Ko Phayam boasts long uncrowded beaches, plenty of walking trails, some jungle, lots of birdlife, roads without cars and one small village. Sounds good? Read on.
Until a few years ago, few tourists had heard of this quiet laidback island on the Andaman coast near the Burmese border. It's still pretty unspoiled compared to many Thai islands but the number of tourists has increased significantly over the past few years.
Tourists of all ages and backgrounds visit but they are nearly all independent travellers and backpackers; about half are young hippy types and the rest are a mix of older visitors and families. Practically the only package tourists on Phayam so far are Thai tour groups and a few Eastern Europeans, all of whom stay in the more expensive and newly built resorts.
People seeking all the usual mod cons and Western-standard facilities, shopping, lots of entertainment, massive rave parties and a bar scene probably won't find Ko Phayam to their fancy. Only a few high-end resorts with massive diesel generators can provide their customers with air-con, satellite TV, and (maybe) hot water showers.
Typical accommodation remains simple beach bungalows with a fan, mosquito net, cold water shower and a balcony to hang your hammock on. The island has no power supply apart from solar power and generators and most resorts only provide electricity in the evenings. There are a few small minimarts and shops but no 7-elevens, and while a few parties are held, they're nowhere near as wild as Haad Rin on Ko Pha Ngan.
The tourist season runs from November to May with a steep rise in numbers just before Christmas. If you want to stay at one of the more popular resorts between December 20 and January 20 it's probably wise to book in advance to be sure of getting a room, but touts for resorts with vacancies will be waiting at the pier when ferries arrive.
New resorts are opening all the time and existing ones are busy building more bungalows to cater for increasing demand. Because many people stay here for several weeks the island stays quite full until well into March and high season seems to last longer every year. This said, discounts are quite often available if you stay more than a couple of weeks, even in high season.
Things get really quiet on Ko Phayam during low season because of the very high rainfall here then. A few resorts remain open all year but quite often electricity supplies are even more limited and the restaurants are shuttered.
By Stuart McDonald.