NY Times: “The ‘real Thailand”, found among the islands more’ somnolent (Koh Chang, Koh Mak and Koh Kood)

Koh Mak e Koh Kood - ThailandThe New York Times: English

Under the hot midday sun, near the end of 2013, Allen Stewart watched the scene that lay ahead: The Gulf of Thailand, with all its variations of blue, stretched as far as the eye. To the west the jagged peaks of the rainforest of Koh Chang, with its emerald waters, east of the mountains Cardamani Cambodia. Tropical beaches of white sand covered with coconut palms.

“I have searched for years for such a thing,” Mr. Stewart, 60, says his heart almost in cardiac arrest.”I grew up in Yellowstone – and how do you compete with that? But when I saw these landscapes, it took about three seconds to say, ‘this is what we were looking for.’ ”

Mr. Stewart began to love these places in 2011, when his wife opened the Thaidaho Vista, a guest-house in the small island of Koh Mak. And it is this passionate search for peace, and the natural beauty of “real Thailand,” which is ‘rapidly disappearing in most destinations’ tourism – that is attracting people like Mr. Stewart and other travelers in places like the island of Koh Mak and her older sister, the beautiful island of Koh Kood (or Kut), about an hour’s boat ride away, in Partee st Gulf of Thailand, near the border with Cambodia.

Notes beach destinations in Thailand – such as Phuket and Koh Samui – are worlds away from these palm-fringed islands, these dormant buds, where you’re more likely to meet dogs and wild pigs walking along the road and then suddenly before suddenly sand and sea all to yourself, rather than beaches filled with umbrellas and sunbeds.

“Many people are passing, because the islands there is’ very little to do after 21:00,” said a German tourist, Anja Doebbelin, 33, who visited the island in 2010 before returning at the end of 2013 .

Obviously, for many travelers, this kind of atmosphere makes it even more attractive place: That morning, Ms. Doebbelin had swam for an hour in the crystal clear water in the neighboring island of Koh Rayang Nok, well known for snorkeling and tropical fish were only were his comrades, said the enthusiastic lady.

Ko Mak - Thailand“These are just some of the amazing things you can do in these islands,” while sipping a mango smoothie to Food Art Hut, a small little place outdoors under a thatched roof lit with lanterns. This and ‘typical of Koh Mak, few activities’, small and family-run.

Koh Mak is little known by most tourists and this and ‘the result of a decision taken by the five families who own most of the island, descendants of Luang Prompakdii, who, frightened by the uncontrolled development that is’ swallowing the beaches a time untouched Thailand, have decided to join in order to keep small resort and the natural habitat as much ‘intact as possible.

Two dozen hotels are located around the island, ranging from simple bungalows from $ 15-a-night boutique resort until as Plub Pla whose Contemporary style villas are connected by raised wooden walkways.

Warisara Ariyawongpreecha, a native of Bangkok girl with a broad smile, visited Koh Mak in 2008 while teaching Thai cuisine in the popular Koh Chang, just 15 kilometers away. Seduced by the unspoiled natural beauty of Koh Mak has transferred its activities on the island and now teaches the secrets of Thai cuisine in Koh Mak, a cooking school promenade where you can watch the sunset while you taste the results of their work.

Another witness, and ‘that of Mrs. Ariyawongpreecha, 41, according to which many residents are directed to the responsible development of the island. “The families of Koh Mak send their children to school in Bangkok, he said, but once they get there, they do not like pollution, traffic, noise,” and “They return to appreciate what we have here in ‘ island. ”

Ko Mak, Archipelago of Koh Chang, ThailandAnd it is easy to see why. A day on two wheels along a road lane of the island shows how blissfully little to do beyond swimming, sunbathing or just watching the woods and fields of grass swaying.(Bicycles and motorbikes can be rented easily on the island, and the important ‘to watch out for animals dozing in the road.)

Island excursions can be arranged on typical wooden boats, or alternatively organize a day of snorkeling or diving with those of Koh Mak Divers to see schools of colorful tropical fish that inhabit the Marine Park Koh Rang. You can ‘take a walk along the beach before a massage by the sea. Of course you will need to eat in one of the many island restaurants serving fish and seafood.

While the size of Koh Mak gives it a manageable and accommodating, the island of Koh Kood (or Koh Kut), just a short boat ride to the south, is its wild, majestic, incredibly beautiful counterpart.Combine the two islands in one trip is strongly recommended.

Koh Kood - Archipelago Koh Chang - ThailandWith its 40 square miles, Koh Kood (Koh Kut) is the fourth largest island in Thailand, but it remains almost intact. Kilometers of undeveloped beaches, white sand beaches and turquoise waters that touch that you dream on a cold winter day; beautiful waterfalls hidden in a rainforest that is home to ancient Banyan trees, which are attributed spiritual powers; pristine mangrove forests populated by fireflies arranging a light show every night different.

“The forest is clean, the water is clean. It is so pure here, “says Chompoonuch Deeprawat, the general manager of Bann Makok The Getaway, a collection of fishermen’s houses converted into rustic accommodation by a group of friends in Bangkok in 2010.

During a late morning, guests lounging on the wooden deck of the Bann Makok the banks of a river of mangroves, swinging in hammocks, pause in reading to exit kayak. “At night, the sky is filled with stars, there are fireflies in the trees and the stars in the water,” said Ms. Deeprawat referring to the phosphorescent plankton that characterizes the surrounding waters. “Everything shines. And ‘magical’.

Koh Kood and ‘entry into the scene of the trips in 2009 with the opening of the ultra-luxury resort Soneva Kiri, a well-known brand to create unique accommodation in the most pristine areas of the world. Since then, only a handful of properties have opened in the island and development takes place very slowly.

ThailandThe beach more ‘wide that extends south of the resort Shantaa, for example, has changed little since the family-run property with only 15 rooms opened in 2005, in a coconut grove.And there’s little reason to leave this little piece of paradise. The service is excellent and the bungalows elegant, with white walls, outdoor baths and large porches for stargazing.Seasonal therapists offer Thai massage in outdoor wooden pavilions, and excellent local cuisine based on fish is served at restaurants outdoors.

“We hope that Koh Kood is not like other tourist islands of Thailand,” said Yongwut Prugsanuwong, one of the owners of Shantaa. “We prefer a gradual growth so the environment is quiet. We try to keep the pace at Shantaa slowly as possible, and no matter how ‘life outside. ”

For now, the abundance of natural beauty of Koh Kood is the size of the lack of eating options.There are some restaurants to speak of, there are souvenir shops, no traffic and only one or two rickety bar where you can watch the sky while sipping a cold beer Chang.

Cassie and Mathew Bartley, London, have spent four days in honeymoon in Koh Kood. When not sunbathing on the beach or sipping sauvignon blanc at sunset, they made a tour of the island by motorbike or kayak, stopping at deserted beaches and lagoons transparent.

“There was absolutely no one around,” said Mr. Bartley’s kayak. “There is only one thing on this island, space and tranquility ‘.”

Rachael Birchenough, manager of Soneva Kiri, was the first time in Koh Kood only to conduct training of six months. Three years later he is still on the island, takes guests to make boat trips or visit other local attractions such as the secret waterfalls.

“When I arrived in Koh Kood, I felt as if I had discovered a secret,” he said. “The work has brought me here, but it is the island that made me feel.”

Read the original article in The New York Times (in English)

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on May 08, 2015