Cham’s House Koh Kood – A Review By Punam Mohandas
Cham’s House on the secluded, almost untouched island of Koh Kood, is one of the most charming properties I have come across. It is under the management of The Unique Collection of Hotels and Resorts. From the outside, it looks like a glasshouse perched atop a small hill which overlooks the sea. Spread over seven rai (approximately 2.471 rais to an acre) the edifice is a low-rise building, completely in tune with its environs of the natural fauna and flora.
The rather unusual name is based on the Cham hill tribe who are ethnic to Cambodia and Vietnam (Koh Kood is on the Thai-Cambodian border) and form the core of the Muslim communities there. Approximately 4,000 Chams live in Thailand.
Access to Cham’s House is by walking up a small steep stone incline which leads straight into the small and functional lobby space. With 53-keys, Cham’s House is relatively new, by which I mean that although the hotel was launched two years ago, a completely new 21-room hotel block came into operation just in November 2013 while the 32 villas too went in for an extensive maintenance.
More sloping inclines and rough-hewn stone steps lead to various villas and buildings around the resort, with well manicured patches of lawn and swaying coconut and banana palms interspersed at intervals. Rooms are divided into a rather large number of categories for such a boutique property: Deluxe Ocean View at 37sqm; Grand Deluxe at 41sqm with a Jacuzzi on the terrace; Ocean View villas at 69sqm; Ocean View pool villas and Beach Front pool villas both at 71 sqm and then the two-bedroom Presidential pool villa at 212sqm. The first two categories are located in the new hotel block while the rest are all villas.
Apart from the Jacuzzi, the difference between the rooms in the hotel block is that in the Grand Deluxe, the beds fully face the sea, giving on to a fantastic panorama. The flooring throughout the hotel is stone rather than Thai wood. A lot of cane and bamboo is used in the furniture and colourful red and black wall hangings complement it. Every room has a balcony, where the flooring is of wooden slats. Wooden outside furniture completes the look here. The bathrooms have extremely adequate space.
The rotunda villas have cane beds and side tables, with lovely bright gay colours in handspun cotton for the bedspreads and pillows, while the curtains are a more sedate maroon and black. The bathrooms here are large, with two sinks and separate toilet and shower cubicles. There is more bamboo work around the mirrors. The space is lit up naturally by two large skylights. Each villa has an outdoor round tub, big enough for two people. The space is enclosed so that one has privacy, but the roof has a circular opening that is open to the elements. It is quite a surreal experience to lie back in warm, bubble-scented water and watch the sky above slowly darken into an inky blue as the stars come out.
All the rooms and villas come equipped with iPod docking stations; DVD players; mosquito repellent spray; tea kettles and electronic safes. A really neat touch is the espresso coffee maker in each room! Four complimentary bottles of water are provided on a daily basis. As a special promotion for the festive season of Songkran, the hotel is offering minibar goodies on a complimentary basis as well.
All the bath care products are by Thann, an upmarket and prestigious brand known for its superb quality that uses only natural ingredients. Indeed, this environment conscious attitude of the hotel extends to toiletries such as the ear buds as well, where the cotton buds are rolled on wooden rather than plastic sticks. The pens in the resort are made of recycled paper, with quirky little caps on them.
F&B options include two outlets: the 50-cover Rice restaurant near the Reception, serving Thai cuisine and Bombyx, a 36-cover beach bar and restaurant serving international cuisine. Surprisingly, the food here is better than the Thai food at the former and most guests prefer it! Breakfast at Rice is a disappointing affair, certainly not in keeping with the overall impression the resort generates. Room service is available, although there are no menus in the rooms; one has to place the order at the restaurant and the food is then delivered to the room. On the whole, the menu could do with a revamp, with a more careful eye to quality.
As of now, the meeting space with a capacity for 50-70 pax is still in the final stages of preparation.
Recreational facilities are limited to the swimming pool with Jacuzzi and of course – Nature’s own entertainment option of a soft sandy beach and a deep emerald sea with calm waters. The beach on most of Koh Kood has rocks as also coral formations, so one has to exercise caution while walking into the sea. Cham’s House offers complimentary snorkelling and kayaking equipment. Plans for a private jetty are in the pipeline, with a speedboat service for transfers to the mainland.
