Thailand: Koh Kradan and Koh Libong

After five big nights on Phi Phi, I crawled to the port to catch my ferry to my next destination: Koh Kradan. This post is a bit of a one-off in that I was lucky enough to be treated to a week’s holiday by my parents who came out to meet me, so I don’t have quite so many backpacker-friendly tips! Instead, I’ve popped the two destinations I visited with my family together in one post, and tried to do a little research to make it a tad more useful to anyone who’s actually paying their own way… Whether you go for these two islands or some of the others, the Trang archipelago is definitely worth a visit – beautiful, diverse, and a lot less busy than the more popular islands further north.

I picked myself up some hangover-absorbing hash browns from McDonald’s for breakfast (a little bit of me died writing that sentence in a travel context!) and headed for the pier. My route to Kradan consisted of an hour’s ferry over to Koh Lanta, then stepping straight off the ferry onto a speedboat which took me to our rendezvous point – all booked through the Hi-Speed Ferry company, which also serves Koh Ngai and Koh Muk. Again I’d definitely urge you to do a bit of shopping around when booking a ferry from Phi Phi to any destination; there are many little agencies and stalls selling the same route so there’s some price competition – I was quoted between 1100฿ and 1850฿ for my journey, which is a fairly considerable difference.

I arrived on Kradan and splashed off the boat, walking up the beach to my hotel. The island is something of a tiny speck of land, but very beautiful – like a picture postcard. Clear-as-crystal blue sea, soft white sand and palm trees swaying in the breeze. I arrived about half an hour before my parents and younger brother, Will, and was shown to our very nice room in the meantime – I particularly enjoyed the half open-air bathroom! We were staying at the swish Andaman Sevenseas Resort, which would have cleared out my whole backpacker budget for Thailand in one night – not a backpacker option! Kradan is quite a quiet destination but I did spot a few other backpackers – a quick look suggests that Paradise Lost would be an affordable option at around 300฿ a night if you’re keen to stay on Kradan rather than just visit on a day trip.

Postcard-perfect Kradan Beach

After I’d checked in I went back down to reception to wait for the family, and once we’d been reunited, we headed to the poolside restaurant for some lunch and a celebratory beer. We spent the afternoon catching up, wandering along the beach and going for a dip in the sea, before having a glorious first dinner of blue marlin – the fresh catch of the day, which was delicious.

Blue marlin – perhaps the best dinner of my whole trip!

We started the next day with a very generous helping of the various goodies on offer at the breakfast buffet, before walking as far as we could get down the beach in both directions from our hotel. Beyond the resorts the island was very quiet, and we picked our way through the rock pools along the shore until we couldn’t reach any further. The island gets quite busy for a few hours from mid-morning with snorkel tour boats (there are numerous tours which include a visit to Kradan on offer from Lanta and Muk), so we bypassed the groups having their beach lunches, and having had a very taxing morning of beach walking, we stopped for a beer at a quiet place at the end of Kradan Beach.

A quick beer after a tough morning

We traipsed the hard slog back to the hotel for lunch and spent a similarly tiring afternoon reading and basking in the sun before Dad, Will and I went and rented out some snorkels. Kradan is supposed to be the best island in the Trang archipelago for snorkelling (hence the daily influx of snorkel tours), but we didn’t have the best of conditions: the wind had got up so the water was quite choppy, combined with the tide being out and the sea very shallow. Still, a few lungfuls of water didn’t stop us having a good go at it, and where the shallow sandbank drops suddenly into deep water, there’s a reef with a lot of life. A man at our hotel had actually trodden on a stingray the day before we arrived (ouch), so whilst I wasn’t keen on getting quite so closely acquainted with one, I wanted to see a ray. Sadly this didn’t happen; due to the waves the sea wasn’t all that clear, but we did see an array of different brightly coloured fish.

Snorkelling on Kradan

Another marvellous meal down and further inroads made into the cocktail menu, I retired for another close-to-12 hour sleep as the Phi Phi recovery continued!

The next morning, Dad and I headed out for snorkel round two in the hope for better conditions as it was our last day on Kradan. It was much easier getting out in high tide but the sea was still pretty choppy, so sadly we didn’t see much more than we had the previous afternoon. Still, we enjoyed following the schools of fish along the reef, spotting a number of species that appear in Finding Nemo. Can’t be called an unproductive morning, then!

