Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ko Phayam

Updated April 2011

Natural arch below Khao Kwai Hill bunglaows Ao Khao Kwai (Buffalo Bay).

Ko Phayam is a small attractive island situated near Ranong and the Burmese border, with several nice beaches and a good supply of old style budget bungalow resorts.
But it is an island in development. When I first visited in 2006 aircon and pools were largely absent. In 2008 some had appeared. In March 2011 they were more wide-spread.
However it is still a pretty relaxed place. Often on my latest March 2011 visit I was the only person on 400m or so of beach. I've never seen a 4 wheeled vehicle on the island (but I've heard there is one working vehicle for heavy stuff). The two main beaches don't have fishing villages and so longtail noise is very limited. There are no 7/11s or fast food places in the compact village. And budget travellers outnumber midrange tourists markedly. One other group finds the island popular - expats doing a few days on an island after a visa run into nearby Burma.

Area map- modified Google Earth image showing Ranong Islands region.

I modified this Google Earth image to show concrete roads (white) and dirt-sand tracks (yellow). The pier is at the village. For scale it is 5km from Ao Yai to the village using the central road (well these roads are really concrete tracks just wide enough for a 4 wheeled vehicle).

Phayam map from Andaman Island Hopping- a full size version and bungalow information can be seen here
A better more detailed map from Bamboo Bungalows is here.


THE BEACHES

Ao Yai
Oblique Google Earth image of some of the Ao Yai places mentioned on this page. It's 3 km from end to end. The village and pier are about 5km up the central road, a little less along the far one. About 250m from the beach on the central road is a cluster of stores and restaurants. In March 2011 there was a sizable two storey modern structure going in near the beach end of this road - looked like it could be shops with accommodation over.

Ao Yai is the most popular beach on the island with over a dozen places spread along its 3 km length, plus a couple of small bars. It faces south of west, with good views of the sun setting over the big Burmese islands further out.
On all 3 visits it had no problems with lack of sand at high tide or rocks at low tide, and away from each end the water was deep enough for good swimming close offshore at lowest tide. The sand and water seemed to be very clean my first two visits, but on the last sand was definitely nicer along the southern half. However sand conditions tend to vary according to wind, tide, currents, wave attack so don't let this put you off staying north of the central access road if your research finds a likely place there.
Water clarity may vary too - people who visit at the start of the season just after the monsoon ends may find less clear water because of still-heavy discharge from the nearby major river betweeen Thailand and Burma. My visits were late Jan and mid March (2).
There is a lot of shade at the back of the beach from trees particularly south of the central access road. Virtually no long tail boats, so this beach was really quiet. Lots of big fishing boats working at night way offshore with the usual display of magic lights.

Ao Yai from near the southern access road. This is a late Jan '08 shot, 11am, not exactly busy.

Something I’ve rarely seen in Thailand dry season - on my first visit in '06 there was a small wave breaking, held up nicely by the offshore easterlies and good for body surfing. I usually get bored body surfing, but I must admit I enjoyed a half hour session several times a day. Board riders should not get excited - the waves tended to close out and had no workable shoulder. However a couple of locals were having a great time on Bamboo Bungalow’s wave-ski. Wave-skis are like that.
Those waves made for a nice noise at night.
I used to travel real light back in those days, so I have no surf shots.

There is no shortage of ACCOMMODATION along Ao Yai. Ragers will probably enjoy Rasta Baby and budget neighbours like Long Beach Bunglows at the northern end the most. Places most likely to be booked out are Coconut Beach Resort and Bamboo Bungalows just south of the cental access road. Bamboo is the livelier, Coconut more suited to couples, families. For chill Big Tree Bungalows all by itself at the far southern end looked a likely budget choice, although nearest (distant) neighbour Silver Sands seems pretty relaxed.
Mid-range has come to Ao Yai - latest trip I noticed new to me Phayam Lodge - this is situated on northern Ao Yai about half way between the access road and Rasta Baby fairly close to Hornbill Hut.

Google should find Phayam Lodge's website - place looked pretty good to me. If you click to expand shot you can see some of the bungalows right-background.

