colourful villages. It really isn’t a party town, and locals aren’t keen on foreigners being drunk and rowdy. The island has only had electricity for four or five years, so it’s still worlds away from the bright lights of Phuket. For an island, food is quite cheap (you’ll pay mainland prices for noodles) although again, there are no taxis. You can hire bikes, but be so, so careful on the roads! They’re treacherous to say the least. If you want to get around, look out for the tandem bikes who will take you to where you need to be. This island is perfect for people watching, but it’s one of those places to see before widespread development kicks in.
Koh Kood/ Kud
Moving east is Koh Kood. Situated right next to Cambodia, you can get to the island from Trat (there nothing to see here unless you like dirty markets) on the mainland or Koh Chang, a popular Thai tourist destination. Either way, it’ll take you about two hours. Similar to Ko Lipe, there isn’t really a village or any shops, and there aren’t taxis, but you can hire a motorbike for about £5 a day. This is the kind of place you go to relax on the white sand beaches with a good book and a bottle of Chang. Following the theme, there are no banks or ATMs on the island, and power regularly cuts out. Internet is hit-and-miss, but who cares about keeping up with the news when you’ve got such amazing views?