Ko Phayam is a beautiful, lightly-developed island in Ranong Province, Thailand. It is the second-largest Thai island in the Andaman Sea.
Ko Phayam is off the coast of Ranong Province (Ko Chang, about 4 km distant, is the largest). It lies about 33 km from the mouth of the Ranong River. It is inhabited by about 160 families. For those who want to get away from it all, Ko Phayam is reminiscent of what Ko Samui was like 30 years ago before the airport and hotel developments. Ao Yai is the largest bay on the west coast, about 3 km long and 300 m wide, with a grey sand beach.
Ko Phayam is just over 30 km from Ranong, about 2 hours from the mainland's Phayam Pier by slow boat, 30-40 minutes by speed boat. The slow boat leaves at 09:00 and 14:00 from the mainland and the same on the return journey. Speed boats depart at different and more frequent schedules (not in low season).
From Ranong to Ko Phayam:
- Slow boat: 09:30, 14:00 (200 baht)
- Speed boat: 10:00, 14:30 (350 baht)
From Ko Phayam to Ranong:
- Slow boat: 08:30, 14:00 (200 baht)
- Speed boat: 09:00, 10:00, 13:30 (350 baht)
Ko Phayam has no roads suitable for automobiles, thus motorbikes are the chief means of transport. Tourists hire motorbikes at the pier and ride along the road to the resorts. No cars on this island. Motorbikes and scooters can be rented at Phayam Cottage Internet Shop near the main arrival ferry pier as well as many other places. The price is roughly 150-200 baht per day unless heavily booked. Petrol costs 40-50 baht per litre. If you rent a motorbike don't drive it on the beach. There are rumours that you can get fined 5,000 baht because of fine print on the rental agreement. It is also environmentally irresponsible.
Motorbike taxi drivers will be waiting as you step off the pier and can be found around the island, differentiated by their blue or red vests. Maps of the island near the pier are colour coded, showing you what the fixed price is to get to certain areas. 70 baht from the pier to Ao Yai. Ask your guesthouse to call a taxi bike if you are at the quieter end of the island; otherwise, you may wait longer than you would wish.
There two major beaches/bays, Ao Yai and Ao Kao Kwai (Buffalo Bay). There are many other beautiful beaches, some of them long like Ao Yai, the largest. The ferry pier area is vibrant with restaurants, a few Internet and other shops, and places to settle into a lounge chair or hammock and enjoy a cold drink or two.
In the northwest is Ao Kao Kwai, a quieter beach where the sea is a bit clearer and less polluted. The beach has a more intimate feel, unlike the larger beaches which have more people and more activity although these are still relatively tranquil.
Take yoga or batik courses at PP Land Beach Resort or visit the art shop at Heaven Beach Resort & Art.
If you feel like exploring underwater, a few boats offer dive and snorkelling cruises around the infamous Richelieu Rock, Surin islands and Similan islands, and will pick you up at The Smiling Seahorse. Aladdin Dive Safari offers liveaboard diving from Ko Phayam to the Surin- and Similan Islands and to the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar (Burma). You can also join a round trip starting from Ko Phayam and dive all the whole west coast up to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang in southern Thailand. Check out as well the diving and snorkeling day trips from Aladdin Dive Safari to Richelieu Rock and the Surin Islands, with pickup at Ko Phayam.
Locally-grown cashew nuts.
- Ao Yai Seafood (On the road to Ao Yai (Long Beach)). Some of the best seafood available and all freshly caught from the fishermen on the island. Their yellow curried crab or tamarind prawns are especially worth a try.
- Blue Sky. Maybe the most beautiful place to eat at the pier.
- Cha-Chai Home (Down the main road to Ao Yai (Long Beach) on the corner of the road to Buffalo Bay). A large selection of teas, fresh coffees and shakes. They have an extensive and original vegetarian and vegan menu with Thai, Western. and fusion dishes, including homemade bread, cakes, soya milk, muesli and pizzas, plus curries and other Thai dishes. They offer mock meat alternatives, burgers, sausage sandwiches, ginger chicken or tamarind fish, for vegans, vegetarians and non-vegetarians. If you have a sweet tooth, they have Thai pancakes, Western crepes or a cake of the day. Additionally, they have a library with books in many languages for rent, exchange or sale; and a gift shop with original art, postcards, teas. Free Wi-Fi with one of the fastest connections on the island. There is a selection of table games, as well as a children's corner for families. Bicycles and motorbikes for rent. Leave plenty of time for your meal as sometimes you wait for the fresh, homemade food.