Although by law there are no private beaches on Kood, with such few locals and visitors, the stretch of beach in front of Cham’s House is remote and secluded enough to be called ‘private’ and the hotel maintains its patch of beach.
A boutique shop selling swimwear, shirts and local handicrafts is located close to the Reception and across from Rice restaurant.
This little property does have a spa on its premises. Weave Spa has four treatment rooms – and one of the most competent, skilled masseuses! Cham’s House offers a complimentary one-time 15-minutes oil massage to its patrons. Most of the guests I spoke to were full of praise for the therapist and indeed, having personally experienced her services, so am I; she is a real treasure for the resort. One of the main facials on offer is the honey treatment, where the face is cleaned with yoghurt, followed by a brown sugar scrub. The face is then massaged gently with honey and the final step is a honey and lime mask, all of which moisturises and rejuvenates the skin. You can also opt for a Cleopatra-like coconut milk bath! Cham’s House signature therapies involve the Golden Thai Silk Cocoon treatments which are rich in sericin; good for natural exfoliation and skin moisturising.
It is highly commendable that the hotel is keeping to standards of quality and has already done one round of renovation in its brief two-year history, with another round slated for September this year, just before the season opens again in October. Most of the clientele here are honeymooners or couples. Cham’s House is popular among the Scandinavian, German and Austrian crowd, while the Thais come down for long weekend get-aways. The only slight drawback is that housekeeping requests for the moment are routed through the front office, where the staff are a bit tardy in responding to the phone or to requests. F&B service is a bit lackadaisical too, while the menu could add to its repertoire. Housekeeping service is efficient and unobtrusive. While observing the tenets of Nature and all that, with a property this size however, periodic pest control is a necessity.
Do remember that Koh Kood is a slightly remote island, on the Thai-Cambodian border. The local populace numbers roughly two thousand. There is no night life to be had here and hardly any outside restaurants so, for meals you are pretty much confined to your hotel. There are no ATMs and no 7Elevens and only some hotels accept credit cards. Therefore, it is recommended that you carry currency with you as also essentials such as sunblock, insect repellent, basic medicines, some snacks and chocolates if you are so inclined, and suchlike. Half of the island has narrow, tarred roads while the other half is just mud tracks. Having said that, it is one of the loveliest islands with a lot of natural greenery and deep emerald waters that are usually calm; its virginal seclusion is what makes it so attractive.
Most visitors hire motorbikes which are anywhere from between THB 300-500 per day, depending on your hotel and your bargaining skills! Gasoline is at 50 baht per litre. Cham’s House is on Klong Hin which is one of the better beaches; a really lovely one is Bang Bao about 20 minutes away by bike, where the sand is powder soft and there is a comparatively long stretch of beach unbroken by rocks. Further along this route is the Klong Chao waterfall, the largest in this area, where it is safe to swim. Ahead of this waterfall is a dense forest which is home to a 500-year old Makka tree. You can also visit the Klong Yaki waterfall. To the north end of this island is Ao Salat, a fishing village however, there is not much to see here. Heading down south will bring you to another fishing village called Ao Yai.
To get to Koh Kood you can fly into Trat airport and then take a minivan or taxi from there to the pier. Most travellers take the bus from Bangkok’s Ekkamai station, however, as it is a long ride of seven hours and you are likely to miss the ferry, many people break journey either at Koh Samet, Koh Chang or Trat. If you are at Koh Chang, the speedboat (there is no ferry as it is too far a distance) ticket costs THB 900 and is a journey of two hours. Since Koh Kood is so quiet and deserted, you would do well to have your hotel reservations done in advance. Check with your hotel which pier they can pick you up from and inform the speedboat driver accordingly. If you prefer to go directly to Kood, then it is better to buy the bus/ferry combo ticket and take the night bus from Bangkok which gets in to Trat around 4am; the shuttle will be waiting to take you to the pier.
Cham’s House Koh Kood (The Unique Collection)
Tel: +66 24028088
Fax: +66 24028090