Angel fish

Another afternoon was spent by beach and pool, Will working on his goal of ‘getting an absolutely sick tan’, and as sunset approached we peeled ourselves off our beach towels and went for a walk. There are only two paths that allow you to cross from one side of the island to the other, and as most of the resorts are on the east coast, it’s a popular choice for people to amble over to the aptly named Sunset Beach in the evening. It was an easy but pretty walk through jungle to the west side, where we were greeted with a cloudy sky (so no striking sunset), but the beach was very picturesque. It’s much more rugged than the other side, with jagged cliffs meeting lush green trees right down onto the sand. Very Paradise Lost.

Will on Sunset Beach

We walked back, picking our way through the jungle on the alternative path, popping out on a different section of Kradan Beach. We sidled back to the pool bar, enjoying a few more unsampled sundowners from the happy hour cocktail menu before showering and heading down for our last Kradan supper. Another delicious meal – and free brownie for dessert, which can’t be sniffed at! Adjusting to backpacker budget food again might be a challenge…

Mum on our walk through the Kradan jungle

The next morning, we had our fill of the delicious breakfast buffet (I’ll miss the pancake and waffle station in particular) before packing our bags and heading down to the beach for the speedboat to the next destination: Koh Libong. True to the relaxed attitude towards schedules that I’ve got used to in Asia, our boat was an hour late, but we boarded and set off. We stopped off at Koh Muk before being turfed off at a tiny pier, Hat Yao, on the mainland and herded onto a longtail for a very noisy last leg over to Libong. There, we were met by the open-sided trucks I’ve got used to as a pick-up service and we drove along the island’s one road to the other side, where another lovely resort was waiting for us. Our accommodation on Libong was the similarly backpacker budget-unfriendly Andalay Beach Resort, but the Libong Island Tourism Homestay would be a good alternative option.

We took our bags to our delightful villas, and headed to the restaurant to check out the menu for lunch. Sigh, it was to be another tough four days of delicious food. A smorgasbord of tasty titbits down, we spent a few hours soaking up the sun on our terraces (posh!) before going on a walk to explore the length of the beach in front of the hotel. We walked past a local fishing community and some fishermen repairing their boats at low tide; it had a very different feel to the beach on Kradan. We ambled back towards a sunset gin & tonic and another yummy dinner.

Sundowners on Libong beach

The next morning, we chowed down on omelettes and Thai roti pancakes for breakfast and then headed out for a bit of kayaking. There’s an island perhaps half a kilometre off the beach in front of the resort, which at low tide is fully walkable, but at high tide, made a nice kayaking loop. We set off in two doubles, splashing into some sort of coordinated rhythm towards the island (which we all thought looks a bit like a hedgehog). Up close, the island looked like a real paradise lost desert island, wild and green and beautiful, surrounded by clear blue seas. We didn’t see much wildlife in the sea but it was a nice paddle. We kayaked round the island and back towards the beach, though we veered off further down it to explore a little more and have a dip in the sea before returning to the resort. It was a good morning – and the mild exercise gave us an excuse for a pre-lunch rum.

Kayaking off Libong

Our kayaking trip was followed by an afternoon’s hard work; lunch and sitting by the pool. Dad and Will got some bikes out and cycled down to a nearby fishing village whilst Mum held down the fort in the sun and I caught up on some writing and sorting out some insurance claim medical paperwork. Ugh. In the evening, we walked the other way down the beach and staked out a good sundowner spot; the Dugong Bar with some little wooden tables and a good view of the sunset (uninhibited by hedgehog island). The cocktails weren’t bad either!

Sunset-watching from the Dugong Bar

The following day, we peeled ourselves out of bed slightly earlier for breakfast, ready for a boat trip around the island. About a 10 minute boat ride from our resort is a bay where dugongs come in to feed on sea grass at high tide, so we were keen to go and get a glimpse of them! This is a key draw to Koh Libong. I’d seen some of these funny creatures in Belize in 2014 and was definitely up for the chance of seeing some again.

