Friday, December 15, 2006

Ko Libong, Hat Yao

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 fr
om 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.


KO LIBONG

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 a
nd 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 ge
ar. 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 ide
al 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.
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* 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 blasĂ© 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 ..........

........ Kate!

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
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If you visit Libong/Hat Yao you might also be interested in nearby:

KO KRADAN

KO MUK

KO LOA LIANG (closest)

KO NGAI

KO PHI PHI

KO ADANG
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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.

16 comments:

CHARIS said...

Hi Tezza, thanks so much for your detailed review on Ko Libong. I printed off your blog page as my guide and recently headed to Ko Libong with my bestfriend. Here is my report: http://chariscrumbs.blogspot.com/2008/06/libong-escapade-part-i.html

tezza said...

Hey Charis, seems like you had a good visit despite being low season and deserted. Thanks for the report.

jwmlee said...

Beware dishonest operator / construction / firearms!

We had a very poor experience with Ko Libong Nature Reserve Resort.

We recommend you opt for the well run and even better priced Ko Libong Beach or La Dugong Resorts. Much higher standards, more reasonable prices and most importantly, honest, ethical management.

Problems included:

• Construction / earth moving equipment adjacent to the site
• Dishonest management
• Extortionate over pricing
• Small arms fire (I kid you not!)
• Poor cleanliness
• Poorly maintained facilities
• No English spoken on site

We were initially told there was a Christmas special offer on the huts at 600 / 800 / 1000 baht. We heard these were their standard prices. When we arrived at Hat Yao we were told the huts would be 1000 but after some discussion (and a phone call) we were told we could have the mid range price. Once we booked (and paid) we were told that it would cost a further 1200 baht to take a longtail to the island. We told the receptionist, who spoke excellent English that we were looking forward to some peace and quite after Bangkok.

We opted to talk the ferry across to the island (200 baht) but as my partners was uneasy about taking a motorcycle taxi on island we paid the 1200 baht for the long tail.

To our (intense) disappointment, there was heaving earth moving equipment operating right next to the resort – the whole bay boomed to the sound of a large bulldozer and two tip trucks – all within about 20m of our hut! We tried to speak the staff who spoke not English at all. Their were signs up to say if you have any problems ask to speak to Mr Lawrence (one of the so called professors who set the place up) who speaks excellent English. When I asked to speak to him, I just got blank stares. In the end we called to the receptionist / manager at Hat Yao at managed, after some discussion to be moved to a hut further back. We requested some compensation saying we clearly stated that we wanted peace and quiet – to this we were told the work had only stared today (half the hillside had been excavated – at least 2 weeks work!) and she would contact the owner. We moved our stuff and resigned ourselves to putting up with the noise. The concrete block hut was adequate if not a little shabby lacking any charm.

After unpacking we took a stroll on the beach which is just gorgeous – beautiful little emerald bay fringed by jungle. Whist sitting on the beach under a shady tree we were started by the sound of a small bore rifle with the bullets ricocheting into the air above us! Someone was shooting at the wildlife….a nature resort? Fearing for our safety (the bullets were whizzing up into the air above us. We hurriedly moved down onto the beach.

In the evening we ate at the main reception area – a someone what run down open veranda style restaurant cafĂ© space. All dinner options were 220 baht (not cheap option) with rice bumping the meal up to 250 baht. Drinks were also very expensive by Thai standards. The food was ok but not great – very basic. Water (small bottles) was 50 Baht – on the mainland 1 litre bottles were 12 baht). Loos for the area looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in months – leaves, dirt, insects etc. Trips to see the Dugong were 1500 baht and mask and snorkel hire was 200 baht – again very expensive by Thai standards.

There is lots of material around – signs / leaflets etc saying how Ko Libong Nature Resort is a eco resort and that it is a non profit organisation set up to help local sea gypsies. However, we didn’t see any evidence of this work and got the impression it was a front for a pretty shabby operation.

