Ko Phayam : "One of the last remaining paradises in Thailand."
Ko Phayam Travel Blog› entry 112 of 268 › view all entries
âCreeeea-crack!â The old wooden slatted sun lounger Iâm lying on gives way a little bit more. A small lurch down further to my right. But I donât mind. It seems perfectly in keeping with the charm of unhurried natural collapse that keeps this place soâŚ well, yeah, natural feeling. No oneâs in a rush to fix anything. Thereâs no need. This is Slow Life. Reeeal Slow Life. Itâs perfect. Iâm lying here, now listing heavily to portside, towards the ever reclaiming sands recalling a conversation Ben and I had with a cheery German âOld Timerâ at lunch today whilst we chomped our ice cream on sticky-rice topped with peanuts. Heâs been doing Thailand for the last 18 years or so and has returned here, to Koh Phayam many times in that period.
It is âOne of the last remaining paradises in Thailandâ he states with the gentle but authoritative attitude of a man who knows he knows what you donât. âSo is it your favourite island?â we ask. He starts âYeâŚ wellâŚ no.â. âOh well, what is then?â. âWell that I will not say.â the man smiles conspiratorially. âWell then, is it on this coast at least?â. He considers, tilting his head pensively skywards. Still smiling. âWell,âŚ maybe it isâŚ and maybe it isnâtâ. We ask no more.
Koh Phayam is a small island off the north west point of where Thailandâs 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.
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 âroadâ 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.
There canât 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 âhaving the place to yourselfâ 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 youâll 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 sunâs 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.
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 âIâd be seeing her again!â 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 Aoiâs little single gas stove ârestaurantâ during our stay.
I havenât introduced you to Steep before have I? Itâs my adoptive name in Thailand (and generally Southeast Asia). The Asiatic arrangement of vocal muscles and glottal movements make the pronunciation of the letter âvâ nigh on impossible. In the same way, more famously, the Asiatic tongue struggles with ârâ and âlâ 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 âLauraâ at a dinner party onceâŚ âRuler, Ruler, RULER??!â) But anyhow, the âvâ issue means Steve becomes Steep. Which I kinda like. It implies a certain loftiness or verticality to my personage; a steep ascent.
We do nothing the entire week and more weâre here. And it feels so precisely the right thing to be doing. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Life doesnât get anymore complicated than waking and then reading and eating until sun down. Every day. We donât 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.
Life doesnât get any more stressful than Ben and Iâs daily Backgammon duel whilst we await our delicious Pad Thai or Fried Rice mountains to materialise from Aoiâs magic one-hob kitchen. I finish our time in Phayam two games up. âBonza!ââŚ oh Phayam! Phayam. That reminds me. Another reason Aoiâs eatery and our island stay is such a joy (aside from the Massaman curry thatâs 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.
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 Phayamâs first air-conditioned bungalows are currently under construction. The islandâs expected to have mains electricity within the next two years. A popular half hour program âThailandâs Hidden Paradiseâ 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.
Itâs hot-hot-HOT here today! I lie (at a heavy angle nowâŚ âcrack!â) my mind fogging over. Mesmerised; hypnotised; anaesthetised by the sound of perpetual wave motion. I could fall asleep hereâŚ 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**kinâ ghoulish grin on my cue-ball face and a sign strung aslant about my neck reading âHah! Sorry Mack, I got here first!â.