Nice shot of Ko Libong sunset (image Libong Beach Resort)
Most of this page was written after my first visit in March/April 07. I've added UPDATE DEC 08 sections after my revisit this month.
Umm - my Dec 08 shot is not quite as aristic as opening pic. Note the swing is actually in front of Le Dugong Resort which is adjacent to Libong Beach Resort.
HAT YAO/HAT CHAO MAI
I’ve seen several reports saying the Trang mainland coast has some really nice beaches and places to stay, so after Ko Ngai, I decided to check out Hat Yao, which reads up pretty well in LP.
I decided to stay at SINCHAI'S CHAOMAI RESORT which is a few hundred meters short of Ban Chao Mai. The minibus packed with locals actually detoured off the main road and bounced down the bumpy dirt track for about 400 meters to drop me at Sinchai‘s entrance. Not bad service. Note that Sinchai's beach is actually Hat Chao Mai - proper Hat Yao starts just north of the cape Sinchai's is nestled against and runs for 5 km further north.
Sinchai’s has a great location, set in a partly treed area between the beach and the 100m+ karst cliffs of the Cape. In many respects it is like a mini Railay.
Sinchai's from the Lipe - Phi Phi Tigerline ferry. You can see my beachfront bungalow furthest left abt 35% across shot. They don't come much more beachfront than this. Railay-like karst headland extends maybe 800m north with a couple of nice coves. Looooong Hat Yao beach, part of the mainland National Park, starts the other side.
People are always asking for a laid back bungalow right on the beach, something not all that common in the popular holiday spots. Well, you have it here folks - the front steps of my Sinchai bungalow were 2m from the water at high tide. The adjacent bungalow had the water lapping the steps, even a few sandbags as protection. As the tide drops, a lovely sand spit gets exposed which widens to about 100m at lowest tide. This beach area continues south in a gentle blind curve for about 600m to the Ban (village). In the north it ends up against the rocks of the Cape just past the bungalows. Despite the wide beach at low tide, I didn’t have to go too far out for water deep enough to swim laps. The sea was very clean here. There was a fair bit of longtail traffic going around the Cape, but the noise didn’t bug me too much.
If you wade around those rocks of the Cape at low tide (knee deep the day I did it) you reach after about 400m a lovely “hidden beach” called Hat Apo cut into the Cape and backed by towering limestone cliffs. This is about 200m long and has some small caves in back. At high tide you would need to be a good swimmer (there is a bit of a tidal current running around the Cape) or use a longtail, and there would only be a small amount of sand at the back of the beach above water. Note there is a smaller beach before you come to Apo.
My beachfront bungalow at Sinchai’s was a typical wooden job with verandah looking out towards the rugged hills of KO LIBONG, about 5 km offshore. It wasn’t huge, but had enough room for two and their gear, a pretty comfy bed with rather flat but okay pillows, the usual separate bathroom etc. The place was clean. Price was a bit contentious - Sinchai’s missus wouldn’t budge from 500 baht. Okay, this bungalow was the equivalent of 300 baht jobs elsewhere, but what price do you put on absolute beachfront location? Hard to say - my Ko Chang (Andaman) bungalow was beachside (but not as close to the water), was nicer and was 250 baht. But it had more competition - the only other place in the Yao/Chao Mai area is HAT YAO NATURE RESORT with fairly big and very closely spaced aircon bungalows for 800, right in the Ban. The Ban is daggy.
Sinchai also had some 300 baht bungalows back from the beach, but these were dark unscreened boxes.
UPDATE Jan08 - I recently read that Sinchai has put in a few aircon bungalows.
UPDATE DEC 08 - a Canadian guy I talked to on Libong stayed with Sinchai a few days in one of the newer "apartment" rooms - which he bargained down to 250. This was shoulder season late Nov.
Sinchai’s restaurant is the usual open-sided job with sea views. LP raves about the food and I reckon it was pretty good But I find the stuff at Thai roadside food-stops been stewing there since Paris Hilton broke into videos is pretty good, so what do I know? Prices were towards the lower end - curries at 60, American brekka at 60 and large Changs not quite so good on 80. Service was friendly - note they wait for you to go ask for the menu and to put in your order.
