To read about Arriving in Koh Phayam click here.
In contrast to Malaysia, when you land in Thailand you land back into a more dis-organised, less- structured world where things just some-how happen.
People drive using ’the force’ and don’t necessarily obey the rules of the road.
On the islands, English is spoken widely and you can generally get understood – by both the locals as well as the tourists.
KNOW THIS FIRST:
The minimum wage in Thailand isn’t much different from that in Indonesia (see my write up on Gili Air for more details).
Having said that, islands like Koh Phayam are getting comparatively wealthy on the back of tourism and most (if not all) are earning well above the minimum wage.
Please always try and negotiate. This helps to keep prices under control…
Regardless, you should always negotiate for better prices in Mid Season and Low Season.
In many instances you can get HALF the High Season price.
If you are staying for longer that 2 weeks, you have ‘negotiating power’.
There is always room for movement downwards.
There is a drug scene on all of these islands. Some are a bit more ‘open’ about it than others.
It is well known that you can get Magic Mushroom omelettes and shakes in places like Koh Samui.
On Koh Phayam, there is a subtle Marijuana scene. Most ‘budget resorts’ can provide what you need.
There is NO hawking on Koh Phayam.
You don’t get harassed by trinket sellers. You can relax on the beach without being asked if you want a massage every 5 minutes.
On the rare occasion, someone may call out to you to tempt you into their restaurant.
If you need to be online, you will want the freedom of your own Mobile Data Plan.
The consensus is that AIS have the best network coverage of Koh Phayam (and, probably Thailand).
WHERE TO STAY:
The latter will get you a small, basic bungalow.
There are not many options at the pier / Mae Mai Village. However, there are a couple of budget options behind the Blue Sky Resort.
The pier side of the island gets a constant cooling breeze which is nice for those who suffer a little bit in the heat.
As the resorts were pretty much full, many were putting their prices up mid season.
Lazy Hut added THB100 a night to all of their bungalows just after New Year (which was just after their season peak – but they could still get away with it). In fairness, Lazy Hut were not the only ones doing this.
Expect prices to increase year-on-year.
It will not be long before Koh Phayam prices match those of any other popular Andaman Sea Thai Island.
The main beach-front areas are Aow Yai North (busiest), Aow Yai South (quieter), and Buffalo Bay (quietest).
Don’t take any accommodation until you have tested the bed. In Thailand, they can be as hard as concrete – which, for many, can lead to many nights of poor sleep.
Lesson Learnt: I didn’t check my beds before I booked and, on many a night, I was awake by 2-3am with every part of my rib cage aching – I had no more ‘patches’ of ribs to lie on that didn’t already hurt. I would end up swinging in my hammock for 1-2 hours before returning back to bed to try and get more sleep!
MAE MAI VILLAGE / THE PIER:
As you come off the pier turn left and head 200 meters towards the (up-market) Blue Sky Resort (you get to it by crossing a bridge).
Keep going through the resort to the back and you will find the Nitiporn Resort. Nitiporn have some nice units near the beach (I got one for only THB500 in high season).
Keep going another 200 metres down the dirt track and you will find Sabai Sabai which has some budget options.
There are several resorts scattered along the 3.6km beach.
Lazy Hut is one of the two main restaurant / bars on the southern beach.
They have power from 10am to 2pm and again from 6pm to 2am.
They have free WiFi but it was unreliable when I was there.
Lazy Hut was mostly Germans and Scandinavians (mainly Finns).
Let me let you in on a secret…
Big Tree have bungalows right on the edge of the beach for THB500.
Not many people know about these 2 resorts. When you hit the beach at Longbeach Resort on Aow Yai South, turn left and walk about 400 meters to the end of the beach; you will find these 2 resorts there.
Dee Land Bungalows:
The bed was the hardest bed that I have ever slept on (or tried to sleep on). It was not much different from sleeping on a concrete floor. After about 5 sleepless nights, I had to ask for a deck-chair mat to put on my bed to soften it up a bit.
Also, if you are an early riser (like me) don’t expect breakfast – there’s no-one around until after 9:00am. But, you can just pop down the beach to Lazy Hut or Longbeach anyway – that’s the beauty of being in such a small ‘cluster’ of resorts.
Dee Land is French at its core, but other nationalities come and go.
At the very end of Aow Yai North, you can follow the dirt track around to the right and, then, left up the hill. There, you will find the Bhupalay Resort. It has no beach but offers peaceful seclusion in the hilltops.
