Koh Yao Yai Island Trip
Koh Yao Yai is a large island between Phuket and Krabi in Phang Nga Bay. It's about 25km from one end of the island to the other. We'd never been there until last week, although we have taken several trips to Koh Yao Noi, it's smaller neighbour to the north - our most recent trip was in 2012 - see Beautiful Day at Koh Yao Noi. The whole area is full of small islands, and I've often wished to have a boat of my own. We really should explore more. For a couple of days in mid 2016 we joined our friends from the Easy Day Thailand tour company for a 2 day trip with 1 night at Koh Yao Yai. Easy Day Thailand can be contacted here for trips to any islands around Phuket. And there are lots of islands!
Our trip started on a grey Sunday morning. A trip right at the start of the low season in May always has a chance of rain! We drove to Bang Rong pier in the northeast of Phuket to meet the group for our speedboat transfer to Koh Yao Yai and a morning tour of a couple of other islands. Yeh, weather did not look too promising, but it seemed that the skies to the east looked brighter.
(above) At Bang Rong pier, Phuket
We were all ready, speedboat loaded with bags and beers before 8am. I've said it before - an early start, despite the pain of waking up early, is worthwhile. We sped out of Bang Rong to the Northeast, passing Naka island on the way to Koh Yao Yai. And the weather brightened up, as it often does. If you happen to visit Phuket in low season, don't let a wet or grey morning put you off!
(above) Another speedboat passes us on the way to Yao Yai. Skies looking much nicer. Our first stop was the pier at the north end of Yao Yai island where a pick up had been arranged with the hotel to collect all our bags. Then we carried on to Koh Lao Bi Le, also called Koh Hong. Not to be confused with another island called Koh Hong, further north in Phang Nga Bay.
On the west side of Koh Hong is an almost hidden lagoon reached by a narrow gap in the limestone cliffs of the island. A longtail boat or speedboat can enter (slowly) and take a quick look around. There is no beach inside, just cliffs and mangroves. So we took a quick look around. And then headed to the more beachy east coast of the island. We got there before 9:30am and it was quiet, just a couple of boats already there.
(above) Floating pier at Koh Hong. Walking on this was like walking when very drunk. A general rule of tourist hotspots .... get there early to avoid the crowds. When we arrived, there were about 10 people at the island. An hour later, at least 100.
(above) Our kids and friends enjoying Koh Hong. We did strap on masks and snorkels, though the water here is not super clear. Plenty of little, colourful sergeant major damsel fish in the shallow waters. So we had a little swim and when the little beach started to fill up with people, we left about an hour later.
(above) The beach and shallow waters at Koh Hong
The next stop was Koh Lao La Ding, about 3km north of Koh Hong. This was already fairly full of boats, with a small beach in between limestone cliffs. We opened our cheap takeaway lunches here although it was not yet 11am. The island seems to have a nickname "Paradise Island" if you book a tour from Krabi... to be honest I think Koh Hong is nicer, but ...
The next stop was supposed to be Koh Pak Bia, which features a long sandbank which joins a larger and smaller island. But it was high tide, and a very high tide at that. So the sand was all covered. With no sand to land on we detoured towards Yao Yai. The whole area is just full of beautiful scenery. I really wish I had my own boat!
The very northeast tip of Koh Yao Yai is a long, thin point of land called "Laem Haad" meaning "Beach Cape". It's just sand, palm trees and admittedly some buffalo poop! If you are at the Koh Yao Noi pier just over the water, this looks like paradise. At high tide much of the beach was not there, but it was still pretty! We just stopped for 20 minutes before heading to the Yao Yai island jetty.
Yao Yai island has several piers. The one in the north of the island is 25km from the main pier in the south which can handle a car ferry from Phuket Town. If you start from Bang Rong pier, you will get to the northern pier, and the same boats will also stop at Koh Yao Noi - the pier for the smaller island is just over the water less than 2km away. With our main baggage having already been picked up by the hotel earlier in the day, we loaded ourselves into several songthaews for the short trip to the hotel.
I knew that Koh Yao Yai island is not quite as developed for tourism as Koh Yao Noi, and having been to "Noi" several times, and knowing it to be quiet, I did wonder about the quality of our hotel. Koh Yao Noi has several fancy hotels and quite a lot of smaller bungalow resorts. Yao Yai has less hotels, although when I looked at Agoda, I was surprised to see so many (see Ko Yao Yai Hotels on Agoda). Easy Day Thailand had booked the Thiwson Resort, not at all expensive with rooms from about 1300 Baht (actually a few fan rooms are cheaper than that). I was interested to see what we'd get ....
