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
- 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