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A love letter about my favorite paradise island, Koh Phayam in Thailand

A love letter about my favorite paradise island, Koh Phayam in Thailand


It´s 7 o´clock in the morning and I´m at Ao Yai beach in Koh Phayam. Barefooted I stroll along the almost infinite beach. I feel the warm and moist sand underneath my feet. The sun is rising at the end of the beach behind a wooded hill. The atmosphere is relaxed and calm. Now and then I pass some other walkers or runners. Everyone is nodding. You know each other.

I turn left, heading to the small village just about 5 minutes away from the beach. It´s a very small place, some restaurants, massage salons and bike rentals. I stop at my favorite restaurant. I don´t even know the name of it, but the food is great and they have coffee from real espresso machines – a luxury on this small island.

Everyone stays longer than planned…

This time of the day everything is restful here. The small main street is deserted. Blissful silence except for the sizzling wok and the boiling coffee pot.

A few meters ahead on the main street you find the best grilled chicken on the island. The Chicken Mama is loved and its few tables are always filled with thankful customers. Next to her you find the best thai massage for a bargain.

I´m at home even though I´m far away.

The people are friendly, relaxed and they help you whenever they can. The prices are moderate, but have already risen since the last time I was here two years ago.

A lot of things changed since I first visited Koh Phayam in 2010. More traffic, more loud mopeds and tourists, more parties, more more more… But I guess that´s just how it goes in a capitalistic system, growth without any thought about the environment and the people. It would be interesting to have seen the island 20 years ago…

I thought long about writing an article about Koh Phayam because I want it to remain as natural and unconsumed as possible and I don’t want the recommendations outlined in this letter to contribute to the compromise of its beauty. I don´t want to see this island transformed into another Koh Phi Phi or Koh Phangan.

It´s still my favorite island in Thailand, but there are more people visiting every year and many of them need 24 hour electricity, warm water and full service.


Animals on Koh Phayam

I´ve seen lizards, snakes, geckos, hornbills, eagles, millipedes, jellyfish, crabs, spiders, cats and of course lots of stray dogs.

An eagle landed right next to us at my favorite restaurant. He tried to open the ketchup and mayonnaise bottles, which he mastered after a few attempts.

A hornbill had its nest somewhere near our bungalow and he would sometimes just land right next to us. Lots of tourists are keen to see one so it was an honor for us!


Living on Koh Phayam

On Koh Phayam you can still find beach huts for 300 baht but they are getting rare. A lot of new resorts have been built and most of them are in the upper price range. Many of them even have swimming pools.

But you can still find cheap accommodations here, including cheap bamboo huts at some resorts. You can live a pretty good life even with a tight budget.

Safety on Koh Phayam

I haven´t encountered any theft or scams here, but common sense should always dictate especially when travelling abroad.

Health on Koh Phayam

There is a small infirmary on the island. I had a very bad cough during my first visit but the nurse was very endeavoured to help. The locals also try to help you with herbs and locally common household remedies.

Money on Koh Phayam

As far as I know, there isn´t an ATM machine on Koh Phayam – yet. The best thing to do is to get some money in Ranong before hopping on the ferry to the island. Although you can get money at some resorts, I wouldn´t recommend it because they charge an additional fee (somewhere around 5% of the total).

Journey to Koh Phayam

The best deal is to take the night bus from Bangkok. It only costs around 55 baht and you can get the ticket at the southern bus terminal. An alternative would be to buy the ticket at the Khaosan road but you´ll pay more there.

There is air service to Ranong but I don’t recommend it because I think it´s better for everyone to take the bus or train since there is so much more to see when traveling slow. There is also a train from Bangkok to Chumphon, which I took during my last visit because I wanted to see Chumphon. However, you have to take a minibus – which takes 2–3 hours or a blue local bus which takes 4–5 hours – to get to Ranong (which is the capital on the mainland).

At the harbor in Ranong there are speedboats and a ferry waiting for customers.

What to do on and around Koh Phayam

Just being lazy, relaxing

  • Meditating
  • Reading
  • Strolling
  • Snorkeling
  • Eating cheap and delicious food
  • A dive or snorkelling trip to Surin Islands
  • Renting bikes and exploring the island
  • Enjoying cocktails in the hippie bar
  • Enjoying the sunset in a beach restaurant
  • Playing football with locals on the beach
  • Taking yoga classes
  • Visiting the neighbor island Koh Chang
Which island do you like most in Thailand? Why? Any and all comments are appreciated!
Minimal Packing List for Travel Photography

Minimal Packing List for Travel Photography

What a travel photographer should carry – always!

Mein Fotoausrüstung auf Reisen

Travel photography and minimalism – a contradiction??

I think so, cause without my photography equipment I would be 5-7kg lighter. But I don´t have a choice. Sure, the quality of current smartphones is great, but not as great as a real DSLR camera.

I worked with a Panasonic superzoom (Panasonic Lumix FZ100), which is small, lightweight and has a great focal distance, but unfortunately the lense was to faint for me.

Camera, tripod and filters

Besides a good DSLR camera and bright and powerful lenses I need a good and functional tripod which is stable and easy to adjust. The additional gorillapod is for mounting my iPhone to the tripod which, in combination with Triggertrap serves as a remote release. I use the polarizing and ND filters for pictures of the ocean, rivers and waterfalls to get the smooth effect I love so much. The step-up rings are for mounting the filters to smaller lenses, which is quite convenient.

Security and data protection

I use 3 SD cards with 32GB and one 1TB hard disc to prevent data loss. I also keep the SD cards in a waterproof case. I always store the hard disc somewhere else, just in case. If I leave my equipment alone, I wrap it in a Pacsafe steel net and lock all accesses with combination locks.

Triggertrap – a vital tool

I use Triggertrap for long exposure shots, time laps, star trails and much more. This small device is just awesome. It works in combination with (almost) any smartphone. The free Triggertrap app can do things a normal remote release can only dream of! I´m a huge fan of Triggertrap since the first time I´ve tried it and I only can recommend it.

Laptop and photo software

My macbook is always with me. I develop the photos in Lightroom (almost immediately) after the shooting. This consequent procedure is important to me because this way I get rid of lots of pictures and I can keep my photo library slim and organized. My minimalistic attitude makes it easy to delete without having bad feelings about it.

What I´m (still) missing

GoPro Actionkamera Hero 3

I´d love to have a GoPro HERO3 Actioncam with a waterproof case for underwater photography and action shots. I find the small weight and the wide angle lens to be perfect for traveling.

A additional Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Lens would be great for landscape and architecture photography.

Just in case: A Nikon COOLPIX P7800 Camera, for carrying with me ALL THE TIME.

Finally, here´s the list of my equipment

I travel with this minimal equipment for travel photographers. Sure, I could pack much much more, but I guess this equipment is just enough to take great shots and be prepared for (almost) any situation to come.

What do you think about my minimal travel photographer equipment? What do you carry? I appreciate you comment!