While all of our island hopping so far has been short hops from island to island, our last is a long jaunt north, to Ko Ngai. It is a last minute addition as I’m not keen on hitting Ko Lipe, and it will give us a convenient out back to Trang for the train to Bangkok.
Lyla and Will’s take on exploring Thailand’s Southwest islands.
In the past for a long hop like this, you’d return to the mainland and get a bus from Satun north to Trang and head back out. More recently speedboats connect islands as far south as Langkawi all the way to Phuket. It is a more expensive manner of travelling, but it beats the bus. Or so I think.
Missed the earlier entries?
A longtail takes us from Bulon Lae’s School Beach to a back bay where we lay in wait for the speedboat north. It arrives perhaps fifteen minutes later, we pile aboard, and it is jammed full. I’m no fan of speedboats—the drivers tend to veer too far towards maniacs for my liking—but the kids are not bothered. The engines power up and we’re off. Yes, we have a maniac.
Like his father, Will can sleep anywhere. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Boom boom boom boooooom, the boat goes as we bang our way through moderate seas heading north. Spray washes in as we’re flung left and right. In theory it is a two hour trip north, but it feels longer. The kids watch Ko Lao Liang and Sukorn sail past, then doze off—I guess the banging of the hull dulls their senses.
We stop at Ko Kradan and Ko Muk dropping off and picking up passengers, then, finally pull to offshore from Ko Ngai. The triangular island’s primary beach is east–facing and we stop at Ko Ma, a stone outcrop about 150 metres offshore. There we float. And float.
There are worse places to be stranded I guess. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Another speedboat arrives. A longtail comes out from the beach and ferries passengers in from that boat. We continue to float.
Passengers start asking what is going on and our captain stops being able to speak English. We keep floating. Thirty minutes after the second speedboat has left we’re still floating. Passengers, increasingly irritated, ask him what is going on. “No English” is all he says. We keep floating.
We made it! Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Still floating. A couple who are heading to Phuket are freaking out about missing a flight connection. Their pleas go unanswered. My kids are bored, but not fussed.
An hour and a half.
A longtail starts heading out towards us, and forty minutes later we’re on the sand. No explanation.
Like I said, I hate speedboats.
The house beach is reasonable. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Like nearby Ko Kradan, Ko Ngai is a tourist island. There is no real village to speak of—it is just pricey resorts and over–priced beach–bars. The beaches though—both the east–facing and the better southern one, are solid.
Our digs are peach coloured cinder–boxes, inexplicably built facing one another rather than looking to the sea. It was though the cheapest place I could find and there is room for a hammock. There’s a large lawn area, a massage sala sits by the sea, and a rope swing keep the kids entertained. It could be worse.
More hardship. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
After lunch I set both the kids up for a one hour massage while I walk off to survey the accommodation. Lyla needs no convincing, but Will requires more. He relents finally when I say he can read a book while getting a rubdown. When I return an hour later he’s out cold and Lyla is angling for a manicure. Genetics are strong I tell you.
Massage sorted, we wade out to the house reef. In close it is all banged up, but the drop off is ok and the kids are well satisfied with the soft corals and parrotfish. We drift around for an hour or so as the sun sinks.
Grazing. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
As dusk we walk down to a fall–down backpacker shack. The Light My Fire Society has a clutch of basic—and I mean basic—wood and bamboo beach shacks for 500 baht a night. That’s Ko Ngai pricing for you. The host though is a friendly, older local guy who makes for good company while the kids muck around on a bamboo platform he’s anchored just offshore.
It is about a kilometre back to our digs, and after dinner and drinks we walk along the beach in the dark. Fairy lights strung on trees lead the way. It is a pleasant enough spot, but the prices are killing me. Despite its proximity to the mainland, Ko Ngai has always been an overpriced island, and I’m regretting leaving Ko Bulon Lae. The kids are happy though—a small kiosk by the restaurant sells ice cream.
A shack with a view. At the Light My Fire Society. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
The next day, we take the jungle trail over the hill to the south–facing beach. This is the beach with the offshore reef we visited on a snorkelling trip from Ko Muk, but this time we have a lazy day in the sand and shallows. There are a couple of average resorts here, but when the day tripper boats are gone we have much of it to ourselves. It makes for a relaxed last day on Thailand’s Southwest Islands.
The next morning comes and it is time for the trip wrap up. We linger as long as we can, splurging on a chartered longtail back to the mainland. Because of the tide, the resort staff ferry us out to the boat by kayak—it feels like the perfect way to wrap up the trip.
Sad face. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
Back on the mainland, we cool our heels in a cafe near Trang train station and before we know it are on a night train to Bangkok. We have about 48 hours in the Thai capital before our flight back to Bali. Three weeks on the islands with kids goes fast. I hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did.