It was back in 2010 that I have been to Koh Phayam in Ranong for the first time. I was super excited to go there because I have heard a lot about it as a calm and peaceful island. Even though Koh Phyam doesn't have a crystal clear water as Similan Islands, Phi Phi Islands, or Ko Lipe, it has such a unique feature. After I spent three days there, I totally fell in love with it.
Years have passed, Koh Phayam has become very famous and been talked about a lot among Thai people. Look on the bright side, it is good that Koh Phayan has more tourists. On the other hand, it is not easy to overlook about its natural resources that might be affected by the tourists just like other developed islands.
It has been over 4 years that I haven't been back to Koh Phayam. I guess it is a good time to go back and see how my beloved island has been. The summer is approaching. It is such a perfect time for this coming back trip to Koh Phayam. Let's go and see how it is now!
Let's get this journey started!
I still remember well that they used to have only 1 ferry a day to Koh Phayam and a few speed boats. Nowadays, there are 2 ferries a day both to go and from the island. To get there, you can take the ferry at 9.30 AM or 2.00 PM and to come back from there either at 8.30 AM or 2.00 PM. You can also get another ferry from Ranong to the island directly. They have one ferry a day but you need to go to different pier. Moreover, there is almost one speed boat in every hour to get there from dawn to dark during high season. In other words, numbers of the speed boats is depending on the tourist season. There is none in May as an example.
The journey get started, we take the bus from Southern bus terminal Sai Tai Thaling Chan Bangkok at 8.00 PM. We have safely arrived in Ranong around 5.00 AM. We take a local bus to Pak Nam Pier right away before boarding to the first speed boat of the day at 7.00 AM. The speed boat is 350 THB per person which is 150 THB more expensive than the ferry. With the speed boat you can save up to 1 hour and 10 minutes. It takes only 50 minutes to get there unlike the ferry that takes up to 2 hours. We have finally arrived at Koh Phayam. It is not even 8.00 AM yet. Therefore, we have roughly the whole day today on the island to kill.
We are not hurry on the way back so we have planned to take the ferry back at 2.00 PM. We will arrive in Ranong around 4.00 PM then we will take a local bus to the bus terminal. Our bus is at 8.00 PM so we will just chill around there. Guess what! this is exactly the same schedule as my last trip. To sum up, it is pretty convenient these days to travel to Koh Phayam from Bangkok.
Around the Island
One of the uniqueness of Koh Phayam that I keep telling people is that the island is car-free. People travel by feet or motor bike only. Today the island is still car-free. The car is used only as a container.
Since motor bike is the main transportation on the island, the numbers of motor bike rental services have been increasing incredibly. There used to be only one of them which is Sawasdee Rental Service. They used to have only 40 motor bikes for rent but now they have more than a hundred. The rental fee is ranged from 200 - 250 THB per day according to its condition and tourist season.
The numbers of the restaurants have been increasing as well as the restaurant's size that is getting bigger. A lot of new bungalows is also built up in the middle of the island. However, I would say that the infrastructure is still not over production. The primary occupation is still cashew nut farming. In addition, small hornbills and red-backed sea-eagles are still easily to be seen which indicate its stable fruitful natural resources. I would say that the island will remain this slow grow of tourist's number as well as its tourism infrastructures. There shouldn't be any sudden changes because the tourism season here is only 6 months and most of the tourists are backpackers.
Ao Khao Khwai (South)
Ao Khao Khwai (South) is famous for its most beautiful crystal clear water on the island. I still remember how impressive I was when I was here last time even though there was a huge difference during low tide and high tide. It is a private beach and shared only among few resorts. The beach sand is pretty white and delicate. The water is clear. The surroundings is calm and quiet.
We are lucky that we are here during the time that the daily low tide and high tide are not much different called dead tide by locals. Therefore, even though it is a low tide period, the water doesn't go down as much like last time. The sea is calm and peaceful making this spot heavenly beautiful the whole day.
I am totally happy that this place still remains incredibly beautiful even the time has passed for over four years. Numbers of bungalows are still the same. The most luxurious resort here is Payam Cottage Resort where we will be staying. I have booked a villa through Agoda. It is 1,300 THB including the swimming pool, electric fan, and 24-hour electricity. It is pretty expensive since there are numbers of budget bungalows throughout the island. I booked this resort because my girlfriend told me to.
I was very impressed with the resort since last time and I am totally crazy about it this time. The beach right in front of Payam Cottage Resort and Vijit Bungalows is the most beautiful part of the whole beach. This is another reason why we have chosen to stay here. The most southern part of the beach near Pak Klong is where the abundant mangrove forest is as well as where the sand beach become a mud. Crossing the canal from there, it will be a Morgan village. Well, I didn't go there last time and I don't think I will have a time to go there this time either. So, I hope I will have a chance to finally visit the village on my next trip to Koh Phayam.
