If you want an authentic taste of Thai island life then Koh Jum is the place for you. The region of Krabi, Thailand is a well-known tourist hot spot thanks to its amazing tropical islands and bathwater-warm, light blue sea.
However, many of Krabi’s beaches and the islands off its coast – such as Railay, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Lanta – have become the victims of over-tourism and in my opinion have lost some of their personality and authenticity.
Here people fight over a free spot of sand to sunbathe and as you walk along the beach you’ll pass hotel after hotel that looks the same but with a different name. But at Koh Jum life is completely different. Barely touched by the influx of visitors that have altered its neighbours, Koh Jum is a haven from the hustle and bustle of modern life. It’s like visiting Thailand a few decades earlier, when the region was really only frequented by backpackers and the big resorts hadn’t set up base.
Koh Jum island is small – only around 6km in length and home to three villages: Koh Pu, Ting Rai and Koh Jum, and 1,500 inhabitants. There’s one main concrete road that runs from the south to the north of the island – all those that come off it can be described as dirt tracks at best! The island only got electricity in 2009 and there are no ATMs on the entire island. You don’t come here to party – you come here for complete R&R. It’s also renowned for its amazing sunsets and made The Telegraph’s list of the top beaches in Thailand – more on the long list of reasons it should be on your travel bucket list.
How to get to Koh Jum
Getting to Koh Jum is an adventure in its own right. Visitors can get there by taking the ferry to Koh Lanta, but this only runs in high season, and has a limited timetable, so keep that in mind. Also the ferry doesn’t go all the way to Koh Jum – long tail boats come out from the pier and you have to clamber from one boat to the other, with your luggage, for the last part of the journey. Like I said, an adventure!
We decided to arrange transfers to and from Koh Jum through our hotel – not that cheap at 2,900Bht, but the simplest, most stress-free option. From Krabi airport we were driven 40 or so minutes over to a small village called Leam Kruad. Driving down little side streets, we stopped off outside what appeared to be someone’s house, and with our suitcase on his back, our driver weaved us down a narrow little corridor alongside the house to a small pier where we boarded a longboat. From here it was another 40 minute or so journey to Koh Jum pier, where we were then handed over to a taxi man. Helped up onto the back of the taxi/pick-up truck, we were then driven 10 minutes to our resort on the other side of the island.
Straight away you get the feel of the island -– the pier is simply made up of old plastic containers and a shack where we saw a bunch of old men watching the world go by. Along the main road was mainly jungle, interspersed with the occasional house, and whenever we passed a local we got a wave and a “Hello!”. It was peaceful and welcoming, everything I’d wanted it to be.
Where to stay in Koh Jum
Along its west coast, facing out to the Andaman sea, is where you’ll find most of the island’s hotels. The majority are aimed at budget travellers – pretty wooden huts and tree houses that overlook the beach, with hammocks and swings tied to trees. Few have aircon, but if you’re fine with the basics then you’re in paradise.
For those with more discerning tastes (myself included!) then there’s one particular resort that fits the luxury criteria and this is where I stayed – Koh Jum Beach Villas. Private luxury villas and five star service, I adored my stay here, as you can tell from my hotel review.
Getting about on Koh Jum
Koh Jum island is small and can be explored in a day but as I mentioned before the dirt tracks are made up of mud and rock and can be very hard to navigate. Even the locals have trouble – when we went on a tour of the island our driver got stuck at one point and we had to push the tuk tuk our of the rut and then later we got a flat tire. It’s pretty understandable when you see the ‘roads’ – when the holes get too deep the locals appear to chuck in stones and bricks to attempt to level the road out!
But the island is well worth exploring. Its lush forests are just so beautiful, as are the locals’ houses painted with bright colours and decorated with plant pots and hanging baskets galore. There’s golden beaches to visit, villages to wander around and even a small rainforest to trek.
There are many ways to traverse Koh Jum depending on how healthy and adventurous you are. You can get so far by foot, but many of the hotels let you rent pushbikes and motorbikes and some even tuk tuks. Even the locals are happy for you to borrow their bikes – after walking over to Rosa’s Hong Yog for dinner one evening, the lovely lady offered us her bike for the journey home to save our tired legs. “You can just bring it back in the morning,” she smiled.
