Hi and greetings to all,
Just returned from another sojourn to the “land of smiles” and its wonderful northern neighbor Laos. As I have posted before on my Thai travels, this time I will only cover the travels not mentioned in previous posts.
Firstly, after flying down from Chiang Mai, we caught a cab from Suvarnabhumi airport to the southern bus station (1 hour 15 mins, 450 baht flat fee) to head down to Ranong and then onwards to Koh Payam. Small glitch, although there were still some busses running from the OLD southern bus station, the Ranong busses were running from the just opened NEW southern bus station. A small inconvenience, a second cab and we arrived in plenty of time to get tickets on the 2030 VIP bus to Ranong. The trip itself was quite comfortable, and we were duly delivered to the Ranong bus station at 0500 the next morning. Not a good time to arrive in Ranong when the ferry departs at 0930. We hung around the bus station for a while and resisted the offers of a songthaew to go directly to the pier, instead we wandered about 100 meters down the street to the Kiwi Orchid guest house, where we had some breakfast and relaxed until it was time to head for the pier. The lady that ran the guest house was great and she will make you welcome while you wait to head off to the pier.
Facilities at the pier are pretty basic, a small shop, a locked toilet and the grumpy woman who sells coffee and toilet access, so you would be well advised not to get to the pier to early (there were signs that the pier may be being upgraded). Apart from that, the ferry to Payam (150 baht p/p) although basic was fine and the 2 ½ hour trip was quite pleasant.
Payam was a breath of fresh air, think Samui in the early 80’s and you’re getting close, except without cars. The small village at the pier has a couple of “mini marts”, a travel agency, a few basic restaurants and that’s about it. *Note, there is no bank or money exchange on Payam, the only options being the travel agency or your bungalows and both will offer rates about 10% less than you will get on the mainland.
We chose to stay at the Bamboo Bungalows ( www.bamboo-bungalows.com ) on the south western beach of Aow Yai and after a brief motor cycle taxi ride were duly delivered. The bungalows were great, ours a traditional bamboo thatch (350 B), absolute seafront, with a front porch to relax and take in the great sea views and spectacular sunsets. The facilities at Bamboo were great, good food, friendly staff and reasonable prices, the only thing to be aware of is that they only have power between 1800 and 2300. The beach itself was stunning, set between two jungle clad heads; it was about 3 kilometers of broad white sand washed by a gentle surf. The water was warm although a little turbid due to the surf, but great for swimming, despite the occasional lice.
There are a number of bungalows along the beach, but it is by no means crowded. As we were there early in the season ( October) only a few were open for business, with a couple of others just cleaning up for the season. Most were the traditional bamboo huts, but there were a few more elaborate structures, a couple to mention were “Long Beach” at 200 baht and Smile Hut bungalows at 2-300 baht. Apart from the bungalows, there’s not a lot happening, with the notable exceptions of “My Barbeque”, a kind of Rasta eating and drinking establishment and the ubiquitous and fantastic “Rasta Baby”. The latter was a great establishment with great (and eclectic) music, good barbequed seafood for a pittance (and sometimes for free) a ready supply of your favorite poison and more importantly a fantastically friendly staff. If you do happen to go there, say hi to Noel (and Sweetie Pie), the wonderfully eccentric English gentleman who spends most of his time there!!!
In summary, Payam is a fantastic place to do little more than chill. It’s by no stretch of the imagination a party island, although you will meet some great people. Though the tell tale signs are there, it’s still relatively undeveloped and uncrowded and price wise, it’s still pretty reasonable.
Enjoy your travels,
#1 grazee has been a member since 29/6/2007. Posts: 7
Thanks for the report Grazee -- much appreciated. I've never been to Ko Phayam, only got as far as nearby Ko Chang (which at the time had a great guesthouse called Rasta Baby run by a New Yorker and a Thai -- any relation perhaps?)
Neither the Rasta Baby Bar nor My Barbeque are particularly popular with people who know Ko Phayam well.
