After the lively, chaotic and picturesque mayhem of Phi Phi, we were ready for some down time. As you may have started to guess by now that our plan for Thailand is to hop from island to island moving further South each time and ultimately crossing the Malaysian border. Phi Phi was our last 'big' island in the sense of being built up and touristy. From here on out, we are getting more remote and back to the truely 'deserted island' experience. With this in mind, first up after Phi Phi was Koh Yao Noi.
Koh Yao Noi is the smaller island just north of its neighbour, Koh Yao Yai. Koh Yao Yai is the more popular untouched island but carries a price tag with only luxury resorts having set up camp here. Koh Yao Noi is the backpackers retreat, with the same untouched feel but cheaper accommodation options, less distance to cover between attractions and a 7-Eleven at the pier which, any weathered traveler will agree, is a hallmark of Thai tourism and a lifesaver for cheap water and toasties.
Boarding the huge tourist-packed cruise liner style ferry from Koh Phi Phi, we couldn't wait to get back to the more authentic Thai lifestyle and as far away as possible from the tourist packed boats that always seemed to have at least three Chinese families all throwing up frequently. Getting dropped off on one of Phukets piers – and gulping in the fresh air thankfully – we were swarmed by taxi drivers. Much like Phi Phi, all taxi quotes were extremely high thanks to the hoards of holidaymakers that agree to the first price. Refusing to pay 700 baht each for a pier transfer, we kept walking, pausing only to try and haggle with drivers and continue once they realised we weren't going to pay triple the real price. Thankfully, as we left the port there were a handful of less official looking taxi drivers who obviously hung around for the inevitable cheap backpackers. They put up a good fight and after a good 30 minutes of haggling in the blazing sun (trying to ignore the sound of Fitz sizzling) we managed to negotiate 200 baht per person for a transfer to a much smaller pier north of Phuket that had boats running to Koh Yao Noi.
Feeling very relieved we hadn't paid the original taxi price, we sat back in our air conditioned taxi and let the next 45 minutes pass by with ease. Our driver was an elderly man who spoke little English however he was very chatty and told us all about his 50 year taxi career, even having his first license laminated with a picture of his very youthful 20 year old self. Despite his car being an old model he was extremely proud of it and displayed how often he liked to clean it, wiping whatever surface he could reach at each traffic light. Fearing getting the car dirty, we quickly stuffed our snacks back into our bags, let or tummies rumble and instead tried to distract ourselves with the lovely Thai chatter of the driver and/or his radio.
Pulling into the tiny pier, we were quickly rushed by 2 locals to the ticket booth where we realised the boat was about to leave. Quickly purchasing our tickets with a handful of other tourists, we were bundled into a longtail boat along with a couple of scooters and local food deliveries for the restaurants. Already feeling a hundred miles away from Phi Phi, the boat ride only furthered our joy, weaving us between the mangrove lined islands that stretch for miles off the Thai coast. Feeling like we were finally getting off the beaten path, our boat ride lasted around 30 minutes of calm waters and jetting past endlessly beautiful limestone islands with only the occasional fishing boat to share our landscape.
📷 Our longtail boat
📷 We weren't the only ones impressed with the view
Hopping off our longtail, instead of being inundated with room and taxi offers, we were instead helped off the boat by a very quiet gentleman who seemed to be the only taxi driver on the entire island. Taking the eight of us that were on the boat, he quickly dropped us off at each of our destinations, speeding off leaving the roads entirely empty. Bliss.
📷 Our very short taxi ride to Najjamee Resort
Having not booked anywhere, we had asked to be dropped off at a resort we knew had good ratings. Since it was off season we had decided to show up to try and haggle a cheaper price which we did successfully upon realising the resort was completely empty. Seemingly thrilled to have people around, the owner provided us with our own private bungalow equipped with kitchen, hot water shower, free mineral water, a daily clean and fresh linen every other day. For 500 baht a day, we knew we had hit gold. The bungalow itself was beautifully built with a wide patio complete with a wooden bench, mosquito proof windows and bathroom. It was the perfect getaway; an almost empty island, in a very empty resort and a spoiling room with just the sounds of the birds and crickets for company all day long.