Have 4-5 newly built huts in a quiet inland setting.
High Season prices are THB1000 but, when I was there, three were empty and they offered one to me for THB700.
Alas, they only had power for 6 hours a day.
La Mai Resort:
More up market with fantastic views from the hilltops.
If you don’t plan to get out of your resort much, just catch a taxi; between the Pier and Aow Yai South (for example) it is THB70-80 one way. For an outing, you can walk the 5km to Mae Mai Village from your resort and catch a taxi home again. It is a very pleasant walk and should take you about 1 1/2 hours..
There aren’t many ‘short distances’ in Koh Phayam. For example, if you want to go from Aow Yai North to Aow Yai South the road trip is over 8kms… but, you can walk along the beach end-to-end in about 30 minutes so most people walk along the beach.
WHERE TO EAT:
The best value places are inland away from the beach.
You pay a premium for eating in the beach resorts.
Personally, I think that the beach resorts have become poor value for money charging 50% more than they should be for some pretty average quality / sized meals.
Mae Mai Village:
As you enter Mae Mai Village on the main road (about 200 metres inland from the pier) you will find a cluster of local eateries.
This is where you will most likely find the best value Thai food.
I had a Tom Yum Noodle Pork there for THB50. Other options include Papaya Salad THB50, Fried Chicken with Basil THB100, Spicy Chicken Salad THB70, and Phad Thai THB70.
You can also try some of the cafes on the pier-font.
I found Sabaidee Cafe to be good value with their Chicken & Cashew Nut for THB80.
Another good option is one of the eateries on the sides of the inland roads.
The Coffee Resort also did a nice Phad Thai for THB80.
On the road to Aoa Yai North you will find Cha Chai Home.
This does vegetarian meals and is always busy (which is a good sign); their home made bread salad toasted sandwiches were very popular (THB100+).
Prices / Value For Money:
If you eat in the beach-side resorts, be prepared to be disappointed now and again. Sometimes the value for money is very questionable.
On the right, you can see a Green Curry Chicken Fried Rice from the Dee Land restaurant on the beachfront. This was also THB90.
This contrast is typical across all beachfront restaurants with some being only slightly better than others.
However, what is happening to prices in Koh Phayam is typified by the menu that I found at Baan Suan Kayoo Resort at the far north end of Aow Yai beach. This menu was almost new – so must have been printed for this season.
Typical price increases THIS SEASON alone are Coffee from THB20 to THB30, Juices & Shakes from THB30 to THB50, and Breakfasts from THB100 to THB150. These are all at least a 50% price increase.
WHERE TO DRINK:
There isn’t really a ‘bar scene’. You create your own ‘scene’ at the resort where you stay. Do not expect to go out at night (which is dangerous on these roads anyway) and find ‘lively’ bars to go to.
The Coffee Resort is a relaxing place to experience some of the best value non-alcohol drinks.
On many a day I took a detour to go their for their Ginger & Lime (THB60).
But, you will find juices, shakes, and lassis sold everywhere… all the resorts do them.
The Kookai Cafe can be found where the pier-front path does a right angle inland to PP Land. I passed by one lunch time and decided to stop for lunch. There were a french couple sitting at the bar drinking shorts with beer chasers talking to the barman…
The board outside listed about 4-5 things to eat; one of which was “Pasti” for THB60. I just happened to fancy a pasti (which, in the UK, is a pastry pie stuffed with goodies – like a Cornish Pasty).
After popping off to the toilet, I came back to the bar to find a cloudy white drink waiting for me… ‘try this’ says the (french) barman (and owner) from behind the counter. It tasted just like Greek Ouzo. Forty percent proof says the barman…
Then, the frenchman drinking at the bar says ‘try this’ and hands me a little glass containing a local rum come whiskey (Sam Song?)… I had a sip. ‘Fifty five percent proof’ he says. He, then, pulls down a bottle that has his name on it and pours me out a whole shot glass full just for me.
‘Try this one too’ says the barman as he pours me another shot glass full of Thai Rice Whiskey… I forget the proof… but the whole idea was that each one was stronger than the last…
By this time, I was wondering when my Pasti was going to arrive – I was starting to feel a bit ‘tipsy’. It was then that they showed me the bottle that had ‘Pasti’ written on it… an Ouzo equivalent from France. Everything began to make sense…
Realising that I wasn’t going to see any food, I said my goodbyes to these friendly folk and CAREFULLY drove down the path.