(above) We arrived at Thiwson resort at about 12:30, but couldn't check in until 2pm. So I wandered to the front of the resort for a look. That'll do. And you can see below, our kids soon found some kayaks! And some of us found some cold beers :)
I was into full relax mode (beer, sun, beach) even before we checked in to the rooms. The beach at the front of the hotel .. I think it's "fake". There's a wall facing the sea and between the wall and the resort is filled with sand. At high tide the sea level was near the top of the wall. But it looks great! Rooms were slowly made available for the group. Some rooms are right near the sea and there are several rows of rooms with the fan rooms at the back. My wife and I were sent over the road and up a slight hill to our room. What? U Kidding? Ah, but we had another pool there, just for half a dozen rooms. And a sort of view too.
(above) Pool outside our room. Once we had the room, it was air con on, lie down, cool down and take a nap time. By about 4:30pm we were back by the sea and the tide had gone way out. The kids took a walk on the low tide sands to where a large longtail boat was left high and dry.
Dad and friends started emptying the several ice chests full of beer :) Late afternoon turned to evening and there were dark clouds over in Krabi (about 20km east) plus some rumbles of thunder. We figured it would not come our way. But later, just as I finished a shower, me and some of the kids had to run down from the hillside rooms as the rain started. No worries, the restaurant at the hotel is well sheltered and has roll-down plastic shutters. And the rain did not last long. We enjoyed a fairly long night of food and drink. The room we had was comfortable, big bathroom with open air shower, the bed was comfy, aircon maybe not quite good enough, I like cold aircon and this one struggled. I think if we went back I'd try for one of the beachfront rooms.
Next morning. Here's a lesson for you. I woke up pretty early, about 7:30am. But way too late for a sunrise photo. Should have thought about that, set an alarm and had a couple less beers! But no worries, because my friend Ingo was awake early! Thanks, Ingo! And here's what I missed. These photos taken at about 6:15am. If you are on the east coast of anywhere, get up early!
(above) Sunrise from Yao Yai island (at Thiwson Resort). Looking across to the Krabi coast and all the islands in between. I had a morning dip in the pool, dragged the rest of the family out of bed and we enjoyed breakfast with that great view to the east. The Thiwson resort looked great in the early morning light. Not a fancy place, but a deal at low season prices!
(above) The kind of pool you could sit in all day. Let me say again : What a view!
Breakfast was followed by yet more kayaking. I am not sure if the kayaks were free to use, but the kids (and some adults) used them anyway!
Before lunch a few of us more intrepid explorers took off in a songthaew for a quick drive around the island to get a taste of what the place looks like as we'd spent all our time at the resort. I would like to come again and do the same as we've done at Koh Yao Noi - get the boat over and rent mopeds and explore at our own pace. This little tour we did here was only just over an hour. First stop was just a kilometer along the road to the south of the resort.
And then about 20 minutes of small concrete roads, occasional houses, small settlements, no big town. Trying to snap photos from the back of the songthaew. One thing was clear - it's very quiet here! I'd like to return and drive around at my own speed along these country roads.
(above) Quiet road in Yao Yai. We carried on to the main pier in the southwest of the island about 20 km from our resort. Boats come in here from Phuket Town and it is possible to bring a car over, not that you need to. We watched boats coming and going for a while. If you like "people watching" this is a good place!
(above) Getting off a boat at Koh Yao Yai Island
(above) Ko Yao Yai traffic. Not much, but we nearly hit this one when it slowed suddenly and our driver was not exactly out for a Sunday drive, he wanted to get back for lunch I think!
From the pier it was a short drive to Loh Paret beach on the west coast. Looked busy compared to other areas. The 5 star Santhiya Resort is here. A bit out of my price range. And we found that the very nice, new looking Blue Bay Resort seemed to be 100% Chinese. And busy. The beach between those 2 resorts was a bit dirty. Just where our taxi parked there were several small restaurants and snack stalls. And there's another nice looking resort here called Yao Yai Resort.
(above) Loh Paret Beach on the west coast of Yao Yai Island. From here, another quick drive back to Thiwson Resort on the east coast for lunch, a cheeky lunchtime beer and then transfer back to the northern pier and back home to Phuket. We have to visit again and explore some of the side roads. There's a fishing village right in the south of the island and we'd maybe try a different resort such as Yao Yai Village or Elixir Resort. But we had a very nice 2 days visiting islands, relaxing, having a drink or 2 and I was glad that we finally got to visit Koh Yao Yai!
Koh Yao Yai links and related Phuket Blog posts
Tours - Ask my friends at Easy Day Thailand
Hotels at Yao Yai (Agoda.com)
Koh Yao Noi Island Trip
Yao Yai and Yao Noi Islands - Map