A place I don’t want to tell you about


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I’m slumped in a camping chair on my guesthouse balcony.  Looking out over the foliage I can see dozens of limestone karsts poking up out of the Andaman Sea.  I can faintly hear a scooter going past, but any road noise is usually drowned out by the buzzing crickets and birdsong.

One of the resident geckos just chirped somewhere above my head, and as I looked up mild sunburn tingled on the back of my neck.  The sun is shining, although there are a few more white clouds around than yesterday.

There will probably be a storm out to sea this afternoon, the same as there has been every day since I got here.  Lightening crashes and thunder booms in a ferocious display, although there hasn’t yet been a drop of rain.

Karsts rising from the sea

I am unbelievably content, but I have a dilemma.

I don’t want to write this post.

I mean that in two ways, actually.  I don’t want to write this post right now, because in all honesty I’d much rather walk the three minutes down the path and go lie on the beach for a while.

But I also don’t really want to write this post at all.

I’ve finally found my perfect Thai island, and I kind of want to keep it to myself.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not “The Beach”.  There are roads here, power, even internet.  A few restaurants that cater mainly to foreigners line the coast.  Some expensive-sounding resorts are marked on my photocopied map, and I think I saw one from the beach the other day.

Empty beach

Most of the beaches are lovely at high tide, but quite rocky when the water recedes.  Those postcard shots with fine white sand and crystal clear waters weren’t taken at low tide out the front of my guesthouse, that’s for sure.

But you know what?

I like it like this.

If this place had the geographic perfection of Koh Phi Phi, it would be Koh Phi Phi.  Busy, polluted and with dive shops and happy hours every few metres.  Instead, the fact that it isn’t perfect makes it … well … perfect.  Does that even make sense?  Probably not.

It is still peak season here, supposedly.  I counted seven people in the more popular of the two bars within walking distance last night.  The other one was empty.

Lauren and I hired a motorbike yesterday and rode around the island.  Twice.  A little boy waved as we rode by.  He had plenty of time to – nobody goes much above 20km/h here.  There’s no hurry.  The few other people on the road grinned at us we went past, calling a greeting over the engine noise.

We feel genuinely welcome on this island.  Most of the local families are Muslim, making a living from fishing or rubber plantations.  There is a safe, friendly vibe in the air.  People leave their keys in their scooters, and stop to offer a lift if they see you walking down the road by yourself.  The guy that owns our guesthouse is also a local policeman.  I can’t imagine he is rushed off his feet.

Dirt track to Had Yao

While in the north of the island we found a hand-written sign pointing to Had Yao beach 3km away.  The paved road quickly become rutted dirt and stones, and some of the steeper sections through the rubber trees made for interesting riding.

Any concerns were forgotten when the track ended a metre from the sand.  The beach was long, clean … and utterly deserted.  We stayed there for a couple of hours, swimming and sunbathing, and weren’t joined by another soul.  I could see a yacht anchored in the distance, and a longtail went past once just to prove that there were other people on the planet.  I had kind of forgotten.

Ok, so that’s great, I hear you saying … but where the hell am I?  Some tiny little island in the middle of nowhere, impossible to get to, right?

Wrong.

I’m on Koh Yao Noi.  It is the smaller of two large islands barely an hour from Phuket or Krabi.  Ferries and speedboats run here every day, at least in high season.  Given its location it should be completely over-developed and overrun by tourists, but somehow – wonderfully – it isn’t.

This is not a place to party – you’ll probably be in bed by 10pm.  It’s certainly not a place to hang out with other backpackers, since I’ve seen maybe half a dozen in the last three days.  What it is is somewhere to relax, meet genuinely friendly local people and do not much of anything.

Ride a scooter now and then, maybe take a kayak or longtail out to some of the tiny unspoiled islands nearby, but you’ll spend most of your time on the beach with a book and a bottle of water.

If that sounds like paradise, then come to Koh Yao Noi.

Just … well … not too many of you, ok?

29 Responses to “A place I don’t want to tell you about

  • I just Tweeted, Stumbled, Pinned and shared this on Facebook. I don’t think many people look at those things though. 😉

    This place looks fab!

    • Hahaha, thanks … I think? 😉 And yep, it was my favourite island in southern Thailand, no doubt about it!

  • Feels weird sharing your secret with the entire world of social media, doesn’t it? Mary and I LOVE places like this, whether close to home (like sleepy Sanibel Island, FL) or in more exotic and remote locales (the Peruvian Amazon), because it feels like an undiscovered gem you don’t have share with EVERYONE. Those are rare, and wonderful…

    • I really did struggle with whether to write this piece … and whether to give the name of the island in it if I did!

  • For a second there, I thought you weren’t going to tell us! I think we actually almost went to that island. It sounds perfect. I almost didn’t tweet this post because I want to keep it a secret, but then you said to share it at the bottom of your post, so I got confused. 🙂 Enjoy your private island!

    • Ahhh, that ‘share me’ bit is at the bottom of every post – I should have tried to remove it for this one! 🙂

  • I didn’t write much about Northern Peru, I didn’t want it to “get out” either!

    • Understandable. We can’t keep these places to ourselves, but sometimes we really, really want to…

  • No worries. I have my own little piece of paradise so won’t be invading any time soon, but I fully approve of yours.

  • I just wrote the same post but about Brasil. Don’t tell a soul!

  • I love Koh Yao Noi! I thought about it within the first sentences you’ve written… it definitely IS Paradise. MY Paradise 😀 GO AWAY!!! 😀

    • I’m back in Chiang Mai now … but I can’t promise I won’t be back there at the end of the year! 😉

  • For a moment I thought bugger you found mine but then again, examing your pictures closer, the ah moment, Koh Yao Noi, and no, I will keep it to myself.

    • Feel free to drop me a mail with the details if you like – promise I won’t write a blog post about it if you do! 😉

  • Ah, seems lovely! Still doesn’t attract me enough with the island I found in Cambodia…

    • And like I said to Conrad above, don’t be afraid to let me know the name of that island……

  • Sounds like a really relaxing find! Great pictures and glad you shared where this was!

  • We all have our secrets spots. Thanks for sharing yours, it does sound like paradise.

  • Sounds like a great place man, I may, repeat may have to put it on my itinerary for next month, sorry for that.

  • I’m also in Yao Noi! But I’m a little behind on my blogging. It is gorgeous!

    • I’ve only been gone a few days, and already I’m jealous that you’re still there and I’m not…

  • It’s very boring, quiet, nothing to do.No easy Thai girls, no drunken night spots, no noisy bars…Don’t even think about going there and I should know …I’ve lived there for the last five, boring, horrible high seasons…;)

    • Hahahaha, this comment made me laugh out loud! I’ll let you know next time I’m back there, we can commiserate over a beer together… 🙂

  • Wow… I’m so jealous of you right now! What great pictures as well!

  • Wow a place in Thailand not full of tourists! Score!!

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