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Why Khao Sok and Koh Yao Noi are two of Thailand’s best gay honeymoon destinations

Amy Ashenden February 15, 2020
Khao Sok, Thailand

Khao Sok, Thailand (Elephant Hills)

Travelling abroad is often tricky when you’re gay.

You need to escape the bitter cold weather, so you Google search winter getaways, find a ton of exciting deals with picture-perfect beaches then, just as you’ve hit ‘add to basket’, you remember to double check something…

Yep, being gay is illegal and you don’t fancy forking out for a romantic trip where you’ll be terrified to hold hands, thanks very much. We get our fill of that in London.

That’s what happened to my girlfriend and I while trying to find somewhere to spend two weeks somewhere warm, with good food and views that tempt us into becoming golden hour Instagrammers (my girlfriend doesn’t even have Insta, so we’re a way off).

While we were feeling disillusioned, our lesbian WhatsApp group started popping off with notifications.

Our friends, a lesbian couple, had won a trip to Thailand to star in the tourism board’s shiny new advert featuring gay and lesbian couples. They’d essentially won the gay lottery.

So, of course, we got all the lesbians together for a viewing party to see their glorious moment of fame as a couple feeding elephants, walking along beaches and even having a wedding blessing.

Although, equal marriage isn’t yet legal in Thailand, we liked to think this was a bold nudge towards growing acceptance of the idea.

We were sold. A country made an advert just to welcome the gays? Our matching hiking trousers were packed.

We spent the first half of our trip exploring ancient ruins in Ayutthaya, kayaking down the Kwai in Kanchanaburi, and staying in the ultimate gay-friendly hotel in Bangkok.

The second half, we split between remote beaches in Koh Yao Noi and Khao Sok’s beautiful lake, home to multiple species of wild monkeys.

Thailand: Khao Sok.

Khao Sok, Thailand
Khao Sok, Thailand

If you’re looking for somewhere with stunning views, tranquility and remoteness, then Khao Sok lake is a (relatively undiscovered) paradise.

Sleep in floating tents, or do day trips, with Elephant Hills to jump on a boat across the lake for an hour to reach the Jurassic Parkesque landscapes of Khao Sok.

Kayak along the emerald waters quietly enough and you’ll spot multiple sub-species of wild monkeys munching in the surrounding trees.

If you want somewhere particularly spectacular and unique to visit but want something more original that just a beach holiday, Khao Sok is the perfect place to switch off and relax.

Where to stay?

Elephant Hills’ camp provides day trips to Khao Sok lake, including all the transfers, and is a super popular choice with honeymooners.

The staff are all incredibly knowledgeable and friendly locals, the food is a delicious and vast buffet for every meal, and there’s entertainment in the evenings.

The camp has won multiple sustainability awards and encourages holidaymakers to respect the jungle environment.

It’s also easy to feel at home in the jungle when you’re staying in a luxury, eco-friendly tent. We even spotted some shooting stars from our campsite.

Getting up close and personal with Thailand’s elephants.

If you choose to stay at Elephant Hills, you can also combine your Koh Sok visit with a day trip from their main campsite (which is in the jungle but less remote, and they provide decent long-distance transfers including from Phuket and Krabi) to their elephant sanctuary, which is second to none.

Priding themselves on being an ethical rescue mission for mistreated elephants, the Elephant Hills sanctuary is home to females only – unlike many others where there is regular forced breeding.

There’s also a huge focus on educating visitors and highlighting how elephant numbers have dropped radically since Thailand made logging illegal in 1989, meaning owners could no longer afford to feed the gentle giants.

The elephant sanctuary (Elephant Hills)
The elephant sanctuary (Elephant Hills)

Preparing their food, feeding them, washing them with a coconut skin scrub and hosing the elephants down is such an incredible, intimate experience that shouldn’t be missed. And it’s a relief to know your money is going towards an ethical business.

Thailand: Koh Yao Noi.

Thailand is famous for its beautiful beaches but many are over-crowded, overused and over-Instagrammed.

For a much quieter, private and peaceful experience, head to Koh Yao Noi – an island that, incredibly, remains relatively undiscovered and has luxury hotels that will leave you reluctant to go back to mainland.

This is an idyllic honeymoon island and while it feels remote, there’s plenty of opportunities to do island hopping via day boat trips.

It’s likely avoided becoming a tourist trap because it’s far from a party island – most of the locals are Muslim and there’s not masses of bars. But, there’s luxury accommodation, great Thai food for all budgets, and there’s even a very gay-friendly spot for cocktails called Charlie Bar.

Fill your time kayaking, getting cheap Thai massages, cycling and relaxing on unspoilt beaches. If you’re cycling for the day, be sure to stop off at the local coconut farm for a much-needed refreshing drink.

Where to stay?

Cape Kudu Hotel is ideal for couples on a honeymoon – their relaxing pool overlooks the shore and their rotis from the breakfast buffet aren’t to be missed. There’s also a pool table and plenty of cocktails to choose from at their on-site Long Island bar.

Cape Kudu Hotel on Koh Yao Noi island (Cape Kudu Hotel)
Cape Kudu Hotel on Koh Yao Noi island (Cape Kudu Hotel)

They also run a different activity each day, from eco-friendly beach clean-ups to giant jenga, where you can win free messages and day trips from the hotel. And their smooth transfers from the pier will immediately get you into the mood for a relaxing stay.

Dykes on bikes.

We couldn’t resist the opportunity.

Hiring mopeds for the day on Koh Yao Noi is a great way to see the island, venture to the rubber tree plantations and get up those steep hills for amazing views.

I recommend hiring from the friendly vendor next door to Cape Kudu Hotel for around 300 baht a day.

Just don’t do what my girlfriend and I did – get carried away, trekking to the north of the island on, what we did realise at the time was, a one-way road that turns into a dirt track.

We ended up in the islands’ uninhabited jungle and returned many hours later after battling what felt like an extreme sports circuit covered in mud and mosquito bites.

Still, we were dykes on bikes for the day so what’s not to love?

More: honeymoon, LGBT travel, Thailand, travel

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