COCONUTS was my choice first visit in '06 and was a pretty good place to stay. The bungalows are located not too close together in 3 rows just behind the beach in a fairly nice garden setting . I got me a 300baht one - which was typical Thai timber beach bungalow style. Not huge but not too squeezy for two people and their gear, with a queen size bed (double+), mosquito net in good condition and sufficient hooks and shelves for your stuff. Back then there was no fan on account the generator didn't run all night. This did not worry me, I never run a fan at night . The place was clean, but was showing a bit of wear and tear.
The bathroom was big, but had a squat toilet. Once again this didn't worry me, but I know some people freak. There was a big mirror over the basin.
The bungalow’s verandah was a good size, had a broom but no light. Mine was the only 300 without a hammock. Whaah!!! Away for cleaning, they said. I love swinging in a hammock late afternoon with a bottle of Mae Khong. Until I fall out.
Coconuts also had some big attractive 400 baht concrete bungalows, and 200 baht bamboo style ones at the back. These were a bit smaller than mine. They had a verandah light - go figure.
When I took a look latest March 2011 the bungalows were basically the same from the exterior but had been refurbished there. Didn't do an interior inspection.

One of Coconut's bigger bungalows (image - www.andaman.com)

Something new to me in 2011 - Coconut now has this snazzy new restaurant.
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Ao Khao Kwai (aka Buffalo Beach)
The other main tourist beach on Phayam is AO KHAO KWAI in the north west of the island. This is a bit longer than Ao Yai, has around the same number of bungalow places and is quieter and more laid back. The bay is sheltered from any swell coming up from the Indian Ocean and was dead flat on those days Ao Yai had surf. Some big offshore fishing boats were using it for a daytime anchorage most times I've spent there.

Ao Khao Kwai can be divided into two parts - AKK South (right in this oblique GE image) and AKK North, separated by about 4oom of rock in front of a central headland on top of which are located the funky budget places Khao Kwai Hill and Contact bungalows (Googles place marker would only allow Con to fit on image). The shore below the headland can be walked under half tide. Places shown are those mentioned on this page. For scale, the walk along the shore from Arjan Pan far left to Buffalo Bay Vacation Club is 3km.

Khao Kwai South beach
This is KK South, the southern beach on Buffalo Bay. Khao Kwai Hill Bungalow and Contact are on the hill middle backgound below which are the rocks separating this beach fromKK North. The handball net belongs to Vujit Bungalows, one of Phayam's most popular places.There are 5 other bungalow places on the beach. For flashpacker-midrange consider Buffalo Bay Beach Club or Payam Cottage. More chill, Payam Cabana or June House. Lotus like Vujit seemed flashpacker-budget from memory. You gotta remember that I don't check every place like a Lonely Planet researcher. Buy your guidebooks and check travelfish.org. folks.

This is the pool at Payam Cottage Resort. This place has upgraded over the years (the receptionist told me they refurbish and extend every low season) and looked pretty sweet with newish restaurant and bungalows, both attractive. Prices seemed reasonable - Google will find the website.

Khao Kwai South suffers the low tide blues - this also was shot in front of Vujit's a few hours later. The only place you can get a swim relatively close to shore is right down the northern end near Khao Kwai Hill's headland access path. Another 400m rock-hopping in front of the headland (plenty of sand patches between the rocks at low tide makes this easy) will get you to deeper water at KK North beach.


The Central Headland Area of Khao Kwai.
This high heavily forested area which divides the two Khao Kwai beach areas has two budget resorts overlooking the rocks below, Khao Kwai Hill and Contact. I forgot to put Contact's access track on the GE map up page - it runs to the right of Mr Gao's.

Contact has a pretty sweet little restaurant - I shot this from a sitting platform very close to the edge of the lowish cliff.

You can climb down steps to the rocky area where there are several small patches of sand for sunbathing at low tide. Bungalows looked pretty good (click expand to see top right more clearly) but were more expensive than far neighbour Khao Kwai Hill's. All 8 or so booked out in March '11 when I called in for a beer.

In 2008 I stayed at Khao Kwai Hill Bungalows.
Outlook from Khao Kwai Hill Bungalow's restaurant - Burma islands faintly on horizon.

I wrote this at the time:
I couldn’t get a bus from Khao Lak to Bangkok one night late this January. So I went to Plan B and jumped a 2nd class to Ranong to revisit Ko Phayam. Pretty good Plan B.

