Thailand's north east coast may be closer to Bangkok than some better known holiday hot spots, but it's a world away in terms of untouched natural charm. Islands like Koh Chang are still really low key and provide a glimpse of what drew travellers down south in the first place. Koh Kood and Koh Mak are even smaller and sleepier. Despite the lack of an airport, it's relatively straightforward to get here too. Once you've arrived, you'll discover untold tropical treasures, as well as accommodation that ranges from rustic and family-owned to some of the finest spa resorts in the whole of Southeast Asia.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
This is Thailand how it used to be. Brightly coloured wooden fishing boats bob on clear shallows, whilst the island’s few visitors follow footprints pressed into cool white sand. If you're looking for a bit of fun after dark, the west coast has a burgeoning beach bar scene, as well as several exquisite resorts with swimming pools overlooking the ocean. Elsewhere on Koh Chang you can kayak around the mangrove forests of Ban Salak Phet and Ban Salak Kok, or search for waterfalls hidden amidst the island's dramatic rainforest-coated interior. If that all sounds too hectic, grab a mask and snorkel and take a boat out island hopping among the National Marine Park’s extraordinary offshore coral reefs.
There's a real Robinson Crusoe feel to Koh Kood. You can follow dirt tracks through old forests and dive into plunge pools under tumbling waterfalls. The mountainous interior shouts 'hike me' and the surrounding ocean views from the peaks are just rewards for any exertion. Paddle by kayak to secret beaches around the coast, or jump on a motor scooter (no cars here) and grab a bite to eat at one of the local fishing villages. Accommodation is refreshingly sparse but what Koh Kood lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. If you're looking for the ultimate in desert island luxury, surrounded by clear shallows and white sands, the Soneva Kiri is one of Southeast Asia's most exclusive resorts.
Wake to rustling palms and bird song as sleepy mornings drift into long and lazy afternoons, before the sun finally sets over the coast of Koh Mak. Paddle off on a kayak or SUP board, or just wrap yourself in a hammock with a good book before drifting off to the sounds of the sea. Hikes over the island's hilly interior unveil coconut and rubber plantations, whereas strolls across the sand let you cross to Koh Tam at low tide. Privately owned by a handful of local families, Koh Mak is the perfect example of Thai island tourism benefiting visitors and islanders without damaging the environment. Book into a hilltop bungalow overlooking the sandy north west coast and you'll discover a true taste of untouched Thailand.
A journey through northern Thailand for an eco-focussed exploration of local Lahu traditions and culture in the hills of Chiang Mai.