Your trust is very important to me: This article was created after a press trip with Lotus Travel Service and contains recommendation links. Every recommendation is still 100% my honest opinion.
I have long considered whether I can imagine a trip to Thailand or not. As you know, I travel a lot and I enjoy it very much, but especially on my long distance trips I try to take some “authenticity” of the country with me. When I thought about Thailand, I only had pictures of crowded beaches and a neon-lit Bangkok in my head. However, my mother, who worked as a flight attendant for many years and saw almost the whole world, flew to Thailand for the seventh time this year. So I decided for myself, either now or never! What particularly surprised me was that Thailand can still be experienced very rural and authentic – if you actively search for it.
You will quickly learn a few tricks how to escape the tourist streams and experience an authentic and beautiful Thailand.
Koh Yao Noi
The absolutely most authentic experience I had ( beside Bangkok) was on the island Koh Yao Noi. Koh Yao Noi is located in the south-west of the country, not far from the tourist metropolis Phuket. From Phuket it is about two hours by car and then one hour by speedboat. The view from the boat alone is worth a trip: everywhere the beautiful and famous sugar loaf islands emerge from the sea and you can perfectly immerse yourself in the country. The water is greenish, I assume that the reflections of the mountains give it this colour touch, because the water is crystal clear, transparent and clean.
Koh Yao Noi is the little sister of Koh Yao Yai, the more famous but still not overpopulated island. Koh Yao Now is just 30 km long and can be explored in no time at all.
Many times I don’t have contact to the locals when travelling, that might sound strange when you fly to the other end of the world to get to know a country, but far too rarely tourists mix with the local population. The contact to the locals is often limited to the waiters in restaurants or the sellers on the beach. Exactly the kind of holiday I try to avoid. But on Koh Yao Noi it was completely different!
Lotus Travel Service, the travel agency I worked with on this trip sent us on a discovery tour with Ped, who once moved from the mainland to Koh Yao Noi. Ped has been living on the island for 18 years now and calls it his home.
Actually, Ped is not a travel guide at all. He told us that he only accompanies about five to six excursions a year. Day after day he works as a self-employed worker wherever he is needed: He helps with the construction of new houses and hotels, helps with the harvest or takes his own boat out to sea and goes fishing. That’s why Ped knows his way around so well. No matter where we went, he simply knew everyone on the island. Everyone greets him with a smile and it was easy for us to get in touch with his relatives and friends – sometimes with hands and feet, sometimes Ped translates for us.
As an old fisherman, he is at home in the sea as well. Beside the magnificent beaches on the overcrowded small islands Ped shows us the real secrets of the region.
- The monkey island Koh Rai, is not bigger than 30x30m. “Koh” means island and “Rai” is the word for rice farm. However, there is no trace of rice at all: It is said that at some point somebody abandoned a pair of monkeys on the island and a whole colony developed from it. Only with the second look I recognised the monkeys on the stones which have the same colour. One, no, three, five or twenty. Everywhere I looked I discovered the playing, eating and graying monkeys. Just because we approached the island with an authentic longtail boat, the monkeys didn’t mind us at all. Fishermen have no interest in going to the island and disturbing the monkeys in their lives. Next to me one of the monkeys jumped into the water and chased a banana. Halfway he discovers us and only turned his glace at us for a second. Then he went back towards the banana to reach it before us.
- The next island Ped tells us about a sailor’s story, a man who loved his wife so much that he buried her on her favourite island. Both were gypsies and so today the island is called “Boolao Huntoo” in Malaysian it means the gypsy island.
- When I talk to Ped about the island Koh Tao he looked at me surprised. He asked me very surprised how I knew the name. “Well, as a blogger you do an extensive research” I answered. Nevertheless, he looked at me in astonishment and told me that it was one of the lesser known islands and that tourists were only led there on day trips. Nobody ever remembers the name he said.
The Island life in Thailand
After the boat tour and short stop-overs at beautiful beaches and islands, we returned to the island Koh Yao Noi. Ped and we become more familiar and spoke more freely about topics that are rarely asked. Things like salary, costs for a house and life in Thailand come up again and again.
At some point I dare to ask, “Ped, may we see your house?” I asked him hoping not to have offended him. You directly knew Ped was incredibly proud of his house. He built it himself after moving out of his first house. He just smiled and is happy to take us into his life at Koh Yao Noi.
The island is sparsely populated. In the east there are the only hotels. Here are the beautiful beaches that look like deserted when passing by. Hardly anyone lies in the sun or sits in one of the few street restaurants. There you can also find a bigger village where we stopped for lunch. We were offered freshly squeezed juices and wonderful authentic food. Meanwhile we recognise our favourites: Sautee chicken skewers, Pad Thai and a local dish whose name I unfortunately never found out.
A dish cost only three euros and we did enjoy ourselves very much. We invited Ped and he was happy to eat with us.
Just a few kilometres to the south we find the village where Ped lives. We left the car and walked over something that looks like a private property of another house, nobody seems to care. In the third row we found Ped’s house. A small wooden cabin he built himself. The house is on stilts. At the lower end of the stilts there is a rock that helps Ped to discover the termites before they can attack the wood. Almost all houses in Thailand are built in this way. The house is simple and small. Ped always sleeps on the balcony because he has left his bedroom to his sister and her husband. The house is well maintained and you can see the love that was put into building it. Nevertheless, it reminded us how lucky we are to have grown up in such a more luxurious way and what things are completely normal for us.
The South and the West
In the south there is the biggest city of the island, where some shops also sell clothes and air mattresses. Here you can see some tourists at the roadside – surprisingly after having forgotten about tourism the whole day. After just a few kilometres we also leave this city behind us and head west.
In the west of Koh Yao Noi you can find the mangroves along the coast and the only road that separates the mangrove world from the rice fields on the other side. Here and there is a wooden hut but nothing else. The further north we go, the rarer the huts become.
The north of Koh Yao Noi
The north is completely unpopulated and therefore has a very bad road connection. Without a four-wheel car driving is impossible beyond a certain point. The beautifully paved road from the coast quickly turns into a country lane with holes and rocks. The winding road leads into the middle of a small jungle, which immediately makes you forget that the rice fields and dreamy beaches are less than ten kilometres away. Two hours took the ride back to our hotel although the distance was less than ten kilometers. Ped told us, that he had to wait for hours sometimes before he could drive on, when the road is too slippery from the rain.
The landscape is beautiful and even after sitting on the balcony in our room again we think about all the experiences of that day for a long time. Thank you Lotus Travel Service for giving us such a unique day!
Do you guys also want to take a trip to Koh Yao Noi with Ped? Then contact the agency Lotus Travel Service, because even if you are looking for it on the Internet, Ped only organizes trips that go through this agency!
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