A website set up for Ko Phayam island describes the island as an “undiscovered pearl of the Andaman Sea with long white sandy beaches, clear blue sea, coral reefs. It’s the perfect place to really get away from it all.”
Ko Phayam is the second largest Andaman Sea island off the coast of Ranong Province. The island has no roads suitable for automobiles, thus motorbikes are the chief means of transport.
This is what we needed and Team Plan decided this was the next island on our adventure. Natalie put the plan in motion and started firing emails to various bungalows on the island, despite advice from our current accommodation who thought we were crazy. He would look at us, bottom lip out, nose up, wag his finger and shake his head in a very stereotypical Asian manner “No good”! He explained that it was monsoon season and most of the island would be closed due to low season. It would be wet. “A waste of time”, he said.
Despite this advice, and the many emails we received from bungalows confirming that their accommodation was “closed for off-season”, ” not open” and many just didn’t respond at all. We still decided to wing it and go anyway. I think all backpackers seek the less trodden route. We wanted to see the culture and how the island actually is. The opportunity to see a place not catering to tourists, seemed perfect. As I have said before, do not think the hypocrisy and irony, that we are also tourists, is not lost on us. I however think we are the exception, not the rule. We are unlike most of the backpackers we have met in Asia. That’s my story, and I am sticking to it.
An overnight sleeper ferry, a couple of tuk tuks, one minibus and one more ferry later we arrived on Koh Phayam, together with a boat full of locals bringing in supplies. Food, fuel… you name it!
We were excited to see an island that people say Koh Sumui was 30 years ago, before the airport was built. The island doesn’t have electricity, other than solar power for a few hours a day (possibly a generator), so no hot water, no electricity, no WiFi… It was perfect! We rented some scooters and made our way to our bungalow. A little beach front resort, technically closed, but willing to cater us. They had two beautiful dogs, one big boy aptly called Wolfgang and his mini me, Gas, although she was a stray who just wanted to stay. She very well nearly had a home at the end and would, if Isabel could get her to Cayman.
We spent three nights on the island and whilst we cannot attest to the “long white sandy beaches, clear blue sea, coral reefs”, solely because for our entire time, it rained, a lot. We loved it. Monsoon season was well and truly present. It was definitely the perfect place to really get away from it all and relax.
There were two gaps in the rain, although very short, where we got to go and explore the island a little. Our host had recommended we check out “Hippie Bar” just along the beach. This bar was super cool and although it was closed, we stumbled across guys “working” on the restoration and maintenance of the bar during off-season. They quickly invited us in to have a look. The bar was entirely hand-made using drift wood and other materials washed up on the beach. They made the bar into a boat! I mean does it get any cooler. It’s the dream, right? I said “working” because the owner was having a relaxing day with some buddies who run bars on other islands and had come down for some chill time. We almost intruded their party of bongs and a huge stack of beer. Almost, because as the rain started and continued for some time, they just whipped out some beers for us and asked us to sit and relax. True hosts. They even invited us to eat with them, but we took that opportunity to say thank you, grab a selfie and leave.
The girls walked along the beach whilst Greg and I wrestled our bikes back in the treacherous weather and muddy paths. The rain was here and here to stay. We needed something to compliment the pitter patter of rain drops on the metal roof whilst we wasted the afternoon. I guess you’ve all come to the same conclusion as we did? There is only one, isn’t there? When stuck on the most remote island, no electricity, and only two shops open, you do what every sane person would do. You make Sangria. After a very very wet bike journey to fetch ingredients, we returned, making in excess of 9 litres of Sangria. If you’re stuck on a deserted island, like us, this is what you do.
5 litres of the finest quality box red wine the only shop has
1.5 litres of Sprite
1.5 litres of scary bright green fruit Fanta
1 litre of orange juice. ( we went no pulp but that’s your choice)
2 kg ice
Mix well, drink with friends, Enjoy!
We sat on our deck in the afternoon playing games and chatting as the rain continued to fall for hours. True paradise.
In the evening the host cooked us dinner. Given it was low season, we provided our order for dinner to the ‘chef’ that morning so he could go get the ingredients. We gave him free rain and said ‘surprise us’ and that’s what he did. We ate, continued to dent the huge cooler of Sangria and started some fiery debates, again to Natalie’s annoyance.
Rain was still falling the next day but we headed out to grab some food. After lunch, I was a little hungry still. Natalie refused another main course but was more receptive to a dessert to share. Greg, if you didn’t know, has a crazy obsession with condensed milk (despite his dietary tolerances to dairy and sugar) and had been craving a can ever since the ferry. What he likes to do is create a hole at twelve and six o’clock, tilts his head back and just downs it straight from the can. Isabel, not too dissimilar, had spotted a tub of Nutella in the shop the day before but passed on the purchase. Can you see where this is heading?
Basically one thing led to another, then completely super sized, snowballing out of control, until we are stood at the till with 2 cans of condensed milk, 2 tubs of Nutella and 2 kit kats. What happened next was amazing, sickening and shameful, all at the same time. In hindsight, we should have got one of each and shared between the four of us. I did say it snowballed. In the end though, there was no waste. Greg finished the remaining 1 1/2 cans of condensed milk whereas Isabel and the Nutella were inseparable for nearly a week. She was even caught carrying it in her dry sack around to restaurants and to the beach. Greg said he caught her with a spoon and a guilty look when he walked into his room in Phi Phi, where the tub met its inevitable demise. Isabel, too many more tubs of that chocolatey pot of goodness and it won’t just be me you’re calling ‘chubby’!
The island was a real breath of fresh air with no one about, we didn’t see a soul, we were able to unwind and just take a step back. Not to play the pity card but planning, blogging and editing photos takes up so much time that having time to just sit and do nothing is rarer than you may think.
The island would be interesting to visit in the high season but I am glad I saw the island how it is meant to be. The day-to-day living. Not the tourist side. It rains nearly 8 months of the year on Koh Phayam so has a rustic, vibrant and lush green landscape that I, personally, hope doesn’t change and become more and more developed like the other islands. We shall see.
From the rain we hope to see the sun as we now head towards Krabi.
Pictures, albeit limited are on Flickr.