Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ko Ngai (Hai)

ATTENTION - THIS IS THE OLD KO NGAI PAGE. IF YOU SHOULD SOMEHOW STUMBLE ACROSS IT (it is no longer linked to the Index), THERE IS A NEW PAGE WITH MUCH MORE AND UPDATED INFORMATION PLUS LOTS OF PIX AND MAPS ETC HERE.

The main eastern beach on Ngai is one of the nicer ones in the Andaman. This is the area near Fantasy Resort. The two islets in the background are popular daytrip snorkelling spots from all surrounding islands including Lanta - Ko Muk can be seen behind middle (image Fantasy Resort)

Ko Ngai is one of the Trang Islands, and is about 15 km south of Ko Lanta and less than 10km northwest of Ko Muk. It is fairly small, hilly, rain forested, has some walking trails and a handfull of nice beaches. There are no roads, only those few non trafficable walking tracks. The only vehicles I saw were an old jeep and about two motorcycles that occasionally moved along the beach. So it's a pretty laid back place.

The main beach faces east, is about 3 km long and contains about half a dozen resorts. Most of these are midrange, but there are some budget options.
KOH HAI VILLA is fairly central on the beach and has some pretty nice more expensive bungalows, but in March they were offering some of their older fan bungalows for 300 baht. This is what I said on travelfish:

“- wood and bamboo-thatch, tin roof, clean and in good condition, with attached bathroom, nice verandah, comfy double bed, insect screens (but a fairly big gap at the door bottom), a big mirror BUT NOT in the bathroom (another guest told me her 300 on the other side of the restaurant had no mirror at all and no wash basin), good powerful lights for reading, including the verandah. This was another cheapie supplying towels, soap and toilet paper. There was plenty of room inside for two and their gear without being enormous.
It was set in a reasonable garden setting - I noticed a staff girl doing a great job of raking the ground area around a vacated adjacent bungalow yet there was a fair bit of small rubbish around mine until I spent 3 minutes cleaning it up.
The restaurant is open plan on the beachfront with great views of adjacent karst islets, Ko Muk to the south and the similarly rugged mainland. Staff are described as “grumpy” in that best selling guidebook, but I found them friendly enough and the service quite good. Food was quite nice, however food and beverage prices tended towards the higher end of my dozen or so bungalow stays this trip. 100 for a large Chang, 90 for a green curry before rice and 120 for a club sandwich - ouch!. Note that several much cheaper places food wise on my trip were even further from the mainland and had to also bring their stuff in by longtail. Speaking of longtails, Ko Hai Villa’s is a wet one, chucking plenty of spray at the passengers even in a very calm sea.
The beachfront has a fair few easy seats and lie-lows, plus plenty of shade from mid-day on, and naturally has the same excellent views. There was a small attractive beach bar alongside the restaurant which played cool but not loud music early evening. Swimming is good, except for a few hours around lowest tide when the rocky bottom is exposed right to the fringing reef about 70m out. But it is still attractive with a wide expanse of sand except at highest tide when a fairly small strip is left. Snorkelling along the fringing reef is reasonably good with some fair coral and fish life. There are about 5 other resorts spread out along this 3 km and so there is plenty of untouched rainforest going right down to the sand adjacent to the resorts.”


All the other resorts on this beach seemed a step up in luxury from Hai Villa, except for KOH HAI SEAFOOD - here you have simple tents with a thatched sun/rain shelter overhead. The restaurant is a bit cheaper than Hai Villa, the food good, but be vigilant when the bill arrives.

KOH HAI FANTASY is between the above two and is pretty flash. I was surprised by the high occupancy compared to the other resorts - perhaps they have some package deal going. They also have 2 dogs that bail up some outsiders walking the beach. Maybe outsiders with rough heads. Bungalow operators don’t like it when you sort out their dogs with your big Aussie bush-bashing stick. The Brit manager gave me that familiar line: “Oi, those dogs were only playing!” I flashed him a cheesy. “No worries Nige, I'm good at this game”.

To the north of Hai Villa are 3 other midrange places - of these COCO HUTS and the adjacent THAPWARIN RESORT looked most appealing to me. Actually, very nice indeed. These are on Andaman Island Hopping, as are most of the others - travelfish above reviews most too.

