LAST VISITED FEBRUARY 2014
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 a dozen resorts.
NOTE I WROTE THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH AFTER MY 2008 VISIT - THE ONLY WORDS I'VE CHANGED ARE THE LAST 4: ORIGINALLY "...only 6 resorts".
Ko Yao Yai (Long Island big - Ko Noi is Long Island small) is 25KM north to south and Ikm from Yao Noi at the closest point. - map from Heimat Garden. It's roughly equidistant from Phuket and the Krabi coast.
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 - pic shot from the pier where 2 car ferries and 2 speedboats arrive most days (Fridays 1 car ferry 1 longtail ferry - 1 speedboat) from the Jian Warnit pier near Phuket town. The buildings 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.
The beach north of the pier 2014
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).
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 THE WHITE HOUSE (when I first checked this place in 2008 is was called KO YAO BEACH BUNGALOWS - in 2013 it was using FASAI BEACH BUNGALOWS) which is immediately on the pier side of the Beach Club - 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 in 2008 looked like it’d got a lick of paint both outside and interior. Inside was basic but tidy, clean, with bathroom. If I had not been put off by travelfish's report, I would have been happy with this place walk-in off the ferry in 2008.The tidal creek looks a bit daggy low tide but maybe you have your own little Venice when the water rises. Beach 30m away. 400baht before bargaining when I checked which was fair value in 2008 - but apparently prices have gone up since. They have also added some aircon to a few bungalows. And a few cheapie smaller share bathroom places closer the beach.
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 (Pared) 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 in 2008).
100% of Loh Paret taken from the base of the pier. Buildings in this 2014 shot belong to flash new joint SANTHIYA, which is now claiming ownership of the pier. YAO YAI ISLAND RESORT IS IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT the far side. There is another very flash new place BLUE BAY RESORT just past the beach access road about mid beach. Despite the new resorts, this beach still seems relatively uncrowded and laid back.
The new BLUE BAY resort Feb 2014 - this place is huge, stretching some 300+m back from the beach. Quite a few bungalows still under construction.
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.
Note: the above is an image I did before the 2014 update and doesn't show SANTHIYA, just to the left of KY ISLAND RESORT - or BLUE BAY which is about where the "..land" of "Island Resort" is. But it takes me about 30 minutes to create a new image and I'm feeling lazy.
I think you will find that the two new flash resorts have their own boat access from Phuket. I also noticed a speedboat was now running once a day from the Klong Hia pier you can see above near the bottom left an east coast pier north of Phuket town.
Some of Island Resort’s variety of bungalows - flashpacker prices and pretty nice.
Island Resort now has a new big beachfront restaurant with modern styling somewhat incongruous with the trad bungalows. With prices maybe 50% more than av budget bungalows it is no doubt aimed at attracting diners from neighbouring Santhiya. When I last checked, the place has polarising guest-reports in the travel forums - some loved it, some were not particularly gruntled.
Some budget restaurants and a diving outfit are 150m out of frame to the right where the beach access road terminates.
In 2008 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 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 in the image is on a separate strip of beach on Hing Kong Bay. This midrange or better resort gets good reviews but was too expensive for me in 2014. I stayed at Ban Taranya Resort just south - see down page.
MY ACCOMMODATION ON YAO YAI 2008
TIEWSON BUNGALOW - aka Thiwson, Thewson, 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 the looong sand spit (low tide at least) 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 was a tad high for2008. But I didn't at the time 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 in the same year. Thing is, I got the impression from the restaurant meal choices that this place was 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 at far 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 from the Yai one.
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.
THIWSON REVISITED 2014.
Comparison to Ban Taranya? Well I can't be bothered checking rates and current reader reviews but the places certainly looked around the same standard - if everything else checks out equal I think the cheaper food/beer at Thiwson and the fact that the pool and restaurant positions takes better advantage of the bay views would win me over.
SOME LATE INFORMATION. In Jan 2015 I got an email from a person not too happy about Thiwson.
