Phuket Blazing Saddles: The power of Yao

PHUKET: This week we head off Phuket to a quieter parallel universe called Koh Yao Noi where time seems to stand still and the cycling is relaxed and easygoing.

For even the most party-loving souls, Phuket is becoming frenetic, crowded and often stressful. If you are a cycling aficionado this is especially true as pedaling around Phuket is always challenging and sometimes downright terrifying.

Many cyclists head off the main island to find quieter areas which offer undisturbed rides that often have the additional benefit of taking them closer to the real, undeveloped face of rural Thailand.

Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai are a pair of large islands in the middle of Phang Nga Bay equidistant from Phuket and the Krabi mainland, which remain bucolic and charming, with very few cars or trucks to disturb your quiet cycling meditations.

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In 2002, Koh Yao Noi gained worldwide attention after receiving the World Legacy Award for Destination Stewardship from Conservation International and National Geographic Traveler magazine for the eco-friendly home-stay programs offered by its local residents… it’s that sort of place!

The islands are only about 50 minutes away from Phuket by a ‘long-tail boat’ ferry which leaves from Bang Rong Pier almost every hour during the day from 8:30am, until the last boat at 5pm (both ways). To get to the pier, take route 4027 east from the Heroines’ Monument, then turn right at the sign for Bang Rong and follow the road along for a few kilometers.

You can take your bike on the boat which makes a short stop on Koh Yao Yai, then crosses to Koh Yao Noi’s Manoh Pier only eight minutes away.

As soon as you disembark you’ll be struck by the quietude, lack of traffic and unhurried pace of life. Cycle straight ahead off the pier and follow the road for three kilometers until taking a left at the T-junction.

It is almost impossible to get lost on the island as there are so few roads! The main ride is a loop taking you parallel to the west coast, then across the island to Baan Nam Jued village and then Thakhao Pier on the east coast with its dramatic vistas of the Phang Nga’s Bay’s soaring limestone karts topography. The east coast road hugs the ocean firstly running beside Thakhao Bay Beach, then Klong Jark and Pasai Beaches – a delightful stretch of flat, easy, scenic cycling.

Sabai Corner at the southern end of Klong Jark Beach is the perfect place for a good meal with hammocks under the beachside shade trees in which to laze as you digest your lunch and count the abundant blessings of Koh Yao.

This road circling the island is mostly paved concrete, but sometimes becomes just a track and there’s plenty of opportunity for taking detours off the main drag through rubber plantations, or over a buffalo-strewn hillside to factor in a bit of “off road” action.

The beaches are mainly on the east coast, while the west coast is blanketed in rice fields and lined with mangroves. Hills are few and far between and the main ride is around 20 kilometers, but you will undoubtedly want to take detours off the main circuit to explore forgotten by-ways and tracks, so a full day’s pedaling is achieved.

Koh Yao Noi does not have any particular landmark or stunning view point, however while biking around you’ll discover a place that has changed very little in 20 years, aside from a few more motorbikes and the new 7-Eleven and ATM machine of which the locals are inordinately proud!

The mainly Muslim villagers are very friendly and you’ll be greeted all along your ride by hearty encouragement, bright smiles and high fives.

There’s plenty of accommodation too from home-stays with the locals, to charming beachside cottages, to luxury resorts. Other activities available on the island include agricultural demonstrations (rubber and fishing), kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, swimming and some of the local shops have sea kayaks for rent. If you stay a night, your hotel or bungalow will certainly offer these, as well as day trips to the amazing “Koh Hong” – the
stunning rock formation facing the island.

A great way to visit Koh Yao is with James Hembrow’s “Amazing Bike Tours” (click here) who offer a full day excursion with pick up, transfers, excellent bikes and meals and great group camaraderie and fun. And Bicycling Baz is very grateful to James Hembrow for the photos illustrating this article.

Happy and safe riding!

For all island info and bookings see

— Baz Daniels

Thai Life

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Legacy Phuket Gazette

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

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