Kiwi Guesthouse adjacent the bus-station at Ranong is a quiet clean place with pokey, exxy rooms (250baht), cheap internet, good food and new friendly/efficient local management - just the thing when you bail out of a bus near midnight.
They gave me a 50baht lift to the pier next morning (100b in 2011!) for the horrendously slow ferry out to Phayam - with a lot of mucking around offloading passengers and stuff at the southern beach on little Ko Chang this crate took almost 3 hours to go the 30 odd km. At 150 baht this aint no value trip (although still 150b in 2011) . Add the fact that the seats are uncomfortable wooden slabs and cheapskate tezza had no reluctance to make the return trip on the speedboat which now goes right to Ranong rather than the pier significantly further down the coast - about 30minutes for 350 baht.

Last trip I stayed on the nice south-west beach, Ao Yai so this time I decided the other main bungalow area, Ao Khao Kwai in the north-west was the go. Research on Khao Kwai Hill Bungalows suggested it could be my sort of place so I jumped on one of the motorcycle taxis at the pier and we set a course of 45degrees west of north.

Wow, what a nice setting! Buffalo Bay actually has 2 beach sections separated by a small hilly promontory and Khoa Kwai Hill Bungalows is built on this forested hillside overlooking the sea and rocks with direct access to the north end of the southern beach on a set of good steps to the left.

I walked into the open sided tiled and wood beamed restaurant perched on the edge of the cliff about 15 meters above the rocks and was pretty impressed by the tree filtered views out to the big Burmese islands and back down the southern beach. But I noticed they only have 8 bungalows dispersed up the hillside - hope there’s a vacancy. No problems, I can have my pick of 5!! - all are trad style wood and tiled roof jobs with concrete and tiled bathrooms, clean, good condition and reasonably spacious. 3 are actually perched on the cliff-side like the restaurant, but those are already taken. I’m thinking okay, these are the sort of places I used to pay 300-350 just a few years back in other places, would be 600-1000 on Phi Phi right now - bet they’re 400+ even here on quiet Phayam. Nope, the guy tells me 200!!!! Ummm, well, sure I might just take one - how long? Well at prices like this more than a couple of days. (note - 300b in March 2011 - still good value).

200baht chez tezza at Khao Kwai Hill Bungalows.

Clean, simple, plenty of room for 2+gear - 3 a bit squeezy, big bathroom with skylight, sink+plug, big mirror, firm mattress and pillow, squat toilet, good water pressure, towels, mosquito coils, bin, no fan (not hot next to sea), lights good, grounds clean and paths well lit at night, generator 6pm-11am, splish-splash of wavelets on rocks at night. ph 0066-(0)81-8476285

I usually don’t waste a lot of time hanging around my accommodation, but I gotta admit I did like spending time in KKH’s restaurant. You got those tree filtered maritime views. Nice vibe. Very quiet with the nearest longtail waaay out going across the bay mouth, and no nearby road. Good food. Prices towards low side of normal budget restaurants - small Changs 30b. (Update - still very inexpensive in 2011). Service quick and friendly. English not great except for owner, but everything gets done. Great hammocks out near the apex of the point, looking back on south Buffalo Bay, perfect place for a swing or five-hundred swings with the obligatory bottle of Maehkong.

Checking the view from Khao Kwai Hill Bungalow's restaurant. That's the southern end of Buffalo Bay background top right.

Something new in 2011 - just left of the restaurant KK Hill has added this sitting platform overlooking the rocks 15m below.

Get tired of that, walk down the very good concrete stairs to south Ao Khao Kwai beach - nice expanse of sand, hardly any people even at peak beach time, water not too shallow even at low tide to swim laps not all that far off the beach in the near section (although the mid section of the beach looked very shallow a long way out at low tide).
To get to North Ao Khao Kwai beach you have to wait to low tide for an easy walk across the rock platform* which separates the two, but once there, more of the same. Two sections of beach of equal appeal. (UPDATE - nope, I've decided Khao Kwai north beach is considerably nicer after staying there in 2011).
* this walk looks a bit intimidating when you approach - like 400m of rock-hopping. But once into it, you see that 90% is sand between the rocks - easy street trendsetters!!


Khao Kwai North beach
This is shot from about the middle of Ao Khao Kwai north beach looking back towards Contact and KK Hills' headland - KK south beach in the far background. Be clearer if you click image to expand.

