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Just a hop across the bay from Phuket

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PHUKET: With traffic, construction and tourist arrivals all on the rise here in Phuket, its island paradise factor is easily lost amid the flurry of commerce.

But Phuket is located in one of the most scenic regions on Earth, and little pieces of paradise do remain within very reasonable price – and boat – range.

One such gem is Koh Yao Noi, touted as “Phuket 20 years ago”. An overnight stay on this rustic getaway can cost you less than 1,000 baht per person.

First you fill up the tank of your motorbike (100 baht) and drive to Bang Rong Pier in Pa Khlok. From there you catch something that resembles an over-sized longtail boat, which leaves hourly between 9am and 4pm, for 120 baht per person.

The deck hands haul your motorbike onto the bow for an extra 150 baht. They secure it with a sturdy bit of rope, so no worries there about your transport ending up on the bottom of Phang Nga Bay. Speedboats also leave on a regular basis, but have a “no motorbike” policy.

Then off you putter for about an hour. You can swelter with the locals in the covered area or lounge among the motorbikes up front – either seat is a true travel experience not to be missed.

The boat glides past endless mangroves, azure waters and limestone cliff islands, reminding you that paradise really does lie at your fingertips here.

First stop is the larger and even more undeveloped Koh Yao Yai. Stay on board to reach Koh Yao Noi about 10 minutes later.

The two islands lie in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, and both are home to small, extremely friendly Muslim villages. Koh Yao Noi has 4,000 inhabitants, two schools and a hospital – and one 7-Eleven. No Tesco, no Big C and almost no cars.

It takes about 35 minutes to drive the ring road covering the southern part of the island, during which time you pass three long beaches with panoramic views of the limestone archipelago in the distance, undisturbed by sun loungers, umbrellas or bikini-bottoms.

You will also pass through scores of palm trees, rubber plantations and villages lined with flowering bushes and busy with locals going about their daily lives.

Drive slow, as numerous chickens and a monitor lizard or two will be sure to cross your path.

Many places offer accommodation, particularly along the beaches. Sabai Corner is a quaint little place at the bottom of Pa Sai Beach with cottages for rent. Get the two-story cottage that sleeps seven with a bunch of mates and you’ll be laughing – the nightly rate is 1,500 baht, which split seven ways is 215 baht each a night.

Included in the room rate is your own kitted-out kitchen, three balconies and a trickling river below.

Spend the days reading books, sunning, swimming or soaking up the stunning scenery (0 baht). Or if you’re the active type, rent a bike from a shop opposite the hospital (200 baht) and venture to the north end of the island which has terrain perfect for climbers (0 baht).

You’re spoiled for choice with local Thai food, and a slap-up meal won’t cost over 100 baht.

With all this so close and affordable, there really is no excuse.

Let’s just hope Koh Yao Noi is able to maintain its undeveloped charm well past 20 years from now.

— Alexandra Andersson

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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