Last visited March 2011.
Ko Phayam is a small attractive island situated near Ranong and the Burmese border, with several nice beaches and a good supply of old style budget bungalow resorts.
But it is an island in development. When I first visited in 2006 aircon and pools were largely absent. In 2008 some had appeared. In March 2011 they were more wide-spread.
However it is still a pretty relaxed place. Often on my latest March 2011 visit I was the only person on 400m or so of beach. I've never seen a 4 wheeled vehicle on the island (but I've heard there is one working vehicle for heavy stuff). The two main beaches don't have fishing villages and so longtail noise is very limited. There are no 7/11s or fast food places in the compact village. And budget travellers outnumber midrange tourists markedly. One other group finds the island popular - expats doing a few days on an island after a visa run into nearby Burma.
- is the most popular beach on the island with over a dozen places spread along its 3 km length, plus a couple of small bars. It faces south of west, with good views of the sun setting over the big Burmese islands further out. I’ve had small surf here which is rare in the Andaman in dry season.
On all 3 visits it had no problems with lack of sand at high tide or rocks at low tide, and away from each end the water was deep enough for good swimming close offshore at lowest tide. The sand and water seemed to be very clean my first two visits, but on the last sand was definitely nicer along the southern half. However sand conditions tend to vary according to wind, tide, currents, wave attack so don't let this put you off staying north of the central access road if your research finds a likely place there.
Water clarity may vary too - people who visit at the start of the season just after the monsoon ends may find less clear water because of still-heavy discharge from the nearby major river between Thailand and Burma. My visits were late Jan and mid March (2).
There is a lot of shade at the back of the beach from trees particularly north of the central access road. Virtually no long tail boats, so this beach was really quiet. Lots of big fishing boats working at night way offshore with the usual display of magic lights.
AO KHAO KWAI.
The other main tourist beach on Phayam is AO KHAO KWAI in the north west of the island. This is a bit longer than Ao Yai, has around the same number of bungalow places and is quieter and more laid back. The bay is sheltered from any swell coming up from the Indian Ocean and was dead flat on those days Ao Yai had surf. Some big offshore fishing boats were using it for a daytime anchorage most times I've spent there.
Ao Khao Kwai can be divided into two parts - AKK South and AKK North, separated by about 4oom of rock in front of a central headland on top of which are located the funky budget places Khao Kwai Hill and Contact bungalows surrounded by thick almost rainforest. The shore below the headland can be walked under half tide.
AKK SOUTH beach is pretty nice and has some good places to stay, but suffers the low tide blues - the only place you can get a swim relatively close to shore is right down the northern end near Khao Kwai Hill's headland access path.
I reckon AKK NORTH is the nicest area to stay on the island providing you don't want to rage (and even then there are a couple of small beach bars - but laid back).
This beach does not suffer the low tide blues as badly as AKK south - good swimming not far out at its south end; not bad central - wade out a bit; maybe the need to go out further at the north end.
The beach has some nice bungalow resorts, but as of March 2011 none going into the mid-range. I stayed at Janson (Jansom) Resort. I’ll put a report on the THAILAND - PLACES WE’VE MISSED section when I get a chance.
PP LAND BEACH
PP Land is an eco-resort on the east coast of the island about 2km from the village. A discontinuous strip of sand runs from just south of the village to the island's north east corner - PP Land's beach is a small section of this. This is a very nice little boutique resort - more lower midrange than budget.
I’m not sure why, but the beach here is a shocker. Both times (08 and ‘11) I’ve visited it was covered in flotsam and jetsam. There appeared to have been no attempts to clean the beach.
SABAI SABAI BEACH.
Sabai Sabai is a boutique bungalow joint on a patch of the east coast beach just south of the village. Not sure how nice the beach is on account I only had time to make it to its access bridge (across a small inlet) but the joint looks pretty sweet and gets good write-ups from users. I can't find a website on Google, but it does throw up the fact the joint is on facebook.
This is pretty low key and consists of 2 streets - one running away from the pier inland and another to the right (north) which runs alongside the bay. Both are lined with typical tourist and domestic businesses, plus a couple of general stores. There is no bank, and despite my memory of someone on a travel forum mentioning an ATM at last, I didn't see one latest trip. But I must admit I forgot to look for one. Some trip reporter! Anyway, for the time being I'd be bringing enough cash from Ranong if I were you.
The village seems scarcely bigger than 2008. This place always has a bustle of travellers and locals despite beach areas being uncrowded.