Be warned though, you cannot underestimate how hard the roads are to deal with. We didn’t believe it until we experienced it for ourselves and are so glad we hired a tuk tuk and driver for the day. At just 600bht for four hours it’s well worth it, as we heard that recently one family had actually managed to overturn their tuk tuk!
Tuk tuks are needed if you want to go beyond the main road (and you will) but you can also call for the local taxi/pick-up truck (I think there might be a couple on the island now!) if you want to pop to one of the other villages or hotels for a wander around or something to eat.
Where to eat in Koh Jum
As we visited Koh Jum in off season many of the restaurants were shut, so our choices were limited. Therefore I can’t offer you an all encompassing round-up of where to eat on the island, but I can tell you about the places we tried.
Several times we ate at our resort, Koh Jum Beach Villas, where the food was fine but expensive, but most of the time we took evening strolls along the beach to have some more authentic, local meals. Be warned though, a lot of the time not everything on the menu will be available – beef for example seems to be rarely in stock and occasionally we found they’d also be out of shrimp!
Just north from our resort on Andaman Beach was the Golden Pearl, a restaurant shaped like a wooden boat. Accessible from both the beach and the main road, this place is great for tasty, reasonably priced food. I particularly enjoyed the fried rice here and some backpackers we met recommended the hot plate. We’re glad we took them up on that as not only do you get a really delicious meal, it comes with an epic fire display next to your table!
In the other direction along the beach we also visited the Fighting Fish Bar and Restaurant, which is part of Woodland Lodge, several times. I loved the food here and Sao, who runs the place, was so friendly. She would come out and chat with us many times, one time grabbing a chair and joining us for a while to talk about her love of animals (she takes on many of the island’s abandoned dogs). She would also give us food recommendations and check how spicy we liked our meals. The food was super tasty – especially the sweet chilli sauce and her tempura shrimp!
We only popped into Koh Jum village once, and here we ate at Mai Thai. The food was tasty and service friendly, but I’ve been told the one place you must visit here is Koh Jum Seafood Restaurant. We didn’t make it, but it rates well on TripAdvisor!
Finally, I’d also recommend Rosa’s Hong Yog. Rosa is a character known for her laughter and smiles and I totally loved the vibe of her place – you felt like you were sitting in her kitchen come living room (we probably were!) and could watch her cook. She’d call for your drinks to be delivered from across the road if she didn’t have them in the fridge, and not everything on the menu might be available when you come. But whatever you order, I can promise you it will be delicious, massive and very very cheap. Well worth a visit.
What to do in Koh Jum
Koh Jum sells itself as a place where there’s nothing to do – simply put, you come here to relax. However, if you’re like us you like to at least do a few things on your holiday and there are some fun options beyond walking along the beach, having a relaxing massage or reading a book under the palm trees.
As I mentioned earlier, you can go exploring the island, either on your own, or with a guide. Our tuk tuk tour lasted four hours, with our driver taking us to each of the villages and the island’s main beaches.
The hotels and several businesses in Koh Jum village offer tours and trips too, although many are closed in the low season, as we discovered. You can hire kayaks and paddle along the coast or go for a tour of the mangroves, snorkel the patch reefs just off the coast, go sea fishing, hike the island’s mountain Koh Pu, where 400m up you might have the pleasure of Asian Pied Hornbills and Burmese pythons. It’s recommended that you hire a guide for this though, as the trail isn’t clear and you’ll need to look out for the monkeys, scorpions, snakes and wild dogs.
You can also go on a day’s island hopping, something we did, which sounded a bit more relaxing! It was a wonderful day made up of swimming in a surprisingly warm sea and walking along golden beaches. I had the most amazing snorkelling experience to date. Not only did I see a rainbow of gorgeous tropical fish of all shapes and sizes, I actually saw a sea snake!
If you’re planning on visiting Thailand and are looking for a peaceful, tropical paradise I highly recommend staying in Koh Jum. It’s the perfect place to unwind, recharge the batteries and get back to nature. You’ll be happy doing as much or as little as you want in this beautiful setting and will feel so welcome that you’ll never want to leave!
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