"We chose Yao Yai as our destination and booked by its internet website for Thiwson beach resort a second line bungalow that if you check the pictures at their website looks amazing (all made of wood, beautiful bathroom...). Our surprise was that they gave us an absolutely different thing for the same price: I'm sorry I did not take any pictures, it was way under the range of what we saw in the pictures. I complained and they said that my bungalow was the exception but the rest were like the pictures (mine was B1). They were trying to get 2.300 per night so I explained them that this was not what I booked so we left and found somewhere else to sleep."Not real good for that user. So once again check all user reviews on the websites when deciding on a place to stay. I personally don't let one negative review sway me, but more may be cause to hesitate.
Hin Kong Beach
This was shot from the pier adjacent our 2014 accommodation, BAN TARANYA RESORT. Here we are looking north - the rather nice ESMERALDA VIEW RESORT is atop that far headland. Behind the camera about half as far is the very popular 4 star KO YAO VILLAGE resort at the southern end of the beach.
Less than 5 minutes walk up on the main road is a bunch of local shops and one restaurant. Unfortunately the last's prices were closer to the resort's than to budget.
Aow Say Beach
There are several other small beaches on the southern half of the east coast, 3 or 4 of which have unsealed access roads. But I'd already done 4+km of rough dirt with a few sections of very bad broken up concrete to get to the southern fishing village so I didn't bother to check them.
Loh Poh Noi Bay beach
AROUND THE ISLAND.
Both trips I hired a moped (250 baht 2008 from Thiwson (fair)/400 2014 from Ban Taraanya (a bit high), and checked the island out. A concrete road runs from the southern pier past the two northern piers and then around to Loh Poh Bay bay about three quarters of the way along the west coast. In 2008 the road was in very good condition but 2014 saw some rough patches in the more heavily used sections. 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 and I'm no dirt road motorcyclists, so I gave it a miss and retraced my path.
The guy running the restaurant showed me some great pix of kayak tours he runs in the mangroves north of Loh Poh Bay - nice waterways, monkeys, big croc-like monitors swimming (they are great swimmers), a rubber plantation, visit to one of the nice isolated beaches of the north-west. 1300baht for a full day including lunch. In Feb 2014 he didn't have a booking site online or advertise at resorts - this is one you book walk-in.
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 (in 2008) 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 Elixr??”
UPDATE MARCH 2014
I've just found out there is another resort in the Bole Bay area - the budget Ko Yao Activities Resort. This is set back from the southern-heading road in the image above, about 300m north of the turn-off into Glow Elixr and is supposed to be a pretty nice place, up a step or two on Yai's other budget options. The owner runs kayak tours through the nearby mangroves to the east.
There is an ATM in Ban Chong Lad and another on the main road near the Prue Nai Health Center about 4km north of Loh Jak pier. I think I saw another in a shopping strip on the main road a bit closer the pier.
Yao Yai is a Muslim island. I didn't see booze on sale in any of the local stores or in small restaurants catering for locals. There is no 7-Eleven unlike Yao Noi. Nearly all resorts and some restaurants catering for tourists will sell you a drink but prices vary. If you are on a budget best bring some from Phuket or Krabi etc.
WHAT TO DO
Yao Noi is the perfect island for relaxing on the beach or by the pool, grabbing a meal or a drink and cruising around on mopeds or bicycles (note I saw only a fraction of the bicycles that were cruising on Yao Nao latest trip). An island for partying, shopping etc it's not.
For the restless there are other Yao Yai activities like cruising (lots of longtail and other boat trips advertised to the southern Phang Nga Bay islands such as Ko Hong,to Ko Kai Nai and Koh Kai Nog islets linked below, across to the Krabi beaches and islands, even as far as Phi Phi and Bamboo Island (although a speedboat would cost a bomb to charter that far) There is also diving and snorkelling the nearby Koh Kai Nai and Koh Kai Nog.
TO THE SOUTH OF THE ISLAND (the southern pier - Loh Jak)
2 car ferries at 0830 and 1400, one conventional ferry AT 1000 and 1 speedboat at1700 arrive most days (Fridays 1 car ferry at 0830 1 longtail ferry at 1000 - 1 speedboat at 1700) from the Jian Warnit/Chianwanich pier near Phuket town.
