Island life: Koh Jum

I’m sitting outside our bungalow, on a wooden lounge chair, beneath a giant palm tree’s fan-like canopy. Finally I have a few minutes to write before we leave Tonsai. There seems to never really be time for writing, or I’m not making any. It’s a conundrum: for me, travel should be about getting away and letting the mind and senses focus on taking in all the new impressions. At the same time, I want to report back and record my experiences.

I’m not looking forward to carrying my heavy backpack and daypack in the midday sun, walking over the steep cliff the takes us to Railey beach and the ferry boat. But I promised Jonathan not to complain. So we climb, packs and all, over the makeshift ladder someone has built as a shortcut over the wall between the road and the beach. Walking by the water a breeze comes up and the sea is more turquoise and sparkling than ever and climbing over the cliffs with my backpacks is easy and I am just fine.

We made another last minute decision to spend the final day and a half here in the South on Koh Jum Island, after our onward flight to Nepal was delayed by 24 hours by the airline, giving us an extra day in Thailand. Koh Jum is another recommendation from our Vancouver friends Amy and Harry. It turns out the ferry boat to the island runs only once a day and we’ve missed it. So we take the boat back to Krabi Town and try to negotiate with our captain on the way to see if he can take us all the way to Koh Jum. He isn’t willing to put in the time but kindly speaks to one of his colleagues and we are able to strike a deal. We enjoy an hour long private boat ride to the island that is crowned by Koh Pu mountain, the tallest in the area at 385 m. We check into good morning Bungalow, our nicest accommodation to date. It’s clean and pretty with a complete functioning moskito net and windows that open onto a deck with a table and chair and space for a hammok. Just on the other side of the reception steps lead down to the beach. An immediate dip in the water is in order, then a fiery sunset melting into the waves.

The next morning we summit the mountain, against the guest house owner’s recommendations – he insists we need a local guide to access the trial, find the way and dodge the resident King Cobras. We read fellow travellers’ descriptions online, rent a scooter and find the trailhead easily. It turns out that the trail is clearly defined and not particularly challenging the except for one steep part where the extremely dry leaves and soil underfoot are slippery. We work up a sweat climbing the steep trail through the jungle and are rewarded with views across the ocean to a number of other islands. On the way down Jonathan spots a familiar plant: the superfood moringa. We chew on a few leaves,i figuring we need all the immune boosts we can find.

The minute we get back to the bungalow Johnathan feels sick. He is hit by a bout of vomiting and diarrhoea and needs to lie down while I head out alone to have lunch. We ate the same things in the last few days so I feel lucky to apparently have a more resilient stomach. I get him a probiotic yoghurt, fizzy drink, and plain mean of rice and steamed vegetables which he is able to eat as soon as I return. He won’t be 100% for another 48 hours but nothing can suppresses Jonathan’s appetite for long. We have that in common!

We spend the afternoon scooting all around the tiny island, swimming and snacking on dragon fruit at Magic Beach, then dinner at a lovely resort on the southern most beach of the island. Colorful lanterns come on after dark, illuminating incredible multi story tree houses. Venus rises with the moon. Friendly stray dogs hang around our table as an entire flock of Hawks suddenly circles overhead. One of them dives to grab a catch from the sea, then they disappear as suddenly as they arrived. We treat ourselves to a dinner of squid, fish and a shared Singha beer, then round it off with an enthusiastic, if not highly skilled, game of Ping Pong at the open air bar. Back at our guesthouse we walk down to the ocean one last time for this day, having spotted lights in the water. Is it bioluminescence? No, the light seems too bright and concentrated. Could it be a diver hunting in the sea by the light of a torch? Having settled on that explanation, Jonathan kicks the crashing waves and there is a sparkle. Bioluminescence is here after all!

These barely 36 hours on Koh Jum have felt so rich and relaxing. Resorts here are more humble and the little towns, shops and restaurants are for the locals first, tourists second. Waking before dawn by the call to prayer from the nearby mosque and then again at dawn by the many cries of birds, geckos and monkeys. Magic! I do yoga while watching the sunrise over the tree canopy and we eat a final breakfast right here at the guesthouse: Sour rice soup with chicken and galangal, creamy coconut rice and of course Thai tea. A boat takes us out to where the larger ferry is waiting offshore. This is the last chance to touch the ocean and Jonathan jumps off the side of the boat for a final swim.

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