There’s no denying that Thailand has long been the poster child for tropical beach holidays. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Thailand each year hoping to experience an island paradise, however many of the most beautiful and best-known islands have become overcrowded tourist hotspots. If you’re looking for full-moon parties, and endless beach bucket cocktails, then by all means visit Ko Pha-ngan, Ko Samui and Ko Tao; they are, after all stunningly beautiful islands. However, if you want to bypass the crowds of tourists and have a more authentic Thai experience, I would highly recommend you visiting the Ko Kut District of islands in the Prat province of eastern Thailand. This small cluster of islands just south of the more well-known Koh Chang is often described a window into the past, and while the islands are by no means undiscovered, they show visitors a glimpse of a pre-tourist boom Thailand.
Earlier this year I took my parents and my aunty on a two-week trip to the islands. It was going to be their first taste of Asia and I wanted to give them the kind of trip that they couldn’t have just booked as a package holiday. The two-week itinerary I came up with includes visits to three different islands, as well as a whistle stop tour of some of the most famous Bangkok temples. I hope you find the itinerary useful when planning your own trip, and as always feel free to comment below or send me a message with any questions you have.
Day 1- Home-Bangkok-Koh Chang
Unsurprisingly the first day is all about travelling. With a two-week holiday, every day counts and so my goal was to be on a beach sipping a cocktail by the end of the first day! To do this, I bought overnight flights that landed early in the morning, and then booked a private minibus with iamkohchang.com to take us all the way to our first island stop; Koh Chang. To get to Koh Chang, you have to drive around 4-5 hours across the mainland to the ferry port at Trat. The mini bus I booked actually takes you onto the ferry and right to your hotel door on Koh Chang- it was great to not have to worry or navigate buses or the ferry ourselves, especially as we were all half delirious from jet lag. The minibus cost £120 to hire, and we all thought it was well worth the money. If you have more time or are on a tighter budget, it’s also possible to get a bus to the ferry and hop on a shared taxi once you arrive on the island. I have done this on a previous trip and it was fine, but I was travelling for longer so felt I could take my time getting to the island. There are also flights available from Bangkok to Trat, which could also be a good option. We arrived at our hotel on Koh Chang at around 2pm so we spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach. We chose to stay on White Sands, which is the most developed bit of coast on the island. There’s loads of restaurants, bars and shops to look around; we made the most of them, as we knew the following islands would be a lot quieter.
Tip: Eat delicious and cheap food at Pens Bungalows in the backpacker section of the beach. Simply turn right as you get onto the sand and walk to the end of the beach (past all the resorts until you reach the backpacker accommodation)
Day 2- Koh Chang
Having done a lot of travelling on day one, day two is a rest day on Koh Chang. Depending on how much energy you have, you can explore the island or spend the day on the beach. The west coast of Koh Chang has many beautiful beaches and it’s easy to hop onto a shared taxi and visit one for the day. Visit the waterfall at Klong Prao or wander through the market at Bang Bao pier; whatever takes your fancy. The only thing I will say, is that there are a number of elephant parks on Koh Chang, but I do not recommend you visiting them, as from what I could tell from my research none of them are truly ethical, as elephants are not native to the island.
Tips: The massages on the beach in front of Cookies Hotel are very good- the ladies are friendly, and the prices are cheap.
Each night around 9pm fire dancers perform on White Sands beach in front of Saybay Bar, turn up early to get a seat on the beach.
Try some local street food at the stalls that appear each night at the very end of the road passing through White Sands. Try the spiralled deep-fried potato on a stick- you won’t regret it!
Day 3- Koh Chang-Koh Mak
The best way to reach Koh Mak is by speed boat. There are a couple of different companies that offer speed boat transfers between the islands. I booked ahead of the trip with Kai Bae Hut Speedboats, as they collect you from your hotel on Koh Chang as part of the price. We were collected after breakfast and driven to the Klong Prao pier where our speed boat was waiting. There was about 20 people in total on the boat, and there were life jackets for everyone. The trip took over an hour in total, but it was a beautiful ride, past lots of islands. The boat stopped at the small island of Koh Wai on route to Koh Mak and a few people disembarked. We had told the company which resort we would be staying at on Koh Mak and so the crew knew which pier to drop us at. I recommend booking with a hotel on Koh Mak that will collect you from the pier- we stayed at Little Moon Villas and they collected us in an open back truck. The 10-minute ride to our accommodation was really enjoyable.
Day 4-6– Koh Mak
Koh Mak is a very laid-back island. It’s small and flat and easy to get around on bicycle or scooter. As I mentioned before, we stayed at Little Moon Villas which is located on the more isolated and rocky eastern side of the island. During our short stay here, we explored two of Koh Mak’s large sandy stretches of beach in the west and went on a snorkelling day trip around the protected waters off nearby Koh Rang.
Ao Suan Yai Beach- One of the most popular beaches on the island, but by no means crowded! There are a few beachside restaurants to eat at but not much else! Which is why the beach is a perfect spot to relax for the day. If you feel like being a bit more active, it’s also possible to kayak to the small island of Koh Kham which can be seen from the beach. Koh Kham is an intriguing island, once the location for a new luxury resort, the building work was halted and as a result the island has been left deserted apart from the few day visitors that paddle to the island.
