Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi are two unspoilt and pristine islands right on the doorstep of Phuket. Tourists who yearn for Thailand as it once was before the arrival of mass tourism will find what they are looking for here. The population of Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi is predominately Muslim. The local people are exceptionally welcoming to tourists, but they do not seem to be in any rush to turn their islands into an outgrowth of Phuket. There is no real effort made to attract tourists, even though it would almost certainly mean a an increased flow of money into the local economy. Coming to these islands is like taking a step back in time – electricity only arrived on the island a few years ago. The goal of the local government is to protect Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi from development, so that the local culture is protected and the islands hold onto their natural beauty.
Location and How to Get to Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
The two Yao islands can be found in Phang Nga Bay between Krabi and Phuket. The location of these islands means that they are usually sheltered from the worst of the rainy season, so this can be a good time of year to visit. The options for getting to Koh Yao Yai or Koh Yao Noi would include:
The options for traveling to Koh Yao from Phuket would include:
- Bang Rong in the north east of the island (close to Bang Pae Waterfall) has boat going to Manock Harbor in Khao Yao Noi at: 7:40, 8:30, 9:20, 9:40,10:30, 11:00, 12:30, 13:15, 14:30, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00, and 17:40. The boat fare is 50 THB (as of early 2013)
- If people do not want to wait for a regular service, they can hire a long tail boat or a speed boat from Bang Rong to go to Koh Yao. The speed boat can make the journey in just 20 minutes.
- It is possible to travel to Koh Yao Yai from Chianwanich Pier (this is near to Ratsada Pier) and there is a boat every day 08:30 and 17:00 – at the weekends they also have a boat at 14:00.
- Koh Yao can also be reached from Tha Len in Krabi and Ta Dan Pier in Phang Nga.
How to get Around Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
The main form of transport on both of these islands is tuk tuk. It is relatively easy for people to bring their motorbike with them – this can be done with a long tail boat just by paying a bit extra. It is also possible to hire motorbikes on either of the islands. One of the nicest ways of getting around is to go by bicycle, and these can be hired locally. There are regular boats between Koh Yao Yai ( Chonglad Pier) and Koh Yao Noi (Manok Pier) – this fifteen minute trip costs 20 THB (as of early 2013)
Attractions on Koh Yao Yai
Koh Yao Yai (big long island) is about one third the size of Phuket. Despite being the larger of the two islands this is the one that is least populated – there are only about 1,000 people who live here. The majority of the local people make their living from rubber plantations, farming, or fishing. The beaches on the island are not quite as picturesque as some of the ones found on Phuket Andaman, but the main attraction is that they are just so peaceful and away from the tourists. It is easy for tourists to come here and pretend to be Robinson Crusoe. The accommodation options on Koh Yao Yai is limited, and the nearest thing to a luxury resort would be Koh Yao Yai Resorton Loh Paret Beach. There are plans to build new luxury resorts on the island. Eco-conscious travelers will find that the local wildlife and marine life is exceptional.
Attractions on Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Noi is the most developed of the two islands with a population of approximately 4000. It is possible to explore the almost the whole of Koh Yao Noi (little long island) in one day. There is only 18 kilometer of road on the island – including dirt roads. The center of the island is a mountainous area, so visitors will usually stick to the beaches. The main attraction here is the simple beauty of the place, and the fact that the people and the feel of the place is so laid back. Life on the island is slow, and the only significant change in the last few decades is the arrival of a 7eleven store. The west of the island is covered mostly in mangrove, and the best beaches are all on the east side.
Things to Do on Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
The options for things to do on these islands would include:
- Koh Yao Noi has become a popular choice with rock climbers as it offers some of the best and most challenging climbs in Thailand. The [Mountain Shop] is able to arrange half day, full day, or multiple day tours.
- KYN Muay Thai Gym on Koh Yao Noi is a good choice for anyone wishing to learn this fighting art – there are many foreigners who come here to train. The main instructor is Hlukhin, and he has been a Muay Thai champion ten times.
- Probably the most satisfying way to explore the islands is by kayak – as well as Koh Yao there are also plenty of other interesting islands in easy reach. There are a number of companies that can arrange kayak tours including Rock n Row Thailand
Eat and Drink on Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
The best options for eating and drinking on the islands would include:
- Takao Pier Restaurant on Koh Yao Noi offers tasty and cheap Thai food. There are some nice views from the restaurant, and they also sell local handicrafts.
- La Luna is an authentic Italian restaurant that specializes in pasta and pizza. They are located near to Takao Pier, and they are able to provide free deliveries to anywhere on the island.
- La sala Resteraunt is on the southern peninsula of Koh Yao Noi, and the offer some of the best seafood around. They also have the best selection of wine on the island.
- Good View is located right on the beach at Rim Tha, and this is one of the best places to go to watch the sunset. They have their own fish ponds, so guests can choose which seafood ends up on their plate.
- Yao Yai Resort on Koh Yao Yai has a decent menu with Thai and Mediterranean food – their restaurant also offers a nice view of the beach.
Many of the restaurants on these islands also double as bars. Alcohol consumption is something that the local people feel sensitive about, and some shops, resorts, and restaurants will not sell alcoholic drinks. Visitors should avoid drinking in public – even on the beach. It is best to only drink in those bars and restaurants where it is served, and to avoid any public drunkenness.