I used the conventional ferry in 2008 - the pier was 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.
On arrival at the southern pier in 2008 there was one old guy with a motorcycle-sidecar and one songthaew like vehicle waiting to transfer passengers.
Of course if you are going to the south of the island and the above times don't suit you, you could always go up to the Bang Rong pier in north-west Phuket for the more frequent transfers (see below). But it is a fair haul back south on the island.
TO THE CENTRAL LOH PARET AREA
There is one speedboat per day (at 1600) from the Lam Hin pier in central east Phuket to the Laem Yai pier on the southern shore of Loh Poh bay a few km north of Loh Paret. Remember too that at least some of the resorts on the beach run their own transfer boats. And of course you can catch a boat into the southern or northern pier and grab a pickup truck transfer.
Yamalia offers free transport from the southern pier to her place. It’s about 8km to Loh Paret, so not a bad deal - image Heimat Garden
TO THE NORTH OF THE ISLAND (the north-west Klong Hia pier).
The fairly frequent speedboats and longtail ferries which go from Phuket's north-west Bang Rong pier to Yao Noi also call in at Yao Yai's north-west pier. Because it only takes 5 minutes between the island piers, most timetables show same time of arrival (and departure). For details see the Yao Noi page's GETTING THERE section for times and some info on getting to/from Bang Rong or: (shortcut for times) http://www.koyaonoi.com/Koh_Yao_Noi/Ferries.html - part pf a general info site which hopefully will keep up to date with changes. Note this can be a problem with several of the accommodation places' websites - the info can be out of date. Last I looked, Heimat Garden's ferry info hadn't been changed since 2008.
In recent years there has been an afternoon (1500) speedboat service operated by Green Planet joining Phuket's Bang Rong pier with Klong Hia - 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 2012 and when we got to Yao Yai there was transport waiting at the pier - some seemed to be from accommodation, some local pickup taxi services (this is the case when the other speedboats and longtails arrive too). When we arruved 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. This is a good deal considering the rip-off taxi prices from Bang Rong (see pic Yao Noi page), but I have an idea Green Planet's may be a bit more expensive Bang Rong to Yai than the very reasonable 200 baht for the public speedboats/100 for the longtails (2014 prices). On our latest trip we didn't consider Green Planet in either direction - the time's didn't suit.
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 boat leaves Ao Thalen about 40 minutes slow songthaew ride north of Krabi town, at 1300 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.
Only one service a day is not great but you could catch one of the more frequent boats out of Ao Thalen to Yao Noi's central-north Tha Khao pier, catch a songthaew around to No's southern Manoc/Manoh pier (150-200 baht in 2014) and then one of the hourly public longtail ferries across to Yao Yai's Klong Hia pier (see below).
FROM YAO NOI
Longtail taxi boats shuttle to and from Klong Hia to the other northern pier on Yao Yai (Chong Lad) regularly - 50 baht in 2014/10 minutes. You can charter one if you don’t want to wait for about 5 times the cost. Transport waiting at the arrivals pier.
I shortcut the process in the opposite direction in 2008 by going direct from Thiwson’s beach to Laem Seafood Bungalow’s pier on the south-east corner of Noi on Tiewson’s longtail for 200baht which for the greater distance involved I thought a very fair price.
FROM PHI PHI - LANTA
See the Yao Noi page for details.
EXTRA INFO - John Bassett sent a January 2011
Trip Report on Yao Yai.
Green Planet speedboat from Ao Nang to Yao Yai via Yao Noi..
HELP WANTED - I'M FINDING IT INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO UPDATE THIS PAGE ON A REGULAR BASIS. YAO YAI IS A LONG WAY FROM AUSTRALIA AND I HAVE OVER 20 OTHER ISLANDS TO KEEP UP TO DATE. IF YOU VISIT AND WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE A TRIP REPORT IT WOULD BE MOST WELCOME - PLEASE DON'T ATTEMPT A FULL ISLAND REVIEW - JUST A FEW PHOTOS OF YOUR RESORT ETC WITH CAPTIONS SENT TO firstname.lastname@example.org WILL DO THE TRICK.
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.