- Home Me (In the village on the road leading away from the pier up to the hospital). Has some great cakes and bread homemade by the owner. Pi Fen, who has more than 20 years baking experience. The menu includes Thai and Western dishes and is a nice little restaurant for breakfast or lunch, especially if you are making a trip to or from Ranong.
- Paceluce (Snack bar Italiano), Ao Kao Kwai North (Next to Chomjam Resort), ☏ . closes 17:00. Small Italian family restaurant serving pasta, salads, bruschetti, sandwiches, real coffee, shakes and crepes, all made with fresh ingredients.
- Phayam Cabana (At the far end of Buffalo Bay). Great Thai food and is well-worth the trip. They have a large restaurant on the seafront with a beautiful view of the ocean and mangroves. Jimmy's cooking is among the best on the island, especially tom yum gung and chicken massaman curry.
There are many bars and restaurants on the island with quite a few German-speaking guests. Now Scandinavians are starting to discover Ko Phayam.
The island's official drink is Thai Sangsom rum with fresh Ko Phayam coconut milk.
Some places refill water bottles (roughly 5 baht per litre) which is preferable to buying water in new plastic bottles.
The local village is generally a quiet area, but has a couple of late-night bars.
- Chomjan Resort (On Ao Khao Kwai on the west side of Ko Phayam). A good place for relaxing and enjoying the environment. The rooms are private and comfortable, and each bungalow comes with fan. Excellent facilities, including a Thai restaurant with great Thai cuisine.
- Coconut Beach Resort (Coconut Bungalows), 14 Moo 1, Ao Yai (Down Ao Yai Beach, past South Star Bar, before Ao Yai Bungalows. Around 500 m down from the taxi stop.), ☏ . Check-in: All day, check-out: 12:00. The bungalows are well-fitted out, if a little rustic, and the food at the bar is fantastic. The family that run the resort provide a warm welcome and excellent service. A beautiful location directly on the beach. 300-1,000 baht.
- Contact Bungalows. Has unsecure bungalows for 200 baht (double bed, mosquito net, sit-down toilet, shower) and 300 baht. Near a rocky beach. Serves food (60+ baht). 200-300 baht.
- Heaven Beach Resort & Art, 47/10 M.1 (In the middle of Buffalo Bay), ☏ . A small luxury resort on Ao Kai Kwai Beach. 50 m2 bungalows with hot/cold open air showers, spacious porches and a cosy restaurant on the beach. The same owners as PP Land Beach Resort, so customers of Heaven Beach are allowed to use all the PP Land facilities. Excellent cocktails and a good Western/Thai menu. It has a great laid back feel and is perfect for watching the sunset or enjoying a delicious lunch on the beach while children play with the toys provided.
- PP Land Beach Resort, ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. A small resort run by Paul from Belgium and Pearl from Thailand. All bungalows are built to Western standards in an old cashew garden, next to a 300 m private beach. There is free Wi-Fi and a swimming pool and they organise boat tours for customers. The restaurant is open all day and on the rooftop terrace they have a pool table.
- Sabai Sabai Bungalows, ☏ (English), (English & Thai). A charming place with an informal, friendly atmosphere. Lots of different accommodation with different price points. Also a restaurant serving sociable family-style meals, a cool lounge area showing movies and sports, an abundance of hammocks, and a small sailing boat and a kayak for its customers. The Coconut Bar and the comfy hammock-filled Shisha Lounge are also both on-premises, and the establishment hosts beach parties fortnightly. THB 500-3500 depending on room.
- Boats go from Ko Phayam to Ko Chang some weekdays at 16:00. Boats do not sail on weekends
- Buses from Ranong bus station to Chumphon, Khao Lak, and Phuket, seven times a day. (Phuket Town: ~6 hours, 240 baht)