I reckon this is the nicest area to stay on the island providing you don't want to rage (and even then there are a couple of small beach bars - but laid back).
This beach does not suffer the low tide blues as badly as KK south - good swimming not far out at its south end away from camera; not bad central near camera - wade out a bit; maybe the need to go out further at the north end behind camera.
The beach has some nice bungalow resorts, but as of March 2011 none going into the mid-range.
The two most popular are Mr Gao and Jansom for better budget towards flashpacker. Mountain gets good reviews and is in a very quiet spot with what appears to be budget accommodation. But all the other places along the beach appeared to be pretty attractive to me.

For chill, Arjan Pan at the far north end looked even more relaxed than Mountain to me. Beachside restaurant above pretty rustic-----my friend Fiona tells me Ajarn Pan is actually an ecology orientated resort with 300B bungalows - facilites very basic, traditional herbal plant remedies, might be a good place to stay to do yoga, meditate, and commune with nature.

As said, Arjan Pan's retaurant looks pretty rustic ---- but not as cool as their rock bar. This is a low tide shot - I kinda like the idea of sitting up there at high tide surrounded by water and (closer), bulk bottles of Chang.


I'd always like the looks of Jansom (aka Janson) so I decided to stay there on my latest March 2011 visit to Phayam.

Jansom is built on the side of a low hill a bit south of mid-beach. This is the rather nicely positioned restaurant with good beach and bay views out to the Burma islands. The two dozen or so bungalows are positioned in 2 rows to left of the restaurant in an informal garden setting. As you can see the beach in front of Jansom is rocky, but there are nice patches of sand for sunning. Water immediately behind camera nice for swimming - not too shallow low tide.

Jansom's restaurant is multi-level. This is taken from the main deck towards one of two cool lower outriggers. Good place for hanging with a book and a drink.
Restaurant prices higher than average budget bungalow place, bit not ridiculous. Food good. Service quick. Reception staff a bit taciturn but efficient.

For some reason I forgot to take a shot of my bungalow so I cropped a general shot from the beach to show these front rowers. My second rower was identical except it cost 400b as against 500 and had inferior views.

Interestingly prices are the same as they quoted when I called around in Jan 2008.
These are superior bungalows - flashpacker standard except for no hot water or aircon. Big, clean, solid, plenty of room for 3 adults incl big king-size (hard) mattress. Excellent fitted mozzie net. Big bathrooms just remodelled, nice tiles, basin, good shower, freckle tickler, western flush toilet and a urinal. I've never seen that in bungalow or other accommodation bathrooms Thai or western before. Paper, towel, soap.
Plenty of storage incl clothes rack. Big veranda.

Cloud-filtered sunset behind Burmese islands from beach below Jansom resort. Those rocks disappear high tide.

Funky looking Hippy's Harbour beach bar and restaurant - this was about 400m north of Jansom but not as far as Mountain Resort. I didn't hear any noise on quiet nights. I'm not sure if this is part of a resort or an independent joint.
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PP Land Beach

PP Land is an eco-resort on the east coast of the island about 2km from the village. A discontinuous strip of sand runs from just south of the village to the island's north east corner - PP Land's beach is a small section of this.

As you can see, the beach is nothing to get gruntled about. I wonder if the ethos of eco-resorts is to not interfere if nature wants the prevailing easterlies of dry season to dump flotsam and jetsam on exposed beaches?

PP Land resort itself is a class act although if you Google the website it is far from budget. The pool is adjacent the equally nice restaurant (where prices were little if any higher than Janson).Nicely landscaped gardens. Superior looking bungalows but no aircon on account of eco-credentials. I dunno about hot water. Lots of recycling bins, not sure about other eco measures - like a dill, I didn't look for solar water or electricity panels. Nice young Thai couple running the joint.

Sign shows some of the things on offer. Path at right is typical of narrow concrete "roads".

That's my rent-a-wreck bicycle cowering behind post - trying to make it hard for me to kick the bastard. That's the second trip in a row I've hired a crate - check my rant about the first one down page.
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Location of PP Land and Sabai Sabai
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Sabai Sabai beach.
Sabai Sabai is a boutique bungalow joint on a patch of the east coast beach just south of the village.

