I was in Thailand in April of last year.
It’s the very end of the ‘season’ in Thailand, and it’s definitely not the best time to go: it’s hot, it’s sticky, and the mosquitos are super-frisky. But it’d been a slow, gritty start to the year, and mugginess notwithstanding, it’s still Thailand. The food is always fantastic, the massages are plentiful, and there is always something new to see.
The aim for this trip was simple: to unwind, to wash away Delhi’s sootiness, and to switch off completely, from work, from email, and from people. It's not that I don’t enjoy company; it’s just that I regard holidays as a time for minimal superfluous interaction, which feels like the hallmark of city life. Boy, did we pick the right spot.
The island of Koh Phra Thong is off Thailand's west coast, a two-hour ferry ride from the town of Kuraburi. The island is ringed with pristine (and empty) golden beaches, has absolutely no traffic (primarily because there are no roads), and only one resort, The Golden Buddha Beach Resort.
Regarded as Asia’s finest eco-resort, GBBR is one of Thailand’s last unspoiled coastal areas. Let’s get real, probably one of the world’s last unspoiled coastal areas. It is a faff to get to, I will admit, but they say that anticipation makes everything sweeter, and so, by the time we got to GBBR, I reckon we must’ve been saccharine AF.
We flew into Bangkok, from where we took an overnight bus, and then a two hour ferry ride to the island of Koh Pra Thong. By the time we wobbled off the ferry we were exhausted, in need of showers, and frankly, fed up. But I did wish for complete seclusion, and this is certainly the place for it.
We swam, got massages, and read all the books that’ve piled up, forlorn and neglected, on our nightstands at home. And when we were done with those, we rifled through the library of traveller leftovers at the resort and read some of those as well. It was six lazy days of eating and six lazy evening of drinking, punctuated only with one brief bout of fishing (wear sunblock, reapply regularly). The sunsets were spectacular and the margaritas were strong. Bliss, basically.
There is diving on the island, if you’re keen, and we had intended to do a couple of dives, but the sheer luxury of doing nothing at all was hard to pass up. Koh Phangan this definitely isn’t.
Recommendations: Practice yoga in an open-air pavilion by the sea. Get massages in a shala by the beach. Don’t bother bringing anything except your shorts, your bikini, and as much sunblock and insect repellant as you can carry. Oh, and eat everything.
All meals are served at the Clubhouse, a split-level building facing the beach, with a ground-floor dining area, and a lounge upstairs, furnished in a sort of cool colonial style, with its own bar and a pool table. The menu changes daily, with a primarily Thai list of daily specials that are chalked onto the blackboard every morning. It is no exaggeration to say that everything, absolutely every last thing, is delicious. We were there nearly a week, eating three meals a day, and every last morsel was fresh, light, organic, local, and bursting with undiluted Thai flavour.
They raise their own piggies on the island, in case you’re curious about the provenance of your pork, and the seafood is caught fresh every day. Their menu is seasonal, and each meal includes fish, meat, curries, and a gorgeous salad or two. I’m still dreaming of the squid salad with tempura cowslip creepers. The Beach Bar, on the far side of the island, is open all day and serves stone-baked pizzas and salads, but given the preponderance of incredible Thai food on offer, we didn’t feel the need to venture that way.
The island has 28 houses that each sleep between 2–8 people. I’d recommend really spending some time with these on the website before booking. It is an eco resort, so there is no air conditioning, but if you go in season (the season that we so smartly missed) the sea breeze is air conditioning enough. If you can, pick one of the sea-facing cottages, not just for the views and the breeze, but also because you’re then spared the relentless mosquito and midge tag team onslaughts at sundown.
It is a fantastic thing to be on a beach and see no-one, not one other person, other than the one you came with. If you’re not convinced by the food, go for the seclusion, harder and harder to come by these days. On our last night, sipping prosecco at sundown, beaten into languor by the crashing waves, I finally felt ready to resume conversation again.
For more information, reservations, and tariff, visit their website.