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Luxury Camping: Discovering Glamping in Ko Laoliang

“On Ko Laoliang we will be camping. On the beach,” said my friend W–i with some measure of satisfaction when the idea of this trip was gestated.

Some of us were hesitant. “I’m game for it, but I’ve not stayed in a tent for a long time,” I said. Or something to that effect.

Another friend, who would be bringing her kids, wondered if her little girls would go for it. Their most recent family vacation was a rare opportunity at a glamourous Bali resort. She wondered if it may have set a default expectation. She weighed the probability of disappointed children.

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

It clicked for me. I had read about this on the internet. “Oh, we’ll be glamping!”

And as usual, W–i was right. There was no need to worry whatsoever. Everyone had a great time.

The island hop to Ko Laoliang

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

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Boat trip to Ko Laoliang

The sea was relatively steady at the time, and so the boat trip was easy.

Along the way were scenic rocky islets that jut dramatically from the sea. Raptors sometimes wheel in lazy circles over them.

The boat made a shore landing against the sandy beach. There are no jetties here.

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 W–i’s timing prediction, the weather remained beautifully clear, and yet the beach was nearly deserted.

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Glamping in Ko Laoliang

I will take a moment to describe the camping grounds.

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Ko Laoliang camping grounds

You book ahead and 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.

When you arrive they would have erected the tents for you. If there are a number of them of the same type you can pick your location. What this means is whether you want it 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 also near here.

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, and also form the boundaries of the beach. I noticed a cave within it where they seem to stow the stores for the ‘resort’ and where staff possibly spend the night.

Camping vs glamping

To be perfectly honest I’m not really a camping sort of person. It may sound surprising given the high proportion of outdoorsy content on this blog.

I’d do it, if I intend to reach somewhere that requires it. It’s not so much the experience of the camping – I don’t mind that. I actually maybe prefer it sometimes. It’s the necessary planning and equipment that I’d have to manage in order to do that is usually the deterrent for me. Aside from a tiny bit of childhood dabbling on house lawns, the only other times I’ve really done it were during my navy reservist training. You do it as a team then, with the chores all divided and known to everyone. And you’re only in charge when you’re on the roster to be.

So glamping is perfect for me. All the stuff that’s necessary for survival but which I don’t really have the attention span to deal with, is taken off of me. Thus ensuring that I do in fact, make it to the end of the holiday intact and yet have the low fuss outdoorsy experience I prefer.

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

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. I like those holidays where the lack of a mirror is something that never enters your consciousness. It’s incredibly freeing, and such a luxury.

The tents on Ko Laoliang

They really 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 door flap.

Actually at first I thought it was small – until I realised the tent has a little foyer. There’s another zip opening to the actual sleeping mats, which have power outlets next to them, and even reading lights. There’s an awning over the front door, and another roof erected over the tent so that rain doesn’t actually 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 bit.

Outside, strings stretch along the sides of the tent that you can use 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 W–i’s friend who was our trip organiser meant that I got it back eventually).

Things to do on Ko Laoliang

Actually you don’t really need things to do, on a lovely beach. But that’s possibly just me.

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

You could also just enjoy the beach, play with the sand. You might observe interesting things.

I noticed that the sand crabs on Ko Sukon and Ko Laoliang – despite the populations being really quite 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.

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Left: Town planning Ko Sukon crab; Right: ‘Organic development’ Ko Laoliang crab

Snorkelling

There are fins and snorkels you can rent if you didn’t bring your ownKo Laoliang snorkelling | Ko Laoliang camping | Ko Laoliang glamping | exclusive island | Thai island | island getaway.

During this trip, the visibility was clearer compared to the beach we were at in Ko Sukon, but the types of sea life you see are mostly similar.

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

Rock climbing

Looking at those incredible cliffs you start to wonder…

And yes, there’s also 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, and then it was time to leave. I might likely have done it, if we stayed an extra day though.

Island touring

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.