I shot this from the end of the arrivals pier. Not sure how nice the beach is but the joint looks pretty sweet and gets good write ups from users. I can't find a website on Google, but it does throw up the fact the joint is on facebook.
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THE VILLAGE
This place is pretty low key and consists of 2 streets - one running away from the pier inland and another to the right (north) which runs alongside the bay. Both are lined with typical tourist and domestic businesses, plus a couple of general stores. There is no bank, and despite my memory of someone on a travel forum mentioning an ATM at last, I didn't see one latest trip. But I must admit I forgot to look for one. Some trip reporter! Anyway, for the time being I'd be bringing enough cash from Ranong if I were you.

Main street leading down to pier.

I wrote this after my March 06 visit:
The main village at the pier has a few small “supermarkets”, some restaurants, motorcycle hire etc, and Oscar's Bar run by a Brit and a popular hang for long term traveller/expat types. I took refuge there during a mid-afternoon downpour, sat in a huge old leather armchair under shelter in the outside beer garden with a lovely glass of Aussie red and was immensely entertained as these characters shot the bull.

After Jan 2008 visit: Okay, had to have the obligatory visit or two to Oscar’s Bar, run by expat Brit Richard, who I noticed seemed to have an new off-sider this trip.
Not a bad place to spend an afternoon (or later) hour or two - turn right off the ferry pier and walk maybe 100m. As was the case last trip, the place had a mixture of all-nations travellers from young ferals as we call them in Oz (you maybe call ‘em hippies) to older long-term travellers and expats. More than one expat bungalow owner seems to like to call in. Plus the usual handful of mature-age Brits both singles and couples who are always good value with their funny stories and irreverent attitude to things in general. Which sums up host Richard pretty well.
Richard always has some red-wine available for which tezza, starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms from the absence of Chateau Cardboard cheap Oz red paintstripper, does not hesitate to pay a whole 70baht.

After March 2011 visit: Okay, maybe that glass of Oz red at Oscars wasn't so obligatory. A restaurant maybe 50m further on from Oscars had set up a new to me bayside seating area which had nice views across to the mainland and a better chance to check the passing parade on the street. So I had a nice drink here (yep, they had wine at a reasonable price - South African, not too bad to this philistine). Quite a few others were doing the same including some expat looking dudes. Oscars seemed pretty devoid of a crowd the couple of times I passed it.
The village itself seems scarcely bigger than 2008. This place always has a bustle of travellers and locals despite beach areas being very uncrowded.
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GETTING AROUND. Phayam has a very efficient motorcycle taxi set up. These guys and a few gals are always waiting at the land end of the pier and will take you to any bungalow place for 50 baht. Similarly if you hail one when walking or ring one from your bungalow office they will take you anywhere for 50. This price has not increased since 2006.
There are no songthaews or 4 wheel taxis.

Motorcyle hire is popular with near new mopeds at 150b a day in March 2008.

And bicycle touring. First trip I found hire-bicycles way scarce - second visit (Jan 08) they were available from a restaurant-internet place about 30m past Oscars, from the speedboat booking joint 30m up the main road inland from the pier and from a general store on the concrete road on the way down to Ao Yai not far from the cross-roads near town (and the turn-off for the track into Khao Yai Bungalows).
I got me an 8obaht fer 24hours one - hey for once I didn’t have to do the usual mini rebuild - only problem was it had a big click when pedalling, the result I figured of the main-bracket bearing having never been adjusted. Hell, the chain looked like it hadn’t received a lick of oil since it left the factory.
Anyway, I much preferred touring the island on a pushie compared to the motorcycle last visit - I’m not a real experienced motorcylist but I’ve done heaps of bicycling, so super rough sections and steep hills don’t throw me. Well sometimes steep hills do throw me - literally. But not too often. Not that Phayam has too much real steep stuff. And I reckon you can’t beat a bicycle for cruising a beach at low tide. So I managed to do just about every bit of track and most of the beaches on Phayam, including some I missed last trip.

Pretty cool, except I was negotiating one rougher than normal section and the right-hand pedal crank-arm fell off!! WTF!! - it was clear the fastener had loosened way back and the slack bastards had done nothing, resulting in it shearing in two. No way could my basic tool kit fix that.

