Sitting on our beachfront verandah, minding our own business, we are roused by an strange birdcall. Forever hopeful, I glance up into the neighbouring tree and spot a pair of hornbills happily jumping from branch to branch. I am off with a squawk of my own and my camera before James can say “bird watcher”.
I am not a genuine binocular carrying birder but I do love my feathered friends. And part of the allure of the Thai island Ko Phayam is its population of hornbills. That and the fact that they grow my favourite nut, the cashew nut here!
Ko Phayam is situated to the south west of the Thai mainland, close to the Myanmar border. Less than an hour’s speedboat transfer from Ranong. There are no cars on the island, so the transport to our resort from the pier is on motorbike taxi. No, not a tuk tuk but actually on the back of a motorbike! One for James, one for me and one for our luggage! A first for us and one I will not be telling my motorbike hating mother about!
Our resort is on the lee side of the island. And we have hit the jackpot, our room is right on the front overlooking the sandy beach. I fondly imagine being lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves. Not so; at night the island’s large frog population serenade us. Last night I mastered their sounds; “France” said quickly with an American accent interspersed with “Ranong”. Then in the wee hours when the partying frogs turn in, the cicada start. But yet we love it! And the waves can still be heard over nature’s racket!
Apart from the hornbills and frogs we have squirrels, sea eagles and other sea birds here. And I must also add a large population of friendly street dogs and cats. All of whom I’ve found to be more interested in company than food. I noticed the majority have been neutered and when Google and I researched the matter I found this is part of a wonderful scheme initiated by All for Villages to reduce the numbers and thereby suffering of street dogs and cats.
So if you want to capture the mood of Ko Samui in the ‘70s. Can survive without your air con and hot water for a few days, spoil yourselves and visit Ko Phayam. And keep an eye out for those hornbills!
How to get to Ko Phayam from Khao Sok
James favourite app Rome2Rio failed him on this. But his mate Google and a fellow travel blogger told us about the bus station at Takua Pa. This is where buses from the east coast and the west coast meet up. We caught a passing Phuket bus at Khao Sok and got off at Takua Pa and then caught a bus onto Ranong. Buses to Ranong go every hour in the morning. The two bus trips for both of us costing AUS$20. We did notice at the bus station you could buy a bus/ferry ticket straight to Ko Phayam. But by then we had arranged to stay at Ranong. Do not stay in Ranong, it is the armpit of Thailand. Full of large half built modern ruins, very creepy. Go straight to the island!
Tips for Ko Phayam
Speed boats run regularly to Ko Phayam from Ranong, and it is cheaper to buy the tickets online than at the dock. We bought a return passage for the two of us for AUS $55. It says it takes 30 mins but we found it took closer to an hour.
There is lots of accommodation on Ko Phayam. We stayed at PP Land Beach Eco Resort in a Beachfront Front Bungalow and we would thoroughly recommend it. We found it on Agoda, AUS$31 a night room only. The food is excellent, there is wifi in the reception area but electricity is a bit of a sore point (on the whole island). There is no hot water, or air con but we had a fan and sea breezes. The windows are screened but not the glass doors, so do have mozzie spray with you or you can use the mosquito net.
If you are a keen bird-lover do check out my story on the best bird park I’ve ever visited Parque das Aves.
* Prices correct as at April 2018