More than 500 islands sparkle in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Five ATopTens authors reveal where they found happiness. But don’t tell anyone else!
Basically, Koh Samui is no longer an insider tip. Despite the hectic activity of the island, Koh Samui and the surrounding islands, with which it forms an archipelago, also have seemingly untouched nature and magical jungle areas.
Koh Chang surprises with secluded dream beaches that stand out from the western, touristically developed parts of the island, while Koh Mak, Koh Surin Nuea, and Koh Sukorn are still considered hidden gems among Thailand’s islands. Paradisiacal beaches, sparkling turquoise sea, coral reefs, rainforests, and a breathtaking variety of plants and animals await travelers. And beyond that, places that are ideally suited to both slowing down and active holidays. Bas du formulaire
1 – Koh Mak: The Minimalist
Author Martin Schacht knows that on no other island in Thailand is the atmosphere so familiar. This is more than just an empty phrase: for more than a hundred years, most of Koh Mak has belonged to a single family…
Driving down the palm-lined street that leads to Ao Nid Pier feels almost like being in Los Angeles. A warm wind caresses the hair, and the sea glitters turquoise green and dark blue in front of it: beach, coconut palms, rolling hills.
Koh Mak is a small island very close to the Cambodian border. Everything is a few sizes smaller on Koh Mak. Instead of convertibles, mopeds jet across the asphalt. Except for a few pickups, there are no cars at all here. Yodying Sudhidhanakul is still proud of this street. After all, it bears his family’s name: Sudhidhanakul Road. Yodying’s great-grandfather served as a tax collector for King Rama V, the regent who opened Siam to the west in the 19th century and is still revered today. As a thank you, Rama V. gave him an island in the Gulf of Thailand with over 27 kilometers of beach.
Coconut, Rubber, and Beach: The Heritage of Koh Mak
More than a hundred years later, 95 percent of the island is still owned by the family. And that’s lucky for Koh Mak. Apart from coconuts, rubber plantations, and the beach, there is primarily: nothing here. An island characterized by what it doesn’t have sounds suspicious at first – but that’s exactly what makes Koh Mak so special: Unlike the neighboring holiday islands, there are no jet skis, banana boats, or quads here. And the family members agree that the island must never become another Pattaya with hotel complexes or go-go bars.
“I don’t know about the next generation,” says Yodying, “but none of us would be selling land today. Koh Mak is our home; we would never jeopardize that lightly.”
Future prospects for the island: digitization
Today members of the family clan are at home all over the world. Yodying commutes between Chiang Mai, where his family lives, the island, and Germany. There he grew up in the Rhineland as the son of a German mother and a Thai father. He believes that because of his background, he can better mediate between Thai and tourists. And he has a vision for the future: since the island has mainland electricity and an excellent internet connection, he wants to make Koh Mak a destination for digital nomads who can do business anywhere in the world – and on Koh Mak, are at home.
Koh Mak: arrival, accommodation, and gastronomic offer
Getting to the Thai island of Koh Mak is taken care of: boats run regularly from Laem Ngop on the mainland and from the neighboring island of Koh Chang. If you are looking for the best place on the island, you should pay a visit to the “Good Time Resort”: From the balcony of the suite under the roof of the resort, you can see over the garden to the shore.
You can get the best sundowners at the Cococape in the “Blue Pearl Bar” or in the south of the island in the ” Banana Sunset Bar. ” For dinner, it is best to order what the local fishermen have brought with them. It is served freshly caught, for example, in the restaurant “Koh Mak Seafood” near the Ao Nid Pier.
Read also: 10 most beautiful beaches in the world
2 – Koh Surin Nuea: The Original
Writer Tom Vater has been living in Thailand for 15 years. His favorite island is in the Andaman Sea, and it is protected as a national park. It is one of the greatest treasures of the country…
The first few minutes on the snow-white beach of Mai Ngam Bay on Koh Surin Nuea are always overwhelming. Shark babies cavort in the mangroves on the shore, and a white-tailed eagle makes its rounds in the light blue sky. The main island of the tiny archipelago in Mu Koh Surin National Park, barely ten kilometers from the Myanmar border, seems to have more in common with the fictional Isla Nublar from Jurassic Park than with the very real and very popular Phuket, which is just a few hours to the south. 95 percent of the park is covered by rainforests and habitats for monitor lizards, monkeys, snakes, hornbills, and flying foxes. Biodiversity is even greater in the water – turtles, squid, and rays can be found around the coral reefs, which can be visited daily by the park’s boats.
Where to stay in Koh Surin Nuea?
There are no dive companies in the park, but snorkeling equipment is easy to rent. You will look in vain for luxury in the remote sanctuary, which can only be reached by speedboat: guests sleep in bungalows or large tents on the main island, and mobile phones have hardly any reception – but that is quickly forgotten when thousands of cicadas come their way in the late afternoon concert begins and the day burns up in psychedelic splendor of color.
Comfortable tents with mattresses, pillows and sleeping bags can be rented in Chong Khat Bay and Mai Ngam Bay for 500 baht or more. There are also some bungalows from 2000 baht. Two canteens provide food and showers. It is generally not necessary to book in advance; it can only get quite crowded on weekends and public holidays.
