Ko Phayam : "One of the last remaining paradises in Thailand."

Ko Phayam Travel Blog

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Sinking back into the sands in Ko Phayam

‘Creeeea-crack!’  The old wooden slatted sun lounger I’m lying on gives way a little bit more.  A small lurch down further to my right.  But I don’t mind.  It seems perfectly in keeping with the charm of unhurried natural collapse that keeps this place so… well, yeah, natural feeling.  No one’s in a rush to fix anything.  There’s no need.  This is Slow Life.  Reeeal Slow Life.  It’s perfect.  I’m lying here, now listing heavily to portside, towards the ever reclaiming sands recalling a conversation Ben and I had with a cheery German ‘Old Timer’ at lunch today whilst we chomped our ice cream on sticky-rice topped with peanuts.  He’s been doing Thailand for the last 18 years or so and has returned here, to Koh Phayam many times in that period.

Bumper Sticker.

It is “One of the last remaining paradises in Thailand” he states with the gentle but authoritative attitude of a man who knows he knows what you don’t.  “So is it your favourite island?” we ask.  He starts “Ye… well… no.”.  “Oh well, what is then?”.  “Well that I will not say.” the man smiles conspiratorially.  “Well then, is it on this coast at least?”.  He considers, tilting his head pensively skywards.  Still smiling.  “Well,… maybe it is… and maybe it isn’t”.  We ask no more.

Ben steps onto the gang plank for the boat to Ko Phayam
  Ben and I will spend 8 days on paradisiacal Koh Phayam.  And could happily have stayed longer.  We smile and respect the man’s stance.  It’s his little secret.  His private island treasure.  Wherever it is.  For in those 8 days Koh Phayam will become our own little island Nirvana that so few people we have met seem to know or care about.  And in true Alex ’The Beach’ Garland style it saddens us to accept that calm and relatively ’untouched’ though it is now, the deluge will very soon follow, and all the sooner maybe following happy gushings such as that which you are about to read.

Koh Phayam is a small island off the north west point of where Thailand’s southerly Andaman Sea coast commences.  It is barely 7km wide in any direction and sits about a 1 and half hour boat ride from Rannong, a port most associated with half day visa runs to Myanmar.

Phayam sands like irridescent Marble Cake under the suns rays
It sits next to its even tinier sister island Koh Chang (not to be confused with the more renowned, larger Koh Chang of east coast fame).  What brought me here?  Just one word.  One name dropped passingly into a conversation by Miriam, a Swiss girl, before lights out in Pak Bara some weeks ago.  A name that stuck and that I’ve pursued for want of anything better to do whilst I await my sister’s final plans to arrive in Thailand.

Koh Phayam has two principle beaches.  Upon arrival at the east coast pier you take a taxi-bike (70 Baht) across the one-concrete strip ‘road’ that runs to the far west coast - aside from hiring your own bike or bicycle these are the only means of transportation on the island.

Moon over Phayam
  On the far west coast a fabulous 4 kilometre stretch of beach awaits you.  This is the main beach where bungalow style accommodations can be found in large but unobtrusive numbers (150 - 500 Baht per night) along with a few of the very calm, chilled, beach front bars that exist here.  Electricity only operates via generators on the island between 18.30 - 22.00.  This is great ’cos it means the place is quiiiiet.  So, so quiet and calming.  Natural!  The beach is constantly subject to wavelets breaking onto the shore, but never too violent, so a fantastically hypnotic sound of the wash and drag of waves and tides, accompanied by the calls of birds and cicadas and geckos are the soundtrack to your stay.  Sea Eagles glide frequently above you as you recline.
The eaterly pier arrival point at Ko Phayam

There can’t be more than 40 - 60 people staying here whilst we are.  Stretched out across a 3.5 - 4km beach this means that the feel of practically ’having the place to yourself’ never leaves.  I was regularly up and out with my book on a sun bed or hammock between 7.30 - 9.00am and was almost entirely alone with the dawn and the lightening sands at this time.  Go for a looooong stroll, kicking your feet through the surf and you’ll barely meet another soul.  It is so serene.  The lower sands are attractively banded in shades of light and dark making the whole beach look like a giant slice of Marble Cake.  When the waters recede - and they do quite far - the sand crabs are out in force again almost invisibly going about the business of crafting their little spheres of sand that before your eyes transform the complexion of the beach.

