Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai are a pair of large islands in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, equidistant to Phuket and the Krabi mainland. While the pace of development is accelerating on Koh Yao Noi in particular, the islands remain a quiet refuge that feels far removed from the crowds of Phuket.
In 2002, Koh Yao Noi gained worldwide attention after receiving the World Legacy Award for Destination Stewardship from Conservation International and National Geographic Traveler magazine for the eco-friendly homestay programs offered by its local residents. Other activities available on the island include agricultural demonstrations (rubber and fishing), kayaking, hiking, snorkelling and swimming. Neither of the islands have banking facilities, but Internet service, restaurants and some shops can be found on Yao Noi, including a brand new 7-Eleven with a very powerful air-con, a good chance to cool down and get some sugary drinks and ice creams. So if you plan to stay over, remember to withdraw some cash money before you go, even though there are few opportunities to spend it! Note that the islanders are keen to preserve their traditional ways, so it’s important to respect the local culture by dressing modestly and refraining from drinking alcohol outside of the restaurants/resorts catering to visitors.
What to Do in Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Noi does not have any particular landmark or stunning view point, nevertheless, while driving around, you will discover a place that has changed very little in 20 years, aside from a few more motorbikes and the new 7-Eleven. A drive around its quiet roads reveals a place of true peace and simplicity for the traveller. Wooden houses all along the roads, buffalos taking mud baths in the rice paddies, the cool, shaded roads passing through the many rubber plantations and the beauty of the mangrove with its trees standing in the middle of the sea are just a few of the natural charms of this simple island.
The laid-back feeling of the island is contagious, time slows down and nothing seems to pressure the inhabitants who spend a lot of time chatting in small groups, lounging in the afternoon under salas or in hammocks. A road circles the island, mostly paved concrete, sometimes just a track, but driving is fairly easy. The beaches are mainly on the east coast, while the west coast is blanketed in rice fields and lined with mangroves. You will find few restaurants and few bars along the coastline with only a small village near the pier with small local shops and all the government buildings including a school, hospital, police station, and electricity and post offices. Another small concentration can be found at the Tha Krao Pier to Krabi on the east coast.