There was a big new luxury place built up the headland at the far end - Chateau Hill Resort - which would have excellent views from its elevated rooms and restaurant, but the beach here was suffering pretty badly from erosion. No problem to walk 100m south for some decent sand.
Actually the beach thing may be seasonal - it looks pretty good in this shot

Hey, Chateau's pool looks like a place I could spend time. A few days split between here and the Sivalai on Ko Muk across there on the horizon would be a top high-movers' way to do the Trang islands (images Chateau Hill Resort)
There is also a Seafood Restaurant and Bar between Hai Villa and Fantasy, not to be confused with the afore mentioned Ko Hai Seafood tent place. This caters for daytrippers from Muk, Pak Meng and Lanta plus in the evening people like me looking for an alternative - but prices were the same or higher than Hai Villa. Food was good.

All by its own on a small separate beach at the south-eastern end of the island is KOH NGAI RESORT. This looked rather nice and seemed as luxurious as Fantasy, but I think the prices are considerably lower. You can reach this from the main eastern beach in about 10 minutes by a track just above the rocks. There is another jungle track which I will mention in “trekking”.

Also on its own** on a bigger and very nice south-western beach is PARADISE BEACH RESORT. The owner told me he had some 300 baht bungalows, and none of the bungalows here appeared to be dumps, although more basic than Fantasy, Ngai Resort, Coco Huts and Thapwarin.
Kayaking off the beach at Paradise Beach Resort's bay (image Thai-Tour.Com)
TREKKING
There are some fairly short but good rainforest walking trails on the island. Hai Villa did not have a map, but fortunately my walking friend managed to get one from reception at Ngai Resort.
From the main eastern beach the track starts alongside Ko Hai Seafood and goes steeply up the hillside fairly close to the higher bungalows of Fantasy.
Just past the crest is a junction - if you take the left path you head further uphill and then down to Ngai Resort in 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, if you go straight ahead you move downhill (5 minutes) to another junction - to the left is a 5-10 minute walk to a deserted little bay with a nice beach - Ao Mung (sp?). It is possible to climb over the headland at the southern end of this bay to Paradise Beach, but this does require a certain amount of bush bashing.
Alternatively, if you go straight ahead at the aforementioned junction, you will reach Paradise Beach in 10-15 minutes. This is a nice place to have a swim and snorkel, although the fringing reef was about 150m out when I looked for it at high tide. The beers in Paradise Beach Resort’s restaurants are nice and cold.
At the northern end of Paradise Beach there is a track which goes up through the National Park headquarters area and then continues up a hill to twin viewpoints where you get a nice look at the northern west coast of the island and Ko Lanta in the distance. You are talking maybe 15 minutes from the beach, a few short steep pinches.

EXCURSIONSThe usual Trang island longtail trips are available - Hai Villa had snorkeling around the small karst islets to the southeast plus a visit to Ko Muk’s fabulous EMERALD CAVE for 500baht. I found the snorkeling pretty good by Thai standards and the Cave involves a swim up a flooded tunnel to a cavern where the roof has collapsed to form a cliff ringed lagoon, complete with small beach, rain-forested sides and emerald water from the limestone content. Or reflection. Or something. See the photos on the Muk page.
You can also do snorkelling trips to nearby Ko Kradan, whos beaches and coral are the pick of these islands.

GETTING TO NGAI.
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.
.
There is no village on the island (if you exclude a handful of locals' bungalows behind Ko Hai Villa) so access is by each resort’s boat from Pak Meng. Hai Villa’s boat leaves at 11.30 and cost 250 baht - around 30 minutes. You can always charter your own long tail at considerable expense at other times.
From Trang there are hourly minibuses to Pak Meng for 50 baht. The trip takes maybe an hour.
There is also a small fast ferry connecting Ngai with Ban Sala Dan on Ko Lanta, at least in the high season. I’m not sure if this is Koh Ngai Resort’s boat picking up at the other resorts along the east beach or one of the big daytrip boats out of Lanta. Price in March was 400. It heads to Lanta about 2pm but I don’t know what time in the morning it does the reverse trip.
I recently found this on andaman-island-hopping.com:

"Petphilin Boat operates a daily excursion to Koh Ngai, Koh Muuk and Koh Kradan Island from November to April. It is possible to join this trip on a one way basis. The boat leaves from Saladan Pier (on Lanta)at 08:30 and arrives to Koh Ngai at 10:00. The schedule to Koh Kradan depends on the tide, as a visit to the Emerald Cave on Koh Mook is included. The boat does not stop on Muuk Island. Reservations can be made through us, if you like to go to Koh Mook, we recommend to leave the boat on Koh Ngai and take a long-tail boat from there."

Hell, if you wanted to go to one of the Muk (Mook) beaches, I reckon you offer the capn an extra 100 baht and he would drop you off on Farang Beach no problems. I got one of these boats to pick me up at Farang a few years back and take me up to Lanta. I negotiated it with the captain outside the Emerald Cave the day before.
UPDATE - this is the Trang islands daytrip boat and now calls in at Farang Beach on Muk as a matter of course.

UPDATE - Tigerline is running ferries from Phi phi/Lanta to Lipe, via the pier at Hat Yao south of Trang. This ferry (not a speedboat) goes on to Langkawi. Details can be seen on their website http://www.tigerlinetravel.com/index.php?cat=lineboat&new_language=1
The ferry also calls in to places like Muk and Ngai - and Laoliang if needed according to Zach who runs an adventure resort there.
At the time of writing Lanta-Lipe was 1400 baht - 4.5 hours. Trang Yao-Lipe 650. Lipe-Langkawi 950.
I have details of how to get to the Hat Yao pier on my Ko Libong thread.
For high season 08/o9 the service starts on Nov 24.
Note too there is a fast speedboat service between Lanta and Lipe which will call in at Ngai. Google SPB speedboats.

UPDATE DEC07
JimmyK who tends to stay midrange to high-end had this to say:
"Grabbed the speedboat to koh Ngai for a stay in Koh Ngai Fantasy Resort. Beachfront Unit was a little dear at 5500B, but had a great view over an immaculate beach. Units behind us were a little tightly packed. The Coco cottages and its neighbor Thapwarin looked very nice and were much cheaper. The new "Chateau" hotel at the far south of the main beach had some tremendous views over aquamarine waters ".

Jimmy aint wrong about tremendous views (image Chateau Hill Resort)
** Well there is no other bungalow place on Paradise Beach, but as I approached on the hiking track I could hear the unmistakable thumping of da big sub-wooffa. And there, set up about 400m south of Paradise Resort was a section of tents, with a collection of early 20s Thais and Farangs, dance music from the sound system and even at 11 in the morning, a few of them bopping! Jeez, too bad if you went to the Resort for some peace and quiet. Although that probably depends on how late they rage. I mean they probably cut the music after 9pm, right?
Actually it’s a bit of a concern. Nice reserved Thai girls are unlikely to be swayed by any smooth talking farang blokes. But I worry a bit about poor innocent young Thai guys around typical hell-raising western female travellers. I mean, I’m a super fit guy of considerable experience, yet I always drag myself home from a trip shredded physically and mentally. And I don’t want any of you smart marthas saying that’s because I’m always falling off my bicycle and have trouble converting 25 baht to the Aussie dollar. Although I admit that last one is a toughy.

Note this camp set-up did not look like a permanent operation.

WET SEASON
I’m not sure which resorts stay open in the low season, but those on the main eastern mountain-backed beach would be nicely sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds, unlike the resorts on Lanta, Farang Beach Ko Muk and most other Andaman island locations.
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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 Ngai you might also be interested in nearby:

KO KRADAN

KO MUK

KO LANTA

KO LIBONG-HAT YAO

KO LAO LIANG

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If you have any questions, please ask them in THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all threads daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.

1 comment:

Miss e said...

Hi, I guess you dont need an editor though. thats should do fine. Ko Lanta is awesome and some other small Island I've been too. Never been to the samui yet, but I will one day to see how it goes but sure will be pack with white people :P
ah btw, nice one!