Finding a deserted island, like the one in the movie “The Beach”, is usually by word of mouth. In Thailand, the power of Leonardo has turned Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, and Maya Bay (the beach in “The Beach”) into shadows of their former beauty.
A dear friend’s advice has her and I in a minivan with a crazy driver, travelling at light speed from Phuket to Krabi, to discover if such an island exists. With 7 other people. There is a drug in Thailand which turns drivers into psychotic Michael Schumachers. Mine had double for breakfast. The group are screaming and crying, and he is shouting back at them “You pay for 5, and you are 7, shut up”. FB post from dear friend as we are on route: “Mum I love you”.
Unsurprisingly, we make our ferry. The open sea, the breeze, and fresh yummy donuts bought on board, I begin to mellow – when, in the middle of the ocean, the ferry slows down.
“Bet we have run out of fuel” says I -2 years living in Thailand, anything is possible. Friend: “Nope, this is where we get off’. I see long tails charging towards us, look at my large bright blue samsonsite. The manufacturer claims of shock proof are about to be put to the test.
And so, dear reader, this is how you find your deserted (almost) island. Its name: Koh Jum, or Koh Pu (Crab). Same, same. On the way to Koh Lanta from mainland (Krabi is the nearest major city), Koh Jum may be the last place in the world where you can seriously tune in and drop out.
The longtail heads to the island, I jump out into the water before making dry land. With my large suitcase on my head.
I see – 3 people. No music, no splashing in a pool, no TV, and a bar that is – OMG, it’s closed. Instead, a series of stilt bungalows stalk up a very steep mountain, all partially hidden by rainforest, as if slightly shy. We check in, find out there is limited WiFi – forget watching your favourite series, and a restaurant that serves very good thai food.
There are 6 beaches on Koh Jum, the forest meets the shore, no shortage of trees and shade to avoid that midday sun. Around Ting Ray Bai, the beaches are tidal, with rocky outcrops close to the shoreline. At night, you can spot locals night diving (snorkel) for sea cucumber, considered a delicacy.
Our resort, Ting Rai Bay resort, is home to various insects, reptiles and monkeys, some friendly, some not so.
Electricity only came to Koh Jum 3 years ago. Many resorts still have cold water showers, but not ours -my friend’s travel ‘must have’ is hot water, but not much else. No A/c, but if you are close to the beach, you will catch that breeze during the night.
Bring those books you have been meaning to read. If you want to eat somewhere else other than your resort, grab your torchlight and walk to one of the two other resorts on the beach.
“There is no karaoke bar, no zipline, no elephant ride, no monkey show”
What to do for three days?
After yoga, breakfast of fresh fruit and pancakes, a decent coffee, and then wander along the beach to our favourite café, kindles and sunscreen survival musts. You can hire a bike to get around Koh Jum and that takes about 2 hours.
My dear friend brought two bright floating plastic pool beds, and we lounged on the almost deserted ocean, calling for virgin mojitos from our café on the beach. The highlight of our days was watching the ferry, stop in the middle of the ocean, unload passengers into longtails, and smile at the looks of delight and surprise on their faces as they landed on their very own deserted island.
There is no sala, no spa area. Meditation and yoga is on the beach. So are the massages. The quiet of nature is one of low insect noises, occasional monkey calls and fight shrieks, there is no omnipresent zen music.
The locals who staff the resort, google yoga and watch how to videos for hours. We occasionally meet fellow travellers, spend a few hours chatting. People are very friendly, and that is saying a lot, given we are in the Land of Smiles.
The number one complaint might be that, in comparison to Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Railay, there is nothing to do. But lack of distraction is often exactly what we need, yogi or not. As I get sand in my mouth doing sun salutations, I feel connected to the world, in a way that the technology I own can only simulate. My to do list has gone – for the time being.