Koh Samui, Phangan and Koh Tao located in the Gulf of Thailand was my first taste of island life when I first came to the land of smiles. It was beautiful, idyllic and exotic and, with endless recreational activities, sightseeing excursions and also vibrant nightlife days and nights flew by way to fast. The next year I booked accommodation in Phuket Island for an extended period with the intension of also visiting other islands in the archipelago. This time I wanted it to be really authentic, avoid large tourist crowds, noise and nightlife. I noticed a small island located in Phan Nga Bay called Koh Yao Noi while searching for hotels in Phuket, an area between Phuket’s east coast and the mainland. I read up a little and it seemed worth I try. Wanting to keep things really authentic I opted for an old, traditional Thai passenger long tail boat to take me there from Phuket’s Ao Por Grand Marina at a fraction of the price of the speed boats most tourists use. I was the only foreigner on the long tail traveling with locals, cages full of chickens, wooden crates, two scooters and some other belongings of the people traveling with me.
The Way There
The trip took approximately an hour and a bit, but I wished it took longer, because traveling through Phang Nga bay is simply awe inspiring. The ocean is as flat and calm as a lake and as you go along you pass by enormous and mysterious looking lime stone boulders rising from the depths several meters into the sky. Arriving at Koh Yao Noi’s small pier a pick-up truck was waiting for the locals, so I joined in to be taken to the cheap resort I had booked. On the way to my resort there were no rows upon rows of of other resorts, shops, bars and restaurants, signature trademarks of many other islands. Instead, it was lush jungle covered hills and forest with a noticeable absence of man’s footprint. My resort was nothing special, but the room was clean and the owners friendly. Wasting no time I borrowed their scooter and set off to explore the island. Being as small as it is, you can drive right around it along the only paved road in 45 minutes, but the sights which awaited me had me spending several hours.
Koh Yao Noi Island
The two main beaches were beyond pristine, there were no waves and you could swim to the nearest lime stone boulders which is a signature feature of the area all around the island. On the beaches were no umbrellas to spoil the view, no rows of sun chairs covering the sand and no motorized water sports to disturb the peaceful atmosphere. I encountered only 3 restaurants on these two beaches, all offering stunning views and ridiculously cheap, but tasty food. The area’s town area is no bigger than 100 x 100 meters which has a shop and a few stalls. Apart from this there was a tour operator taking the limited number of tourists on a choice of excursions in the bay, including kayaking in the famous Hong Islands where the roofs of flooded caves have collapsed many moons ago. If you explore a little deeper and take some of the dirt roads leading through the jungle, friendly locals smile and wave from their homes until you arrive at beaches where there is simply nobody else. You literally have it all to yourself.
Apart from where stayed, I also only found 4 resorts on the island and a few structures where the locals stayed. If you want to combine this pristine nature, lack of commercialisation and laid back island atmosphere with luxury and comfort offering every conceivable amenity and recreational facility you can imagine you should head for Six Senses , the only 5 star Koh Yao Noi Resort I laid my eyes on.
Six Senses Resort
This place is incredible, though way beyond my budget. Its free standing villas have a rustic design to blend into the island nature and have obviously been angled so you enjoy maximum privacy. Each villa has a huge wooden outdoor deck and private pool from where you can enjoy sweeping views of the bay. Some villas also have two bedrooms for the ideal family holiday and everything required to keep the kids happy for as long as you stay. There is a tennis court and a gym, you can go rock climbing courtesy the lime stone boulders in the area, it has spa in a rain forest setting unlike I have ever seen, in-room facilities like satellite TV, High-Tec sound systems, your own bar, pools and slides for the kids and a whole range of day tours and other activities are arranged by the resort. Six Senses Resort even has a big screen outdoor movie theatre standing on stilts in the water where you can enjoy a movie while chilling on the beach.
While I will probably never have the privilege of staying at Six Senses for a few nights, Koh Yao Noi with its absence or at least serious lack of man-made elements changed my perception of island life, or perhaps I just really found what I always thought to be a real island so to speak. If you want to experience an island life the way it was meant to be in my opinion anyway, check out Koh Yo Noi.
Author: George Conradie is a consultant at a local Thailand based hotel accommodation booking business. George regularly travels around the country to obtain first class experiences he shares in his articles with the hope of assisting tourists planning a trip to Thailand.