Unplug and unwind on Koh Munnork private island
Beautiful beaches in Thailand are not hard to find, but beautiful beaches without hordes of souvenir hawkers, jet ski operators, and loads of beer-swilling sunburnt tourists are a little harder to come by. That’s where Epikurean Hotels and Resorts enters the picture. The company takes its name from Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher who believed that a life lived in pleasure was equal to that of the gods. With this pampering protocol in mind the group has set up several tropical vacation getaway spots in Thailand, but for Bangkok city dwellers it’s their long-running Koh Munnork Private Island resort in nearby Rayong province that’s easiest to get to.
The island itself is tiny—less than a square kilometer in size—and the resort property encompasses 18 acres, or about one fifth of the island (leaving the remaining area untouched). There are a total of 22 bungalow accommodations to choose from, starting with seven 40 sq.m Beachfront Bungalows, which are decorated in a fun and funky style and provide direct beach access. There are also 12 Garden View Bungalows, measuring 45 sq.m, which are perfect for families with young children, and three Garden Cottages (also 45 sq.m) decorated in a fisherman’s cottage style.
The rooms all come with luxury amenities, including private balcony or terrace, queen size beds, drinking water, air conditioning, hot and cold running water, toiletries, hair dryer, beach towels, umbrellas, and much, much more. However, be aware that there are no mini-fridges or flatscreen TVs in the rooms, and Wi-Fi is only available in the restaurant area, although that’s about as close to “roughing it” as you’ll get here. But if you do want some in-room entertainment, come prepared by downloading some movies to your laptop, and bring a set of portable speakers too.
Of course, the absence of distractions such as TVs and in-room Wi-Fi is part of the resort’s general philosophy to create a natural place for guests to truly get away from it all, leaving all gadgets and gizmos behind and becoming one with the environment. And it’s hard not to embrace that idea once you get your first glimpse of the crystal clear waters and white sand beaches that ring the resort. This is a place that’s custom made for taking it easy, and although the kind and courteous resort staff can organize activities for guests—including snorkeling, kayaking, and trekking around the island—it’s just as tempting to spend the entire afternoon relaxing on a shaded sala or in one of the many hammocks, simply reading a book or watching the waves roll in.
Once you’ve booked your stay at the resort you just need to get yourself to the pier at Laem Tan (about 30 minutes east of the Koh Samet pier, and just over three hours travel from Bangkok) in time for the afternoon ferry. It takes about 45 minutes to travel across Klaeng Bay, and once the ferryboat reaches the waters surrounding Koh Munnork, a smaller passenger dinghy pulls up alongside the big boat to shuttle passengers onto the beachfront landing point. Here guests are greeted with a cold drink and a warm smile, and the reception staff dutifully makes sure everyone gets escorted to their proper chambers.
We had booked ourselves in as ‘full-boarders’ (a room package inclusive of breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and once we unpacked and settled in it was just past 3pm—meaning we still had a few hours to kill before the evening meal service began at 6:30pm. It was easy to while away the time by simply wandering the beach, wading into the cool waters, or trying to get a fabulous photo of one of the island’s magnificent peacocks. These dazzling birds, a favourite of the island’s owner, were brought here years ago and are allowed to wander the island at will. And while their multi-coloured plumage may be one of nature’s most spectacular works of art, their bizarre, high-pitched screeching warble—half-way between a cat in heat and a baby crying—is absolutely startling the first time you hear it. It’s also worth noting that peacocks aren’t the only critters on the island, as visitors are allowed to bring pets (although dog owners are required to keep their pets leashed and pick up after them as well).
By the time dinner rolled around we found ourselves, along with the resort’s numerous other guests, seated on an outdoor wooden deck overlooking the ocean, preparing to tuck into our set menu meal (although guests can also opt to purchase individual seafood specialties made to order from a daily rotating menu). The food did not disappoint, and our meal of Thai specialties—BBQ shrimp, pork with green beans, spicy seafood salad, chicken soup, fried fish, and white rice—was as delicious as it was filling. And as we walked back to our cozy beachfront cabin on that warm and breezy evening, it was easy to see why this little slice of heaven has become such a popular hideaway.
As the sun rose on our second day in paradise we started things off with an early morning swim, followed by a set breakfast—served from 8:30am till 10am—back at the resort’s oceanfront restaurant. Overnight guests can choose the American style eggs-and-bacon brekkie, or opt for the Asian style rice porridge morning meal. There’s also serve yourself coffee, tea, and fresh fruit juices available.
After breakfast we did some more swimming—both in the ocean and in the swimming pool—and also took advantage of the complimentary snorkelling gear provided by the resort (there’s some coral formations just off shore). We also toyed with the idea of doing a trek around the island, but the mid-day heat made reading and relaxing in one of the shaded outdoor salas much more inviting.
By 1pm we were ready for our final meal, the set lunch which that day consisted of chicken soup, stir-fried vegetables, a wonderful red curry with pork, and a Thai omelette with shrimp. It was a lovely finish to a fabulous weekend.
After returning to our room to pack up and get our bags ready for transport back to the waiting ferry, due to leave at 3pm, we made one last trip to the restaurant lounge for a final celebratory cocktail (alcoholic drinks, fruit juices, coffee, and other beverages are available throughout the day for purchase). We toasted a weekend well spent, and began planning for a possible return.
Epikurean Hotels & Lifestyle offers consultancy, development, and project management services for high-end city hotels, resorts and residential villa projects. The group is currently managing three properties in Thailand, including Koh Munnork Private Island, and the Chantaramas resort and Sunset Hill Boutique Resort (both in Koh Phangan).