Sunsets are a joy here.  Lying on the beach, maybe a cold beer or fruit shake in one hand and book in the other.  We all sit and watch the sun slip into the Andaman every day.  On one occasion an old man has dragged a plastic chair down to the waterline and sits their, a tired sun-burnished king, the waters washing in and around the feet of he and his throne whilst the touch of sunset turns everything to gold about him.  A fishing trawler in the distance, its net-dragging wooden arms far outstretched glides away from us along the bright amber highway rolled out along the waves by the sun’s evening rays as if, if it were quick enough in speeding towards the great intersection of the horizon line it might be in time to net itself the giant blazing star itself.

Beach wood (detail)

I am lucky here in many respects.  I am lucky in company.  Ben from the U.S. (met on the boat over) my constant companion who ensures that I get a good skin full of beer and Thai rice whiskey on my 30th.  Graceful Julia and affable Serge from Switzerland and Johanna and Marliene from Germany and Holland respectively.  The kind staff, David and Ranoukha (I think?) from Smile Huts.

I am lucky with food.  Having stopped my taxi-bike driver to grab some bananas off a smiling lady on the way over on day one and joking that “I’d be seeing her again!” as I jumped back on the bike, Ben and I do see her again for lunch that very same day.  And dinner.  And lunch and dinner the following day.  And the day after that.  In fact I may as well tell ya we had every single one of our meals and NO exceptions at Aoi’s little single gas stove ‘restaurant’ during our stay.

  Her food, in my six weeks plus experience of Thailand, was unsurpassably the best in every respect!  The best and cheapest food I have had in this nation.  I’ve had Pad Thais the length and breadth of the country but I never had Pad Thai until I tried Aoi’s HUGE plates of perfection.  50 Baht only, and no extra cost for her juicy large shrimp when she had them.  When she didn’t have them (shrimp are expensive and a risk for a single hob operation like Aoi’s if they remain unsold) it was almost as pleasing ‘cos I just loved seeing her mock sadness at breaking the news to us with her very, very minimal English, her jaw jutted out, lips pouting and her eyebrows and brow collapsed in mock sorrow “Aahhh, Steep, Steep, ssrimp no hap, ssrimp-ssrimp, no hap hap Steep.
Beach wood (abstract)
 

I haven’t introduced you to Steep before have I?  It’s my adoptive name in Thailand (and generally Southeast Asia).  The Asiatic arrangement of vocal muscles and glottal movements make the pronunciation of the letter ‘v’ nigh on impossible.  In the same way, more famously, the Asiatic tongue struggles with ‘r’ and ‘l’ often supplanting the former with the latter or interchanging the two.  (A Chinese friend of mine, Chun Hua, almost collapsed in apoplectic frustration trying to communicate the name ’Laura’ at a dinner party once… “Ruler, Ruler, RULER??!”)  But anyhow, the ‘v’ issue means Steve becomes Steep.  Which I kinda like.  It implies a certain loftiness or verticality to my personage; a steep ascent.

  Something potentially mountainous, or a little bit hilly at least when in reality I barely manage to fosbury flop over the 5 foot bar of life’s high jumping contest.  It has a pleasing irony I feel.  “Steep, Steep, ssrimp no hap!”  You understand what “hap” means now too, right?

We do nothing the entire week and more we’re here.  And it feels so precisely the right thing to be doing.  Nothing.  Zip.  Nada.  Life doesn’t get anymore complicated than waking and then reading and eating until sun down.  Every day.  We don’t even bother to check out any other parts of the island.  Buffalo Bay?  Whatever.  That requires moving.  Everything we need for perfect life; for Slow Life, is right here.

A beach to oneself!
 
Life doesn’t get any more stressful than Ben and I’s daily Backgammon duel whilst we await our delicious Pad Thai or Fried Rice mountains to materialise from Aoi’s magic one-hob kitchen.  I finish our time in Phayam two games up. “Bonza!”… oh Phayam!  Phayam.  That reminds me.  Another reason Aoi’s eatery and our island stay is such a joy (aside from the Massaman curry that’s the best in Thailand, the divinest pumpkin, tofu and vegetable curry and the assistant girl Aoi takes on halfway through the week who is the most beautiful I will see in all my time in Thailand) is little Phayam.  All thirteen months and four teeth of him.  Her cute as heck son.  Named after the island of his birth and home and happy to smile and dribble and dodder around and be played with whilst we wait.
Little Phayam!!! He's so cute!
  He’s sooooo cute!

