By Linda Ahmad
Hi peeps.. how are you guys doing? I’m back with another island review… which island? I am still in love with the many of the small islands in the southern of Thailand. This time another small island in the Satun Province in the Petra National Park archipelago which is near to the Tarutao National Marine Park ie quite within the same neighbourhood of Koh Lipe and a lot of other small islands.
We knew about this island during our Koh Lipe trip end 2010 when our speedboat suddenly stopped in the middle of the vast ocean and a few tourists got out and boarded the awaiting longtail boat. Curious, we asked around and we were told that they were heading to a small island around there named Koh Bulon Lae. Since then on, this island was already in our radar but couldn’t make a trip there.
Then a few days before the 1 week March school semester break started, dear husband asked, where could we go for a short getaway. We initially planned to go to Phuket end of May but that plan might have to be shelved … so this May break would be our time together before the elder two are off and with the different holiday periods later. With only a mere 2/3 days, I immediately got onto the net to learn more about this beautiful island. Unfortunately, there was very limited information available but managed to get the basics to get this short vacation planned out. Thanks to the blogs (in particular bucit.blogspot), travelfish, lonelyplanet, tripadvisor and a few more – although the information from almost all of them were quite old and not updated. From what I gathered, on this small island, there are only a handful of accommodation – Pansand Resort, Bulone Resort, Bulonhill Resort, Marina Resort, Bulon View Point Resort and may be a couple more smaller places. And since this island is opened for a few months in a year ie mid-end October to early April only – it is most advisable to book your accommodation beforehand or you might have to settle for a tent on the beach!
Then from the little information that I had, I decided to book a family chalet for a 2 nights’ stay at a place called Bulone Resort which is said to have the best beach around. The rate that we got was THB1850/night for the Family Chalet with 2 rooms (each with a queen bed + mosquito net) + 1 bathroom and this rate doesn’t include any breakfast – which to us is quite reasonable even it means that we would be staying in a basic chalet with no air-cond, no water heater and with limited hours of electricity.
So, we started our journey in the wee hours Thursday – heading to Changloon. Once arrived Changloon, we got the Thai entry documentation settled and had our heavy breakfast at a stall in front of THotel for some Corn Rice + either Gulai Kambing, Ayam, Ikan or even Itik. It was definitely a good fill! Then we continued our journey to Wang Kelian where we would enter Thailand passing Thai border called Wang Prachan. This border has very less traffic compared to Bukit Kayu Hitam so entry was a breeze – but we had to fork out more RM compared to Bukit Kayu Hitam (the usual RM1/passport) – even endorsing the Thai insurance, we had to pay some tip depending on the passengers I think (doesn’t apply in Bukit Kayu Hitam). Within a few minutes we continued our journey heading for Satun Province which is only around 22/23 km from the border – Pak Bara Pier where we would be boarding the speedboat to Koh Bulon/Koh Lipe etc is about 30 mins drive then on.
We arrived at the pier area around 1100 am local time. There is only 1 trip daily to/fro Koh Bulon : Pak Bara – Koh Bulon @ 12.30 pm ; Koh Bulon – Pak Bara @ 9.30 am. After buying our return speedboat ticket (THB800/pax – the 2 smaller kids free), we went to the nearby restaurant for our lunch. By 12.30 we were back at the waiting room@ travel agency awaiting for our speedboat call. Then slightly after 12.40 pm, we were ushered to the jetty – again we had to wait since a few more passengers haven’t arrived. About 1.15 – 1.30 pm we were already on the speedboat. The journey was shorter than our Koh Lipe trip – this only took 30 mins to get us to the longtail boat stop. Then we had to transfer from the speedboat onto the longtail boat (taxi boat fee THB50/pax/way – smaller kids free). Upon boarding, you would need to tell the boatman where you will be staying as they will bring you directly to the nearest beach of the resort. Within 5/7 mins we arrived safely on the shores of Koh Bulon. They helped us to haul our bags out from the longtail and I immediately went to get ourselves checked in.
Our family chalet was No 32, first row of chalets facing the beach. The chalet is very spacious, clean and well taken care off. It also has a balcony with a spectacular seaview. Towels and soap/syampoo in dispenser are available in the room. Wi-Fi was also included free of charge during our stay. We didn’t mind so much on the non-existence of the air-cond, water heater and limited hours of electricity during our stay there but we would appreciate if the electricity would be extended slightly longer in the morning as we were up sweating after 6 am! Usually during holidays, our sleep time would be extended right J - but not here. But hey, we would have more time on the beach! That was exactly what we did – we had our breakfast under the Casuarina trees at one of the outdoor stone table & benches while letting our children playing, building sandcastles and scouring the beach for entrapped small fishes, chasing for those little beach crabs and hermit crabs – it was lowtide every evening at 6 pm and morning up to 8 am.