Ao Kao Beach- Another beautiful sandy beach, there are a few more resorts here, and it is the location of one of the main piers on the island.
Koh Rang Snorkelling- We booked a snorkelling trip through our accommodation Little Moon Villas, largely because the trip was only £25 and included lunch! So, there was no point shopping around! The trip lasted about 4 hours and we got to snorkel in three different spots around Koh Rang. The water was as clear as glass and the sea full of beautiful tropical fish and coral. We were all super impressed with the quality of snorkelling. As with any group tour, we were on a tight schedule, so we only had around 40 minutes snorkelling time at each spot. If I were to go back again, I would definitely look into hiring a private boat for the day, so that we could spend more time in the water.
Tip: Every week the beach cleaning group ‘Koh Mak Trash Heros’ meet to collect rubbish off the beaches around the island. Although it sounds like a chore, beach cleans can be really fun and a great way to help minimise the impact tourism on the island. Check out my blog post on beach cleans for more details.
Day 7- Koh Mak-Koh Kood/Kut
After our relaxing stay on Koh Mak, we headed to the slightly larger Koh Kood (also known as Koh Kut). The island has a lot more to it than Koh Mak, with a hilly interior of dense forest with waterfalls and rivers. The island is known for having luxury resorts (David Beckham is reported to own a place here!), but it’s still possible to stay somewhere budget friendly. We used the same speedboat company (Kai Bae Hit Speedboats) to get to the island from Koh Mak. It was a short journey and we were dropped off at the private pier of our accommodation Koh Kood Resort. There are quite a few different options on where to stay on the island, however with my family all being very much into snorkelling I picked Bang Bao Bay as it has coral reefs right off the beach. The bay is full of both budget and luxury beach front resorts, but it doesn’t feel crowded.
Day 8-11- Koh Kood
While I know from research that there is plenty to explore on the island of Koh Kood, I have to admit, we didn’t venture outside of Bang Bao Bay. Instead we spent our days snorkelling and strolling along the beach. Bang Bao is also the home of BB Divers. I had found them on Facebook prior to visiting and myself and my dad booked to do a fun dive with them. My mum and aunty were able to come on our diving trip and just snorkel, and after our dive session they took us all to a cool snorkelling spot where there are sunken statues of various animals! The team were all very professional and friendly, and we were lucky enough to see a huge turtle resting on the seabed during our drive!
Day 12- Koh Kood- Koh Chang
To break up the journey back to Bangkok, we booked to stay one night on Koh Chang. Once again, we used Kai Bae Huts Speedboats to travel between the islands and they dropped us off at our hotel on White Sands beach.
Day 13- Koh Chang- Bangkok
After breakfast we were collected by our private taxi (all pre-booked before the holiday with the same company that collected us from the airport). This time the taxi was taking us into Bangkok where we had booked to stay for our last night in Thailand. We ended up spending the whole day travelling as we got stuck in crazy traffic entering Bangkok. It just so happened it was the start of a bank holiday weekend and we were driving through Bangkok at the peak of rush hour! In hindsight it would have been much wiser to have left Koh Chang earlier in the morning. Nevertheless, when we did finally arrive at our hotel Navalai River Resort, we made the most of our evening despite being tired from the long 8-hour journey. We arrived just in time to have a dip in the rooftop pool before it closed for the evening. The views from the pool were amazing and it really raised our spirits and got us excited about exploring Bangkok! From the hotel, we were able to walk to a busy area full of bars and market shops. We wandered around for a while, taking in all the craziness of Bangkok’s nightlife. I can’t say we were all that impressed, it was all a bit seedy and tacky, but an experience none the less!
Day 14- Day in Bangkok and fly home
On our final day, I was determined to fit in a bit of sight seeing before heading home. I had booked flights late in the evening (just before midnight) so we pretty much had the whole day free to explore Bangkok. Navalai River Resort is only a 5-minute taxi ride from the Grand Palace, one of Bangkok’s largest and best-known temples. The plan was to leave early in the morning to try and beat the crowds, however we were tired and ended up arriving around 11am, by which time the crowds had gathered. It was extremely hot, and the heat coupled with the crowds of tourists made for quite an uncomfortable visit. But the temple itself was incredible to see- so intricate and colourful, I was so glad that we got to visit it!
Tip: Remember to wear conservative clothing when visiting the temples- no shorts or strappy tops are allowed.
After sweating out half of our body weight, we caught a taxi to Wat Pho Temple- a short 5-minute drive away. Wat Pho is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha as it houses a 47m long gold Buddha. It’s a real spectacle and if it wasn’t so freaking hot I could have stood and looked at it for hours!
I would have loved to visit more of the temples in Bangkok, but it just wasn’t possible to fit more into the day. I feel the same way about Thailand as a whole; there’s so much to see in this beautiful country but unless you can spend 6 months travelling around, you have to be selective as to what you can see in a single holiday. I hope you have found this two-week itinerary useful in helping you decide where to go and what to see. Feel free to comment below with any questions!