Koh Phayam – 8 Things to Do on Thailand’s Best Kept Secret Island
Ah beautiful Koh Phayam, a reminder of what Thailand was like before it became just so, so, so popular! I’ll take your Koh Samui’s, Koh Changs and Koh Phangan’s and raise you my perfect Koh Phayam, an island on Thailand’s Andaman coast that the tourist boom seemed to bypass, and it’s all the better for it. I just spent 4 days at what is now my favourite Thai island.
Koh Phayam has only recently started supplying its beachside bungalows with 24-hour electricity, and the WiFi is a bit hit and miss, but if you want to know what Thailand was like 20 years ago, welcome to Koh Phayam. It’s heaven. At any given time there are probably only around 100 foreigners on the island, and given that there are about 5 amazing white-sand beaches to choose from, one of which is over 2km long, you’ll have a beach seemingly to yourself. Without the tourist hordes the prices have been kept Thai style so enjoy the cheap fruit shakes and local food for a fraction of the Koh Phi Phi prices.
Where is Koh Phayam?
It’s on Thailand’s west coast (the opposite side to the famous Koh Phangan, Koh Samui etc), right on the Myanmar border. Koh Phayam is also about 30km from Ranong City (see below), which itself is a 9-hour drive from Bangkok or a 1-hour flight.
How to Get to Koh Phayam:
STEP 1: GET TO RANONG
First, you have to get yourself to Ranong Thailand (the City, not the province). To get from Bangkok to Ranong you can either take a night bus, a minivan or a flight. You can book your overland tickets here. You can also take buses from Surat Thani to Ranong, and Phuket to Ranong (6 hours)
From Ranong, you go to the Pier and there are ferries from Ranong to Koh Phayam every day (also ferries to Thailand’s second Koh Chang).
STEP 2: FERRY FROM RANONG TO KOH PHAYAM
In high season, slow ferries will take you to Koh Phayam from Ranong Pier at 09:30, 10:00 and 14:00 (200 THB, about $7) and they take two hours. You can also take a speedboat (45 minutes) at least every two hours from 09:30 to 16:30 (350THB/$11). If you come in low season, there’s just 1 way to get to Koh Phayam, the daily slow boat leaving from Ranong Pier at 09:30.
When it’s time to leave Koh Phayam, you can take the boat back to Ranong Pier in high season at 08:30, 14:00 and 15:00, with the speedboats running hourly in peak season.
8 Things to do in Koh Phayam
You can’t spend ALL your time gloating about finding the one paradise island left untouched in Thailand! So check out the 8 main things to do in Koh Phayam during your time here:
1) Aow Yai (Big Bay) beach
Ao Yai: The flagship beach on the island, 2km of white sand with no ugly resorts of note. There are a couple of beach restaurants and bars (although this is certainly no party island) dotted along the stretch meaning you can spend your entire day here should you choose too. Sunset’s is spectacular here too.
2) Aow Kao Kwai (Buffalo Bay)
Aow Yai’s little brother doesn’t match up with size but it’s a great combo for privacy yet still with long stretches of white sand. Only a couple of places to eat/drink and you’d be pushed to see 10 other people in an afternoon here. Amazing. This is the perfect spot for sunset, blue skies turning orange, then pink, then red and no-one there to interrupt the moment. Possibly my best sunset experience ever
3) Take A Diving or Snorkelling Trip – especially to Koh Khang Kao and Koh Surin
Some of Thailand’s best diving is found on this coast, so it’s starting to attract the diving crew. Personally I’m not a diver though, so I stuck with snorkelling. Combine it with an island-hopping trip, and make sure to include at least one of either Koh Khang Kao or Koh Surin. More paradise is waiting for you there, and it may literally just be you on these little islands.
4) Try Kite-surfing or Surfing Lessons in Koh Phayam
Always good to try something new, and it’s pretty cheap here to do that. You can organise it through these guys.
5) Wat Ko Phayam
This one is a freebie, as it’s on the pier so you can’t miss it! Wat Ko Phayam is Phayam’s only ‘proper’ temple, and you can’t visit a place in Thailand without at least one temple pic, right?
6) Kayak through the Mangroves
Just off the 2nd main beach, Aow Kao Kwai, are Koh Phayam’s Mangrove forests. If you wander around the beach, you’ll be offered the chance to kayak amongst them for an hour or two, or your hotel can arrange it too. You can also arrange it through the same place as the surfing above
7) Drink at the Hippy Bar
Thai islands have a reputation for parties, but Koh Phayam is a different vibe. People don’t come here for the nightlife, but that’s not to say there aren’t a couple of cool bars to have a couple of drinks. The Hippy Bar has become the most famous bar on the island, partly because of the construction, so hit it up around sunset for a perfect atmosphere, and a banging sunset.
8) Drive the island and discover the 3 Best Beaches in Koh Phayam
Scooter rental in Koh Phayam is 200THB ($7 per day), and there is very little traffic. So grabbing a scooter and driving around the island is perhaps the best way to spend the day. Of course check out Aow Yai as mentioned first in the ‘things to do in Koh Phayam’ list, and Buffalow Bay, but be sure to make an extra effort to hit up Ao Kwang Peap
Ao Kwang Peep is a hidden gem of a beach within this hidden gem of an island. This is found in the extreme north of Koh Phayam, after the ‘road’ has ended you can brush up on your scooter driving skills across the dirt trek. Then a couple of hundred metres walk through the jungle to the bottom of the hill where a resourceful dude has set up a quaint Thai bar/restaurant. The beach is about 90m long, white sand (standard by this stage), crystal clear water and has great snorkelling. Don’t miss this out in your trip here.
Where to stay in Koh Phayam; Koh Phayam Accommodation
There are 3 higher-end resorts ($130 per night), the best of which is Blue Sky just at the pier where you’ll land. It’s heavenly, wifi, on the beach etc. I was splashing out and stayed here with my girlfriend for a few nights.
Backpacker accommodation is much easier to find though with bungalows all across the island, ranging from 150 baht ($5) for a basic hut with limited electricity and a fan if you’re lucky to around 1500 baht ($50) for air-con, 24 hr electricity, western bathroom etc. Ao Yai is your best bet for budget bungalows, for an extra $2 or $3 you can get it literally on the cusp of the beach.
Getting Around Koh Phayam:
As soon as you get off the Ranong Koh Phyam Ferry, right at the Pier, you can rent a scooter, and from then on you’re free to find accommodation, sample the different hotspots etc. If you’re not confident on a bike, motorbike taxis are all-round just look for their green or pink vests and call them over, they’ll be happy to take you wherever you need to go.
Ok, guys, that’s all you should need to be convinced to whack this on your Thailand itinerary. Just do me a favour and don’t tell too many people about it, deal?! Happy travels!
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