Founded by a family of fishers who lived on Ko Wai before tourists started arriving, Ao Yai Ma Bungalows sit nestled into a forested hill tumbling down to a sheltered beach that’s arguably the prettiest on the island.
The half-dozen huts were built from a mix of logs, wood planks and woven bamboo topped by metal roofs. Those we’ve inspected came with hammocks strung to the porches and ceiling-mounted fans along with bucket-flush toilets and cold-water showers in the cement-floored bathrooms. You also get an outdoor shower for washing the sand off—a nice touch. A few non-screened windows can be propped open and mosquito nets cover the soft mattresses.
Some bungalows are dispersed along the hill behind the restaurant, including one cheapie with a northerly outlook set close to the trail that leads back west towards most of Wai’s other resorts. We prefer the larger shacks situated north of the restaurant because these are closer to the beach, with an easterly outlook bagging you sunrise views. There’s no better setting on Wai in our opinion.
Electricity is switched on only from around 18:00-22:00 and there is no WiFi, but the 4G signal on our phone worked fine.
Ao Yai Ma is a gorgeous beach of powdery khaki sand that we found clean when loads of tidal garbage sat strewn along the north coast. Rocky headlands on either side keep the shallow water calm and clear, though you’ll need to wade out for some 100 metres to reach a depth suitable for swimming. Coconut trees join rattan palms to provide shade for the lounge chairs.
Few non-guests visit Ao Yai Ma and we adore the soothing atmosphere beyond the sight of most tour boats. For a change of scenery, follow the trail cutting east over some rocks to find a smaller, undeveloped beach sporting the softest and whitest sand that we’ve come across on Ko Wai. A group of Chinese daytrippers had landed there when we last visited, but more often than not it’s empty save the sand crabs.
While the old “Grandmar Hut” sign still stood, descendants of the founding grandma now run the place and the young man at the desk had a laid-back yet inviting demeanor that made us want to stick around. We haven’t tried the food but a guest we met claimed it was better than the fare served at Wai’s other resorts. The restaurant has only a couple of long tables and you’d have to be antisocial to not meet others if staying here.
There’s a strong measure of seclusion and we think that’s a good thing, especially considering that staff uses a small motorboat to meet the ferries when they know guests are coming. The huts are often full so it’s best to phone ahead. Otherwise you’d have to walk a kilometre east after arriving at Ao Yai, and it would be disappointing (and tiring) to walk all the way back to Good Feeling or Paradise if no rooms are free at Ao Yai Ma.
Address: East end of the north coast trail, Ko Wai
T: (065) 228 9535;
Coordinates (for GPS): 102º24'42.98" E, 11º54'12.66" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Room rates: Under 600B
What we were quoted as a walk-in.
|Bungalow fan private bathroom||closed or n/a||400 baht|
On the beach
|closed or n/a||700 baht|
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
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