Sinchai offers some pretty good long tail daytrips - 500 per person to Muk including the fabulous Emerald Cave and nearby snorkeling islets. I think it even included Ko Kradan. It’s a fair haul to the north to Muk and Kradan is further to the west. 2 Brits returned late my first day from the trip and said it was fabulous.
Note this couple and a German guy looked like he’d been staying there the past 10 years were the only westerners I saw at Hat and Ban Chao Mai.
UPDATE FEB09 - unsubstantiatedmusings was less impressed with Sinchai's than me. Women travelling alone particularly should check her detailed input near the foot of this page.
UPSDATE AUG09 - I just stumbled across this report from Hans Meier who seems less gruntled with Sinchai's too.
Michael Weitzman who runs and adventure company out of the Ao Nang area and the Ko Laoliang Resort tells me Hat Yao may soon have some CLIMBING...."i have spent a bit of time at Sinchai's. In fact, we have brought up the idea of putting up some climbing routes near his place sometime in the near future (which he seemed very excited about)".
I had a wander around Ban Chao Mai, and frankly it is dire, way worse than the average fishing village with even more discarded boat and vehicle junk scattered around, heaps of household rubbish, used fuel cans, old fishing nets, dirty mud flats at low tide and hot and dusty away from the beach because it wasn’t catching the sea breeze enjoyed by Sinchai’s over near the Cape. There were a few small eats joints/stores plus Hat Yao Nature Resort which had a nice enough dining area out over the water on stilts with pleasant views of the sea and Libong in one direction and the crummy fishing village in the other. They sure do nice banana shakes. A short distance to the north was the new pier which is used by the National Parks boats and a big charter ferry which does daytrips out to Kradan. The long tail taxis to Libong leave from the beach on the village side of Nature Resort.
The ferry is tied up to Hat Yao Nature Resort's rather nice deck area over the water at Ban Chao Mai. The Libong public longtails leave just to the left. Note the karst landscape which is almost Railay like across near Sinchai's (image trangsea.com)
Somehow I was a bit less than whelmed with Hat Yao/Chao Mai. The area immediately around Sinchai’s was very nice and Sinchai’s itself was a pretty good place apart from the bungalow price. But once I had checked the beach and Cape I got a bit bored. I’ve seen Muk/Emerald Cave and certainly had no wish to spend time hanging around the Ban. No problems - plenty of places I stay are pretty quiet in themselves but okay as a base to explore a bigger area, so I decided to spend my last 2 days in Thailand bicycling the coast to the north, much of which is National Park. Bad news - Sinchai’s bicycles had been broken by tourists (what’s new - what do you guys do to them? I got 2 bikes at home do several thousand km a year and they are in great shape). Sinchai had motorcycles for hire, but Honda step-thrus don’t particularly arate my exhil. On the other hand that big rugged island out there was beginning to look more and more interesting. So I packed my stuff and headed for the Ban and a boat to Ko Libong.
LATEST UPDATE - wonderingstar2 stayed at Sinchai's and had a real good look around the Hat Yao area in early 2011. ww2 was less than impressed with Sinchai's place and has some good info about alternative accommodation, eats in the area. Info, pix and maps HERE.
GETTING TO HAT YAO
Easiest access seems to be via Trang - the same minibus station that handles arrivals from Pak Meng, the main pier for Ko Ngai also has the public minibuses for Hat Yao. Most local trips around Trang are done by minibuses - there are several minibus stations depending on the destination. If you are coming from downtown Trang it is about 2 km from the station area on the main road north to Krabi - a short cheap motorcycle taxi ride from the railway station (although apparenty the minibuses will call in at the travel agencies opposite the railway station if they ring to say they have customers).
The minibus station is a very short motorcyle taxi trip from the Trang bus station - easily walked if you have a map of Trang.
The actual destination for the minibus is Ban Chao Mai which is a few hundred meters south of the Cape. This fishing village is the departure point for Ko Libong.
