Sunday, December 21, 2008
Ko Yao Yai
ATTENTION - I feel kinda guilty. This page is one of my oldest non-updated reports - I visited in November 2008^^. For some reason*, Yao Yai has recently become one of my most popular pages - often out-rating all time #1s like Krabi and Phi Phi.
For this reason I have just booked another visit for July 2013. That isn't a lot of help for you people visiting before then - so I have also just added some Google Earth images and updated names of resorts where my research has indicated changes.
^^ at least there is a January 2011 Trip Report from John Bassett down page - wish more of you dudes would do this.
* that is not to say Yao Yai is not a good island to visit. But I class it as off the beaten track, even more laid back and less touristy than its near neighbour Yao Noi. But then the latter also rates highly on views - maybe this is telling us something. 28/01/13
Fishing and cash-cropping are the main activities on large sleepy Yao Yai. Big on tourism it aint. Nice for laid-back tourism it is.
Yao Yai is a long mountainous island immediately south of Yao Noi and east of Phuket.
It is much less touristy than (not particularly touristy) Yao Noi, despite having nicer beaches, equal scenery and easier access from the busy parts of Phuket. The 4th biggest island in Thailand and only 6 resorts.
25KM north south and Ikm from Yao Noi at the closest point. - map from Heimat Garden
Some of the places featured on this page - modified Google Earth image.
CLICK FOR A MORE DETAILED ISLAND MAP - from travelfish
Ao Jak - Ao Po La
The southern pier beach - Loh Jak - from the pier where 2 ferries arrive most days -one a vehicle ferry - after less than an hour from the Jian Warnit pier near Phuket town.
This is the second-best beach I saw - nice sand, water deep enough low tide for swimming, water reasonably clear (Phang Nga Bay water further north gets a bit murky).
The buildings in this shot of about 25% of the beach are the Phuket Island Hopper’s Beach Club - this outfit runs speedboat daytrips visiting the small beach-fringed coral kay Bamboo Island between Phuket and Yao Yai and then doing luncheon and some beach time here on Loh Jak, plus a mini-tour of the island.
Maybe 150m inland from the pier is GARDEN VIEW RESORT, a budget joint with trad bungalows - it looked to have been refurbished a bit from travelfish’s scathing report.
Ditto KO YAO BEACH BUNGALOWS (update Jan 13 - now calling itself FASAI BEACH BUNGALOWS) which are immediately on the pier side of the Beach Club, just out of shot to the right - the restaurant has beach views but the bungalows are built slightly further back over a tidal creek running parallel to the sand.
Beach Bungalow’s accommodation looked like it’d got a lick of paint both outside and interior when I checked it. Inside was tidy, clean, with bathroom. If I had not been put off by travelfish's report, I would have been happy with this place.The tidal creek looks a big daggy low tide but maybe you have your own little Venice when the water rises. Beach 20m away. 400baht before bargaining when I checked. Duck next door for a beer with the Beach Club high-rollers when your partner accuses you of slumming it.
The beach isn’t quite as attractive on the other (southern) side of the pier, but some rather nice concrete wall/thatch roof bungalows looked like flash packer standard were going in, about 50% finished in Nov 08.
There is no village right at the pier. There is a cluster of houses and a few shops maybe 600m up the paved road. HALAVEE RESORT is just off the road to the left in this area - okay budget according to travelfish, but one I didn’t get to check.
The nicest beach on the island I saw is Loh Paret about one-third the way along the west coast from the south.
This shot shows about 20% of Loh Paret beach - the buildings belong to YAO YAI ISLAND RESORT (pix taken from their pier).
Loh Paret and surrounds - labels may be clearer if you click image to expand. Island Resort is about 8km from the arrivals pier at Loh Jak but the place has its own speedboat for transfers.
Some of Island Resort’s variety of bungalows - pretty nice but a look at the website shows pretty pricey.
Island Resort had an attractive beachfront restaurant with prices maybe 50% more than av budget bungalows. A good amount of guests here in what was early shoulder season - looked mainly Euro couples and families. The place has polarising guest-reports in the travel forums - some loved it, some were not particularly gruntled.
No other resorts on the beach, but there is a restaurant and a diving outfit out of frame to the right where the beach road terminates.
I originally planned to stay at Heimat Gardens , a boutique flashpacker in the small village about 10 minutes walk up the road from this beach. But my tentative enquiries fell thru when long-time guests extended their bookings. Nevertheless the lovely Yamalia picked me up from the ferry, took me on a tour of her place and then transported me about 15 km up-island to an alternative room she had negotiated for the same price. No complaints from me, particularly when the alternative place had a rack rate considerably upmarket from her nice accommodation.
Yamalia's Heimat Garden restaurant - this fronts the beach-road in a little village.
