Tezza's Thai Islands and Beaches Travel Bits
May 20, 2006
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Ko Ngai (Hai) is one of the Trang Islands, and is about 15 km south of Ko Lanta and less than 10km northwest of Ko Muk. It is fairly small, hilly, rain forested, has some walking trails and a handfull of nice beaches. The main one faces east, is about 3 km long and contains about half a dozen resorts. Most of these are midrange, but there are some budget options.
KOH HAI VILLA is fairly central on the beach and has some pretty nice more expensive bungalows, but in March they were offering some of their older fan bungalows for 300 baht. This is what I said on travelfish:
“- wood and bamboo-thatch, tin roof, clean and in good condition, with attached bathroom, nice verandah, comfy double bed, insect screens (but a fairly big gap at the door bottom), a big mirror BUT NOT in the bathroom (another guest told me her 300 on the other side of the restaurant had no mirror at all and no wash basin), good powerful lights for reading, including the verandah. This was another cheapie supplying towels, soap and toilet paper. There was plenty of room inside for two and their gear without being enormous.
"It was set in a reasonable garden setting - I noticed a staff girl doing a great job of raking the ground area around a vacated adjacent bungalow yet there was a fair bit of small rubbish around mine until I spent 3 minutes cleaning it up.
"The restaurant is open plan on the beachfront with great views of adjacent karst islets, Ko Muk to the south and the similarly rugged mainland. Staff are described as “grumpy” in that best selling guidebook, but I found them friendly enough and the service quite good. Food was quite nice, however food and beverage prices tended towards the higher end of my dozen or so bungalow stays this trip. 100 for a large Chang, 90 for a green curry before rice and 120 for a club sandwich - ouch!. Note that several much cheaper places food wise on my trip were even further from the mainland and had to also bring their stuff in by longtail. Speaking of longtails, Ko Hai Villa’s is a wet one, chucking plenty of spray at the passengers even in a very calm sea.
"The beachfront has a fair few easy seats and lie-lows, plus plenty of shade from mid-day on, and naturally has the same excellent views. There was a small attractive beach bar alongside the restaurant which played cool but not loud music early evening. Swimming is good, except for a few hours around lowest tide when the rocky bottom is exposed right to the fringing reef about 70m out. But it is still attractive with a wide expanse of sand except at highest tide when a fairly small strip is left. Snorkelling along the fringing reef is reasonably good with some fair coral and fish life. There are about 5 other resorts spread out along this 3 km and so there is plenty of untouched rainforest going right down to the sand adjacent to the resorts.”
All the other resorts on this beach seemed a step up in luxury from Hai Villa, except for KOH HAI SEAFOOD - here you have simple tents with a thatched sun/rain shelter overhead. The restaurant is a bit cheaper than Hai Villa, the food good, but be vigilant when the bill arrives.
KOH HAI FANTASY is between the above two and is pretty flash. I was surprised by the high occupancy compared to the other resorts - perhaps they have some package deal going. They also have two nasty dogs that bail up outsiders walking the beach. Bungalow operators don’t like it when you sort out their dogs. The Brit manager gave me that familiar line: “Oi, those dogs were only playing!” I flashed him a cheesy. “No worries Nigel, I just joined the game”.
To the north of Hai Villa are 3 other places - of these COCO HUTS looked most appealing to me. There was a big new place built up the headland at the far end, but the beach here was suffering pretty badly from erosion.
There is also a Seafood Restaurant and Bar between Hai Villa and Fantasy. This caters for daytrippers from Muk, Pak Meng and Lanta plus in the evening people like me looking for an alternative - but prices were the same or higher than Hai Villa. Food was good.
All by its own on a small separate beach at the southern end of the island is KOH NGAI RESORT. This looked rather nice and seemed as luxurious as Fantasy, but I think the prices are considerably lower. You can reach this from the main eastern beach in about 10 minutes by a track just above the rocks. There is another jungle track which I will mention in “trekking”.