So finally.  A true little island paradise!  Without yet the tourist influx which is so often the price of fame and beauty.  It will come no doubt.  The fame and the tourists.  Koh Phayam’s first air-conditioned bungalows are currently under construction.  The island’s expected to have mains electricity within the next two years.  A popular half hour program ‘Thailand’s Hidden Paradise’ was recently screened in Germany we are told and rumour has it Lonely Planet are about to wise up and expand from half a paragraph dismissal to a more substantial load of waffle in their next relevant editions.  The LP kiss of death.  The cat is firmly out of the bag and onto the beach.

But I have had my time.

  My shot at slumbering through an idyll.  ‘Craaaack!’  My sun bed gives way a little further.  It and I are being reclaimed by the sands.  Gladly.  We’re here just at that perfect moment, before recognition from The Money truly arrives and tips the balance too far towards more pernicious, avaricious forms of development.  A state of blissful, slightly rundown decrepitation is allowed to prevail here for a little while longer.  People arrive and get stuck here a long time.  I mean it!  Literally months.  They like it so much they‘re afraid to leave for fear of what it might‘ve become next time.  “Hold on tightly, let go lightly.”  You could happily get stuck here forever with Aoi’s food to keep ya goin’.
Phayam sands
 

It’s hot-hot-HOT here today!  I lie (at a heavy angle now… ‘crack!’) my mind fogging over.  Mesmerised; hypnotised; anaesthetised by the sound of perpetual wave motion.  I could fall asleep here… forever.  Maybe in two years time some Suit strolling along the beach, trying not to get his pinstripes too sandy whilst analysing reinforced concrete foundations viability parameters will happen upon a peculiar sight.  A skeleton lying on a sun lounger sunk irretrievably into the sands.  It will be my sun bleached bones staring back at him.  Gathered where I lay.  Eyeballing him in that peculiarly piercing, lively way that only skulls can.  Lopsided with a big f**kin’ ghoulish grin on my cue-ball face and a sign strung aslant about my neck reading “Hah! Sorry Mack, I got here first!”.

Ben and... err... err... names to be recalled when I find my note book (sorry gals!) :)

Stevie_Wes says:
You most certainly do Sunshine - please say "Hi!" to little Payam for me if you ever get there :)
Posted on: Nov 01, 2010
sleepingsunshine says:
Now I have to go there :)
Posted on: Oct 29, 2010
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Sinking back into the sands in Ko …
Sinking back into the sands in Ko…
Bumper Sticker.
Bumper Sticker.
Ben steps onto the gang plank for …
Ben steps onto the gang plank for…
Phayam sands like irridescent Marb…
Phayam sands like irridescent Mar…
Moon over Phayam
Moon over Phayam
The eaterly pier arrival point at …
The eaterly pier arrival point at…
Beach wood (detail)
Beach wood (detail)
Beach wood (abstract)
Beach wood (abstract)
A beach to oneself!
A beach to oneself!
Little Phayam!!! Hes so cute!
Little Phayam!!! He's so cute!
Phayam sands
Phayam sands
Ben and... err... err... names to …
Ben and... err... err... names to…
Mangroves on Phayam shore
Mangroves on Phayam shore
The myriad little sand bundles lef…
The myriad little sand bundles le…
I loooooove this beach, alone at m…
I loooooove this beach, alone at …
Ben chills out...again :)
Ben chills out...again :)
Ben and little Phayam
Ben and little Phayam
Johanna and Serge
Johanna and Serge
PHAYAM!!! :)))
PHAYAM!!! :)))
Phayam and mommy Aoi...the best ch…
Phayam and mommy Aoi...the best c…
Man enthroned at sunset
Man enthroned at sunset
Phayam and Dad.
Phayam and Dad.
Mmain Phayam man, Ben (U.S.)
M'main Phayam man, Ben (U.S.)
Ben and Marliene at sunset
Ben and Marliene at sunset
Sunset at Phayams beautiful long …
Sunset at Phayam's beautiful long…
The Phayam Gang (L-R) : Marliene, …
The Phayam Gang (L-R) : Marliene,…
Ben and Julia
Ben and Julia
The small tidal river on Phayam be…
The small tidal river on Phayam b…
Ko Phayam
photo by: Stevie_Wes