3 – Koh Chang: The Underestimated
The beaches in the west are well-known and popular with tourists. But reporter Christoph Karrasch found the true magic of the third largest Thai island deep in the south…
Elephant island Nothing else means Koh Chang. The island owes its name to its shape, which is reminiscent of the heads of giant animals. And Koh Chang really is a giant: It is the third largest island in Thailand – and still a little insider tip. For years people thought about building their own airport; the plans are now off the table. So there is reasonable hope that Elephant Island will be spared the fate of even larger Phuket. However, the tourist development has not bypassed the main beaches in the west – international package tourists and Thai weekend holidaymakers cavort here.
If you leave the west behind and take the ring road south, you will experience a completely different, much more relaxed side of the island. It goes past villages built on stilts like Bang Bao and dream beaches like Had Klong Kloi, where sometimes there is not a soul behind the last crest. And on the other side of the island, in the extreme southeast of Koh Chang, there is a place called “Long Beach.” It is so wonderfully original that it should actually be kept secret here.
Arrival and overnight stay
The best way to fly from Bangkok is to Trat; then it goes by minibus and ferry to Koh Chang. The ferry, which departs every 60 to 90 minutes, takes about 45 minutes. On the river bank of Klong Prao is one of the most beautiful accommodations on the island: the “Aana Resort.” The almost one hundred rooms and villas of the luxury hotel, where you can get a double room for around 60 euros, lie like nests between the hardwoods, whose species are said to only grow here in the province of Trat. There is a magnificent spa area, and kayaks can be borrowed for free. From the bar on top of the hill, there is a panorama of the river, the mountains, and the whole resort.
4 – Koh Sukorn: The casual one
When his boat headed for the island, it seemed uninhabited to Mathias Peer. There are not only villages here but also hotels with a dream view. A dream destination for the Southeast Asia correspondent.
There aren’t many places in Thailand without a temple. One of them is Koh Sukorn. The island is Muslim in contrast to most of the predominantly Buddhist country. What you would not suspect at first because “Sukorn” means “pig.” The island is so named because wild boar used to be widespread here. Animals continue to shape the image of Koh Sukorn. Some claim that there are more water buffalo than people here. That could be true. Hotel blocks do not take up most of the space here, but rubber plantations, paddy fields, and coconut palms do.
In the south of Koh Sukorn lies the village of Baan Saimai, with a small mosque, which is best explored by bicycle. There is also a halal shop and Muslim cooks selling ‘roti’ – the pancakes that are particularly popular here in the south. This island, around which tourism has given a wide berth, is wonderfully calm.
Overnight at Andaman Beach Resort
Most residents earn their money from agriculture, so don’t expect a large selection of hotels. But that’s not a big deal: anyone who swings in one of the cozy hammocks at the “Andaman Beach Resort” knows that true luxury doesn’t need a grand hotel. The clean bungalows cost little money; the best thing about the little cottages on the beach is the view from the porch. The silhouettes of two huge rocks shimmer through the trees on the horizon. They belong to the neighboring national park island of Koh Lao Liang, to which you can take a trip by longtail boat during the day. The sundowner on the veranda tastes even better in the evening.
Arrival on the dream island of Koh Sukorn
The ferry departs from Tasae Pier, about an hour’s drive from Trang, and costs 50 baht. A shared taxi runs to the pier daily at 11am from Sathanee Street, north of the train station. There are private boats to Koh Sukorn from other islands, which can usually be arranged through the hotels.
5 – Koh Samui: The trendy one
On his first visit to the island, MERIAN editor Kalle Harberg intended it to be just a stopover. Today he knows: A short flying visit does not do Koh Samui justice…
In some places, Koh Samui, the island that was one of the first in the Gulf of Thailand to be discovered by travelers and has even had an airport since 1989, is exceedingly hectic and exhausting. Thousands of holidaymakers arrive here every day. Jet skis race over the waves, couples line up on the beach for the less-than-romantic candlelight dinner, and the markets in the villages are teeming with people. Luckily there are places in paradise where you can forget all that – like the Outrigger. The resort is less than a ten-minute drive from the airport, but it feels like an island within an island.
Overnight at Outrigger: Paradise on Koh Samui
The small houses are tucked away between gardens, elegantly but not ostentatiously furnished, many even with a large pool, perfect for a night swim under the stars. In the morning, there is breakfast under the sea almond tree on the enchanting private beach – with a delicious mango lassi. “This hotel is like a little oasis,” says manager Natalie, who stops by to make sure everything is in order. And she’s right. With the “Outrigger” as a hideout, it’s fun again to discover this sometimes hectic island. The spectacular waterfalls in the mountainous interior, and the sleepy coasts in the south and west, for example.
Ang Thong Marine National Park: Perhaps the most beautiful place in Thailand
And if that’s not secluded enough for you, book a trip to Ang Thong Marine National Park with tour operators like Blue Stars. Because Koh Samui is only the largest in an archipelago of 42 islands – and the jungle-covered, completely deserted rocks in this protected area are among the most beautiful things Thailand has to offer. Or this globe at all.