As the man with the oozing eskies shuffled us further into the depths of the tiny passenger ferry, I knew Ko Pu wasn’t going to be your average Thai island. We had parted ways with the throngs of flip-flopping tourists in the arrivals hall of Krabi Airport a few hours earlier, and wouldn’t see them again until our return to the mainland in four day’s time. The only foreigners in sight, we sat on the boat sandwiched between three families – all suppressing giggles – and pulled out of Laem Kruat pier into the open waters of the Andaman. As the kids on board promptly buried their heads in their mothers’ sarongs and fell asleep, we had the surreal view of whitewashed islands all to ourselves.
There are two ways to reach Ko Pu (‘crab island’) during high season, and this local ferry is firmly ranked second preference among travellers. But compared with jostling for a seat on the crowded Ko Lanta super ferry, in my mind, this was a much better primer for Ko Pu’s sleepy shores.
Ko Pu denotes northernmost half of Ko Jum, an island located northwest of Ko Lanta. Its shoreline might not mirror the cliff architecture of nearby Ko Phi Phi, or indeed the tourist infrastructure of other neighbouring islands, but then again, Ko Pu isn’t really of the same ilk. A 45-minute motor from mainland Krabi Province, the pier juts out of a modest residential settlement on the island’s eastern shore. From here, motorbikes transect the island to deliver tourists to the western side, where the majority of the bungalow resorts are located.
Ko Pu is tiny by Thai islands standards – just seven resorts and a grand total of approximately 100 bungalows. The majority of the island’s interior is unkempt rainforest; monkey’s domain. There are no convenience stores, no ATMs, and none of the tourist trappings of Phuket. Instead, each of the small resorts dotted along the shoreline incorporates a cash-only beachfront restaurant, and evenings are spent walking along the beach between lantern-lit dining tables. Devoid of bars and ‘buckets’, Ko Pu doesn’t attract the party crowd that many of Thailand’s islands are infamous for. The main beach takes the shape of a peaceful cove, and the gentle waters make it a popular choice for families.
Bonhomie Beach Cottages
Bonhomie Beach Cottages is the first resort settlement along Ko Pu’s western cove. Protected by the mountain to the east, the shoreline in front of the resort receives not only beautiful Andaman sunsets, but is shaded in the early mornings too. The handful of bamboo and dark-wood bungalows that creep up the gentle hillside were designed by the owner’s son to be ‘in harmony’ with the forest beyond. Each has its own open-air en suite and shaded patio. Of the four nearby restaurants we ate at, Bonhomie’s Thai dishes were far and away our favourites.
Ko Pu Logistics
Travelling between Ko Pu and Krabi Airport (or Krabi Town) is relatively simple. Option one is to take the local boat (100 baht per person) from Laem Kruat pier (a 600-baht taxi ride from the airport). An extra 100 baht is needed to reach the island’s western shore by motorbike (someone on the ferry will call ahead for a driver). The second option is to organise a transfer to/from Krabi Pier through Bonhomie. We did this for our return trip at a cost of 400 baht per person. When you add the cost of a taxi ride to the airport at the other end, the price is roughly the same. The island has good phone reception and most resorts offer wifi, but there are no ATMs, so bring plenty of cash. Food and drink is expensive by Thai standards – average 150 baht for a meal of chicken and rice (Ko Pu has a large Muslim population so most restaurants are pork-free) – so make sure you budget properly. What is your favourite Thai island?