Kinda nice watching the ebb and flow of passers-by. Nice food maybe 20% pricier than the average budget bungalow and a good number of outside diners when I had some tucker around mid-day, a few of them island-dwelling expats with the usual bunch of interesting stories and info.
Yamalia’s rooms, only 6 of them, are in a modern motel-like block set back about 100m from the road in a really nice tropical garden setting. Very nicely appointed - looked every bit as good (and newer) than the pricier accomm she organised for me. An alternative track to the beach leads thru the jungle to the southern completely deserted end of Loh Paret - 10 minutes.
To La Ma Beach
Koh Yai Village Resort is on a separate strip of beach the name of which I can't find. This midrange or better resort gets good reviews - it was not there when I was on the island but I'll try to drop in next visit in July 2013.
MY ACCOMMODATION ON YAO YAI
TIEWSON BUNGALOW - aka Thiwson, Thiw Son, Tue Son - my digs on Yao Yai, all by itself towards the southern end of the very long To La Ma beach in the NE of the island.
The shaded restaurant and the sitting cabanas are to the right. The other beachfront buildings are new upmarket accommodation under construction in Nov 08 - the far left one a huge family thing with a big central living area and 2 double bedrooms with bathrooms each side. Huge verandas.
The irony is that this is the joint which initially appealed most to me when doing research into the island - BUT being in the middle of nowhere I thought access would be complicated for what was my first stop off the aircraft.
The beach does a slow curve out of frame to the right and goes for about 4km to terminate in a looong sand spit which reaches across towards Ko Yao Noi.
I jogged a few km up the beach each morning before brekka - no huts or villages. The main road is abt 200m behind the trees and scattered houses are along this.
Mid-tide in this shot. High tide goes right up to the sea wall. Lowest tide leaves 100m of sand (not mud) and really shallow water for another 60m. Water less clear in these northern areas.
My 2nd row garden bungalow at Tiewson.
Yamalia negotiated 800 baht without brekka but the rack rate was 1500 with brekka. This bungalow was upmarket from flashpacker - more lower-midrange, with aircon, fidge, TV. Spacious, spotless. Glass and timber bifold doors, polished floors, lots of storage, big indoor/outdoor* bathroom with western toilet, hot water, bidet gun, towels+soap+shampoo+tissues, good mirrors.
Big veranda, heavily landscaped garden manicured intensively by staff, neat tap for sandy feet at foot of stairs.
Value? Umm, despite such good facilities I’m thinking the list price is a tad high. But I don’t have too much experience with midrange places and I confess I paid 1500 odd for an inferior but beachfront bungalow on Long Beach Phi Phi LOW SEASON. Thing is, I got the impression from the restaurant meal choices that this place is set-up to attract higher earning locals from Phuket. Nevertheless all is not lost for budget travellers - the 3rd row had 2 traditional budget type bungalows with bathrooms for 600 no brekka before haggling.
* Ladies, don’t worry too much about blokes climbing surrounding trees to check your specifications. Very dangerous activity - I nearly broke my neck.
View from Tiewson’s restaurant on a hazy day.That is the south east corner of Ko Yao Noi on the left and some of the karst islets of southern Phang Nga Bay to the right. Ko Hong, a real popular daytrip karst islet out of Railay/Ao Nang is out of shot at right. The Railay/Ao Nang landscape was visible further south but the curve of the earth hid the lights at night. I got tanked on 90baht big Changs after dinner and wandered south about 2 km along the main road to a viewpoint - could kinda see the lights but when I tried to get closer to the cliff edge on no-moon night I walked into a barbed-wire fence. Well DUH! Imagine an Australian being surprised by a barbed-wire fence ANYWHERE! There are barbed-wire fences in the middle of the Simpson Desert 200km from the nearest homestead…… I still have the scars 6 weeks later.
Nice note - on the walk back down the pitch-black deserted road a couple of locals passed me on a motorbike. They doubled back to ask if I was OK. Nice people on Yao Yai - majority are Muslim.
More on the restaurant - my notes say food around 20% dearer than the average budget bungalow places I normally eat in. Some anomalies - small Chang exxy at 70, big Chang inexxy at 90! My notes also say the stir-fry chicken I had on the last night was one of my top 5 Thai meals ever.
AROUND THE ISLAND.
I hired a motorbike from Tiewson at 250baht per day and checked the rest of the island. A good concrete road runs from the southern pier to the two northern piers and then around to a bay about three quarters of the way along the west coast. There is ribbon development in patches right along this road, along with lots of cash-cropping, and rubber plantations, even some padi areas - and a lot of unused land - plus about 5 villages - the largest being the north-east pier town of Ban Chong Lad. However this is considerably smaller than Yao Noi’s biggest town - ditto total population.
From the north west bay, the road continues along the west coast to rejoin the main north-south road about mid-island - however this section is dirt and was badly cut up after rain, so I gave it a miss and retraced my path.
