I first heard about Koh Phayam from Bee – my dads (Hilary) sister. Bee visited Koh Phayam several Christmases ago with my cousin Ned. The story went:- that Koh Phayam was one of the last tourist discoveries and was therefore much like some of the other now popular islands were 15 or 20 years ago. Bee was right and because of this fact I am almost loathed to write about it – encourage more tourists to go….. I am sure an increase in visitors will be great for the local economy but not for the beautiful environment we saw!!!!
We left Ranong on the slow boat, it was 150 Baht a ticket for Gavin and I and free for Tehya – it took just under two hours to get there. It was a really pleasant journey. The boat was old and definitely not comfortable with hard wooden seats – Tehya did her usual trick and fell asleep within about 10 minutes. She was laid out across my body – from my chest to just passed my knees so I made a kind of human mattress….. it was not very comfortable but nice at the same time.
Map of Koh Phayam Island, west coast of Thailand Show on map
The scenery was dramatic – the coast of mainland Thailand was like a huge green mountain range of lushness….. reaching up into grey misty/rainy skies. Along the coast were many small islands and further out to sea there were larger ones. It is impossible to tell which are Thai and which are Burmese. We passed the island which holds the Andaman Club and you could see the golf course… eventually passing Koh Chang and then reaching Koh Phayam. After Tehya woke up I sat up on the side of the boat to watch the ocean slide by and I saw hundreds and hundreds of huge jelly fish – they were bigger than dustbins with massive bulging tentacle bulbs floating under them. I had images of us all getting stung in Malaysia and sat hoping we were not about to experience the same (we didn’t).
When we got to the island we were dropped off at the only pier….. we walked along it and straight into a very small village, a huddle of little shops selling odds and ends – cafe’s and a few small bars. There were several motor bike taxi’s but we had no idea where we wanted to stay. We got approached by a young boy who told us he worked for Vijit Bungalow and said he could get us a free ride there. We took him up on his offer…….. we wove along a very narrow road that was well concreted and then onto a smaller road that was definitely not well concreted – we carried our bags between us, Gavin had the large one, I had a small one and Tehya – a tourist staying at Vijit helped out with the third bag.
Vijit has a really beautiful spot on Buffalo bay beach – he is in the centre of the beach and the bungalows are surrounded by trees. When you look out to sea you can appreciate the shape of the bay – to the left the mangroves and to the right the bay sweeps around to rocky beaches and forested hills. The set up is very attractive – the bungalows look pretty and the restaurant is right on the beach. We got offered a room for 400 Baht – it was more than we really wanted to pay but decided it would do until we could orientate ourselves with the island. The room we rented was just back from the beach but still had nice views and a big balcony which Tehya was pleased about. That night we decided it was not so great – the bed was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever slept on and the room was really smelly with the windows closed. The room was so dark during the day – they only provided electricity at night and with no windows in the bathroom, it was pitch black – it made going to the toilet a bit of a nightmare with Tehya. You had to just sit in total darkness to shower or go to the bathroom. The next day we got up and ate – I wondered around the place checking out other rooms. Lots were empty and had not been used for quite some time. Then the people in the room next door checked out. Their room was a little bigger – lighter and had a slightly more hospitable bed!!
We moved rooms and settled in ready to make the most of the island! Sadly…… that night we did not get to go to sleep before the fighting started. There was an English couple that have been staying at Vijit for a long time (in the room next to ours) they started screaming and shouting at each other. We could hear them spitting, pushing and screaming horrific language then it escalated to smashing furniture, smacking and punching each other. It was obvious that they were drunk – It got so bad that I was feeling quiet upset – there was no way either of us were going to intervene and risk injury to ourselves so we had to just lie there for hours listening to it.
The next day the man was sitting with his friends as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I went to speak to him about the previous evenings entertainment in front of the owner (who was also sitting with him). I explained (very politely) that I am not paying to stay somewhere, where my daughter (who is only four) has to be a witness to such terrible language and domestic violence. The man involved made a weak effort at an apology and the owner did not even raise an eyebrow at my comments or obvious distress and unhappiness.
Unsure what to do next – we stayed for another night and took the opportunity to go out on a bike to check out the rest of the island, to see what it had to offer. The island is amazing – it is so beautiful, a treasure trove of nature. The locals make their money from harvesting cashew nuts, rubber from trees, fishing and a little tourism. The island is up to now - under developed, there are various places to stay around the island they range from the budget traveller up to around 1000 Baht a night.
I was told about a Thai women who had a house for rent, Gavin spoke to the owner of Vijit about it and he agreed it was a good place for a family and told us the ladies name – we introduced ourselves and spent a day negotiating a price and what we would need in the house. Then suddenly it was not going to be ready on time (she was leaving that day to go back to England)! I had already packed our stuff and was ready to move in. I was so upset I broke down and cried. I had not realised until the opportunity was offered – how tired I was feeling, how much I would appreciate not moving constantly and just being in one spot. I had promised Tehya we would do some cooking together – so she was gutted too!! On the positive side the women (landlady) felt so bad because of my tears she introduced us to the owner of Phayam Cabana the place we ended up staying at for our remaining days on the island. She also told me that part of the problem with renting me the house was the owner of Vijit – who she said got funny about us moving across. I don’t know if that was true or if she was trying to find a way to dig herself out of an uncomfortable hole. All the same I appreciated her introduction because Phayam Cabana is lovely – it lacks some of the obvious prettiness of Vijit in its layout. If you scratch the surface at Vijit there was not much below it…..the staff were not very friendly and the owner did not seem to care to much! Phayam Cabana was so friendly you felt there was little they would not do to make your visit great. The rooms were up on stilts, they were large, bright, airy, clean and very very comfortable and cheaper!!! The room at Phayam Cabana was only 300 Baht!!! We stayed for another four nights – it was a good visit all in all. We met two really friendly families one from Germany Lars, Judith, Finn and little Aneka – and the Estonian’s Ivo, Liis, Karl and Mai. We shared beach time, kid time and travel stories – it was really good to meet other people travelling with small children and Finn was a huge hit with Tehya, they took to each other instantly – another great example of friendships built with no (little) shared language.
I loved the island – it was so rural. It would have been possible to spend weeks of adventuring and walking and enjoyed the friendly local charm. We went to a summer fare that was really good fun with amazing food stalls (we tried loads of different local foods), canoe racing, a Thai version of the slippery pole and the bizarrest evenings entertainment we have ever seen – kids dancing to very cheesy dance music with plastic bags on their heads, with crazy faces on them!!
The problem for us was the rain…. it rained all day everyday (accept for one afternoon). By the end of the week we were so wet, with not one piece of clothing that was clean or dry and because of the rain no way to dry anything. Tehya’s cough was not getting better and we felt sure the damp was not helping things – then she started to get really bad pains in her ear. Enough was enough……if we wanted that much rain we would have stayed at home in Cornwall for the summer. We woke up early on our sixth morning and went to check weather reports on the net – it predicted rain for another week at least. Gavin managed to get in touch with the Mac service centre in Bangkok who said the laptop was ready for collection – so with the call of our computer ringing in our ears we bought tickets off the island for the next day.
We said our goodbyes to the new friends we had made and went on our way…….. with plans to return in ten days! If the sun came out………………!