After getting our stuff in the room and relaxed for a bit, dear hubby went to the reception to enquire about renting a longtail boat for tomorrow for some snorkeling and fishing activity. Here, it is not like in Koh Lipe or Krabi where they sell snorkeling package inclusive of snorkeling gear, water, lunch, etc etc. In Koh Bulon, you only rent a longtail boat for 4/5 hours – they only have the safety jacket – the rest you have to sort out on your own. But it is cheap, much cheaper if you come in a group – ie THB1500/1700 per boat for 4/5 hours where you can combine snorkeling and fishing as well in the trip. Since it was still peak season, it was quite a challenge for the resort owner to get a boat for us – at first she managed to get one but without a roof! We definitely wouldn’t want to be under direct scorching sun for 4/5 hours – we would all be blackened by the time we are back to the chalet! So we insisted on having one with a roof. While we were there, one of the regulars I think was sitting there answering his emails gave his opinion that we would best concentrate on fishing rather than snorkeling as he was out earlier that day and the visibility was quite poor and the undercurrent was still quite strong – even him being a seasoned swimmer was having quite a challenge. He even offered us to use his chartered longtail if we couldn’t get one ourselves for tomorrow! I wouldn’t want to impose and spoil his plans, so we still asked the resort owner to keep on trying. Alhamdulillah, finally we managed to get one! Yippeee…..
Went back to our chalet and the kids already complaining that they were getting hungry. We went to the restaurant and enquire whether the food is Halal (although I already know that it is and know that the resort is owned by Muslim – but dear hubby wanted to get his own confirmation) – but since almost all of the visitors to this islands are foreigners – they do sell beers and alcohol – but the food is Halal. But dear hubby wasn’t really into the menu so we asked where else could we get decent local food. So the lady directed us to the village where there are a few other restaurants/stalls – all Halal as the island is occupied by Muslim Chao Leys but still a few of these places do sell booze. Then the lady said – may be you could try my cousin’s place – Pin & Muda Restaurant.
So we started our walk to the village – it took us around 15 mins (quite hilly cemented pavement), bypassing a school, a couple of other resorts, a drinking spot + trinket shop and restaurants. Initially we wanted to try out another restaurant BaanSulaida or something like that, but they would only start business around 630/700 pm. So we walked further… then we reached this small restaurant with bamboo tables and benches just on the beach – and realized that we have reached Pin & Muda Restaurant so we sat and run through the menu. We decided to have Seafood Fried Rice, Fried Mixed Vegetables, Curried Spicy Crabs, Omelette and Ice Lemon Tea by the pitcher – they even specially made us the Sambal Belacan which was super fiery! Nothing beats dinner on the beach!! Even more with the fresh sea breeze blowing softly all the time… and the best was the bill was only RM70+.
After dinner, we walked slowly back to our “beach home”. During my research on this island, I’ve came across a few comments on the notoriouos mosquitoes on the island especially the walk to/fro the village – but Alhamdulillah it was okay – but as a precaution I still sprayed the mosquito repellent on my younger kids – the elder ones didn’t want and wanted to be more adventurous ;p . Back to the chalet, dear hubby downloaded the pictures taken earlier and got the camera ready for tomorrow, elder son immediately got onto the net. The younger ones already fallen asleep. My eldest girl with her novel in the room and me on the balcony enjoying the sea breeze with my own book.