Google Earth shows several really nice beaches in the north-west corner - but both side-roads I took ended up at little estuaries where longtail guys eagerly asked me if I wanted to go to Yao Noi.
About half way down the island, Yamalia had shown me where a hiking track leaves from beside some roadside houses and climbs the high east coast mountain ridge to a viewpoint which looks out towards the Krabi mainland. However about 2 dozen roadside houses looked similar next day so I didn’t get to do this. Yamalia’s place runs guided climbs here.
Way down the southern end of the island paved roads which soon turn to dirt head down both sides of the big southern inlet - the fishing village in the opening shot was in the south east of this bay.
Back on the side road past Yamalia’s, Loh Paret Beach and Island Resort is a the Laem Yai pier and fishing village on a nice north-west facing bay .
Not too far south of the southern pier at another bay, Bo Le, I came across a real high end joint - GLOW ELIXIR. The cheapest bungalow they quoted me was 5200 and I notice their website has some 33000 joints! Just the thing for you high-rollers. They weren’t real keen on riff-raff like me having a look - but the website gallery sure looks nice.
Value? Um when you get into this territory, value aint important - except in maybe bragging rights: “You paid only 6000 at the Elizr??”
For the restless there are other Yao Yai activities like cruising, diving and snorkelling nearby Koh Kai Nai and Koh Kai Nog and Ko Hong.
There are 2 ferries a day from the Jian Warnet (Gan Wanet) pier near Phuket town to Yao Yai‘s southern pier. This is about 500m “upriver” from the popular Rassada pier used by the Phi Phi ferries, but it took me a while to find a motorcycle taxi guy in Phuket town who knew the location.
Heimat Garden’s transport page http://www.heimatgardens.com/ferry_times.php shows a car ferry leaving at 1000, but my morning boat was a smaller passenger+goods job which could also take motorcycles via a plank to the upper deck - at 1030. The vehicle ferry was moored alongside, running in the afternoon that day.
Note that transport from the ferries is for visitors is not great - most resorts will send a vehicle and quite a few show expensive transport packages from Phuket airport which I think may include a fast speedboat. Or should for the price.
UPDATE 2013 - in recent years there has been an afternoon (1500) speedboat service operated by Green Planet joining Phuket's Bang Rong pier with the northern pier on Yao Yai - it then goes across to Yao Noi after which the Nopparet Thara pier near Ao Nang in the Krabi district. I caught it in the reverse direction in March and when we got to Yao Yai there was transport waiting at the pier - some seemed to be from accommodation, some local taxi services. At Phuket there were fare-inclusive minibuses waiting to take passengers to the main beaches and airport so I assume they will pick up for the outward journey. Green Planet's Phuket tel - mobile 082 42069998 - no doubt just about every travel desk on the island will be able to book them.
Yamalia offers free transport from the pier to her place. It’s about 8km to Loh Paret, so not a bad deal - image Heimat Garden
An old guy with a motorcycle taxi also hangs around the pier as does a younger bloke with a beat-up pickup-truck songthaew taxi. Beware - he uses the excuse of poor English comprehension to take you places you don’t want to go and charges 3 times the fair rate.
If you are heading to the north of the island 5 longtail ferries leave Bang Rong pier on the central-east coast of Phuket (details of getting there are on my Yao NOI page) to the more western of the north coast piers, Klong Hia.
Note the update up page about the Green Planet speedboat to the northern pier in the afternoon.
Green Planet's speedboat runs from Ao Nang's Nopparet Thara pier to Yao Noi, then Yao Yai and finally Phuket's Bang Rong pier in the morning (at 1100) taking around a half hour. Transport was waiting at Yao Yai pier. The Krabi tel # is +66 075 637 488 and travel desks all around the place were advertising this. Green Planet also run an express boat in the afternoon at 1600 - takes approx one hour.
Apart from the above, a big longtail ferry leaves Ao Thalen about 1 hour north of Krabi town, in the afternoon. Songthaews to Ao Thalen leave from outside the Vogue department store in Krabi town - they go via the bus station and the lady who runs the small travel agency there will tell you when and where it will arrive.
FROM YAO NOI
Longtail taxi boats shuttle to and from Klong Hia pier regularly. You can charter one if you don’t want to wait for about 5 times the cost. I shortcut the process by going direct from Tiewson’s beach to Laem Seafood Bungalow’s pier on the south-east corner of Noi on Tiewson’s longtail for 200baht.
Of course you could always jump on Green Planet's fast boats for the short trip.
UPDATE - John Bassett sent a January 2011
Trip Report on Yao Yai.
Green Planet speedboat from Ao Nang to Yao Yai via Yao Noi.
If you visit Yao Yai you might also consider nearby:
KO YAO NOI
If you disagree or have extra information, please fire them in below. If you have questions, please ask them on THE FORUM which I check most days. I only visit individual island pages occasionally.