Sandwiched between Phuket and Krabi in Thailand’s World-Heritage-listed Phang-Nga Bay lies a paradise island with long sandy shores, dense mangrove forests, neatly aligned rubber trees and little fishing villages. While Thailand’s top destination Phuket doesn’t need an introduction, the slow-life island of Koh Yao Noi is still fairly little-known.
After a few days in this quiet refuge, enjoying the island’s chilled-out atmosphere, empty beaches and authentic seafood restaurants, I booked my trip back to Phuket online, which I completed hassle-free in a few clicks.
Getting back to Thakhao Pier from Paradise Koh Yao Resort in the northeast of the island was an adventure in itself, because I’d rented a scooter. Driving off-road through mud and potholes put my riding skills to the test and gave me the thrill of my life, but the good old ‘mai pen rai’ (it doesn’t matter) was and is the answer to all troubles.
I lived to tell the tale and smiled just as much as the motorbike renter who got his scooter back, though covered in mud, and was ready to check in for my speedboat ride from Koh Yao Noi to Phuket.
Killing time after a surprise
“No boat, waves…,” said the old man who’d entrusted his motorcycle to me. I’d arrived at the pier timely at 11 am and was rather disappointed to learn that there was no speedboat leaving at 11:30 am – tour operator Green Planet’s scheduled departure time.
I called Green Planet but nobody picked up the phone, and the guys at the pier informed me that the next speedboat was leaving at 4 pm.
The motorbike rental bloke was so kind to let me maltreat his scooter for some more hours – without an additional fee. Chugging across the island, I came across farang cyclists who were visibly enjoying the slow pace of life, and locals who were using the maximum capacity of their motorbike.
To play it safe, I made sure to be back at the pier at 3:30 pm and was wondering whether I’d end up getting a new ticket for free.
Playing it by ear at check-in
The weather and the “waves” were pretty much the same as a few hours ago, but the fact that the ticket office was open now was a great sign.
“300 baht,” the old cashier who had a wrinkled face said to me.
“Sawasdee kap (hello). Er, I have paid already. I booked with this company,” I said and showed the frail old man the voucher on my phone.
He frowned for a second but didn’t bother to look at it properly and just handed out a ticket, without saying a word.
“Do you want to take a picture?” I offered.
“Mai pen rai,” he said in an enviably calm tone. He radiated indifference and now looked so happy and satisfied with his life – it really did not matter.
Well, he must’ve known that Green Planet is shifting their customers to other suppliers during this time as a result of the impact of COVID-19. They haven’t shut down; they’ve just rearranged their services.
I took a seat in the roofed waiting area on the concrete bench and studied the people and my surroundings. Street vendors were setting up stalls, offering sweet-scented Thai snacks and drinks. Nearly everybody was wearing a facemask and nobody was talking. Moored speedboats were bobbing, and it was so quiet I could even hear the lapping waves. These were the dangerous, big waves that had prevented speedboats from leaving earlier on.
Well, the swell out at sea must’ve been a different kettle of fish.
At 3:50 pm, people started to board Club Koh Yao Noi Boat’s “Navy Dream.”
Enjoying the sights on the quick ride
Navy Dream’s staff was obliging and helped everyone get on the boat by literally lending a hand. They also took a few pictures of passengers boarding the speedboat that filled quickly. Some 35 travelers – all Thai but me – have woken up now. There was loud chattering as people put on their lifejackets.
Waiting for the captain to fire up the engine, I loved the chugging sounds of longtail boats passing by. To me, there’s something relaxing about this noise – a sense of Thai, a feeling of “laid-backness,” so to speak.
At 4:01 pm, the engines were revving up, drowning people’s prattling out. The speedboat curved across the water and lifted my spirits, because I knew what was awaiting me. Phang-Nga Bay offers amazing views of limestone pillars jutting hundreds of feet out of emerald seas.
Koh Hong, Koh Pak Bia, Pakoh, Koh Lao Lading are just a few names of those sea pearls in Krabi’s Than Bok Khorani National Park.
The boat ride felt like sitting in a car with poor shock absorbers. Every jump over a wave was accompanied by a strange sound as though something had just been broken, but the views of towering limestone rocks were out of this world. A boy sitting in the bow cockpit leaned over the railing, his hair fluttering in the wind. He looked as if he was enjoying the views just as much as I did.
At 4:27 pm, we were approaching Phuket’s Bang Rong Pier where kilometers of sea inlets meander through mangrove forests like slithering snakes. Only now did I realize that nobody had checked the tickets; not before boarding, and neither on the boat. I just had to have a ticket to enter the waiting area.
After a half-hour ride across Phang-Nga Bay, I arrived in Phuket, safe in the knowledge that sandy shores, neatly aligned rubber tree forests, little fishing villages and much, much more can be found on Thailand’s largest island as well.