The following day we walked around the coast to the other two resorts. What a contrast. Beautiful little rattan / wooden stilt beach huts, cheap superb food, large water bottles at 20 baht, reasonably priced trips and tours. Friendly and profession management.

Needless to say we moved to the Beach Resort after spending our two nights at the Nature Resort. We saw Dugong (400 baht trip refunded in part (100 baht) due to a windy day!), hired a moped for (300 baht) for the day. Ate well and just relaxed. Nothing was too much trouble for the management and staff. Sea front huts look over a little strip of tropical gardens with mature trees and palms out to the sea. We slept with the front ranch sliders open – could hear the lapping ocean on one side and frogs and crickets on the other. Just wonderful.

Ko Libong is a wonderful, undeveloped paradise but we recommend you avoid the Ko Libong Nature Resort and book with the Ko Libong Beach Resort or adjacent Le Dugong Beach Resort.

tezza said...

Wow, looks like Libong Nature Resort has reverted to its bad old ways! Thanks for the report jw - I'm sure it will prove helpful to other intending visitors. I'll put an ALERT in the main body of text above directing readers to your comments.
That Canadian traveller I mentioned complaining about food prices also moved down to Beach Resort, even though Nature Resort refused to refund him for unused days. I thought at the time there must be more to it than high food costs.

LibongNatureResort said...

About Tezza's Blog, and reviews made by others on Tripadvisor

Introduction.

Hello. I am the current resident manager of the Libong Nature Beach Resort
and I must say, the comments made on your blog are very one-sided, and for
those who have actually stayed at our resort and didn't like it, perhaps it
was unfortunate for you that we didn't actually meet so I could explain
the situation to you.

Mission

As you know, our resorts are managed by the Lifelong Learning Foundation which
our main goals are to support community development and educational programs in
Thailand. If you are looking for proof of this, you can click on our foundation's
website http://www.lifelong-learning.org to see what community projects we are
involved in.

Tours and Transfers

Pertaining to the cost of our boat tours and transfers, you must realize that our
resort does not even own a boat, as such we select only the local fisherman boats,
and 70 percent of the cost that you pay goes to the local fisherman directly.
You may ask where the remaining 30 % goes. As you know, being a Legally Registered
Foundation, we must abide by all the laws that are required of us. We are a
legally licensed registered tour operator, under the Tourism Authority of Thailand
and are legally bound by all our actions. This means, an insurance policy which
benefits guests who face misfortune on any of our tours or boat charters.

Then how does the Resort make money to finance these community projects? Well,
we rent our our kayaks, snorkelling equipments, lifejackets, meals, etc. plus
we have to pay the staff to prepare and support the boatman. Don't forget, we
have to feed the boatman and the guide as well, and provide to administrative
support ie. information about tours etc. and that has a cost as well. I think
that that is enough to justify the 30 %. We provide INSURANCE and all farangs
know that Insurance is not free, there is always a cost involved. If there us
a problem, we have to be responsible, other people can always runaway but not
us.

Cost of Food

Some say that our food is expensive, that is until they see the portions we give,
our portions can feed at least 3 thai people. You just haven't given us a chance
yet, and take us at face value.

Most of our food supplies are from the village, unlike most resorts who buy their
supplies from Superstores such as Makro with low prices, our food actually costs
more because we buy it from the local village, therefore supporting their small
economy.

We have also compared our prices to the other resorts and to say that we a double
the price is an unfair statement. One such comparison is their American Breakfast
which costs 80 baht, but consists of 1 fried egg and 2 slices of toast.
our American Breakfast costs 200 baht but you get 2 fried eggs, 2 slices of toast,
some fried seafood, several slices of fresh fruit, a glass of orange juice, and
coffee/tea. So please, don't take everything at face value but look into detail.


Other Community Services

To promote the usage of bicycles on the island, our foundation has donated over
a dozen bicycles to the children in the village nearby, plus we have ensured that
all the staff at the resort uses bicycles in their daily activities by sponsoring
the bicycles.