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Squid fishing

OK this one was actually organised by our main man, W–i’s friend who was our tour guy. This involves arranging for a squid fishing boat, departing at daybreak for the squid fishing spots in the area.

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Going squid fishing

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 this – such as the beautiful sunrise that we saw. Certainly it made it easier to keep yourself roused while waiting for the squid boat.

Our friend arrived on the boat with the skipper and his assistant, who I assume are ordinarily squid fishermen.

As the boat set off to the fishing grounds, we were taught the basics of squid fishing, which apparently does not require bait. Just a lure. Maybe tug it every now and then, so it appears like squid food. When you get a tug, then you begin reeling 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.

The considerations of restraint

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. But mostly serious and aware of the danger of the activity. And then I remember firing the first round or so.

The single most important thing I remember from that day, was how easy it felt afterwards, to keep firing. And so how important it was to make a conscious effort to remember what it was that I was in fact doing, and how fatal it could be otherwise to someone who may mistakenly be in the firing range.

I’ll explain why I thought about this on the boat.

The supply side ethics of food waste

Ko Laoliang squid fishing | Ko Laoliang camping | Ko Laoliang glamping | exclusive island | Thai island | island getaway
Surprisingly competent

I’ll say upfront that I don’t subscribe to the opinion that it is fundamentally cruel that a living thing should die to become my food. I don’t hold human beings separate or above the prevailing food chain that applies to life on earth – just that we ought not to screw it up for all life on earth.

Like a great many people in the world who are still culturally close to rural life realities, I am not squeamish about what it takes to obtain food. So this section can be skipped by more tender-hearted vegetarian readers. However I ask non-vegetarians – tender-hearted or otherwise – to continue reading.

Here I’m not talking wastage in the sense of food distribution and storage. But rather the distance most of us today have with the very start of the supply. The part where life must die (or in the case of large scale agriculture and animal husbandry, displaced).

Ko Laoliang squid fishing | Ko Laoliang camping | Ko Laoliang glamping | exclusive island | Thai island | island getawayMy catch rate was quite good. And just like my experience in the firing range, after a while it felt fun. There’s like a hit of dopamine to reward a successful catch.

I can’t remember how many I reeled in. Not as many as the real fishermen, but it was quick 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.

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. And sometimes it apparently takes in seawater instead, because the shot on the boat is just that with no ink.

And you, the hunter, knows that it is fighting to live.

Do you know when you should stop hunting?

Of course it is probably only a human who has the luxury to recognise this. The squid itself would likely never ponder the impending doom of any random crustacean it might have fed on yesterday.

Ko Laoliang squid fishing | Ko Laoliang camping | Ko Laoliang glamping | exclusive island | Thai island | island getawayBut the instinct in the wild is (mostly) to stop hunting when you’re fed. Mainly because it costs energy to find food. However, many of us humans today have lost this instinct.

We haven’t noticed that the effort to find food has reduced so much for us in every way – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We demand more hunting and harvesting and planting and clearing and packing and producing and growing and fishing… for food? No, for appetite – and often also for profit.

I don’t blame those in the industry that become desensitised to this. If you’re doing it for an unspecified number of other people, it becomes so normal I can see how you won’t feel much after a while. I don’t blame those in the other end for being indifferent. If hunting now only means going to the supermarket, it’s hard to understand what food supply truly means.

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 – watch the fight for life.

I don’t know what it would do for you. For some people it turned them completely vegetarian. But for me, it reminded me that it is no small thing that is given up so I would eat. Yes, it is the nature of life on earth, this cycle of death and life. But at the same time, I have no answer to the One who will ask, if I wasted a death for which I am the cause.

Stop when you have enough.

So I stopped fishing when I reached the amount for my own food. Less, actually, because squid isn’t my favourite food. The others continued fishing, but maybe because I had stopped, they too stopped when we got a reasonable number.

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

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8 thoughts on “Luxury Camping: Discovering Glamping in Ko Laoliang

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. 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!

  4. 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 😀 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 😀

    1. 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. 😀

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