“On Ko Laoliang we will be camping. On the beach,” said my friend Weerachai with some measure of satisfaction. He was explaining to us the addition of Ko Laoliang to our initial plan of holidaying and seafood bingeing in Ko Sukon.

The rest of us hesitated. “I’m game for it, but I’ve not stayed in a tent for a long time,” I finally said. 

Siew San, who would be bringing her kids, wondered if her little girls would go for it. Their most recent family vacation was a rare opportunity to stay in a glamourous Bali resort. She wondered if it may have set certain expectations in her daughters. She weighed the probability of disappointed children moping in a cramped tent.

“No need to worry,” assured Weerachai. “The tent is very big. And there’s electricity – inside.”

Inside?? Something clicked into place. I had read about this on the internet. “Oh, we’ll be glamping!”

Island Hopping to Ko Laoliang from Ko Sukon

We headed to Ko Laoliang after the completion of our seafood mission in Ko Sukon.

The sea was relatively steady at the time, and so the boat trip was easy and pleasant. Along the way were scenic rocky islets that jut dramatically from the sea. Raptors sometimes wheel in lazy circles over them.

Jagged rocky islands in the Andaman Sea
Boat trip to Ko Laoliang

We arrived in a kind of sandy cove, edged on either side by sheer rocky hills topped by a close crop of green foliage.  True to Weerachai’s savvy prediction, the weather remained beautifully clear, and yet the beach was nearly deserted. The tourist season was not yet in full swing.

The boat made a shore landing onto Ko Laoliang’s sandy beach. There are no jetties here.

Ko Laoliang sand beach
Almost-private beach of Ko Laoliang, at the end of the off season

Glamping in Ko Laoliang

I will take a moment to describe the camping grounds.

When you arrive they would have erected the tents, based on the expected guest arrivals. If there are a number of them of the same type that you’ve booked, you can pick your location. You can choose whether you want the one far at the end, or the row closest to the beach, or closer to the restaurant, where you will be served the buffet style meals. The toilet and shower facilities are centrally located. 

The camping ground is sand, under the shade of the typical tropical beach trees and shrubs. The back of the beach is a rock cliff that extends to either side of it, enclosing the beach. I noticed a cave within it, which the camp seemed to use as storage, and where staff possibly spend the night.

Ko Laoliang’s spacious glamping tents

During booking, you can select the kind of tent that you would like. There is the option of a ‘typical’ tent that houses two persons, and a ‘family’ tent that is meant for four. Both are spacious. It was the first time I’d seen tents like those so I was quite bowled over when I first came through the flap.

Actually, at first I thought the tent was small – until I realised I was only in the tent’s foyer. There was another zip opening to the actual sleeping mats, which have power outlets next to them, and even reading lights. There was an awning over the front door, and another tarp roof erected over the tent so that rain doesn’t pelt the tent directly. It was a pretty comfortable tent!

The ‘family’ one is even better, with a ‘corridor’ section between two separate ‘rooms’ after the foyer portion.

Outside, strings stretch along the sides of the tent, serving as clotheslines. Don’t forget to check it when you leave though. I left my favourite pareo drying on it. Fortunately, the wonderful honesty and kindness of the camp site people and Weerachai’s friend (who was our trip organiser) meant that I got it back eventually.

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Ko Laoliang camping grounds

Camping vs glamping

To be perfectly honest I’m not really a camping sort of person. It may sound surprising, given the proportion of outdoorsy content on this blog. Like many ‘adventurous’ activities, I’d do it if I intend to reach somewhere that requires it. It’s not so much the experience of camping that I’m after.

Being outdoors, and living simply – I don’t mind that. I actually maybe even prefer it sometimes. What I don’t like about camping is the equipment that I’d have to manage. The setting it up, the packing it up. Over and over.

Aside from a tiny bit of childhood play-camping on house lawns, the only other times I’ve gone camping were during my navy reservist training. But you do the chores as a team then, all divided up. You’re only in charge when it’s your turn.

So, actually glamping is perfect for me. All the stuff that’s necessary for survival, but which I don’t have the attention span to deal with, is taken off of me. Leaving only the part of camping that I like! 

Indeed, during my time at Ko Laoliang I hardly did much more than pick up my snorkel and fins and enter the water, then get back out again for necessaries. 