We have also had community workshop trainings to train the local rural people in
the art of batik painting, so that during the low season when they are not tapping
rubber, they can have a source of income during that time.

Our resort also grows a number of organic vegetables such as morning glory, lemon
grass, basil, chilis, and we have never sold it to the village people. If they
ask, they can have it, and in return for our kindness, we are blessed with
fresh fruit or vegetables from their own garden. Kindness is not forced, but
natural.


Respect and support for the Local Community.

Our resort is based on an island where the population is 100 % muslim, therefore
we do not serve pork or cook pork in our restaurant. I cannot say the same for
other resorts around. Also we do not have any dogs in our resort, although we do
have alot of cats. As you know dog saliva is taboo for muslims. Also note that
all the staff at the resort are natives from the island, the only person except
me.


Nature Preservation.

When we send back our glass bottles back to Trang for recycling using the boats
the guests charter to and from the island, it should not be a crime. Guests should
not complain when we are sending supplies over, we are not overcrowding the boat,
it is an everyday occurence. If you say the resort should pay for the extra space
that we use for the boat, please note that we already pay the boatman EXTRA so
that he can LOAD and UNLOAD the boat as well, and that is not included in the
boat price the guests have to pay.

People say we're crazy to send our bottles back to the mainland for recycling,
in fact I've been to several islands where they just pile the bottles up and it
is disgusting, even in some of the resorts. People laugh when I carry bags of
broken glass back to the mainland, even at our campsite in Koh Mook.
If you go to Koh Mook and ask whether there is a crazy guy carrying sacks of
broken glass and the ferry boat, they would point to me.

I'm not a fanatic, but I do what I think is best, for the resort and the environment
and is most people appreciate it, that the battle is won. I am rather dissappointed
and sorry that some of the comments made on Tezzas website and other travel websites
have been very harsh. Hopefully we can meet in person one of these days at either
Haadyao Nature Resort or Libong Nature Beach Resort.

But I must admit, our staff is not the greatest at english, however this is how
wars are started, because of the language barrier, you cannot blame someone if
they do not know what is going. And sometimes, it is just plain bad luck if someone
is bulldozing land somewhere nearby, which is an extremely rare one time occurence.

If there are any queries or questions, you can always email me at
libongnatureresort@gmail.com

Sincerely,

The Resident Manager
(Whoever is Volunteering at this time) So I shall remain nameless
Libong Nature Beach Resort

LibongNatureResort said...

Just a quick note to add that we were not the people doing the construction next door, and they had only started on that day.

We had tried to contact the owner of the land and made several attempts keep them quiet.

The so-called firearms, were firecrackers, our management has tried our best to rectify the situation by moving the guests to a different bungalow as well. I would say that the guest was quite unfair in his statements.

Also to compare our Dugong Safari Tours with the other resort is also not right, the other resorts tour is only for 3 hours, just sitting on the longtail boat, our tour is much different taking as much as 8 hours of the day, utiliziing kayaks, snorkelling gear etc. going to other places such as the wildlife sanctuary, bird island, and some good snorkelling sites. If you haven't been on our tour, you should not comment.

The Resident Manager
Libong Nature Beach Resort

tezza said...

Whoa, claim and counter-claim! It's real nice to see both sides of the debate.
Looks like next trip I'll be spending a few days at Libong Nature Resort to make up my own mind.
Mind you, I'll be making my own way to the island. A boat guy at Hat Yao recently offered a charter to deliver me to my resort of choice for 500baht - and the other resorts charge 700 for the trip. Um.....+30% don't compute.
And I reckon resident mangager should fire his restaurant researcher - I've had American brekkas at both the other resorts and they don't meet the description given above. Listen, Im a weapons-grade fang-merchant - relatives run a book on how many main courses and deserts I can hoover at Christmas dinner - and I haven't found any of the portions at the other places' restaurants skinny.
Anyway, I always try to stay at a new place when I revisit - so til next time .......

LibongNatureResort said...