6 am.. electricity went out and same goes with the fan… it’s like an alarm clock J so not wanting to be in the room for too long, we took turns readying ourselves for the snorkeling/fishing trip later. I made simple breakfast which we brought from home – bread and sardine + mayo, jam etc.. took everything and placed them on the stone table by the beach. After breakfast with all the snorkeling stuff around 830 am the longtail boat arrived for our trip. Looking at the waves on the surface I thought what that guy told us yesterday was indeed very true and doing snorkeling in the middle of the ocean was going to be difficult and may be even dangerous for the kids. So we asked the boatman to bring us to the fishing spot instead and later bring us to a nearby island for a bit of snorkeling by the beach only. So we were brought to this spot quite nearby to a small island. The guy lowered down the anchor and the other guy started to fix the fishing lines for us. Being really amateur anglers – we don’t even know how to hook in the bait, even more how to tie the line, hook and sinker … so we let the experts do for us and we only have to lower the line and catch the fish….. ahahaha. He gave 2 sets to my elder kids and his was the multiple hook type. The first catch came in almost immediately – by one of the experts of course – 2 good sized ones! Then he passed the line over to me and he made another one single hook for himself. I gave it a go – the trick is to lower down as far down and play a pull release line routine… and within 10-15 mins… yippie didooo… it was my time to pull in the fishes!!! I managed to catch the first garoupa also a good sized one and another smaller fish – couldn’t get its name though. The boatman told me that this fish is very tasty – we will definitely know later J. Then after a few more, we moved onto another spot near a huge stone called White Rock (which looks like a sitting doggy). But I much preferred the previous spot as the current was stronger here so it made the boat moved to its sides and I only got 1 / 2 here compared to the previous spot! After nearly 1 hour there, I started to feel seasick – same goes with my eldest son shortly after – but the rest was okay. Looking at our quite sizeable catch after only some 2 hours + dear hubby asked the boatman to bring us to one of the island for snorkeling.
So the boatman brought us to this very small island (won’t show even a speck on the map I think eheheh) with this small beach for us to swim and snorkel around. The waves were still quite strong, but bearable and the best thing is around the area only sand and rounded edge stones and a few big stones. So it was safe for the smaller kids to have some water play time from the edge of the beach to some extent into the sea. Dear hubby and the elder kids with their snorkel and camera went exploring underwater first while I stayed with the smaller ones, later it was my turn. So very true, the visibility was not good and snorkel in this area is not as good as in Koh Lipe – may be due to the location Koh Lipe being more further from the shore – may be… After sometime, I don’t think I would get to see much, so I decided to stay with the younger ones. The elder kids swam back to the longtail to ask for the line and hook – just to try their luck fishing from one of the big rocks near the small beach. Managed to catch 1 / 2 but smaller in size.
Then we realized that our 4 hours already ending. So we called the boatman to bring us back onto the boat and the kids asked for another short round of fishing – the boatman relented and stopped in one more spot… finally my eldest son caught one! Satisfied, we headed back to the shore, but we requested the boatman to drop us to the restaurant the night before Pin & Muda for our lunch. We were told that the other boatman was actually the co-owner of this restaurant – Muda! Wahh that was good news… so we asked whether they could cook the fishes that we caught that day. So the main dishes for that day’s lunch and dinner were the fishes that we caught!
After lunch, we walked back to the chalet – this time we ventured to the beach on the other side of the resort. Here the beach was even better than the one in front of our chalet. And lowtide arrived a bit later than the other one. So we had more time splashing around. While we were swimming about, dear hubby rigged up the hammock and relaxed and even snoozed for a bit!
When lowtide finally set in, we headed back to the chalet, took our bath and head out for dinner. This time, dear hubby wanted some adventure - we took another route to the restaurant via the very rocky beach between our area and the restaurant’s beach. For dinner, the cook barbequed most of the fishes – except a few that we have requested to be cooked separately, we only took a few of the barbequed fish and asked the lady to take them and give to anyone… so whomever were having dinner that night got a taste of our freshly caught barbequed fish! Delighted to see the family enjoyed the dinner, even it was just a simple one especially so when the two smaller ones who are quite fussy eaters finished their meal!
We went back – walking slowly to our “beach home” for the last night. Tomorrow morning, we had to leave by 930 am… told this to my little girl, she was quite upset and said that she didn’t want to leave! Then I promised we will come again next time – it wasn’t enough for her… she told the Papa.. next time we come and stay for 5 days ya! Still she was sad when boarded the longtail the next morning – as was I. 3 days 2 nights was definitely too short, but that was what we could have this time around. So insyaa Allah next time, I hope it would be longer or may be ventured to another set of islands – Koh Lanta, Koh Mook, Koh Kradan, Koh Ngai perhaps….
Just a note : Koh Bulone is NOT for party frenzy people, NOT for those who cannot live without luxuries. Koh Bulon is perfect for those who want some time off, total relaxation, peace and quiet, good food, to be around good friendly people and will not burn a hole in your pocket. Our family much prefer Koh Bulon than Koh Lipe (except for the snorkeling part though) mainly because there are no dogs loitering around you when at the beach, more laidback, quiet, food great and much cheaper than Koh Lipe.
Well that’s my story for this trip. I hope the information and our experience would benefit anyone who want to experience Koh Bulon.
Till next time… Ciao!!!