Fish in the blue green water with a boat rope in the foreground
I was mostly in the water

Things to do on Ko Laoliang

To be honest, I think you don’t really need things to do, on such a lovely beach. But that’s possibly just me.

1. Chill and play cards

For those who just want to chill, maybe play cards etc. there are tree-shaded platforms with cushions and those versatile triangle Thai mats. We actually ended up spending a lot of time just doing this.

2. Play in the sand

You could also just enjoy the beach, play with the sand and observe the animals. 

I noticed that the sand crabs on Ko Sukon and Ko Laoliang – despite the islands being reasonably near each other – have different housekeeping habits. Ko Sukon crabs remove sand from their holes in orderly concentric rows, whereas Ko Laoliang crabs seem to be…. let’s just say not.

Pattern of sand balls dumped by Ko Sukon vs Ko Laoliang beach crabs. The former is an orderly spiral and the latter is a disorganised dump.
Left: ‘Town planning’ Ko Sukon crab; Right: ‘Organic development’ Ko Laoliang crab

3. Go snorkelling

You can rent fins and snorkels here, if you didn’t bring your own. During this trip, the visibility was clearer compared to the beach we were at in Ko Sukon, but the types of sea life are mostly similar.

I personally spent a lot of my time doing this. Mainly because I just like being in the water.

Ko Laoliang snorkelling | Ko Laoliang camping | Ko Laoliang glamping | exclusive island | Thai island | island getaway

4. Go rock climbing

Looking at those incredible cliffs you start to wonder… wouldn’t it be great if you could climb them?

Lo and behold – there’s the option of going rock climbing! You get a climbing guide and they sort you out, so you don’t need to arrange anything much yourself.

We thought of doing this since none of us had done it before, and it seemed like it would be an awesome thing to do. But in the end, the charm of idleness lulled us to complacence. By the time we thought about it again, it was time to leave.

I might likely have done it, if we stayed an extra day though.

5. Tour the island on a boat

You could also have a boat take you around for a bit. We didn’t fancy doing this; but on the other hand there are some pretty sights and interesting rock colourations.

Ko Laoliang rock island | Ko Laoliang camping | Ko Laoliang glamping | exclusive island | Thai island | island getaway

6. Go squid fishing

OK, so this one was not an activity offered by the camping ground people. It was actually organised by Weerachaii’s friend. This involves arranging for a squid fishing boat, with the skipper and his assistant, who I assume are ordinarily squid fishermen. 

To go squid fishing, you have to rise at daybreak. So, despite being reeeeeaaalllly not a morning person, I mustered the willpower to get moving with the required lead time.

Early risers will point out the incredible merits of rising early, which I do not dispute. The beautiful sunrises of the magic hour are something else. Certainly it made it easier to keep yourself roused while waiting for the squid boat to arrive.

Ko Laoliang sand beach at sunrise | Ko Laoliang camping | Ko Laoliang glamping | exclusive island | Thai island | island getaway
Waiting for the squid boat

As the boat set off to the fishing grounds, we were taught the basics of squid fishing. It apparently does not require bait, just a lure. You’re supposed to tug it every now and then, so that it appears like squid food. When you get a tug, then start reeling it in, keeping the line taut. But not too fast or too hard, or the squid would pull loose.

I doubted that I would get that far. But I was wrong. I turned out to be a fairly competent squid fisherman!

Sitting on the prow of a squid fishing holding up a squid caught on the line
Surprisingly competent

Sustainable Fishing: Dilemmas of being surprisingly good at catching squid

I remember when I had my first firearms training in the navy reserves. We were at the firing range and the gunnery officer laid down the rules of the range which were never, ever to be violated, since it could result in someone being accidentally shot.

In the beginning I felt nervous, maybe slightly excited. Mostly I mostly serious and aware of the danger of the activity to human life. But what I remember the most, was the feeling after firing the first round or so.

It felt so easy it afterwards, to keep on firing.

I remembered how important it was for me to make a conscious effort to remember what I was in fact doing, and how fatal it could be to someone who might mistakenly wander into the firing range. Because after a while, you simply got used to doing the lethal thing.

Food waste & the problem of restraint

I’ll say upfront that I don’t subscribe to the opinion that it is fundamentally cruel for a living thing to die to become my food. I don’t hold human beings separate or somehow above other beings within the food chains of life on earth. Like a great many people in the world who are still culturally close to what it takes to obtain food, I am not squeamish about it. 