Okay, usual Thai hire practice is if it breaks, you pay for it.
Stuff that, I’m not gunna pay for slack maintenance and maybe the mis-use of previous hirers letting the bike fall over or stacking it (I NEVER stack bikes - ummm, don’t bother reading my Jum or Tao pages) - so I did the world’s fastest pit stop in town, swapped to a new crate so quick the dudes in the restaurant/internet café didn’t see a thing. Too busy playing Donkey Kong.
I hate slack bastards never fix bikes!!

Now some of you upright people are probably thinking this is all pretty underhand. But I figure my bike-hire karma is in surplus big time on account I usually have to do a mini-rebuild at the start and hand them back a better bike 9 times in 10. Okay, this one was a 10.
But if yer still incensed, no problems, you can give them my details: Terezza Tryhardy - Golden Shore Chalet, Paradise Beach, Sunshine Island, Queensland Oztsraya. Trust me, that will find me. Island only has 4000 chalets, look for the pile of busted Cannondales.
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I'm not going to bore you with the rent a bomb gave me such grief latest trip. Thing is motorcycle hire is quiet reasonable unlike most out of the way islands. Give the bicycles on Phayam a miss!!
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GETTING THERE


Ferries.

FROM RANONG
- The service leaves around 0900 and 1400 from the Saphan Plaa pier. Times can vary a bit depending on tides which can leave the ferries high and dry at dead low tide. I've heard of ferries not leaving until after 4pm some days. Returns at 0830 and 1400. There is now a bigger ferry which is more comfortable and perhaps a bit faster. But the old smaller one still does some runs. Cost 150 baht 2011, the same as in 2008.
- There is also a speedboat service from the same pier at 1000, 1400 and 1700. Return runs 0900 1300 1600. Cost 350b which is worth the time saved - around 30 minutes v 2 hours or so.

Way to go. The only reason I'm on the big boat is that the speedboat doesn't call in at Ao Siad on Little Chang's south coast from where I'd come.

FROM LITTLE KO CHANG
- you can hop onto the ferry from Ranong in the bay opposite southern Little Chang's Ao Siad/Lek . You get shuttled out in a small boat which your Chang bungalow will arrange. Tommy's Garden has its own bigger shuttle to the Ranong ferry - see pic Little Chang page.
Big ferry still costs 150 but the shuttle from shore is included.
- from Ao Yai the most popular beach on Chang, Ko Chang Bungalows run a mid-size ferry to the Phayam pier at around 0900 returning 1600. They will send a small boat to pick you up anywhere on 3km+ Ao Yai for an extra 50b.

Ko Chang's Bungalows' ferry out of Ao Yai to Phayam. Nice 1 hour cruise down the less seen mountainous west coast of Little Chang. Sure beats the go back to Ranong, change ferries, go out to Phayam (4+ hours) I did in 2006.

GETTING TO RANONG
Flights
Google Ranong Air for daily flights from Bangkok and Phuket.

UPDATE early DEC 2011 - seems Ranong Air is out of action. However Happy Air is running Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Bangkok.
UPDATE OF UPDATE (crikey!!) - from Dec 14 2011 Ranong Air is running again Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Buses
FROM BANGKOK - there are quite a few services from the Southern Bus Station to or thru Ranong. The trip is about 10-11 hours. There is an overnighter leaving around 8pm which according to people makes Ranong in time for the morning ferry.

FROM PHUKET - daytime buses run approximately hourly. 5 to 6 hours.

FROM SAMUI/PHANGAN/TAO - there are buses and minibuses run across to Ranong from Surathani and Chumpon. Note Chumpon bus station is about 5km out of town which makes the minibuses more convenient.

FROM KRABI AND PHANG NGA - there are a few direct buses to Ranong from Krabi bus station. These tend to call in at Phang Nga. If the timing is bad you can get more frequent services to Takua Pa and change for Ranong.

FROM RANONG BUS STATION TO SAPHAN PLAA PIER
This is about 5km. I paid 70 baht in the reverse direction in March '11 for a motorcycle taxi - no doubt way too much but I was in a hurry to make a local red rattler to Kuraburi for the Surin islands.
I read a website post early 2011 from a traveller managed to bargain a taxi down to 70 for her family from the bus station to the pier. Seems pretty good to me.
I have twice used Kiwi Guesthouse's SUV shuttle which takes guests down to the ferries in the morning for 100 each. Kiwi is at the end of the northern-most of the 3 wide lanes that run up to the bus station from the main road - its rooms are not great and overpriced but I have used it twice after arriving on a bus from Phuket around 11pm - couldn't be bothered looking for a joint uptown that late. The lady who runs the joint is very efficient - knows the best deals on the island and can 'phone for vacancies and book you in. She seems to get good prices.