There doesn’t seem to be any public transport directly along the 30 odd km of coast between Pak Meng and Hat Yao, thus the need to go via Trang (although see Tigerline below). The minibus fare from Trang to Ban Chao Mai was 100 baht in 2011 and the trip takes around 50 to 60 minutes.
I'm not sure about airport arrivals. The four times I've used the minibus it didn't go near the airport. There are travel agents there who will give you best info, but it may be a case of going into Trang.
If you are coming from Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi, Lanta, Ko Ngai, Ko Kradan*, Ko Laoliang, Ko Lipe, Ko Andang a good option would be Tigerline ferry which uses the pier at Ban Chao Mai as a staging point to swap ferries from the northern islands to those south. See link at the foot of the page.* Wally from Paradise Lost at Kradan told me Tigerline sometimes by-passes Kradan.
Image - trangsea.com - Ko Libong Beach Resort and Le Dugong are just north of that TRIANGLE for Langhow Village bottom left of map. There is one continuous beach stretching from adjacent to the tip of the ARROW, right around to the bottom STAR representing Libong Nature Beach Resort.
Ko Libong is the biggest of the Trang islands, and along with Ko Sukorn, the least touristy. There are only 3 resorts, spread along a nice beach approximately 3km towards the southern end of the west coast. Ko Libong Beach Resort and adjacent Le Dugong are towards the northern end and Ko Libong Nature Resort is around the curve of the beach past the fishing village at the far southern end. This is a place you come to to swim, lie on the beach, snorkel, maybe take a walk along a rainforest lined road or thru a fishing village - and just relax. There are no tourist restaurants or bars outside the resorts. The resorts can arrange trips to adjacent Trang islands, nature excursions and diving.
Libong has a big advantage over Ngai, Kradan and Muk of frequent public longtails to the island rather than a once or twice a day expensive longtail from the resort (Muk also has a few public ferries to the town pier). The Libong longtails tend to leave when there are sufficient passengers, which means you may wait for up to an hour, but it’s nice to know you can lob anytime in daylight and early evening and get to the island cheaply. We are talking 50baht (DEC 08 - still 50), and the trip takes 20 to 30 minutes. Motorcycle taxis around to the resorts on the west coast take around 15 minutes and are another 70 baht (DEC 08 - 100).
There was no public boat about to leave when I wandered around from Sinchai’s, but a couple of guys were loading water and booze onto a longtail. I asked them if they were going to Libong, and if so anywhere near Ko Libong Beach Resort. Hell, one of the guys OWNED the resort. They took me across for 100baht which saved me a bit of dough, a lot of time and allowed me to see the north-west and much of the west coast of the island from the water, which the public boats heading for the main pier miss.
The western half of Ko Libong is mountainous, covered with rainforest and has some really nice beaches. LIBONG BEACH RESORT has one of these all to itself (UPDATE DEC 08 - not any more, Le Dugong is right next door and I found Ko Libong Nature Resort's location is actually right down the south end around the curve of the beach past the village, about 2km away), facing north-westward with excellent sunsets and views of Kos Nok Rok, Kradan, Muk, Ngai, and even mountainous Lanta way up to the north.
That popular guidebook describes this as a mid range resort, and the elevated beachfront 1000 and 1200 bungalows (fan v aircon) looked very nice indeed.
UPDATE DEC 08 - all the elevated seaview bungalows are now fan. Posted price 1000 but asking 800 in early Dec 08. This is a pretty good deal - they are very nice bungalows and seemed to have just about 100% occupancy even though it was shoulder season.
Up the back, across a small creek in a nice garden setting they have some really great value 300 baht A frame chalet style bungalows with attached cement and tile bathrooms (and a separate bathroom block behind). I think these were built for Thai families because they have TWO double beds and SQUAT TOILETS. The latter may be a turnoff to some, but I know it does not faze lots of budget travelers, particularly if the price is right, and this was very right.
The bungalow itself was in good condition, clean, had a nice verandah , plenty of room for two people and their gear - even four western people and their stuff would not be too sqeeezy.
It came with 2 towels, soap, toilet paper, comp. water, a broom, a big mirror in the sleeping area but none in the bathroom. The bathroom shower was a gusher, which is great after the trickle you get from many cheaper places. There were not a lot of hooks, lines or shelves to put stuff, although the mirror was set in one of those small modular vanity tables.