If you are down in the village, why not try it one night… they run a friendly place and they were advertising large bottles of Leo for THB68 – they’re at least THB100 everywhere else! I got the feeling that the Kookai Cafe was a ‘drinking man’s bar’. 🙂
There are very few options but you can find some reasonably priced stuff.
Down at Aow Yai North, I bought some Adidas Swimming Shorts for THB260.
Next to Coffee Resort is a shop selling reasonably priced ‘label’ clothes at a discount.
LOCAL CAFES: 1 Pint Ginger & Lime Juice THB60. Tom Yum Pork Noodle Soup THB50. Tom Yum Gai THB70. Papaya Salad THB50. Pineapple Shake THB60. Coffee THB30.
AOW YAI BEACH RESTAURANTS: Coconut Shake THB70. Papaya Salad THB70.
LOCAL MINIMARTS: Mango THB100 / Kg.
OTHER: Laundry = THB50 / Kg.
The roads vary from 1 car wide to the width of a pedestrian walkway.
However, in general, drivers are considerate – even though there seem to be few rules of the road.
The main danger is yourself and your own stupidity on the road. The main danger from the road itself is not the potholes… it is, in fact, the patches of loose sand – where you can easily lose total control of your steering and your scooter.
The locals are friendly but business like. They have a paradise island – and they know it… and they charge accordingly. You are their source of income. I saw very little natural generosity.
In Mae Mai Village there are one or two bars with TVs but they close early (any time after 8:00pm).
The resorts around the island put on entertainment fairly regularly.
Lazy Hut put on a live band one night which included an ‘open stage’ for visitors to get up and do their thing.
Two Burmese workers from the next door resort were getting married and they invited all of the tourists staying at their resort.
The next night Dee Land ran a techno party. They played, what I call, ‘thump thump’ music until 4:30am… in all those hours it was impossible to tell when one song changed to another…
One night down the Lazy Hut, the owner decided to show everyone how they traditionally prepare cashew nuts.
He used a wok and some dry palm leaves.
The raw cashews go into the wok and the burning palm leaf is used to heat up the cashews.
Once ready, the wok is up-ended and the burning cashews are buried in the sand to cool down.
You can, then, use coconuts to crack the cashews open to get at the roasted nuts inside. Everyone had a go (at cracking them open – not cooking them!) and pigged out on cashews.
This blog isn’t about me and it isn’t really about specific people, but I must make an exception here.
As always, you go to these places and meet lovely people.
They met on Koh Chang regularly over the years.
However, of late, they have become unhappy with what is happening to Koh Chang and they have started to come to Koh Phayam – Koh Phayam is more like what Koh Chang used to be.
Gareth and Kirstin were part of this crew (above picture, 2nd and 3rd from the left)… and they had the most gorgeous baby girl that I have ever met (other than my own Georgina, of course!). Bye Sorcha… Au revoir crew…
Jellyfish & Sea Lice:
The sea lice are just an annoyance… as you swim you get these little ‘stings’ now and again.
The seasons and tides determine the most dangerous times for swimming.
You are advised not to swim at night – the worst time for Jellyfish is said to be about 2-3am.
The best time for swimming is VERY EARLY am around sunrise.
The trip to Aow Ko Kyu beach was disappointing. The beach is unkept with a deserted and derelict restaurant / bar along with a couple of other abandoned buildings. The beach itself is also bad and rocky.
WHEN TO GO:
Dry Season is November through to April.
Peak Season is December through to February.
IS KO PHAYAM A GRANDPACKING RETIREMENT LOCATION? NO.
Koh Phayam is a ‘late developer’. It’s main attraction is that it is what the Thai Islands used to be about 30 years ago. What the Backpackers remember Thailand to be.
Koh Phayam is a backpacker island. It lacks the infrastructure and necessary amenities needed for a retiring elderly couple. You won’t find a nice, modern, 2 bedroom place to rent on a long-term basis. There are no medical facilities… etc…
In a few years this may change. But, given current prices, and the inevitable increase in prices yet to come, it is highly unlikely that Koh Phayam will provide what a retired couple on a GRANDPAcking budget are looking for.
Everywhere is a ‘tourist area’; even the stalls on the sides of the roads (there are few roads – so anyone on them is as much of a ‘captive market’ as someone in a beach resort).
For the backpackers reading this post, here is a breakdown of my costs over the 14 days that I was on the island.
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