📷 Reading on the patio (with the laundry) with hummingbirds flying around me (not pictured for obvious reasons) 😍
On the Thai islands its less about what you get up to and more about what you don't get up to. With cheap bikes for hire, we paid our hosts for a nice, safe scooter complete with helmets to go explore. With only one road looping around the island – and it being a very small island – we had barely set off before finding ourselves back at the start. However, what we did see, we loved. Much like most of southern Thailand, Koh Yao Noi is a heavily Muslim population and as such everyone seems to live extremely modestly. With the exception of the occasional bungalow businessman, most of the locals are farmers, fisherman or shop owners with little desire to expand their tourism beyond its current state. This is one of the main reasons Koh Yao Noi is considered one of the few untouched islands remaining in Thailand. Driving around, you pass local life; fishermen taking naps on the beach, children playing around their homes (all of which are larger than average and well maintained) and the occasional restaurant. And that's it. No bars pumping out Thai pop music, no 5 star resorts taking up huge sections of the beach, and absolutely no punters trying to sell you their touristy trades. It was perfect.
📷 Each beach had the same set up; longtail boats, dreamy backdrops and tree swings/ benches.
📷 Another beach, another swing
📷 Exploring the forest parts of the island
📷 We were really surprised to find that farmers had water buffalo !
📷 Some of the beaches had incredible sights at low tide.
📷 Filling up the scooter with vintage petrol pumps
📷 Local fishermen docking their longtail boats
And so commenced our five day stay; lazy lie ins, delicious breakfasts in our bungalow and scootering ourselves to one of the two beaches that we always had to ourselves. Our days consisted of sunbathing, reading and watching quiet island life pass by.
📷 Never got bored of this view
📷 Enjoying my love of shells 🐚
Thinking that travelling in off season sounds dreamy? You'd be right but we'd also be extremely misleading if we didn't mention the rain. While off season has its many perks you do have to accept the occasional shower, which we would wait out in our bungalow, flanked by the three resident cats that hated the rain but enjoyed our company. With each shower only lasting around an hour, it never cut into our plans (reading on the beach vs. reading in the bungalow was never a strenuous decision) and actually cooled the temperatures down considerably, keeping the air nice and cool throughout the day and made dinner in the evenings far more enjoyable.
📷 The resident kitten named Chicken (despite the fact its owner knew no English whatsoever)
📷 Taking in the gorgeous sunsets without the baking heat 🙌🏻
📷 Looking for places to eat in the evening
📷 One of our favourite restaurants, Kaya
📷 All local restaurants were small, cheap and (most important) delicious. They also LOVED their spice. This red curry was the spiciest thing I've had in our 5 months of travelling.
📷 A delicious Italian twist to the traditional green curry, served with spaghetti instead (and of course very spicy).
📷 An after dinner treat from 7-Eleven was always warmly welcomed. Note to self: ice cream + scootering at high speeds = chaos.
Each day followed the same pattern of us taking in the gorgeous beaches, lying out on our Indian throw, returning to the room to enjoy the hot shower and mosquito free space and then head out for dinner in one of the cheap restaurants near the pier. It was the perfect island getaway.
Our only notable disturbance was the inexplicable Muay Thai boxing gym that stood out like a sore thumb and had the classic truck advertisements in which someone is paid to drive around the island with extremely loud adverts blasting through their massive make-shift speakers. Having your quiet morning interrupted with badly translated Muay Thai adverts blaring out from a truck as it drives by was extremely odd – and annoying – but thankfully the drivers would only do a few laps before deciding they needed a nap and so our quiet days would continue without too much effort needed on our part.
Considering our lack of activity, our 5 days passed surprisingly fast and while we were sad to leave behind our amazing bungalow, 5 days of doing nothing is more than enough and we were keen to at least immerse ourselves in a new environment. So, we said goodbye to Chicken the kitten, packed up our stuff and said a fond farewell to our lovely little bungalow to make our way to the very similar, even quieter island of Koh Jum.