Koh Phayam is the most popular destination in the Province of Ranong. Located 200km north of Khao Lak, it is the perfect getaway to those looking for a destination off the beaten track. Featuring two main beaches, Ao Yai (Long Bay) to the southwest and Ao Khao Kwai (Buffalo Bay) to the northwest, this 50 km² island that counts only around 500 inhabitants, offers its visitors a travel-back-in-time experience.
First thing, there are no cars on Koh Phayam; the only way to travel around is by renting a motorbike (moped) or bicycle. A few narrow cement roads allow people to easily reach the main bays and tips of the island from Koh Phayam pier (located on the east coast). The central part of Koh Phayam is rather flat and hosts cashew-nuts trees plantations and virgin forest. A large patch of mangrove forest can be found at the western end of Buffalo Bay, offering a great and wild playground to sea kayakers.
Ao Yai counts a great choice of cheap and budget hotels as well as cool bars such as Rasta Baby at which young travellers can enjoy themselves until late. The grey sanded beach is extremely wide which means that even if all the hotels are fully booked, it is never crowded. The fact Ao Yai faces southwest creates a nice swell giving surfers and bodysurfers a great field to enjoy these activities.
Buffalo Bay is slightly more upmarket with hotels going from budget to mid-range. Perfect place to get away from it all, the sea is here more quiet than at Ao Yai and offers excellent swimming. The mangrove forest marking the western end of the beach is home to a great number of animal species, including crab-eating macaques, hornbills, and Brahminy kites, to name just a few.
Regarding accommodation, one of the most booked hotels in Koh Phayam is The Blue Sky Resort, which is located on the east coast of the island, two kilometres south of the main pier/village. Other cool places if you really want to take a break are Buffalo Bay Vacation Club and The Sun Resort & Restaurant.
Summing up, Koh Phayam is exactly what Koh Samui or Phuket used to be some 50 years ago, an island where everyone has to adapt themselves to the natural environment and a pace that seems, for most westerners anyway, very slow. Restaurants, bars and shops can be found all around Koh Phayam yet, there’s no ATM available on the island for the moment (this article was written in May 2016) so bring enough cash if you plan to stay for a while. Note that you can change money at a few places.
- How to get there: Ferries (slow boat) depart at 09:30 and 14:00 from Ranong pier. The price is 200 baht and the journey lasts two hours. Speedboat transfers are also available from Ranong pier – up to seven per day in high-season. It takes 45mins to get there by speedboat and costs 350 baht. All these rates are of November 2015.