I am extremely delighted that you and I may actually meet up one of these days,
also I am surprised that you were able to charter a boat for 500 baht, which is
impossible unless it was 7 years ago. Perhaps you were able to get a boat which
was returning back to the resorts / or Langkow village after sending supplies
back to Haadyao. Because the price here is 800 baht now, even though petrol
prices have been drastically reduced.

Our resort which is managed by the foundation raises funds by hiring out their
lifejackets or other marine equipment to guests for 50 baht each, also, our
resort has the proper license and insurance for the guests, and also government
tax. Therefore the 30% extra is not very much, but for guests travel safety
and insurance claims.

Other resorts, like the Anantara (was amari) charged 10 times more, or even
at Charlie's in Koh Mook, or Sivalai. I think we are still pretty reasonable,
all you need is someone to explain why we charge what we do.

You can also read our guest reviews at libongnatureresort.blogspot.com or see what
our foundation has done so far at lifelong-learning.org. Of course there are still
alot of community projects which we are still listing on the website for those
who demand proof as there are some non-believers.

If you ever drop by around the area, you should talk to the professor who is now
currently residing at the Haadyao Nature Resort, and get his views, that you can
decide for yourself. As with all professional journalists like yourself, you should
always hear both sides of the story and then decide for yourself.

But when you do arrive, you should drop of an email before you arrive so I can be
there to greet you at the resort, because sometimes I do go to trang for a break
and get my daily dose of KFC. After all... man cannot live on fish alone!

our Email is natureresorts@trangsea.com, or you can call us at 081-8946936

Hope to see you soon.

Sincerely

The Management

Libong Nature Beach Resort

tezza said...

Jeez, I'm not a professional journalist. Sure, I've had a couple of newspaper travel-stories published, but that was just for fun. This blog was started so I didn't have to constantly write the same detailed answers on travel websites. I do earn some money if people click Google advertisments on my pages - last couple of months I've averaged 73cents per day. Whoopee! I've got the ads partly as a thank-you to Google who gives this site for free, and partly because it is a way to get a view-counter for each page - like any writer it's nice to see how many people are reading my stuff.
I don't give warning of arrival - hate to think any special treatment might clould my reports.
See you sometime.

unsubstantiatedmusings said...

Re: Sinchai's Chao Mai Beach Resort

Hi Tezza

Firstly, thanks for your site. I read it for hours before my month in Thailand in Dec/Jan.

I hope anyone thinking of heading to Sinchai's "resort" will get to read this, buried as it will be under the Libong diatribe!

I agree with what you say about the over-pricing, but not the quality of the place. I was the ONLY guest but was charged 500 in December 08 for a bungalow that really needed a good clean, cracked sink and shower that sprayed water every where but on my body!

I arrived at night, so ended up staying for two nights as I wouldn't have had the chance to explore otherwise.

As a woman on her own, I found Sinchai really really creepy. He
seemed to make excuses to keep coming over to my bungalow and then started with all this cr*p about "Why don't you marry Sinchai and work here?" Sometimes that kind of talk is funny if you have had a good rapport with a local, but we didn't and he said it 6-7 times in one morning!

The food was OK, nothing special and I was waiting for almost 2 hours for someone to return so I could order breakfast. I don't expect them to hang around for one guest, but it would have been nice to have been told in advance when I could eat. I was also out of water and the fridge was bolted shut (the nearest place for water was about 700m away).

Also, and I can't be 100% sure of this, but I think Sinchai was trying to diddle me out of 1000 Baht. I'd paid for the first night
the evening I arrived with a 1000 note and received a 500 as change.
The following afternoon, he said that I had given him a fake note and could I change it for another.
I almost fell for it as you know how locals will sometimes not accept a real note just because it has a small tear etc but he forced my brain into gear by saying "Krabi money changer on street no good. Show me your other notes."

I remembered that I had changed all my money in a bank and the other seven 1000s I had on me were nothing like the one he said I'd given (wafer thin and no silver mark even!) He was saying "Sinchai go to market. Shop say Sinchai's money no good!"

