Looking for a secret Thai island? Yes, indeed, one still exists and no, it ain’t Koh Phi Phi. And today I will let you in on its secret location. You are getting a real hidden gem here.
The reality is that we travel bloggers always talk about hidden gems, getting off the beaten path and like to pretend that THE beach is still new and exciting. Alas, in most of the cases whatever we write about is none of these.
I don’t blame anyone and mind you, I am guilty of it myself all too often. I think it is just a side effect of our very globally connected time. I also tend to think these catch phrases are wildly overrated, I personally don’t care so much about something being off the beaten whatnot. I care about great, yummy, extraordinary.
Some of my favorite eateries in New York I found in my first copy of Lonely Planet and when in Paris you don’t want to miss the Louvre. So no, I don’t necessarily mind if it has been there and done that, I just hate when people pretend.
But I digress. The island I want to tell you about is as secret as it gets in this day and age in Thailand. Yes, Lonely Planet mentions it, but it’s nothing more than a sidenote. And I was told off by a fellow travel blogger once for spilling the secret after I wrote about it for Travelettes. So I guess I am not the only one who still considers it a secret. Really, in the grand scheme of things, it can still be called a hidden gem.
The irony is that I discovered Koh Yao Noi on a trip through southern Thailand with Intrepid. I guess I need to take the words hidden gem back (not that I mind because this expression is one of my pet peeves and I only like to use it in an ironic context!).
Koh Yao Noi is a tiny island close to the island from hell, Phuket. You can get there from Phuket or Krabi with a local boat and you will immediately find yourself in a different world. It is quiet here, except for cicadas and the call to prayer. The population is predominantly Muslim which makes it less of a party destination – hurrah – though you can still get your sunset cocktail.
They have an ATM and a 7-Eleven, rubber tree plantations, a yoga retreat and one fancy Six Senses Resort as well as some beach ‘restaurants’ where you sit on plastic chairs.
I miss it. I miss its seclusion and its offer to do absolutely nothing. I miss people not trying to sell you stuff unless it is a banana pancake. And really, who doesn’t want a freshly fried banana pancake? Even I do and I don’t even like bananas very much.
I only spent two nights there so I couldn’t write you a travel guide even if I wanted to. I don’t even remember how we got there and who had the best curry or if the ATM is reliable or where to rent a bike.
And actually, that is a good thing. I thought of going back to do just that – to explore in more detail and come back and write the ultimate little Koh Yao Noi travel guide like I did for Koh Tao, another island where I love spending time.
But then I thought better because I really don’t want to write this guide. I don’t want to spoil Koh Yao Noi’s magic and let too many others in on the secret.
I just long to go back and maybe have a holiday. I long to drive around the entire island on a ramshackle bicycle and to sit on a beach for hours which might not be the most beautiful I have ever seen, but that is all mine and mine alone.
I crave these freshly made pancakes from a roadside stall and dinner in this restaurant that had fairy lights in the tree. I don’t remember the name or the exact location and just have a vague memory of it. But I am sure it will come back to me when I see it and I do remember it was lovely.
I want to hop on a longtail boat mooring on shore, which will take me to the surrounding karsts and turquoise waters. There I want to kiss this guy I like in the warm sun.
Afterward, I want to return to the real world via Phuket. I hate Phuket but the contrast will remind me how wonderful Koh Yao Noi was. It will remind me how lucky I was to have ever found it.
With that said, this is all of the secret I am spilling today. Just a glimpse, go find paradise yourself if you want it. There is no secret map, no going down the rabbit hole or jumping off a cliff, but getting there is still so very rewarding. Just follow the sidenote in the Lonely Planet and its breadcrumbs and find a hidden gem in sheep’s clothing.