The latter is boycotted because the owner is strongly suspected of being involved in the death of a Burmese worker. The people running the former are not the nicest people on the island either. When I was staying at the resort next door a few years ago another guest went and asked if they could keep the noise down a bit after midnight and she got told to "fuck off bitch" and was threatened with a knife.
There are rumours that the Rasta Baby Bar will be moving inland next season... much to the relief neighbouring resorts no doubt.
Smile Huts are also somewhere I would steer well clear of. They are the first place you see when you arrive at the main beach so a lot of people stay there. However their crappy huts and dubious sanitation make them VERY poor value IMO. Loads of better places to stay on that beach or elsewhere on the island for 200B.
I went last month for the 3rd time to Koh Phayam and strolled all over the island many times. Only during my second visit I discovered P.P. Land Resort at the eastern site of the island (one kilometer north of where the ferry boat arrives). The sea is much calmer then at the other site, and moreover, you have stunning views of the mountains on the mainland. Instead of a sunset, you get to enjoy the sunrise.
IMO, PP Land has some of the nicest designed bungalows on the island, with huge sliding glass doors, and 24 hrs electricity.
#4 tingtongkoenie has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 1
The PP resort is relatively new and relatively expensive but it gets a lot of business. Strong ecological stance... solar power, recycling of used water to irrigate the organic vegetable plot, bicycle rather than motorbike hire etc.
I know the owner quite well. He said they were 100% full high season this year. Not one a single night with a free bungalow between November and March. Would be best to book in advance if you are planning to stay peak season maybe.
The owner of PPland also produced a new up to date map which was widely available on Ko Phayam last season. The old one didn't show his resort but there are other newly built resorts shown on the new map too. Andaman Island Hopping was still using an old inaccurate map last time I looked. So was tezza even though he went there after that map became available.(Okaaaaaaaaay Somtam, I'll stop) ;-)
Just checked CRISPY'S link - whoa! I did visit that place. Website is very basic, doesn't show location, but it is north of the main pier, past the temple pier and located in a quiet section of the little developed (bungalow wise) east coast facing the mainland. Access track from the road is a bit windy.
Seemed very laid back and quiet, and looked too expensive for me.
And yep, it is on the map Khao Kwai Hill Bungalows gave me.
I know this is like an ancient thread but we're thinking of going to Koh Phayam (leave Uk for Bangkok on 1st Nov). From what I read, I thought we would like PP Land, Sabai Sabai or Mr Gao's the best to stay in. Any recommendations? Also someone said PP Land is expensive - they don't have rates on their basic website - does anyone know roughly (maybe last year's prices) how much they were. We're in the 400-800 bhat a night bracket (I know, a bit of a range but we're hoping to pay cheaper in some places and a bit more in others so it evens itself out budget wise). Should we book in advance or can we just turn up?
#9 RuthJ has been a member since 9/9/2009. Posts: 18
Anywhere in the Andaman in November with the exception of Phi Phi and Railay is normally just turn up. This November shows promise of being quieter than normal.
PP Land looked pretty nice to me, but I thought it was a bit isolated. Certainly not the nicest beach on Phayam although okay.
Mr Goa is on the attractive yet unbusy Buffalo Bay North - and has some adjacent (not too close) bungalow places for some variety of dining etc. Mr Goa looked sweet to me, from memory it has one of those overbeach dining platforms.
Cant help you with Sabai Sabai - don't remember it.
Thanks Tezza, that's great. I think we'll just go and pick somewhere we like.
Can you tell me which you thought was the best beach on Koh Phayam?
#12 RuthJ has been a member since 9/9/2009. Posts: 18
I'm travelling to Bangkok on the 30th of Jan and then heading to Koh Phayam. Planning on spending around 5 weeks on the island. Can anyone recommend cheap,(300-350B), bungalows/rooms on the island?
I have e-mailed the owners of Mr Gao's and Vijit Bungalows as they are the only two with websites that say they have budget places, (that I have found), to ask about availability.
Any more on the island? Websites? Any chance of me just turning up and finding somewhere nice?
Any thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance.
