Off the beaten track – Ko Jum, Thailand

by Aly Hazlewood on February 3, 2016

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Ko Jum Island, 25 miles south of Krabi, is just a short ferry ride away (350 baht, departing Krabi port at 11.30am daily) and is still something of an off-the-beaten-track paradise. Mercifully free of late night bars pumping out cheesy house music along the shoreline, it still has a sleepy, laid back vibe, punctuated by the odd impromptu jam session by local or visiting musicians.

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There is no major port or pier on the island yet, so one has to jump off the ferry onto waiting long tail boats at sea - baggage clutched perilously in hand - which then transport you to your chosen accommodation. It is a chaotic experience and you risk a possible soaking, although I’m told this rarely happens.

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If staying on the more popular West side of the island, you will land on a long, wide pristine stretch of pale golden sand dotted with rocky outcrops. Swimming is pretty good almost the whole stretch of this coastline, but I’d advise you to wear sea shoes; some of the rocks can be a little on the jagged side. The beaches are fringed by beautiful forests with a diverse variety of trees, not solely coconut palms, so you see a lot of native birds flitting about. Most impressive are the huge Brahminy Kites that soar overhead searching for prey all day long.
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It’s wise to bring what you need to Ko Jum, because there is no ATM on the island, and just a handful of little shops and markets, which certainly helps to keep the ‘undiscovered’ vibe of the island alive.

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Backpackers can still get a good deal here in high season at a few locations. Simple bamboo bungalows with a fan set back from the beach start at around 250 bath (£5) a night at places like Golden Pearl or New Bungalows but I couldn’t quite bring myself to stay in them, open as they are to bugs, critters and mosquitos. In fact one Spanish girl I met woke to find a King Cobra on the floor of her bamboo bungalow, which clearly is no laughing matter. Another guy had kept some food in his hut and returned to find 6 monkeys having a good tear up inside. So, if like me, your days of roughing it are well and truly over, you have to pay a fair bit more to avoid these pitfalls.
Treehouse at Freedom Villas

At the far south western tip of the beach is Freedom Villas. These treehouse and beach front bungalows have epic views over a picturesque, gently curving turquoise bay, facing a small jungle covered island out to sea. Their cheapest bungalows right now (January 2016) are around 2000 baht a night. There’s also a lovely open air bar, and you can hire sea kayaks by the hour.

Ko Jum Lodge Bar
French-run Ko Jum Lodge, one of my favourite residences on the island, have very well designed and decorated beach bungalows in traditional island style for 5000 baht a night, but include all the mod cons you might want for a truly relaxing beach holiday. Set within a beautifully planted beach front garden next to a small pool.imageThe very chic cocktail bar and restaurant seems mostly to be populated by middle-class, middle-aged European couples who return year after year. The Lodge originally opened 2 days before the terrible tsunami of 2002 hit and was completely decimated, so they’ve done an amazing job of reinstating everything. If I could have afforded to stay here, I would have.
Ko Jum Lodge Bungalow

Bo Daeng is a well known hippy hangout with ramshackle bungalows and tents for hire (but a 40 degree wake up call in a tent? No thanks). Run by two infamous island sisters, it has an immensely laid back vibe. One of the sisters, the wonderful Deela, has the sweetest singing voice and regularly enthralls customers with her melodic tones when jamming with the hippy guests. People come and stay at Bo Daeng a LONG time. We’re talking years.imageIt’s super cheap, electricity-free and wifi free, and has some of the best Thai food on the island for around 100 baht (£2) a dish, with huge portion sizes by Thai standards. Everything here is done on trust, you help yourself to beers, keep a note of what you ate and pay accordingly. It really is something special in this day and age, and I would have stayed here in my twenties just to be part of the little community, but it’s a step too far towards a squat for me these days.

The Rock Bar on the central west coast is your typical Thai beach bar, built on precarious-looking bamboo platforms of varying heights around boulders overlooking the sea, great for sunset watching with a cold beer. The friendly owner offered me the local ‘jungle juice’ but I didn’t have the courage to try it after almost 5 months of alcohol-free living. Periodically, the monkeys come down from the central forests onto the rocks by the bar looking for food, usually before sunset, so it’s worth a trip to catch a glimpse.
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At the very north west tip of the island is a collection of cute, rustic little beach bars and bungalows set on the lower slopes of the mountain, again with more of a laid back traveller vibe, starting at 400 baht a night for a bungalow set at the back. Be warned, it can be pretty rocky for swimming at low tide.

Ko Jum Beach Villas

Although there are no hotels or big commercial resorts on Ko Jum, boom tourism is not  too far away. Ko Jum Beach Villas, next to the Ko Jum diving school, is probably the swankiest (and most imposing) accommodation on the island. Huge luxury beach front villas with folding glass walls and plunge pools, set in private gardens with a pool, spa and high end restaurant. 1bed villas start at 7900 baht. As I type this they are building another big plot of these villas, and on an island as unspoiled as this, I can’t see it staying low-key for long.

The diving school is also much more expensive than at other dive sites like Ko Tao, here it’s 5000 baht a day which as far as I can see is to cover the cost of the very posh speedboat and not much else.

 

I throughly fell in love with Ko Jum. With its peace and quiet it seems to attract mostly couples, so as a solo female traveller it was a little on the lonely side. I did meet one or two interesting characters, the type who never seem to stop travelling, but on the whole it was difficult to find people to talk to. The upside to this, after nearly 5 months volunteering in a mindfulness community, was lots of time to ease back into ‘normal’ life. Early nights, lots of sleep, and sunrise yoga with stunning views each day was just what I needed. My advice? Visit this tropical gem before it goes the way of Ko Lanta or Ko Phi Phi.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

crissy February 7, 2016 at 1:45 am

Looks totally gorgeous and totlly unspoilt, never been to Thailand.Maybe one day.

Emmit February 13, 2016 at 6:00 am

Great job with your blog. I am moving to Philippines next month, i hope to write and make youtube videos. ( no experience in either):-). Wish me luck, keep up the goid work.

Dawn March 1, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Ugh, reading this in the rain and gloom of london and wondering how I can make this kind of a change in my life!!

Sandy Stewart March 27, 2016 at 9:43 pm

Great reading
I love Thailand im going on my own end of July for a few weeks..i would love to come here..just what i need sounds like a place i can reflect and make pending decisions on my current lifestyle.

Sandy Stewart April 13, 2016 at 3:55 am

Beautiful Thankyou

Ingela Vestin Lönn October 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

Hi, found this page when seeking information about Koh Jum. I´m going to Golden Pearl Beach resort in November and are very thankful for your web-side. Hope we´ll find it as lovely as you describe it.

Thank you / Ingela from Sweden

Aly Hazlewood October 3, 2016 at 11:10 am

Hi Ingela

I’m so glad you found it useful. Ko Jum really is a beautiful place, you’ll have a fantastic time.

Best
Aly

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