ARRIVAL AT RANONG:
The bus ride from Krabi to Ranong was scheduled to take 6 hours. It took 7 hours.
By the time that I got there I had a sore bum (the seats were not the most comfortable that I have ever sat on). We were at the Ranong Bus Station by 3:30pm.
If I went again (depending on where I was coming from), I would seriously consider taking the flight to Ranong from Bangkok. If I had known this at the time, I would have changed:
- From: Langkawi – air – Kuala Lumpur –air – Krabi – bus – Ranong
- To: Langkawi – air – Kualu Lumpur – air – Bangkok – air – Ranong
The latter would have cost only a little bit more and would have been a lot more comfortable.
From the Ranong Bus Station, I joined three fellow travellers and shared a taxi to the Ranong Quay – this is where you catch the fast boat to Ko Phayam.
We were lucky… the last slow ferry (2 hours at THB200) left at 2:00pm but the last fast boat (45 minutes at THB350) leaves at 4:30pm.
We were at the Quay by 3:45pm. The taxi was THB100 each – again, we probably paid much too much.
When it came time to leave, I was surprised to find us all being loaded onto the back of a ute (people and bags). About 10 of us (and our bags) managed to fit in the back and another 4 of us inside the double cab.
About 10 minutes later we were at another quay. 10 minutes after that we were getting on to the fast boat.
The young and fit carried their own bags down a set of rickety wooden steps to the boat. The crew must have taken pity on me (sometimes it’s great being old!) and took my suitcase down for me. I think that they would do that with anyone elderly.
KO PHAYAM – ARRIVAL:
The waters were calm.
I am sure that on another day the ‘open waters’ would be less forgiving.
Ko Phayam has a pier which makes the process of getting on and off a bit easier. Having said that though, I had to team up with a german couple to get our bags successfully off of the boat to dry land.
The fast boat crew were not as helpful getting the bags off of the boat as they were getting the bags on. 🙁
Motorbike taxi drivers will be waiting for you as you step off the pier and they can be found around the island, differentiated by their green ‘TAXI’ (or sometimes ‘TEXI’) vests.
If you have a lot of luggage, try an pick one that has a trailer on the back – so that the luggage can go in the trailer rather than on the motorbike with you and the driver!
Maps of the island near the pier are colour coded, showing you what the fixed price is to get to certain areas.
It should be THB70 from the pier to Ao Yai (North).
On returning to the pier, ask your guesthouse to call you a taxi bike if you are at the quieter end of the island. The wait for a taxi to pass by can be longer than you wish to wait.
In the end, it did not work out that neatly. I allowed myself to be talked into looking at a place by a German guy who owned a resort ‘less than a km away”.
Well, we jumped on his scooter… my suitcase between him and the steering handles, then him, then his 2 year old daughter, and finally me (with a day pack on my back). This is on a 125cc 2-seater Honda!
The next thing I know, we are in side streets no bigger than pedestrian paths and up into the hills to this place in the middle of nowhere. He had a resort up there with several bungalows – but, I think, I was probably the only ‘guest’ that he had.
I said no and he gave me a lift pack to the village (this time without his daughter).
Anyway, I met a couple that I had talked t o on the fast boat and they put me in touch with where they were staying: the Nitiporn Resort.
I negotiated them down from THB700 to THB500 for one night and moved in.
It was new, tiled, clean, and tidy with fan – 10 meters from its own access to the beach.
This included free coffee and toast for breakfast in their beachside cafe (between 8:00am and 10:00am).
By the time that I had unpacked and walked back into the village it was just gone 7:30pm.
The place was dead. Some places had stopped serving food and most places were empty.
I finally found somewhere that would do me a Massaman Curry (THB100) and a 320ml can of Leo (THB50).
The next morning I was up early and back into the village looking to rent a scooter. The going rate the previous night was THB200 for an old one and THB250 for a new one.
I’m not proud – an old one is good enough for me. I walked around for 30 minutes and finally found what I wanted. I negotiated them down to THB150 per day for a 2 week rental. At that price, it was money up front. This was about the same price as I paid for a scooter on Langkawi.
I have heard that you can get them for THB100 but I could not find where… I think it is nearer the center of the island… and, I am not sure how good they are nor if they are automatic.
Petrol is a standard THB50 for 1 litre (but you can get it for THB40 in some places). Watch out for the ‘tricks’… some places sell you bottles of whiskey full of petrol for THB50 put they are only 750ml bottles.
My scooter filled up with 4 litres.
Most resorts around Ko Phayam do NOT have 24 hour electric. There is no ‘national grid’ power supplied to the island… the islanders run their own generators.
Not long ago, you only got electric for 6 hours each day from 6:00pm until midnight.
Nowadays some (usually the up-market resorts) supply power for 24 hours each day. Others supply power for parts of the day and from sunset through to about 2:00am.
Power at night is important if you like your fan on right through the night. However, in the Bamboo Bungalows, you get so much natural airflow close to the waterfront that you do not actually need even a fan… just open the windows.
For me, running this blog site (with my ASUS Transformer Book T100 re-charging problems), power is very important… so, it was the first question that I asked when I turned up at a resort… ‘when do you have power?’.
