People travel for all sorts of different reasons. Some love the beaches, others the jungles, others still the cities. Grab three island lovers, and you’ll probably get three different islands. With this in mind, before I started writing this piece, I asked the kids what they loved the most about Ko Kradan.
Will immediately blurted out “snorkelling off that reef on the last day,” but then caught himself, “no wait, the Italian food!” Lyla meanwhile thought for a minute and then said “the Thai iced tea.” Walking stomachs I tell you. Me? I liked the sunsets off the back beach where it felt like the horizon was a thousand miles away.
Will on Ko Kradan…
All this from such a small island.
Legal issues aside, in the meantime they’ve leased land to resorts along the beach. The National Park campground is around to the south—out of sight—and out of mind for most.
“Why can’t we stay on the beach Dad?” Photo: Stuart McDonald.
We’re headed to Paradise Lost, a hidden away spot in the jungle in the centre of the island. Set up by an American sailor Wally Sanger, he moored at Kradan and, well, never left. Wally sadly passed away in 2015, but the resort is still running. We settle into a large two bedroom “family bungalow” that has seen better days, but the kids adapt.
They are a bit put out we’re not on the beach, but we’re on a budget! On the upside, while the beach resorts are busy, Paradise Lost is pretty sleepy and there is a large lawn to toss a ball on.
Home for a spell. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Best of all, by being in the middle of the island, we’re a short walk from all three of the main beaches. The house beach, the back beach and a third, hidden beach to the south. A bevy of choices—though they’re still not convinced.
I convince them on our first full day. First, in the late afternoon, once the day–trippers have bailed, we take a five minute stroll to the house beach. This is your classic Thai yellow– to white–sand beach. The sand squeaks underfoot and the water is a glassy turquoise. The reef is smashed up, but it is fine for floating and tossing a ball. As the sun starts to sink, bulbous Ko Muk glows in the distance.
Bloody awful. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Later we walk back, past Paradise Lost, and over the hill to the sunset side. Monitor lizards scamper out of the way, birds sing overhead. It is warm in the jungle, but not unpleasant, and then we reach the tumble down trail to the golden sand back beach.
Before we tumble, we follow a side–trail to the south that brings us to a small viewing platform. The sun is sinking, Ko Rok is in the distance, a couple of trawlers chug past. “Wow!” the kids exclaim.
We make our way down to the sand, the sun is low, that 30 minutes of magic light, when the grainy sand is like molten gold. We throw ourselves into the warm water. There’s only a handful of others on the beach, we float and jump off boulders. It is a great way to wrap up a day.
The back beach. No complaints. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Another afternoon, we take the other jungle trail through to Ao Nieang. It is a longer walk, with a rougher trail. More trees, more birds, more lizards—and more huffing and puffing.
The pretty bay is home to the simple Ao Nieang Resort—the only true backpacker spot remaining on the island. Friendly and family run, we chat to the few other guests. They say the rooms are “so so” but then they gesture to the bay—nobody is complaining much.
Will and I grab some snorkelling gear and swim out to the reef. It is perhaps fifty metres offshore to a great drop–off. A gentle current pulls us through the deep crystal water, along the face of the reef. Soft corals wave, bright blue and green fish dart out, huge schools of minuscule silver fish swarm us.
Guess who didn’t wear sunscreen. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Will is a confident snorkeller, and we take turns diving down. The sun is getting low and we look for lion fish in the shadows, lobsters and morays. As we float, the current picks up, and we leave it ten minutes too long before swimming back. By the time we’re back in the shallows, I’m exhausted. We almost got a free trip to Ko Rok!
We walk back to the guesthouse and order a simple Thai meal. Ko Kradan isn’t known for having affordable anything, but by the standards for the island, the food is decent, and it comes with a smile. We eat as the sun sinks, then make our way back along the jungle trail to Paradise Lost as night falls.
The outlook from the bungalow restaurant at Ao Nieang. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
The house beach, while beautiful, gets busy through the day with day trippers, so we avoid it middayish. Around the corner to the south though, the crowds fade and the beauty ramps up. Even finer almost white sand runs out into shallows, while old hammocks hang on low shade tree branches. I swing while the kids swim. We build sand castles, dams and lakes. We create miniature sand empires populated by hermit crabs. The sunburn factor is high.
Later, we walk back around to the house beach. Some of the resorts are Italian run and the food is fit for an Italian. To Will, this is heaven. Prices are almost Bangkok–level, but so is the quality. I’m glad this is our last night on Kradan as the kids would bankrupt me demanding to eat here day in day out.
Someone is up on the idea of Italian food. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Then it is back down the forest trail to a last night surrounded by the jungle and howling birds at Paradise Lost.
Next Tuesday: A new day, a new island.