As I said in a previous post, we had never heard of the island Koh Yao Noi, it was only when an American couple we met on the train to Chiang Mai had recommended it to us. We decided to head there, after all the best advice when travelling is through word of mouth from other travellers – NOT lonely planet books! (Don’t even get me started!) Nothing annoys me more than people who go travelling and ONLY stick to what their book says, this is how beautiful islands such as Koh Phi Phi get ruined, by herds of backpackers flocking there as thats where they have read to go. I will talk more about the ever so over populated Koh Phi Phi later…
We arrived at Koh Yao Noi and it was like being in the real, rural Thailand. We were the only ones who got off the boat here, a local taxi man in his pick up got us and about ten minutes into the journey he stopped at what seemed to be a small hospital. He didn’t speak much English but he came round and said “Sorry, sorry one moment”. We had no idea what was going on, but soon 5 Thai young women jumped in with us, they had hospital uniform on but I believe they were students. The taxi driver must have been doing his daily school pick up! The whole journey they were just staring at us and smiling the whole time. It was as though they hadn’t seen Western people for a long time. I loved this about the island, it was real Thai people living their day to day lives and it was so refreshing from being in tourist hotspots.
We arrived at Namtok bungalows, where normally there is a reception and someone around to check you in. Here however, there was not a single soul for about an hour or so, we just chilled out and waited on the cool hammocks, where a family of kittens came and kept us company. Later on, a lady pulled up on her scooter, she told us to go and stay in any bungalow and pointed in a direction where we followed. It seemed we were the only ones staying here. The bungalow we went in was extremly rustic, the most basic wooden shack you could imagine. There was an old stained matress on the floor with a mosiqito net which had loads of holes in. The pillows were smelly and brown and cats were running in and out. I didn’t like to complain to Tom but he could tell I was a bit skeptical. He comforted me in saying ‘This is how the locals live, we should embrace it, it will be fun!” I agreed, but after spending the night in there (worst sleep ever) I couldn’t do it again. What confused me though is that we had booked the ‘deluxe’ bungalow and I know this is rural Thailand but that seriously was not even close to deluxe. Seeing as we were the only visitors, we took it upon ourselves to go check out the other huts. Thank god we did! Just 4 huts down from our shack were spotless, new, comfortable lodges. Im talking, red silk throws and chinese lanterns. It was pure luxury compared to the one the previous night! Of course, we moved our stuff over at once. I was so happy.
We were told that this island was great for rock climbing, we really wanted to give it a go so missed it out at Railay to do it here instead and I’m so glad we did. The lovely lady at the bungalows told us her brother ‘Arn’ takes people rock climbing, he came and met us that evening and he was such a cool, laid back hippy dude. I thought to myself that night “This man is taking us climbing, who we barely even know, our lives will be in his hands, am I sure we want to go with him?” I stopped worrying and just went with it, we met him down by the beach and he pulled up in his long tail boat. We asked if anyone else was coming to which he replied “No, just us”. I must admit, I was a bit anxious, this guy was not actually a legitamite instructor, he just did it as a hobby. It wasn’t his job or anything he was just doing it for us. I shouldn’t have worried as it really was such an incredible day, one of the best and I will never forget it. He drove us along the beautiful turquiose ocean up to the north of the island, where we stopped at this secret bay. It was amazing to spend the day with a local, his English was fluent and he was extremly intelligent. He was telling us many stories of his past jobs, including picking bird eggs from their nests in the mountains for the mafia (hence his climbing ability) and he told us his devasting account of the Tsunami.
We then got back in the boat and we pulled up to the side of this huge cliff wall. He tied the boat up and we climbed on to pieces of bamboo that had been made just for climbing, there was a large standing area under the wall where we stood. This was the moment I was scared about, the part where we had to climb. But when I say this guy was good at climbing, that doesn’t even cut it. He was literally like a monkey! The wall was sharp and harsh, so we had to wear climbing shoes, he had nothing on his feet at all, bare foot! And he was SO quick getting up there, just amazing. He was a great teacher too, very encouraging and patient. Tom loved it and he picked it up easily, he managed to get to the top and did 3 different wall climbs (each getting harder). I did 2, I only got about half way on each, I did really enjoy it and annoyed myself for panicking while I was up there. My hands and legs just got really shaky and sweaty and of course, I hate heights! I was proud of myself for doing it though, the view was stunning, and that was only from where I was, it must have been even more beautiful at the top! Our day with Arn
was complete by him bringing us lunch, he’d stopped and got us chicken rice from the local street stall, it was the best rice in the world. He was so cute, he even brought a pineapple and cut it up the Thai way for us, he didn’t even like pineapple!
We had a wonderful stay at Koh Yao Noi, the people were the friendliest and the whole island was just so laid back and slow paced. It was interesting to see the differences in religion coming from North Thailand to the South. Buddism is very popular up north and the more South you get the more Muslim it becomes, Koh Yao Noi was a Muslim island. I would 100% go back and would say its definetly worth a visit, especailly if you’re into rock climbing!