Before leaving Thailand for good, we craved a little more beach time; a beach all to ourselves. Does such a place even exist anymore? It does, providing you’re willing to give up a few creature comforts, such as electricity and espresso machines. And in some cases, hire expensive longboats to take you on scouting missions. Our paradise was found on the island of Tarutao. (This should be the last of our paradise-gushing posts for a while now.)
Koh Tarutao is in the region of Thailand known as the Deep South. The Deep South is primarily Muslim and has a distinctly different feel than more northern parts of Thailand because of this. There have been some recent clashes between the Muslims and the Buddhists of the South, but not in the province of Satun, which is where we were. (Don’t worry moms!) The island is the largest out of a 51 island archipelago comprising the Tarutao National Marine Park.
Our jumping off point was from the pier in Pak Bara, on the mainland. The pier was a zoo with tons of tourists and people asking you ‘where are you going?’, trying to sell tickets to the islands. It reminded me of how much fun, in a challenging way, this kind of travel chaos can be. The tourist trails are so well beaten throughout Thailand that you sometimes feel like cattle being shuffled along from one field to the next.
We bought the cheapest tickets we could find, on a ferry boat. The ferry boat turned out to be a cargo boat hired to transport ice, Beer Chang and Coca Cola to the resorts on the island of Lipe, which lies beyond Tarutao. We were the only passengers on the boat, making it feel like our own private cruise. After two glorious hours with wind in our hair and sun burning our skin, we arrived.
The boat dropped us off at the visitor’s centre where we ran into quite a few Thai tourists out on a day trip. It was a Thai national holiday. No one, except for the park rangers and their families, lives on the island and there is no private development, just camping and park-issued bungalows. They’re trying hard to maintain a sustainable level of tourism and the integrity of the land, which is refreshing to see after visiting places like Raileh where overdevelopment is starting to take it’s toll. We had planned on renting a tent to pitch on a beach but instead opted for one of the bungalows tucked away in a remote bay, Molae Bay.
Our bungalow was one of the best we’ve stayed in yet. And the beach was by far the best we’ve set foot on with soft, squeaky white sand. We even had a little restaurant serving up some tasty thai dishes. This place was off-the-hook! I’ll let the photos do the talking.
The beach we were staying on was incredibly quiet. All you could hear were the sounds of the waves gently crashing on the beach and wind blowing through the palm leaves. Most of the time we were the only ones on it. Our beach felt busy, however, in contrast to some of the neighbouring bays’. These we had all to ourselves, with the exception of the odd eagle flying overhead. The island is teeming with wildlife. We saw dusky langurs, which are black haired monkeys with white faces and mohawks, wild pigs, hornbills, lizards, eagles, and crab-eating macaque monkeys. Every evening, dozens of macaques would flow out from the forest and onto our bungalow beach to hunt crabs, which were abundant. I’m not sure how successful they were at the hunt, however, because we mostly just saw them playing with coconuts and sifting through the garbage that the tides wash ashore. They were scavenging. One bold little monkey reached into our open bungalow window and stole a loaf of bread we had with us.
All would have been perfect and we would have stayed a bit longer if only Mark and I could develop a better tolerance for heat. At night we had no electricity, which meant no fan to keep us cool. Our bungalow was made of concrete and so retained a lot of the heat absorbed during the day, making the inside of our bungalow feel like an oven. Most of our sleeping was done during the day. It’s great they shut down the generators but man, it was HOT! Alas, it was a wonderfully worthy destination and a great way to end our stay in Thailand. We didn’t anticipate spending as much time as we did in Thailand, it just happened to work out this way. It’s a beautiful and incredibly varied country. Sure there are a gazillion tourists, but they come for good reason. And it’s nice to know now that there are places, like Tarutao, you can go to escape some of them.