Now, seeing as I read a few days later about the fake 1000s in circulation, would a guest house manager really not know a fake one when given it? Practically everyone else I handed a 1000 to checked it thoroughly before accepting it.

He was still pressuring me to change it (and it didn't help that I had just shown him I had 7000B on me!) but i just showed him the bank exchange receipt and said "It wasn't from me!" He then muttered something about maybe another guest and then "Pay for tonight" - I gave him a 500 this time!

The other problem for me was the dogs. I'm not a fan of them at the best of times, but the one chained up in the kitchen barked and growled for about 15 minutes whilst I was trying to eat and three others (unchained) barked and ran up to me every time I tried to walk from the bungalow to the kitchen/leave the resort. One even nipped at my ankle. Pretty scary.

I checked out the visitors' book and 2008 took up three pages, the
same as January alone in 2000! I guess they are scaling down so don't care any more.

It was a real shame. I really enjoyed the peace, reading on the balcony, watching the tide go in and out and wading round to the other small beaches. The beaches were nothing much, but there was some wildlife and the cliffs were impressive.

Sinchai's would be great.....
....without Sinchai!

tezza said...

That's very useful information for similar travellers to yourself. Thanks. I'll post a note up in the main text where Sinchai's is featured allerting readers to your input down here.

sissel said...

I just spent 10 days at Libong Beach Resort, from january 1 to january 10. We were planning on going to Koh Kradan, but the places we were interested in were fully booked, so we went to Libong instead.

We stayed at the 50s style motel bungalows that had been converted into big family bungalows. They had initially been two separate rooms w. bathrooms, but the wall between the two rooms had been torn down, making the bungalow twice the size of a regular bungalow. As we stayed there for a while, we really appreciated the extra space.

We had a beachfront bungalow (which is a must for me) with two porches and huge glass doors facing the ocean for 1200 baht (you had to pay 200 extra per night to turn on the aircon, but we never use aircon so didn't bother). The second row ones were 1000 baht. As it was peak season and the resort was fully booked, bargaining was not an option ;-)

Staff was very friendly. Even though both Libong Beach Resort and Le Dugong were fully booked, the beach was not anywhere near crowded. We're talking maybe fifteen people on the beach along both resorts being "crowded".

There were many families at Beach Resort whereas Le Dugong tended to be single travellers, young couples and friends.

The food at Le Dugong was not very interesting. Libong Beach Resort food was fine. We also tried the food at Nature Beach Resort once. The food was okay, but the atmosphere at the place was a bit weird. The staff seemed kind of indifferent and bored, there weren't that many people. But hey, we were only there for lunch, so can't really comment on the place in general.

But the best food was found at a brand new place right next to Nature Beach Resort called Sunset Beach. A young man and a middle aged woman from Bangkok had just opened the place. The food was excellent, the standard much higher than the average resort restaurant. Prices were the same as Libong Beach Resort. Very friendly staff, great atmosphere. Highly recommended. They had basic, small huts without toilet and shower for 350 baht (peak season) and some other, more flash bungalows for around 1000-1500 baht I think the guy said. They don't have a website yet, but will soon.

I have to say, regarding your comment on no longtail noise Tezza - that has changed (or maybe it's a peak season thing). We were woken up about every other night by extremely loud longtail noise. They were fixing engines and taking the boats out at high tide etc., in the middle of the night. There was also quite a lot of longtail traffic during the day, both at Libong Beach Resort and Le Dugong (although probably not much compared to the touristy islands). Also, I would not recommend staying in the second row family bungalows, as a very noisy generator was situated right behind these.

But, all in all, a very pleasant stay at a very laid back island.

tezza said...

Thanks for the update sissel. Useful info. I just added a link to wonderingstar2's recent report on Libong and saw your stuff. Which shows how seldom I scroll down to the bottom of pages.
Wonderingstar was also impressed with the new Libong Sunset Resort. Jeez, another one I have to check!

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