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O Joy, O Joy
March 6, 2011  |  by jess c  |  Koh Jum, Places we love, Thailand

If you’re like us, then you’ve probably spent a good many hours dreaming about idyllic tropical islands, with soft white sand beaches, clear turquoise water, and shady trees whose leaves are gently rustled by the dreamy afternoon breeze. Yeah, we know. A little cliché perhaps, but what can we say, it’s been the nagging daydream for many years.

Well, less than a month into our trip, we found that paradise. Or at least as close to it as either of us has ever been (so far!). The island is Koh Jum (pronounced Koh Jam), and it’s on the Andaman coast of Thailand, situated halfway between Krabi Town on the mainland and the island of Koh Lanta.

To get there, we boarded the Koh Lanta-Krabi Ferry, which “stops” midway on its journey to offload the passengers headed for Koh Jum. Since Koh Jum doesn’t have a pier that can accommodate anything much larger than a small motor boat, the ferry instead stops about a thousand meters off the island’s shore, where it is met by a flotilla of Farang-laden long tail boats (the ubiquitous sea-vessel of choice in the Andamans, see picture above), which sidle up alongside the ferry for the transfer.


Beach in front of Joy Bungalow, Koh Jum, Thailand

After the passengers boarding the ferry from Koh Jum managed to squeeze past us on the tiny deck, we handed out packs to the boatmen and, not yet having anything resembling sea legs, practically threw ourselves the five foot drop into the narrow longtail and headed for shore. Approaching the island, we could barely make out any structures on the land. Only a few sagging volleyball nets indicated human occupation. Ten minutes later, we were deposited on the nearly deserted Long Beach, right in front of Joy Bungalows.

The Rough Guide to Thailand’s Beaches & Islands describes Joy Bungalows as “not necessarily the friendliest” place to stay on Koh Jum. We beg to differ.


Mon, with delicious coffee and condensed milk. Dii maak maak!

The resort is composed of fifteen or so simple wooden bungalows scattered among a garden compound hiding just a few meters behind the beach-front tree line, which shades the various hammocks and tree swings thoughtfully provided. At the center of the compound is a large restaurant/center of community activity. Near the reception desk two tables spill over, one with various board games, and the other with book-exchange books representing at least a dozen languages. The tinseled “Merry Christmas” banner still hangs overhead. A poster announcing a 1963 appearance of The Doors at LA’s Whiskey-a-Go-Go incongruously stares out from behind the bar. While only the restaurant is wired for electricity, free WiFi is nonetheless available most days. At night, you return to your bungalow by the light of paraffin lamps, which only adds to the peaceful vibe of the place.


The restaurant and community hub at Joy Bungalows.

The resort is run by a soft-spoken man whose name, we’re told, is simply “boss”––fitting perhaps for his function, but not his demeanor. In the kitchen a group of about eight ladies turn out consistently tasty, sometimes downright exceptional, food (both the red curry prawn and the pizza margharita are to die for). Out front, Mon (pictured above), who incidentally has what must be the worlds largest collection of pants memorializing Bob Marley, and Sak (pictured below) greet you in a wonderful manner that makes you feel that they’re welcoming you back––old friends long absent and much missed.


Sak. A jokester and skillful fruit-carver. He carved this lovely fruit bouquet for us on our last night at Joy. There's a candle inside the pineapple.

The warmth of the people at Joy is something more than mere hospitality. There’s a gentleness, an easy strength and confidence of character, that you quickly come to understand is indicative not only in Thai culture generally, but of the people of Koh Jum especially. Everyone we met was endearingly proud of their home, but never competitively so. While we were sometimes asked where we’d come from, we were never asked what we did for a living, or why we’d chosen to visit Koh Jum. It was enough that we’d come, and they residents of the island were more than happy to share their island with us for as long as we wanted to stay. The reason for being there is self-evident.


I mean, c'mon. Does it get any better than this? (That's Koh Phi Phi that the sun is setting over)

And so we spent our time on Koh Jum relaxing and swimming, reading on the giant tree swing, exploring the island, and mostly navigating the borders where language and shared experience meet with our new friends. Which was time enough to be accepted, earnestly, as part of the Joy Bungalow family. We know, it’s easy to suspect that this feeling was simply part of the “island vacation” package. Part of the experience offered by clever resort staff. It wasn’t. Neither Koh Jum nor the people we met there had anything to prove, nor any need to impress.

The only question we were asked often was how soon we’d be coming back. And we know, like the handful of other Koh Jum devotees who return year after year, that when we do return (sooner rather than later) we’ll be welcomed home to a chorus of “My friend! My friend!” sung by faces that smile more easily and honestly than we thought possible.


Roman: boatman, bartender, snorkeling guide, and world-class smiler.

For more pictures from Koh Jum, CLICK HERE.

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  1. Great post! You girls are really making me miss Thailand. Keep it up and I just might have to come back soon :)

  2. Jess again you have managed to paint a beautiful picture with your words to go along with the photos you have taken. I feel like I was right there with you….

  3. NO ELECTRICITY!!! Does that mean tropical island and no ceiling fans?OOOHHHNNNOOO! Great pics and lovely place however….

  4. What can I say…every day it gets harder to not just hop a plane and join you! What a beautiful place!!!

  5. Hi Jessica,
    Thank you for your very nice pictures and review.
    I am delighted you’ve enjoyed your stay in our unprofessional resort.
    We try NOT to make it a business and happy that you’ve noticed and enjoyed our direction.
    Thanks again,
    Paul Burus

  6. Ahh. Brought a tear to my eye. Already miss traveling so much. So happy you’re livin’ the dream! ;)

  7. Wow, sounds truly amazing!!! And all for under $20 buck a night. I wish I was there!!!


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