Also on its own* on a bigger and very nice western beach is PARADISE BEACH RESORT. The owner told me he had some 300 baht bungalows, and none of the bungalows here appeared to be dumps, although more basic than Fantasy, Ngai Resort and Coco Huts.
Trekking There are some fairly short but good rainforest walking trails on the island. Hai Villa did not have a map, but fortunately my walking friend managed to get one from reception at Ngai Resort.
From the main eastern beach the track starts alongside Ko Hai Seafood and goes steeply up the hillside fairly close to the higher bungalows of Fantasy.
Just past the crest is a junction - if you take the left path you head further uphill and then down to Ngai Resort in 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, if you go straight ahead you move downhill (5 minutes) to another junction - to the left is a 5-10 minute walk to a deserted little bay with a nice beach - Ao Mung (sp?). It is possible to climb over the headland at the southern end of this bay to Paradise Beach, but this does require a certain amount of bush bashing.
Alternatively, if you go straight ahead at the aforementioned junction, you will reach Paradise Beach in 10-15 minutes. This is a nice place to have a swim and snorkel, although the fringing reef was about 150m out when I looked for it at high tide. The beers in Paradise Beach Resort’s restaurants are nice and cold.
At the northern end of Paradise Beach there is a track which goes up through the National Park headquarters area and then continues up a hill to twin viewpoints where you get a nice look at the northern west coast of the island and Ko Lanta in the distance. You are talking maybe 15 minutes from the beach, a few short steep pinches.
Excursions The usual Trang island long tail trips are available - Hai Villa had snorkeling around the small karst islets to the southeast plus a visit to Ko Muk’s fabulous Emerald Cave for 500 baht. I found the snorkeling pretty good by Thai standards and the Cave involves a swim up a flooded tunnel to a cave where the roof has collapsed to form a cliff ringed lagoon, complete with small beach, rain-forested sides and emerald water from the limestone content. Or reflection. Or something. There is also a trip to distant Ko Kradan - more expensive at 1000 baht by memory. I haven’t done this, but Kradan is supposed to be the most beautiful of the Trang islands.
Access There is no village on the island so access is by each resort’s boat from Pak Meng. Hai Villa’s boat leaves at 11.30 and cost 250 baht - around 30 minutes. You can always charter your own long tail at considerable expense at other times.
From Trang there are hourly minibuses to Pak Meng for 150 baht. The trip takes maybe an hour.
There is also a small fast ferry connecting Ngai with Ban Sala Dan on Ko Lanta, at least in the high season.**. I’m not sure if this is Koh Ngai Resort’s boat picking up at the other resorts along the east beach or one of the big daytrip boats out of Lanta. Price in March was 400 baht. It heads to Lanta about 2pm but I don’t know what time in the morning it does the reverse trip.
* Well there is no other bungalow place on Paradise Beach, but as I approached on the hiking track I could hear the unmistakable thumping of da big sub-wooffa. And there, set up about 400m south of Paradise Resort was a section of tents, with a collection of early 20s Thais and Farangs, dance music from the sound system and even at 11 in the morning, a few of them bopping! Jeez, too bad if you went to the Resort for some peace and quiet. Although that probably depends on how late they rage. I mean they probably cut the music after 9pm, right?
Actually it’s a bit of a concern. Nice reserved Thai girls can are unlikely to be swayed by any smooth talking farang blokes. But I worry a bit about poor innocent young Thai guys around typical hell raising western female travellers. I mean, I’m a super fit guy of considerable experience, yet I always drag myself home from a trip shredded physically and mentally. And I don’t want any of you smart marthas saying that’s because I’m always falling off my bicycle and have trouble converting 25 baht to the Aussie dollar. Although I admit that last one is a toughy.
** I’m not sure which resorts stay open in the low season, but those on the main eastern mountain-backed beach would be nicely sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds, unlike the resorts on Lanta, Farang Beach Ko Muk and most other Andaman coast locations.
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