#13 rumpole1980 has been a member since 26/12/2009. Posts: 4
We went to Koh Phayam in the end. And we loved it there. Really chilled out and laid back but with something of a buzz. But we were there at the beginning of the season so we got quite good value in terms of the bungalows. We got discounts on the advertised rates simply because they'd only just reopened. I can't tell you somewhere for your price range but I think buffalo bay is generally cheaper than Ao Yai. We stayed at the bamboo bungalows on Ao Yai and loved it there. They do actually have some cheap huts which were probably in your price range but I'm not sure if the price will have gone up now.
We visited mr. gao's and thought it was a lovely place, really chilled out. We contemplated going there but didn't in the end. It felt a bit too remote from anywhere else. Ao Yai was nice because there were a number of bars along the beach you could go to and we weren't confined to the bungalows.
Good luck. I'm sure you'll find somewhere. I'm very jealous of you. I wish I was back there now!
#14 RuthJ has been a member since 9/9/2009. Posts: 18
Got an e-mail back from Vijit Bungalows. Room booked, 60 meters from the beach, 300B a night! Happy Days!!
I will update this when I arrive.
#15 rumpole1980 has been a member since 26/12/2009. Posts: 4
I have one other question if anyone can help...
How easy is it to access money on the island? I have a Maestro debit card and will be needing to withdraw money every week. Is there an ATM on the island now? (not one there according to the guide books)
Or, do any of the resorts offer a means to withdraw money? Is it expensive?
Thanks again in advance.
#16 rumpole1980 has been a member since 26/12/2009. Posts: 4
When we were there in November there wasn't an ATM. There is one guy in the village that does visa cash advances but maestro wouldn't work. Take as much money as you can out before you get to the island. Some of the bungalows do take cards - again though, don't know if it's visa only or if they'll take maestro. Maybe email/phone your bungalows and ask them as some of them are cash only in any case. Could you try to get a visa card - either debit or credit? One from Nationwide is probably best because they don't charge for using it abroad. Might be handy especially if you're staying a while on the island.
#17 RuthJ has been a member since 9/9/2009. Posts: 18
Just re-read your original post and realised you're there for 5 weeks. There are regular boats to the mainland for shopping etc as well as the ferries so I would get a visa card if possible and then just be prepared to go to the mainland regularly for cash. I would imagine that's what everyone else does on the island.
#18 RuthJ has been a member since 9/9/2009. Posts: 18
Vijits is cash only but they can change foreign currency. No doubt the rate will be lower than what you'd get on the mainland though so best to take as much money as you can with you. They have a safe where you can keep it and other valuables while you're staying there.
If you do run out of money then there's a guy who works for Vijits on the pier in Ranong . He can take you to the nearest ATM and you can pay him.
Here are the daily boat schedules to and from Ranong.
Slow Boat: 9.30am and 2pm
Speed Boat:10am, 2.30pm
Slow boat:8.30 am and 1pm
Speed boat:9am, 2pm and 4pm.
The slow boat costs 150B and takes about 2hours and the speed boat costs 350B and usually takes about 40 minutes. The speed boat service only operates in high season and the last run (4pm and 5 pm) has only been operational since December 24th and so it may be pulled when demand falls.
Going to Ranong every week to get money would be quite expensive. Even if your bank back hone doesn't charge for withdrawals abroad there's still the 150B withdrawal fee imposed by Thai banks. Since they started imposing this fee I've noticed that most ATMs will only allow you to withdraw 10K at a time, not 20K as in the past...strikes me that there's a wee bank scam going on! AFAIK non of the ATMs in Ranong will spit out more than 10K at a time so if you find one in BKK that does, use that to take out money.
PS. If you're staying 5 weeks at Vijits then I'd be inclined to ask for a long term discount! 300B is the standard rate for the back bungalows but they usually give discounts for people staying a month or more.
Just a correction to the above post from SBE (relayed by email):
"Current speedboat times to and from Ranong are:
To Phayam from Ranong
10am, 2.30pm and 5pm.
To Ranong from Phayam
9am, 2pm and 4pm"
Have fun on an island that I'd rather be on right now -- in fact if you're there, right now, with your feet in the sand, please pop a cold one for me.