Kong Hin Thalu
One of the most hot spots on the island where tourists always come to take photos would be this Kong Hin Thalu. It is situated on the beach right in the middle of Ao Khao Kwai. This spot can also be considered as the indicator separating the northern and the southern part of the bay. I came here twice on my last trip, one during the high tide and another during the low tide. However, I did not get the photo that I want. It is not because it is not beautiful but because of my limited photo shooting skill.
Finally, I have accomplished my goal having photos of Kong Hin Thalu as what I have always wanted. There are numbers of tourists coming to take photos of this natural beauty from time to time as it has become a landmark of the islandy. On Kong Hin Thalu hill, there is a bungalow called Khao Kwai Hill which is one good choice for all backpackers.
Ao Khao Kwai (North)
This part of Ao Khao Kwai is very calm and quiet. It might not be as beautiful as the other part because the sand beach is in brown color plus it mixes with mud a little bit. This can be easily spotted during the low tide. However, this part of the bay has changed a little bit. There are more resorts building up and the old ones have been renovated. So, there are some slightly changes here from last time.
If you keep heading north, there will be some bars. You can see them easily at night from the southern part of the bay with all the lights. Even though there are not many bars, I would say that staying over in the south is much better. I used to be more impressed with this part but not that much anymore.
Moreover, at the end of the northern Ao Khao Kwai you can walk through a little natural rock trail to the southern part of the bay. Through this trail, you will walk pass a small beautiful beach which is pretty private.
I stayed at Baan Suan Kayoo Cottage in Ao Yai last time. It was a budget bungalow located at the most northern part of the beach. I don't forget to come back here for a meal. The atmosphere is as good as last time and the undeveloped road has been completely developed.
Ao Yai (Big Bay) has never been crowded because of its big size. Other reasons must be that the beach is in brown color and some part, the sand is mixed with grey mud which cause the water unclear. So it is not that popular. However, this kind of sand that mixes with mud is very interesting. It becomes a natural artwork which created by the wave. And this is like a heaven home to a thousand or ten thousand of ghost crabs.
All in all, this bay is perfect for those who don't care much about the crystal clear water and white sand beach but calm and quiet place. There are numbers of budget accommodations here too.
Ao Kwang Peeb
This was the first bay I visited last time. It was not the most-wanted place I want to come but I was here because I was lost. Anyway, I would say I was lucky though because I think this bay reflect the island itself the best.
Ao Kwang Peeb is a small bay with brown-red color sand beach. Once crystal clear water meets with this dark color sand beach, it has created such a beautiful scenery. The bay is surrounded by lush greenery. What I have noticed is that they have kept this place well. It is pretty similar to what I experienced last time. There is still only one simple bungalow here.
I would list Ao Kwang Peeb as a-must visit place when in Koh Phayam. Even though to get here is not easy especially to those who are not good at riding motor bike, it is worth it. And you can just walk to here.
Ao Mae Mai
Ao Mae Mai can be considered as a central of everything on the island with the main pier and villages. More than 4 years have passed but this place look exactly the same. At the edge of one end, there is the most luxury hotel in Koh Phayam. The room rate per night can be up to 10,000 THB. However, I would say staying there you won't get the best out of Koh Phayam in terms of true local experience. In addition, this hotel is only beautiful during the high tide.
On the other end of the bay is where Wat Koh Phayam located. The temple can be seen from far away with its ordination hall in the sea. There is a new pier here as well but it has been left unused. While waiting to board to the ferry or speed boat back to the main land, you can find many restaurants with reasonable price here. Even though it is not beautiful around the area, you will enjoy the scenery and the sea breeze while having your meal for sure.
If one asks me where is the most changed spot on the island compared to the last 4 years, this Ao Mook would be the answer. There is one and only resort at Ao Mook named Koh Payam Resort. This resort looks totally different after the renovation has been completed. It looks more luxurious unlike the old simple bungalows by the beach as it used to be. The beach is also changed being filled up with new surface.
However, Ao Mook is not touristic. To get there is not easy. If you are not good at riding the motor bike, you have to be extra careful. Therefore, I am not that serious about the changes that have been done here. You can choose to go to this quiet place (not many tourists come to stay here) or you can just skip it. This won't mean much on your trip.
In summary, to compare this trip to the last one in Koh Phayam I did not go back to Ao Kor Kew only. It is where I call it as a hidden bay (Ao Lub Lae) in the southern part of the island. The reason why I have given its name as a hidden bay is that it is not easy to get there. You have got to go through undeveloped road as well as overgrown forest.
Koh Phayam has been changed very little as if it has not changed at all for over four years. I have to admit that I was worried that it would be over-crowded nowadays. However, since the island has been better known among Thai people and there tends to be more and more domestic travel. This would direct the future of the island. It might be changed enormously in the very near future because Thais are known as luxurious travel lovers as well as party animals unlike the foreigners who tend to adjust their traveling style according to the local culture.
Who would have known that Koh Phayam might go down like other developed islands in the future? But I will make sure to come back here and see my beloved island once again within 4 years.
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