Travelling in coastal Thailand during the rainy season is risky: it might bucket down for days, cities can flood, many businesses close shop, and if the sea whips up boat journeys can be dangerous. Despite this, we’d booked a few nights at Anantara’s Si Kao resort in Trang Province. We planned to use the hotel as a base for exploring Trang’s little-known southern coast and offshore islands – if we got lucky with the weather, that was.
Getting to the hotel was easy: a short flight to Trang Airport, and an hour’s drive to the coast in a rental car. The Anantara Si Kao is spectacularly sited on a long, (effectively) private beach with drop-dead views of multiple karst islands in the Andaman Sea. During the drier months (typically November-April) the hotel offers day trips to its private beach club on beautiful Koh Kradan.
But it wasn’t a drier month. It was wet, wet, wet. So no boat rides, no dugong encounters, no mangrove planting, no nature walks. And the waves made the sea too rough to swim in. Still, the rain didn’t dampen our enjoyment of the hotel and its stunning location. Between the Kids’ Club and hotel-based activities like fish-feeding and frog-catching, our boys kept busy. And whenever the sun did show its face (even if briefly), we all rushed to the pool.
After a good sleep, we decided to brave the incessant drizzle and take a road trip south of Si Kao. My secret mission was to cross into Satun, the only province in Thailand’s “Deep South” that I hadn’t yet visited. (Satun City is also the gateway to the Tarutao Islands, which are within eyesight of Malaysia’s Langkawi Island.)
This was a recon mission. So we turned right down any road – paved or otherwise – that looked promising. At one rocky beach, a menacing monkey attacked our van as soon we pulled in. On the hunt for another beach, Google led us to a dead end in a poor fishing village. Back on the highway, something neon green on the shoulder brought me to a stop; it was a dead pit viper. By the late morning, the rain was getting so heavy that my wipers were flapping at top speed. Nori and I were trying to stay optimistic, but our adventure was looking like a washout and the kids were getting bored, and therefore, annoying.
Then we hit Hat Yao (Long Beach), a pretty stretch of sand with a karst pinnacle rising at its south end. The water was too rough to swim, but I was intrigued by a flat island in the distance. A bit further down Hwy 5010 we saw a sign for Hat Yao Pier and decided to have a look. Parking next to a seafood restaurant raised up on pilings, I wandered over to the tiny admin building and stopped an old Muslim man.
In my best Thai, I asked “Boats from here go where?”
“Koh Libong,” he answered.
Koh Libong? Until I started doing research for the trip, I’d never heard of it. None of the Thais in my office even knew where it was. There were a smattering of resorts on the southwest of the island, but it seemed like most of them closed during the wet season. Over lunch at the restaurant (delicious crab rice) we resolved to return the next day and explore the island.
The next day, I couldn’t stop smiling. Adventure! Sitting on the bow of a longboat, motoring noisily towards Koh Libong with the sun on our faces, I couldn’t believe our good fortune. After crossing the 3km channel, we paralleled a long, empty beach before turning into a mangrove-lined estuary. We unloaded at the tiniest of piers, where groups of women sat cracking shells and picking the meat from piles of swimmer crabs.
“Mister! Mister!” we heard a voice calling.
A jolly-looking Muslim man in his fifties approached. Our transport had arrived!
“Sawutdee krup!” I replied in Thai. “We’ve never been to Koh Libong before and want to go to a beach beautiful beautiful. Is there one?”
He nodded and smiled. We piled into a little trailer hitched to his motorcycle and started off through the little town. It didn’t take long before we were driving through deep jungle with butterflies everywhere. The whole way, our friendly driver was asking us questions. When we explained that the boys were two sets of twins he nearly had a heart attack.
We arrived at the west coast of the island 20 minutes later, and walked the last 100 metres to the beach. As we stepped onto the sand, I looked over at Nori and we both smiled. My god, it was beautiful: a gently curving beach scattered with giant shells. Far off to the north, we could see Koh Mook and Koh Kradan, and to the west, the twin islands of Koh Rok Yai (big) and Koh Rok Noi (small). And we had
the whole place to ourselves. I still get a chill when I think about it.
We spent 3 glorious hours on that beach: collected shells, jumped over the little waves, found a dead two metre reticulated python and watched as a group of villagers disentangled the legs and claws of three species of crabs from their nets. There was no place to eat, but we had brought biscuits and Pringles and water so we were fine. A few hundred metres down the beach was the smart-looking Andalay Beach Resort, but it was closed for the off season.
On the ride back to the pier, we asked the captain to make a small side trip. Just around the corner from Hat Yao was a hidden beach, inaccessible by road. Framed by karst outcrops, it was tempting to make a landing. But the captain pointed at the swelling waves and the steeply-sloped beach and crossed his arms in the international “no go” signal.
As we drove back to the Anantara, the boys dropped off to sleep one by one. It had been an amazing day. I’d tested my Thai and was pleased with how much I’d progressed. I was grateful for my wife’s adventurous spirit. And I was delighted to share the discovery of an incredible ‘unknown’ island with my boys.
Scott & Nori are avid travellers and knowledge seekers who have travelled to 110 plus countries across all 7 continents. Now they’re sharing their wanderlust with their two sets of twin boys, Tai, Logan, Drake and Kiva. Follow their travels at