Note the Ranong minibus station is in another part of town, further from the pier although I reckon the 70baht motorcycle taxi fare would still easily work.

There is a songthaew starts from town central and runs along the main road near the pier - but negotiating the zig zag backstreets to the pier is a bit of a trick on foot.

Leaving Phayam - this is the new bigger ferry out of Ranong.
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UPDATE MARCH 09 - Mc Deli just spent a couple of weeks on Phayam and sent this great update:
"We expected Koh Phayam to be very quiet. Buffalo bay still was quiet but Ao Yai beach had some pumping bars - and we ended up right next to one.
On Phayam there was quite a curious mix of expats, long termers, older european couples, the odd family, young singles and alternative types. This may be the Thailand of your dreams - especially if you like a bit of juggling and the odd 3am rave up.
Last week (we were there two weeks) it was still OK for me. The gorgeous sweep of sand never feels crowded. The atmosphere was very nice, and most of the resorts are spread ot enough that they out of earshot of the pumping bars. It seems inevitable that it will change. The busy 'strip' that runs from the 'middle road'; with BBQ bar one side (pretty loud random music every evening), continues with Smile Hut (bungalows very close together- don't be fooled by the promo pictures), Bamboo Bungalows (very good quality but busy restaurant but some ace bungalows at the front), Phayam Beach resort (new place that has only been able to put up tents), Joker bar (cheap huts), and South Star Bar; can feel pretty busy - much busier than I was expecting. Mostly because of the music policy. One night Phayam Beach has live music, the next South Star turns up the reggae until 2am, then Joker has a promo - it seems to be spiralling louder. After one big South Star party there were complaints from other resorts but I wonder if reallythe other owners would like the placetogeta party party reputation. Monkey Bar is just opening on another part of the island and two new more upmarket big concrete bungalow places are about to be completed in the Northern half of Ao Yai beach - so the place is changing.
We stayed in Coconut Beach (next to South Star Bar). We got a front rower for 400 (bamboo) though they mostly have bigger concrete jobs at the front. We got pretty annoyed by the noise but (apart from the one big night) no one else seemed to notice - the better built concrete bungalows on the seem to keep out any late night bass rumble. We had thought about staying at Aow Yai, next down the beach, but our impression was that it was a bit of a mess.Maybe the quiet of Koh Jum had made expect too much quiet.
Anyway Ao Yai beach is stunning. The waves are gorgeous. The chance to join really friendly volleyball games was nice. A bonus was the stretch of shops just up the 'middle road'. Pratsai was a tiny restaurant serving big and delicious curries for 60b - all fresh veg and they cook anything to order all much much cheaper than any of the resorts. A few stores down was a good library (15b day per book) with regular acoustic music. And lastly there was a new (ish) farang-owned minimarket.
The LP's description of a 'more sociable crowd' on Phayam is apt. I can really see the attraction if you want to meet people, learn to juggle, perfect your German, have access to ex-pat goodies but be away from big crowds. I'm joking a bit but it was a great atmosphere. I just worry that next year it might start to get a bit overbearing for people who like it quieter and want the unadulterated sounds of the waves.
Koh Phayam transport tip - at the Phayam pier just outside Ranong there is a racket going on where people in big shiny new trucks charge farang 50b to get back to Ranong. The songtaew is only 15. The say there are no songtaews or it is far to walk. These people are not taxi drivers earning a living. They are opportunists in flash new cars ripping of tourists by lying to them. From the Phayam pier the songtaews are a 200m walk from the mainroad clearly singposted Phaym Pier. And, if the on the return journey, the tide is low and you are dropped off the boat at the fishing boat dock. There is a songtaew queue just 150m up the road. We felt like right idiots driving in the shiny SUVs past them - after being lied to."

