Your Winter Getaway: Koh Phayam

Hammock on a beach in Koh Phayam

With the polar vortex in Paris and the sun making increasingly scant appearances, I catch myself daydreaming of warm, sunny and exotic destinations. One in particular, an island off Thailand’s Andaman coast, makes regular appearances in said daydreams: Koh Phayam.

If you are also seeking a break from the dreary winter weather and the oh-so-busy post- holiday schedule, Koh Phayam may be exactly what you need. It is nowhere nearly as crowded as other, more developed Thai islands. Some have described Koh Phayam as “the Koh Samui of the 70’s”: There are no cars, no electricity, no big resort feel. Just a small village where you can grab some supplies, bungalows that you can rent around the beaches and the jungle, and small, barely paved paths to motorbike and get around the island.

How to get to Koh Phayam

From Bangkok, there are buses and flights to Ranong, a shipping town on the South Western coast of Thailand.
Nok Air flies from Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport to Ranong at 5:45 a.m. and 5:05 p.m. from 955 baht ($27).
Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal has VIP coaches departing to Ranong at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are 725 baht ($22) and must be bought in person at least 24 hours in advance.
Once in Ranong at the Koh Phayam pier, the longboat to the island is a 2 hour trip. During high season there are speed boats (45 min) for 350 baht ($10).

Best Times to Travel

High Season is November to April. In the summer it rains a lot and the island is empty, though some resorts do stay open.

What to Do

The island is small enough that you will run into the same people every day during your stay. It has a very relaxed and laid-back vibe: no loud music and crazy full moon parties here. Cashew nuts grow on trees all over the island, and the sweet smell of their fruit will linger both during your stay and your memories of it. The nuts are picked, dried, packaged and sold by locals on the side of the road. Koh Phayam happens to be one of the rare Thai islands where you can surf some waves (on Long Beach, or Ao Yai), or you can decide to just laze around the smaller, quiet beaches and take a kayak or paddleboard to explore the coast (on Ao Khao Kwai, or Buffalo Bay). You can do some bird watching and wander up to one of the view points, from where the coast of Burma looks particularly beautiful. Charmain teaches three hour yoga classes that are fantastic (ask at the Cha Chai Home restaurant). There is also a Muay Thai training center, where they occasionally have fight nights!

Kayaking through Mangrove Trees

Where to Eat/Drink

Cha Chai Home restaurant (a personal favorite) is open all day, every day during high season and serves vegetarian or vegan breakfast, lunch and dinner (website will be up and running next season). They also have a small library for French, English and German books.

Hippy Bar On the Northernmost stretch of Buffalo Bay beach, this complex and fun construction of driftwood and recycled objects has plenty of nooks to jam out, make out and enjoy the laid-back vibe of the island with drinks and snacks.

Baan Nam Cha A range of European and Burmese vegetarian dishes on the menu just a few hundred meters inland from Long Beach.

The Peacock Tree Cute decor, wonderful Indian food and you can even get a tattoo next door 😉

Cha Chai Home: Food, Books, and the friendliest service

Relaxing at the Hippy Bar

Where to Stay

Cede Boutique Beach Resort Strikingly modern luxury bungalows on Long Beach. A/C in the evening hours.

Phuree Hut Simple (yet beautiful) bamboo bungalows nestled up on a hill overlooking Buffalo Bay (another personal favorite).

Buffalo Bay Vacation Club Bungalows (some with A/C!) right on Buffalo Bay.

A lone mangrove tree and the beautiful bungalows at Phuree Hut

A globetrotter with a multi-cultural background, Monique grew up in Maryland and lived in New York City where she worked for the UN. After becoming a vegetarian six years ago, she gave up her childhood crab cakes and now cooks the best vegetarian brunches (at least that’s what her friends and family say … they could be slightly biased). She has finally settled down with her daughter and husband in the Eastern Belleville neighborhood of Paris and says she can’t imagine living anywhere else.