We hopped on our own little longtail boat and set off towards Point Dugong. Our driver had a walkie talkie which sprung into life every now and again, after which he’d manoeuvre the boat to a different section of water and shut off the engine – we found out afterwards that he had a colleague high up on top of the cliff that overlooks the bay, looking out for dugongs so he could guide the boat towards them. A very well-oiled machine! After about 10 minutes, Mum and I spotted one about 30m away; a whitish grey presence swimming close to the surface. Next, Will drew our attention to one swimming under our boat – this was the closest we got to one, they’re quite elusive creatures! After this, we saw maybe 6 or 7 other animals from further off, seeing or hearing them come up to the surface to breathe and swimming away towards another tasty bed of sea grass. It’s a shame we couldn’t get into the water and snorkel with them as we would have got a better view, but this apparently spooks them.

Assuming the dugong-spotting position

The dugong spotting came to an end as the tide started to recede, and we continued in the same direction round Libong to a small island made up of mangrove trees, which was full of birds for Dad to admire through his many pairs of binoculars (he’s a bit of a birdspotter…) They were quite well camouflaged in that you couldn’t really see them until they moved – so our guide kept clapping his hands to make them up and fly!

Next, we followed the island round past more mangrove inlets and local villages, to a quiet stretch where we were told we were to look at something called the Stone Bridge. Something got a little lost in translation and we thought we were getting off to walk to this wonder, but then the boat stopped and our guide pointed to a fairly humble little stone mass with a hole in it – not quite the magnificent natural structure we were expecting, but we humoured him by taking a few photos!

Our last stop on the boat took us round again back into the same side of the island we were staying on. We stopped in an area of lovely clear water, where Dad and Will went snorkelling and Mum and I had a swim. The sea was very salty – when you jumped in you instantly felt it up your nose and in the back of your throat – but it was lovely and refreshing. We sat on the boat deck drying whilst we waited for the boys to come back. They said the snorkelling was much better on Kradan (so I felt fine about not going in), but Dad emerged with two huge sea snails in his pocket – not the prettiest of sea life…

Mum having a swim off the boat

We motored back to the hotel for lunchtime rums, food and another afternoon of basking in the sun mixed with insurance paperwork. At least there could have been worse places to be doing admin… The evening followed a similar pattern of sundowners and delicious dinner, and we followed up with a few games of cards. Safe to say Trumps was not my forté, with me finishing on a QI-worthy -1 points…

The next day was our last together on Libong. I had another feast for breakfast (stockpiling before going back to backpacker rations), before Dad, Will and I prepped for a bit of a morning hike. The previous day, from the boat, we were dugong spotting under the big karst cliff I mentioned one of the guides was stood on top of looking out for them. That morning, we were going to climb to the top of it! We hopped into a trike side car and bumped along about 15 minutes to the base of ‘Point Dugongs’ – some clinging on required when our slightly nuts driver revved to get the motorbike up some sandy slopes!

A view of ‘Point Dugongs’ from the boat

We clambered out, and set off at quite a pace behind our guide along the trail to the mountain. It started as a walk through the jungle but turned quickly into a very steep scramble up jagged rocks with ropes, and some wooden ladders. Our guide’s young son was springing along in front of us showing us the way, and it probably took us around 45 minutes of sweaty climbing and clinging to get to the top – there were two wooden viewing platforms up there and I have no idea how they got the materials up there and built them! We were just about able to see through the sweat and sun cream mix in our eyes to the amazing view behind – it was quite hazy but quite a feeling stood at the top! We spent a while trying to spot some dugongs from the summit – Dugong Dave with his binoculars – whilst our slightly mad guide treated us to some reggae music… We couldn’t see any animals particularly clearly but we did see some breakers which we were fairly sure were dugongs coming up for air!

A steep and sweaty scramble…
Will and Dad at the top!

After a sweaty half hour of dugong spotting we clambered back down the rocks and into the bumpy tuk-tuk, jumping straight into the pool for a cooling swim when we got back to the resort. We had some lunch and spent the afternoon in our habitual sun-basking positions, making the most of our last lazy day on the lovely Libong.

It was a lovely week having a holiday from my extended holiday, with some space to unpack and no snoring dorm mates to contend with. I also had some of the best food I’ve had on my whole trip – I part ways with my parents feeling very spoiled! Mum and Dad are sadly heading back to British winter, but Will is continuing with me into country number six! It’ll be interesting travelling with a buddy after four months solo…

Until next time,

Number of strangers I’ve spoken to today: 0, how antisocial of me! My excuse is I was making the most of time to catch up with my family before another few months of separation…
Interaction was: non-applicable!

One Woman and her Backpack x

Follow me on Instagram @ellielfield

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