Koh Phayam is an idyllic island for those looking for the simple things in life. You will find beaches of raw natural beauty, a few hiking trails and narrow roads for explorations, a handful bungalows hidden in lush vegetation, delicious local eats, and some friendly hippie-style entertainment.
Read on and find out if this island is right for you!
The Beaches and where to find your accommodation
Firstly, you need to decide on which beach you would like to stay:
Koh Phayam has two main beaches, Aow Yai (Big Bay) and Aow Khao Kwai (Buffalo Bay) and two smaller beaches, Kwang Pit and Mook Bay, ideal for day trips.
If you like turquoise blue water and phenomenal white sand with more regular entertainment, then Aow Yai is the place for you. The bungalow resorts are lined up on a narrow road behind the beach, most of them feature a beach restaurant open day and night.
Aow Khao Kwai has less entertainment and isolated stretches divided by rocks; the sand is more light brown with shady places everywhere and some hidden bungalow resorts in the lush vegetation. You easily may get the feeling to be the only one enjoying the beach as most people relax in the hammocks on the terraces of their bungalow.
We decided to stay on Aow Khao Kwai and found a cute bamboo bungalow with a large shady terrace and sea view on the northeast of the Bay. A few resident geckos did their best to keep the insect population in check; we didn’t get bothered by mosquitos. A generator provided electricity 2 hours during the day and 4 hours in the evening. The beach in front of the bungalow was lovely, and the resort manager herself cooked delicious Thai food – pure paradise!
For more social life we walked along the beach to the Hippy bar, a faux shipwreck decorated with driftwood, old fishing gear and sea debris. It is a Masterpiece of improvised architecture not to be missed! The ambiance is relaxed, and it is easy to socialise with yachties and neighbours we hardly met during the day. Sometimes there is live music playing, at some days there are Happy Hours organised followed by Beach BBQ’s.
There are no cars on the island; scooters and bicycles are for rent, or you may explore the island on foot and return with a moto taxi if you are tired. We choose the last option as we enjoy beach walks and hiking on the trails through the forests without any traffic.
In particular, we loved the following hiking itinerary:
Start at Aow Khao Kwai at the northeast end at low tide and walk along the beach to the impressive rock formations.
Picture ‘Koh Phayam – Rock Formation’
Keep on walking towards the south-west part of the beach and cross the mangrove forest. Be aware that at high tide some trail portions are not accessible.
Then board a wooden raft to cross the river and haul on a rope line, hand-over-hand. Disembark at a cement pier, you are at the Moken village. After having visited the settlement, climb up the hill and enjoy the beautiful view over the island. The trail leads through shady forests and cashew nuts plantations and ends at Aow Yai from where you may walk back on the narrow roads or take one of the moto taxis.
Meet the Locals
Historically, the Moken have been a seafaring, nomadic population of fishermen. They have had no nation, no civil institutions, no modern technologies, and no written language. Mokens have no days or months, “two tides away” would be a more recognised expression than “tomorrow.”
Dogs and chickens run freely around the village. Children showed us their toys and tried out the few English words they learned at their school; adults offered to take pictures and showed us around. There is a peaceful feeling, and people are friendly.
There are restaurants, cafes with bookshops and some food shops for every taste and budgets. High-quality vegan and vegetarian places open up here and there. We tried out many of them and were rarely disappointed.
Our favourite stop was at the food stalls where the locals eat, at the crossing in the middle of the island. The handmade bamboo leave baskets of ravioli ‘rice&coconut’ are hard to miss as the smell is all around! It’s a mix of sweet rice, some corn, coconut water, and condensed milk, cooked slowly in the shown device until the halves are outside crusty and inside still slightly sticky, then glued together. Try it out and let me know!
Koh Phayam is one of the larger islands near the southern tip of the Myanmar border in the Andaman Sea. It is located about 30 km from Ranong, little public ferries and long tail boats depart daily between the mainland and the island. Ranong itself is a 90-minute flight or 9-hour bus ride south of Bangkok.
The most common types of accommodation are modest bungalows. Power and wifi are intermittent in most locations; hot water is a rarity. There are no banks or ATMs; a travel agency at the port in Koh Phayam is providing currency exchange. Most restaurants and accommodations close down entirely during the low rainy season from May to October.
About Our Guest Blogger
Cornelia Betschart is a travel writer and photographer passionate about hiking and travel adventures to authentic places off the beaten tracks. Swiss by origin and a world citizen by heart, she is also a lover of languages, food, cats and oceans. More to read on Cornelia’s website kaleidoventure.info.