Elcheapo A frames - 300 f0r me March 07 - posted price in reception early DEC O8 700, asking price 500 - but a young German couple I mentioned these to on the longtail-taxi coming across to the island managed to get one for 300! Totally excellent deal - shot my outside-bathroom Le Dugong 400 baht place to pieces.
They also showed me their 500 baht fan bungalows - these were set in kind of duplex 50s motel -style block, twin beds, western toilets, closer to the restaurant and beach (but the 300s were only 100m from each) - but frankly there was no comparison value-wise.
UPDATE DEC 08 - the motel-like block of 500 cheapies has been converted into these flash aircom family jobs foreground and new family and aircon-twins behind - posted rates at reception 2500 and 2000 - and asking 2500 and 1500 before bargaining early Dec shoulder.
The open plan style restaurant was set up near the beach, but the profusion of trees cut down the views a fair bit (UPDATE DEC 08 - seemed better). Food was good in quality and variety of choice, the service quick and friendly and the prices mostly towards the lower end of all the bungalows I visited. A large Chang was 70, soft drinks 15 and the curries in the 70 range before rice.
Grounds were spotless as was the beachfront. There was a good selection of hammocks and beach furniture under the beachfront trees. It was possible to swim in most places along the beach even a lowest tide and at highest tide there was still a good strip of sand left. UPDATE DEC 08 - this visit coincided with a full moon's lowest low-tide which exposed a lot of rocky seabed for an hour or so in front of and to the south of the resort. Water was deeper to the north. Higher tide levels - no problems anywhere.
There seemed to be okay lumps of coral off the beach which were keeping snorkellers interested for extended periods, but this is a bit controversial - see below*.
Beach in front of Beach Resort. Le Dugong Resort's beach starts abt 100m past longtail.
There is a dive school, snorkeling trips to Kradan, Muk and the wonderful Emerald Cave are offered, you can hire motorcycles, but frankly, this is the perfect place to just sit back, relax, swim, tan and shade it out.
The dive shop at Libong Beach Resort (image libongbeachresort.com)
Thankfully for the peace and quiet, those jet skis Travelfish mentions looked like they had been out of use for quite some time. BTW, longtail boat noise, the bane of many resorts, is not an issue - there is a small fishing village about 500 m to the south around the corner of the beach, but shallow water between it and the resort forces those noisy things out around a small islet so that they are a long way offshore when passing.
This is my favourite Trang island place after Paradise Lost on Kradan. Compared to Ko Muk Resort (good value), Ko Hai Resort (pretty nice), I thought Libong Resort consididerably better.
One other consideration is ease of access - you can get hourly minibuses down from Trang to Hat Yao, catch one of the frequent water taxis out to the main island village, and a motorcylce taxi across to the resort just about anytime during daylight, which beats the expensive one boat a day to some other islands.
In my value for money ratings I give the 300 bungalows 8.5/10, food 8.5, location 8.5, staff 8 and grounds/landscaping 8. The overall impression was so nice I rate it overall closer to 9."
LE DUGONG RESORT
UPDATE DEC 08 - I always like to try a new place when I revisit and had seen some good things about LE DUGONG RESORT including the pix below - so I made my way there after coming in from Laoliang. I was thinking it would be on another beach so imagine my surprise to find it was right next door to Libong Beach Resort. But this is a nice uncrowded and quite long beach which can easily support 2 resorts.
The beach at Le Dugong Resort, a newer Libong place which has attracted good reports (image Panoramio-John Foreman)
Le Dugong only has 10 bungalows. 8 bigger flashpacker types with bathrooms which you can see here (900 high season web rate) and 2 smaller outside toilet ones which are far left.
The grounds were nicely manicured with hammocks, picnic tables, sitting cabanas - the beach clean, kayaks, snorkelling gear for hire.
Open bifold doors showed the interior of the bigger places looked a step-up in quality from the normal beach bungalow - although the web price is a step-up too. Bet I could have got this for 500 bargaining.
