The four-engine speedboat revs up and the mangrove beaches of Koh Lanta are left behind. In the horizon, small islands arise. We’re in search of the perfect paradise island.
On the pier of Koh Ngai Island, we change from a speedboat onto a long-tail boat. Sun-kissed people come and go on their way to Koh Lanta, Koh Kradan, Koh Lipe, and many other islands. We keep an eye on it all so that our bags are not loaded in the wrong boat in the hustle and bustle.
The long-tail boat glides on the calm waters to Coco Cottage, our accommodation on Koh Ngai. This is what we’ve been searching for in Thailand! There is breathtaking beauty all around us: a smooth sandy beach flanked by palm trees, a turquoise green ocean, and limestone karsts that are small rock islands arising from the sea.
Behind the bungalows, there’s a dense, steaming rainforest. The small Coco Cottages built from natural materials blend in the scenery perfectly.
The staff comes to meet us on the beach smiling. From the first moment, the atmosphere is unique, homely and cosy. We’ve hardly seen such a charming hotel reception and restaurant anywhere else. The walls of the restaurant made of wood are open to the sea and to the rainforest. There’s a nice cooling breeze coming in.
The beach offers sun loungers for reading. The mid-day atmosphere is charmingly drowsy and nothing disturbs the peace. If you just want to relax, dose off in the beach lounger, read and gaze at the ocean, Coco Cottage is surely one of the best places in Thailand.
The small holiday island has no roads and no village. Just a smooth sandy beach that is a couple of kilometres long, and a rainforest behind it. There are a dozen places to stay and a few restaurants on the beach.
After wandering around the island, we’re convinced that Coco Cottage is the most charming place on the island. It’s still worth having meals elsewhere too. About 100 metres away, you can find the Koh Ngai Chomview restaurant that has tables right by the sea. The food is good and significantly cheaper than in Coco Cottage.
Our small beach bungalow is simple and stylish just like the whole Coco Cottage resort. There’s no TV, fridge, or even electricity during the day. The shower facility made of bamboo is under the open sky. The bed offers an unrestricted view to the sea.
There are just two actual beach bungalows (Sea Side Cottages) in Coco Cottage. But the Sea Sense Cottages along the small canal also boast a nice sea view. We would recommend the beach bungalows even though they are a bit more expensive (150 euro a night in November 2017).
After settling in, we run to the smooth sandy beach and into the green ocean. In day-time, the Coco Cottage beach is good for swimming but in night-time and mornings, the low tide reveals the sharp corals. It’s best to wear swimming shoes or use swimming rings during low tide.
During an afternoon rain, we receive a startling visitor in our paradise. A chubby lizard that is a couple of metres long stalks just a few metres away from our cottage. I go and film it on the patio and tell my wife to be ready to close the door quickly. The lizard flicks its long tongue, crawls into the canal nearby and then returns to the rainforest looking content.
The next morning, we have an even closer encounter with a lizard about the same size. It appears on the edge of our patio flicking its tongue. When we see the lizard, it swiftly runs in between the cottages.
On our previous trip to Koh Ngai, we didn’t see any big lizards. There was just a gecko about the length of an arm sneaking on the ceiling of our cottage in the evening. But it can still be described as cute next to these ones that are a couple of metres long.
If you have no serious lizard phobia, the giant lizards of Coco Cottage are merely an exciting thing spicing up the atmosphere in the paradise.
The breakfast takes us back to a homely, non-hotel-like feeling. The coffee is made in old-style pots on gas hobs and the bread is toasted on embers.
We get to know the other guests in Coco Cottage at breakfast and dinner. But the tranquillity of the paradise ensures that people don’t disturb each other by chatting that much. We try to guess which Eastern European country the two-couple group is from. It’s revealed when a woman in the group bids farewell by saying, “I’m waiting for Poland”.
If you want some change to the drowsy atmosphere, you can take a day trip of four islands on a long-tail boat to go snorkelling. It was a downright wild experience to visit Emerald Cave, a rock cave and a lagoon, on Koh Mook Island.
We swim into the small lagoon through an 80-metre-long rock cave. The waves splash and throw you around when entering the cave. The waves are also high inside the cave. Every now and then, the water rises close to the ceiling of the cave. You have to watch out to not be on top of the wave at that point. We are, of course, wearing life vests and there’s a guide who shines a light with a torch in a plastic bag. Still, some people swim out of the cave looking panicky.
The lunch on our boat trip is served on Koh Kradan Island. It’s another small, popular island paradise but we prefer Koh Ngai and Coco Cottage.
After dinner, we sit on the dark beach for a long time. The sea is blowing endless warmth at us. Time stands still. This is what it’s like now and forever.
Translated into English by Katja Juutistenaho. Original Finnish text by Tuomas Hyytinen and Mila Hyytinen.