I just believe that we ought not to screw everything up for all life on earth, by being in excess. The problem is, it’s easy to become used to excess. 

On the line I could feel the squid react with its survival instinct, pulling away. It shot its ink, as its primary reflex when it feels in trouble.

Sometimes a squid might have enough for two shots. Sometimes it reserves the second shot for when it is on the boat, as its last ditch attempt. And sometimes, it apparently takes in seawater instead, because the shot on the boat is just seawater with no ink.

The hunter knows best that it is fighting to live.

Do you know when you should stop hunting?

The squid itself would likely never ponder the impending doom of any random crustacean it might have fed on yesterday. It is probably only the human hunter who has the luxury to recognise this in other beings, being aware of our own mortality. 

The instinct in the wild is to stop hunting when you’re fed, mainly because it costs energy to find food. It’s the human hunter who continues hunting when he is no longer hungry.

I don’t blame those in the agriculture industry that became desensitised to killing. If you’re doing it for an unspecified number of other people, it becomes so normal that I can see how you won’t feel the animal’s struggle after a while.

I don’t blame those at the other end for being indifferent either. If ‘hunting’ now only means going to the supermarket, it’s hard to understand what it really takes to get the food there.

But every so often, whether you make a slaughter yourself or when you feel the fight on your line, or get rid of pests from your vegetable plot or clear a piece of land to farm for your own sustenance, you can feel the fight for life viscerally. Theirs, and sometimes yours.

I don’t know what it would do for you. For some people it turned them completely vegetarian, or vegan. But for me, it reminded me that it is no small thing that is given up, so that I would eat.

Ko Laoliang orange sunrise

Stop fishing when you have enough

My catch rate that morning was good. And just like my experience in the firing range, after a while it began to feel fun. I can’t remember how many I reeled in. Not as many as the real fishermen, but it was fast enough that I thought, ‘hey, I think that’s all I would eat’, and start asking other people how many we were intending to catch in total.

When I realised I was actually good at this, I determined how many I actually wanted. Then, I stopped fishing when I reached the amount for my own food.

The others continued fishing, but maybe because I had stopped, they stopped too, when we got a reasonable total amount.

And when we got back to shore, we had a delicious squid meal – but none of it was wasted.

Carbon offset information to Ko Laoliang, Thailand

Visiting Ko Laoliang, assuming return flights from Kuala Lumpur to Hatyai, produces carbon emissions of approximately 593 lbs CO2e. It costs about $3 to offset this. 

Why not have a chillax glamping holiday in Ko Laoliang? Pin for later!

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Pin image for a travel story about glamping and squid fishing in Ko Laoliang

8 Responses

  1. Glamping sounds like the best of both worlds – experiencing the outdoors without the hassle of sourcing, packing and carrying too much gear. And glamping in Ko Laoling looks idyllic – the scenery, beach and activities all spell pure relaxation :D It’d be tempting to hang on the beach, but then I’d miss the coloured rocks and the fishing. But I’d always be there for the eating :D

    • Teja says:

      I’ll be honest with you: if someone hadn’t taken the initiative to organise the squid fishing, I would have just been content to atrophy on the beach until kicked off the island. :D

  2. We often used to camp in Australia as it was just so damn expensive to stay in a hotel there. And it was fine, gave a kind of freedom and they have nicely maintained camping sites there. I don’t know about the situation in Thailand, but on a beach like this, I would not even need a tent but sleep on the beach directly, ideally in a hammock :-) Nice activities to do there, sounds like a small paradise!

    • Teja says:

      I am embarrassed to admit that even in my balmy region, I may still get cold in the middle of the night… But good to know about Australia!

  3. What a stunning place is Ko Laoliang. The island looks like Saint Martin Island in Bangladesh and the beach is like our Cox’s Bazar. I would love to visit one day.

  4. Restless Heart Blog says:

    Ahhhh, so much natural beauty! All the information you stated will come handy too one day, hopefully :)

  5. Jade says:

    I’m definitely more of a glamper than a camper too. Those beaches look gorgeous. Well done on catching all those squid, it looks like loads of fun bobbing around in that boat.

  6. Gina says:

    Like you, I’m not really a camping person. There’s loads of glamping places in South Korea and I love every minute of it. I’d love to snorkel because the water looks so clean and I’d also like to try squid fishing and cook one I caught for dinner!

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