Koh Phayam, Thailand
Some 300km north of Phuket is a small, mountainous kangaroo-shaped island called Koh Phayam. Surrounded by sand-ringed islets, coral reefs and the turquoise Andaman Sea, Koh Phayam’s raw beauty is truly breathtaking.
A throwback to the Thailand of yesteryear, Koh Phayam is devoid of cars and high-rise apartments. Full moon parties, when they have them, are intimate affairs held at Hippy Bar, a beachfront venue made entirely from driftwood.
Travellers who end up on this Robinson Crusoe-esque island kill time mountain biking, kayaking, snorkelling, lounging on the beach and gorging themselves on cheap and delicious Thai food. Hybrid Thai-Italian massaman curry pasta is a specialty, as are the island-grown cashew nuts stir-fried with chicken, garlic and black bean sauce.
Accommodation options are spartan, consisting for the most part of bamboo bungalows with patchy Wi-Fi and swinging light bulbs that work only at night.
Most are built around Aow Yai and Ao Khao Kwai bays, two long sweeps of powder-white sand that curve deeply into rocky outcrops honeycombed with caves. There are a few more modern concrete properties but they tend to lack soul.
“Koh Phayam has a calming