BILLP from TT gave this info:
"Coconut, Bamboo, Vijit will all arrange transport (from Ranong) if you contact them, I think. But the ferry leaving at 9 AM from Ranong isn't expensive, and that way you can hire a moto taxi and look around before you settle on a place to stay. I thought Koh Phayam was very beautiful with lovely beaches and an interior full of cashew plantations.

The main beach, Ao Yai, is very broad and clean, with well-spaced resorts back in the palm trees. Like Tezza, I liked Coconut best of all, but trendy young people seem to flock to Bamboo. Rasta Baby is for those who like to party, and I've heard that Vijit is pretty nice.

Ao Kwai is an even quieter beach. Mountain Resort is a beautiful place arranged on a pristine hillside above a deserted sandy cove.

No cars on the island (except for one vehicle they seem to have brought in to help with heavy work), only motorcycles. The locals built a motorcycle "highway" through the middle of the island, abruptly ending at a sand dune. Look for Richard, who owns a restaurant in the strip of shops near the port, for all the latest island news."
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For some nice pix see monkgonemad's Nov-Dec 09 Trip Report in the new Reader's Trip Report section here.
If you want to fire in a trip report on Phayam or any other location please send text and/or captions plus any pix to lajolla22@hotmail.com. Hopefully we can keep info up to date without me having to return to dozens of islands every second year.


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If you visit Phayam you might also be interested in nearby:

LITTLE KO CHANG ANDAMAN SIDE

SURIN ISLANDS

KO PHRA THONG

KO KHO KHAO
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If you see any mistakes or have extra info, please post below. If you have any questions, please ask them in THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all threads daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.

9 comments:

Sissel said...

I just left Koh Phayam about three days ago, after a nine-day stay. I agree with what MC Deli is saying, Ao Yai is very beautiful, but I was also a bit surprised about the number of tourists. The beach never feels crowded though, as it is so wide and all the places are laid back bungalow resorts with a limited number of bungalows. But a lot of the places on Ao Yai and Khao Kwai, such as Jansom (beautiful views from the front row bungalows, I would definitely stay there if I went back) and Mr. Gao on the latter, were almost at max. capacity.

We stayed at PP Land on the other side of the island. Beach not as stunning as on the west coast, but still very nice, and the place has the beach all to itself. Very nice atmosphere. 500 bht a night.

Tim Morch said...

You have the location right but a lot of the details in are incorrect. There are far more the eight bungalow operations on Aow Yai (17 at last count and still building) and Buffalo Bay (14 at last count).

Koh Phayam is a great place and Aow Yai is THE spot. And - YES - you can surf! April 14th saw 4 foot waves, 11 riders in the lineup in front of South Star Surf Bar and lots of action.

Wait to see what happens when the big waves hit from May until September.

tezza said...

Indeed the details need correcting Tim - I revisited Phayam in March and was just about to start a rewrite of this page when I saw your comments.
Thanks for the update.

I agree surf in the wet season does tend to get big at times, but because of the onshore winds all the stuff I've seen in the Andaman has been big sloppy rubbish. Okay for a muck around but forget any quality surfing.

Austin said...

Not a big mistake, but the photo you have up for Phayam Cottage is not of Phayam Cottage's swimming pool. Rather, it is a photo of PP Land's pool (you use the same photo twice, but only once correctly, when you use it for PP Land).

Again, not a big mistake, but I am just trying to help.

Thank you so much for this blog!

tezza said...

Whoa! Thanks Austin - just corrected the situation. A look at the date shows how infrequently I check each blog page. Must do better.

Sbipk said...

Thank you nice article.
your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
I love here Hotels In Surin Beach This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
Thank again.

David Gendall said...

hi there - is malaria a problem on Koh Phayam? cheers

magdaicez said...

Dear Tezza,

Incredible job after all! Such a great source of information.

I would be greatfull for your suggestion about the place (beach) to stay for 5 nights in November. I will bring the group of 14 - mostly "first timers". We will come from Khao Sok therefore natural choice would be Ranong, Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga, within reasonable distance. I considered Phuket area, Krabi area, Khao Lak and nearby islands like Phayam. The problem is these most beautiful beaches are either extremally crowded or extremally expensive. Well they people would like to stay close to white beach and crystal water with access to village or restaurants. This cannot be totally secluded - 5nights stay. What would you recommend?
kind regards
Magda

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