Photo: Ko Phra Thong gets decent sunsets.

Cycling Ko Phra Thong

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Ko Phra Thong – or Golden Buddha Island — is wide, flat and desolate. It’s no wonder people gave up searching for a solid gold Buddha image that was supposedly buried here centuries ago. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to do, which is sort of the point, but a spin through the interesting savannah landscape is an experience that you won't find anywhere else.

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Did I forget to mention all the empty beaches you could ever want?

Did I forget to mention all the empty beaches you could ever want?

Ko Phra Thong’s inland landscape is indeed flat and barren, but it’s distinctive in that it’s categorised as desert-like savannah. Many travellers remark that it looks and feels strikingly similar to the savannah plains of Africa, minus the lions, gazelles and giraffes. Given the fact that most of the rest of Phang Nga province (and southern Thailand for that matter) is lush, wet and mountainous, Phra Thong’s expansive grasslands and dry, sandy dunes come as a somewhat baffling surprise.

Sure we're not in Namibia?

Sure we're not in Namibia?

For us, it was a welcome surprise. While we'll never complain about a trek through dense rainforest, we’ve always been partial to rolling plains and dry, desert like landscapes. There’s something about the hot, raw, expansive feel of such places that make it easy to reflect, to take a deep breath and find some real space in a busy world.

Not your typical Thai island paradise.

Not your typical Thai island paradise.

While cycling down the narrow cement lane that runs deep into the south of this large island, we took a seat at midday on a deserted sand dune and did nothing but watch the sand lizards roam for a while. We forgot the “real” world in all its seriousness and clamour. Only solitude — land, sky, body and mind — remained. When we hopped back on the bike some 20 minutes later, we felt cleansed and utterly alive.

Just me, a few lizards and a big sky.

Just me, a few lizards and a big sky.

Whether it’s to look deeper into one’s self or relish life with a friend or loved one, it’s that sense of solitude that brings many back to Ko Phra Thong every year. If you’re looking for expensive spa treatments and tidy waiters bringing you drinks by the pool, look elsewhere, but if you want to get away from exactly that type of materialistic tourism, Ko Phra Thong may very well be for you.

Discover your inner hornbill (or at least throw this friendly one a banana).

Discover your inner hornbill -- or at least throw this friendly one a banana.

Far from being an after thought, Ko Phra Thong also happens to boast some 17 kilometres of wide, almost totally undeveloped beaches, accessable down sandy paths from the main north-to-south road. If you tire of peddling, how does walking on a beach for hours and not seeing so much as a single human-made structure (let alone another actual human) sound? So untouched are Phra Thong’s beaches that they’re one of the few places in Thailand where sea turtles still regularly nest, and the endangered lesser adjutant stork may still be found here in all its glory.

If you like long walks on secluded beaches, Ko Phra Thong is for you.

If you like long walks on secluded beaches, Ko Phra Thong is for you.

While it’s true that the water off Phra Thong’s coast lacks that typical tropical emerald-turquoise colour, it still makes for some good swimming. After spending midday bobbing in the surf, you might head to the charming fishing village of Ta Pae Yoe on the island’s east coast facing the mainland for a glimpse of traditional Thai island life. A world away from mass tourism and its scammers, the locals are still tickled by the sight of their yearly foreign guests.

A scene from Ta Pae Yoe -- sounds Hawaiin doesn't it?

A scene from Ta Pae Yoe -- sounds Hawaiian doesn't it?

Bicycles (and motorbikes) can be rented at Mr Chuoi Bar & Hut and Lions Village for 50 to 100 baht. Bring plenty of water if you plan to go far to the south or east, as Phra Thong's inland terrain gets steamy hot and there are few shops.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ko Phra Thong.
 Read up on where to eat on Ko Phra Thong.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Ko Phra Thong.
 Read up on how to get to Ko Phra Thong, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ko Phra Thong? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Ko Phra Thong? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.

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