FINDING MY SPOT / AROUND THE ISLAND:
With my scooter and a map, I was off. It was about 8:15am and many places had still not opened.
My plan was simple:
- Start at the pier
- Head north from the pier hugging the coast
- Take every right turn that I find
- Backtrack from dead ends
- Keep going until I have completed the whole coastline
By then, I should have found the best spot to stay at… as always, I was looking to stay a minimum of 2 weeks so that I could ‘dig deeper’ into the island’s culture… I, therefore, wanted to make sure that I selected the right spot.
Imagine that Gili Air is a balloon. Blow that balloon up to 10 times the size. The result is Ko Phayam. Basically, you have the same number of resorts around the island… but much farther apart. You cannot walk around the island in 1.5 hours like you can on Gili Air… it takes you that long to drive around the island on a scooter.
To cut a long story short:
- I found most places to be too isolated for me (I did not want to be stuck in a resort in the middle of nowhere 300 metres from the next nearest resort)
- It was hard to find a ‘cluster’ of resorts within walking distance with a focal point – such as a central restaurant(s) and bar(s) where people would gather and mix in the evenings
- There were only 2 real options for me:
- Aow Yai North: at and around the T Junction where the inland road meets the beach road
- Aow Yai South: in the cluster of resorts where the inland road hits the beach
There are a couple of ‘focal point’ restaurants on the beach front right next to each other: at Long Beach Bungalows and Lazy Hut Bungalows.
The road to Aow Yai South starts just after you leave the Mae Mai Village (it is sign-posted Lazy Hut – amongst other things). The road is half concrete, half rubble, half dirt… when you drive it, you’ll know what I mean. GO SLOWLY. The main danger on the road is not the potholes… the main danger is loose sand – where you can lose total control of your steering.
It was high season and prices were not very negotiable.
The bungalows in Ko Phayam are ‘backpacker’ and pretty basic. In the beach resorts, you can pay anything from THB400 for something small and ‘grotty’ to THB1000. THB1000 usually gives you something a bit bigger – but it is still a bit ‘grotty’.
I wanted to stay the whole 2 weeks in Dee Land Bungalows. Their bungalows were just as good as anyone else’s, they were just a small group of about 6 bungalows, and they did a deal for THB500 a night for a bamboo Bungalow about 20 meters from the beach.
Alas, they were full so I booked into the Lazy Hut for 4 nights (at THB800 / night – for something not a lot better) until a Dee Land bungalow became free. It is worth noting that other travel blogs list Lazy Hut’s rate as THB400 & THB700 a night… they have put their price up THB100 since Christmas.
Dee Land were nice enough to honour the discounted rate even though I was now only staying 10 nights.
Lazy Hutt wanted a THB2000 up front deposit (against a THB3200 total) and Dee wanted THB500 up front to secure the bungalow.
Dee Land has power 24 hours each day.
Lazy Hutt has power from about 10:00am to about 2:00pm and again from 6:00pm / sunset to about 2:00am.
With my places chosen, I headed back to the Nitiporn Resort to get my bags. How do I get them from there to Aow Yai South (about 5kms away)?
Well, if the locals can do it, I can do it… I put my day pack on my back and my 21Kg suitcase in front of me and drove there (slowly) on my scooter. Getting around sharp corners was a bit tricky… but I almost walked the scooter around those… I got a few ‘raised eyebrows’ on the way but I got there safely and happily in the end.
I would not recommend such a course of action for the faint hearted; for them, I would recommend catching an THB80 taxi.
These beach front resorts know what they have got and they charge accordingly. On the beach front cafes you get a 320ml can of Chang or Leo for THB55 and Singha for THB60.
So be it… a man has to have a beer.
These prices are reflected in the food prices too. What you can get for THB80-100 at the local cafes is THB160 on the beach.
So be it… a man has to eat.
I can see already that staying within my GRANDPAcking budget is going to be a challenge on this island.
But, I can already see that I have made a big mistake in coming to Ko Phayam… this is not a GRANDPAcking island. This is very much still an under-developed Backpacker’s island.
So bet it… I am committed to being here for at least 2 weeks (and in this part of Thailand for 1 month)… so, I’ll get the best out of it and tell you what I find out in future posts…
For detailed Information about Koh Phayam click here.
I had just settled in and I detect a ‘tell tale’ smell in the air…
Apparently, the young crowd were getting ready to party. It was a full moon that night and they were all off to party somewhere on the island.
At 8:30pm a tractor and trailer arrived on the beach to pick them up. It was an amusing sight… the back of the trailer was packed wall-to-wall like sardines with a couple of younger guys standing on the ‘triangle’ joining the trailer to the tractor. Off they went with much laughter and enthusiasm.
Apparently, the party was somewhere deep in the inner woods and it was a mix of young and old – both local and foreign.
The music wasn’t techno (as many expected) but a mix of 80s and 90s hits. They even played the Bee Gees.
The first batch of people started staggering back to the resort at about 1:30am. The last batch staggered in about 5:00am… I know because they all seemed to drag themselves past the front of my bungalow!
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