Pole-framed, thatched roof, bamboo furniture - the restaurant wasn’t beachfront but pretty close. That’s my elcheapo bungalow far right.
Food prices just a little more than average budget bungalows, service good, cooking a bit slow (but for most of my stay I was the only guest and I suppose they were cooking a lot from scratch), meal quality fine. A small number of Beach Resort guests wandered the 200m down here to have a meal or two - Beach Resort’s restaurant seemed slightly more expensive again (but still good value).
That’s the beachside bar cabana in the background - the guys worked hard on this 2nd afternoon I was there, mounting speakers etc - had some real nice twinkly lights and good music going after dinner with just the family celebrating the opening - I went down to Beach Resort and brought back some people I’d met on the taxi-longtail and pretty soon we had a small party with 5 farangs and 4 family members going. Not a bad opening night of the season for a place with one guest. Small point - this bar is situated a fair distance from the dearer bungalows and the music was never LOUD - so I don’t think it would prove a hassle to people in those bungalows.
Behind the restaurant on piers over a creek was a computer room, rates reasonable - this attracted guests from Beach Resort which doesn’t have computer access.
My elcheapo bungalow at Le Dugong.
Actually not all that cheap at 400 for an outside bathroom job. But that was the web-rate and unusually for me, this is one I’d booked in advance. Thing is, I wanted to stay at Le Dugong, I knew they only had 2 bungalows in my price range and I was afraid that if I did my usual walk-in routine they might both be taken. Actually the other cheapie was taken on my first night.
This was in effect just a box with a veranda. Just enough room for 2 and their gear. Double mattress firm but comfy, ditto pillows. Mozzie net had 100 repairs and another 50 small flaws but I had no problems. No doormat or bin but soap+towel+toilet paper supplied. Good lights. Clean, in good condition although some veranda timber already showing weathering after only 18 months or less (Le Dugong didn’t exits when I stayed next door in March 07). Very quiet at night.
Veranda nice place to sit for sea views when not covered with washing - when I came in from the pier on the motorbike-taxi it absolutely poured rain and everything got real wet.
Outside bathroom immediately behind was also the restaurant bathroom. Twin showers, twin squat toilets, 2 urinals, 2 showers with good water pressure, 2 big basins ideal for washing but bring your own mulit-fit plug, 2 huge mirrors. Clean.
LIBONG NATURE RESORT: In my planning for the trip I saw several posts slamming Libong Nature Resort for high prices, poor food and pushing their dugong discovery cruises etc too hard. UPDATE Jan08 - however there have been no negative posts** of late, the latest guidebooks are positive and the website talks of new management.
UPDATE DEC 08 - I walked south around the curve of Dugon's/Beach Resort's beach - past the fishing village - for about 15 minutes to Nature Resort which is against the southern headland. This place looked quite attractive with nice bungalows at what seemed reasonable prices before bargaining (shoulder season beachront incl TV-aircon 1000 2nd row 800 others 600) but a guy staying there who had come down to Le Dugong for a meal told me the food was very dear - I checked the menu and yep - twice the prices of the other resorts).**UPDATE JAN 09 - if you are considering Libong Nature Resort it might be a good idea to check jw's comment at the foot of this page and the Resident Manager's response. AUGUST 09 - it might also be worth reading Hans Meier's account of Libong Nature Resort too - plus his other stuff on Libong.
Attractive bungalows at Libong Nature Resort. The beach here was pretty nice but much rockier, both big and small, than Le Dugong/Beach Resort.
GETTING TO KO LIBONG
Libong is a lot easier to access by public transport than the typical Trang island - public longtail ferries leave from Ban Chao Mai when full - roughly hourly. See details of GETTING TO HAT YAO/BAN CHAO MAI up-page.
If you arrive at Ban Chao Mai on the minibus from Trang the driver will point out the departure point for the public longtail ferry - it was down on the beach last time I went thru, not at the flash pier 2 minutes south which is used by Tigerline and Trang Island daytrip boats. There should be a bunch of people (mainly locals) waiting - when they have enough passengers (I've never waited more than a half hour) away you go.
Note they will offer you a charter longtail when you arrive - smile and shake head unless you can afford heaps/in a big hurry.
