The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - ESCAPE EYE - WORDS: SHIRLEY SIN­CLAIR The writer paid her own ex­penses as part of the Aus­tralian So­ci­ety of Travel Writ­ers con­ven­tion.

The young lovers are seated un­der lamp­light at a ta­ble for two, away from the large, noisy din­ner gath­er­ing in­side the beach­front restau­rant.

With soft golden sand un­der­foot and the rhyth­mi­cal crash­ing of waves on to the shore only me­tres away, they pe­ruse the ex­ten­sive leather-bound menu filled with lo­cal seafood del­i­ca­cies and Thai food favourites be­fore turn­ing to the drinks se­lec­tion.

Al­though hap­pily en­joy­ing the ban­ter of the tour party on our last night to­gether, I se­cretly envy the well-groomed pair as they sit qui­etly, lost in their thoughts, soak­ing up the am­bi­ence of the palm-fringed set­ting.

They only have eyes for each other but their smiles and body lan­guage con­vey their ob­vi­ous de­light at their ro­man­tic sur­round­ings.

And I wish I could be like them, shar­ing this “pinch-my­self” mo­ment with my loved one.

His only ex­pe­ri­ence of Thai­land was an 18hour air­port lay­over on a trip from Rome to Bris­bane.

I wanted to in­tro­duce him to the Bangkok I have come to love for its food, cul­ture, friend­li­ness and ex­otic quirk­i­ness.

But the hour-long taxi ride me­an­der­ing our way through the chaos of Bangkok traf­fic from our Su­varn­ab­humi Air­port ho­tel to the Chao Phraya river­side, a brief walk through Chi­na­town (with all its Asian aro­mas from glo­ri­ous siz­zling sa­tays on street ven­dors’ skil­lets to pu­trid, over­flow­ing rub­bish) for a late-night snack at a western cof­fee shop fran­chise be­fore the re­turn jour­ney to catch a mid­night plane was not the best way to con­vey that.

Here in Koh Kood (also known as Ko Kut) — an is­land in the Gulf of Thai­land, 330km from Bangkok, in the far south-east near the Cam­bo­dian bor­der — he could have wit­nessed all that I adore about this happy king­dom.

With a pop­u­la­tion of less than 2000, Koh Kood has barely been dis­cov­ered by the rest of the world.

The moun­tain­ous, sand­stone is­land cov­ered mostly in vir­gin rainforest is a 90minute Boon­siri Ferry ride from Trat, to the south-east of Bangkok.

It of­fers a feel­ing of be­ing in the jun­gle wilds of Thai­land while also em­brac­ing the laid-back beachy life­style in lux­ury re­sorts and com­fort­able bun­ga­lows, in­dulging in world-class cui­sine and first-class spa treat­ments.

At Cham’s House Beach House be­hind the aqua­ma­rine wa­ters of horse­shoe-shaped Klong Hin Beach, hub­bie could have sat with me on the third-floor ve­randa of my spa­cious ho­tel room with a view of the pri­vate beach through the co­conut palms and trop­i­cal gar­dens to Hat Bang Bao.

We could have re­treated to Weave Spa for a 60-minute aro­matic Thai mas­sage in the cou­ples’ room, be­fore a dip in the in­fin­ity pool by the lobby re­cep­tion and gazebo on stilts.

We could have strolled along the un­spoilt beach and pos­si­bly had a wild macaque mon­key en­counter, be­fore tak­ing up the of­fer of se­lected free drinks at happy hour in Bom­byx Bar and Restau­rant.

Our love af­fair with life might have seen us hire a Song­taew (or, as I like to call it, the world’s small­est troop car­rier) that is the com­mon tourist trans­port on the is­land for up to 10 guests and their lug­gage.

Up hill and over dale on the is­land’s good bi­tu­men roads, past rub­ber tree plan­ta­tions and road­side fresh fruit and veg­etable stands, we could have ven­tured to the coastal golden Bud­dha — a pop­u­lar land­mark for vis­it­ing sea ves­sels — and the Monas­tic House tem­ple over­look­ing the wa­ter at Ao Salad in the north-east of the is­land.

There, we could choose the crab, fish or bugs from hold­ing tanks to indulge in the fresh­est-of-fresh seafood meals at the nearby Fish­er­man’s Vil­lage and seen first-hand the “fleet” of fish­ing boats in a rain­bow of colours tied up be­side the rick­ety tim­ber or con­crete board­walks that con­nect the sim­ple homes on stilts where these hum­ble Bud­dhists live.

This busy fish­ing vil­lage is also an im­por­tant port, con­nect­ing the is­land and the main­land, and the meet­ing place for trans­fers for ferry and speed­boat pas­sen­gers to their ho­tels and re­sorts.

Feel­ing en­er­getic af­ter lunch, we could have headed to one of three wa­ter­falls — maybe the three-tiered Kh­long Chao Wa­ter­fall where I would have needed a lov­ing hand to help me scram­ble over slightly slip­pery rocks and pull me up the rope for the breath­tak­ing sight of fast-flow­ing wa­ter in this mon­soon sea­son. The falls, plung­ing 10m into an invit­ing pool in a pic­turesque jun­gle set­ting deep in the heart of Koh Kood, would have ne­ces­si­tated a mem­o­rable cool dip to­gether.

Koh Kood’s west coast beaches are known for their bril­liant blue wa­ters and sandy beaches with coral just off­shore.

The best dive spots also can be found here in fairly shal­low depths, with ex­cur­sions con­ducted by BB Divers, Par­adise Divers and

Koh Kood Divers. So hir­ing kayaks and ex­plor­ing the coast­line or an af­ter­noon spent snorkelling right off the beach could have led to a body surf at Tinker­bell Pri­vacy Re­sort at Baan Klong Chaow, where we could have worked up a thirst for cham­pagne at the famed sun­set spot.

And we could have ar­rived back to our ho­tel room for a wel­come rain­fall shower and fallen asleep in each other’s arms in the mas­sive king­size bed while watch­ing a Fox Movies Chan­nel rom-com on the flat-screen TV.

Koh Kood — Thai­land’s fourth-largest is­land — isn’t Koh Phuket, Koh Sa­mui or even neigh­bour­ing Koh Chang. It’s not party cen­tral. It’s pure seren­ity. As Cham’s House gen­eral man­ager Charoen (Jay) Hom-in says in a wel­come let­ter, this is a chance to “es­cape from busy mod­ern life” at a “home for the soul”.

There are few dis­trac­tions here. Koh Kood’s nat­u­ral beauty is al­lowed to take over and cre­ate a re­lax­ing get­away and per­haps the chance for a lit­tle ro­mance in the wilds.

I may love some of them to death but vis­it­ing with a dozen col­leagues isn’t quite what I de­sire for a wildly ro­man­tic ad­ven­ture.

Maybe one day hub­bie and I can sit down at that ta­ble in the moon­light, shar­ing a lob­ster bisque and prawn satay skew­ers for en­tree, fol­lowed by baked whole fish and crois­sant pud­ding, washed down with mar­gar­i­tas in salted-rim glasses.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

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