The cost of the public longtail was 50baht according to people who did it in 2011. The trip takes 20 minutes tops.
When you get to the pier at Libong there will be a bunch of motorcycle taxi guys waiting. It's about a 15 minute trip to Libong Beach Resort/Le Dugong. 2011 price 100baht - you may be able to bargain less.
UPDATE OCT 2011 - wonderingstar called by Libong earlier in the year and has some comprehensive updates on his site including a new budget resort Libong Sunset Resort.
* I know I should always check the snorkeling if I’m gonna write these reports, but I gave it a miss on Libong and just swam laps off the beach. My view through the plastic lens swimming goggles was of a sandy bottom with frequent small clumps of coral. But goggles like this are not really clear enough to show if the coral was good quality and if there were a lot of those colourful small fish etc hanging around. Certainly the area seemed to keep the handful of snorkellers each day entertained for lengthy periods. But if you come from some non-aquatic region, even the flat sandy bottom just off the beach of Hat Rin seems to do this.
UPDATE DEC 08 - I felt duty bound to do a snorkel. Yep, the coral is pretty ordinary in front of Beach Resort/Le Dugong. Gets better towards the north headland but in no way can compare to say Kradan.
I don’t want to sound elitist, but I’m a bit blasé about snorkeling. This is partly because the best coral in Thailand (SIMILAN ISLANDS) is 2nd rate and partly because I snorkel at home most days in a spectacular place. I go after lobsters and abalone in the small rocky bay behind my house - it has underwater caves, canyons and crevasses, heaps of fish, eels etc plus lots of long seaweed swaying in the swell. And this place often picks up big swell - just getting in and out off the rocks can be exciting.
One time I was hauling myself out in a really nasty swell one-handed, with a fishing-line ensnared gull in the other and got smashed by a big wave. Gulls often swoop on fishing baits and get hooked - this fisherman cut the line off long and that bird got itself bound up better than Barbie The Bondage Bitch at Barry’s Bad Boys' Barn in backstreet Byron Bay. Ol’ Jonathon Livingston was being blown towards the rocks and certain oblivion. I was sinking the usual 5pm 2 to 5 glasses of elcheapo red with Lady Tezza in the sunroom checking the gnarly Pacific - she suggested it might be worthwhile to go down and haul the dumbass bird out. So there I was on a blustery winter day, no time to put a protective wetsuit on, getting dragged across the rocks by the swash and then sucked back into the water by the backwash, all the time holding the gull up so it didn’t get mashed. Real exciting.
But Lady T was right - it was worth it. The seagull stew was great.
The bay behind my joint.
Lady T: Hey Tezza, is that another seagull in trouble?
Tezza: Not unless it's called Moby.
Snakes alive! There's Jake! The things you see when you are looking for seagulls in distress and whales on a frolic.
Yep, definitely not gulls.
Hey, there's Jake's mate ..........
FERRY - BAN CHAO MAI TO KO LIPE/LANTA/PHI PHI. Tigerline is running ferries from Phi Phi/Lanta to Lipe, via the pier at Hat Yao south of Trang. This very fast ferry (not a speedboat) goes on to Langkawi. Details can be seen on their website At the time of writing Lanta-Lipe was 1400 baht - 4.5 hours. Trang Yao-Lipe 750. Lipe-Langkawi 950. It calls in at places along the way including Muk and Ngai and Lao Liang.
For high season 08/09 services begin Nov 24.
Note Trang has the nearest airport and also two sleeper trains from Bangkok daily. Details of trains/plains and buses to Trang can be found here.billp recently indicated that the morning Nok Air flight into Trang is met by reps from these travel agents who will transport you into town and arrange bookings/transport.
A reliable Trang travel agent for booking and transport into all Trang and Satun area islands - good on transfers/accommodation to/for Lanta and further north too - KK Travel in the parallel street directly opposite the railway station tel 075-211198, 223664, 081-8945955
If you visit Libong/Hat Yao you might also be interested in nearby:
KO LOA LIANG (closest)
KO PHI PHI
If you have any questions or comments could you please publish them on THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all island pages daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.