Koh Yao Islands – A Dose of Paradise

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 (Post written by Ai Nguyen)

I have to admit, when my husband tasked me with finding a place near Phuket, Thailand to spend a few days as part of our vacation, I knew nothing of the Koh Yao islands. There’s little information on the internet and I was at first reluctant to commit to anywhere else other than Phuket, in fear of wasting our precious vacation time, especially when spending all nine days in Phuket already seemed like a perfect choice. The decision came when I set eyes on the Santhiya Resort & Spa in Koh Yao Yai. It was love at first sight. There was no going back for me, and any other place, including Koh Yao Noi, was irrelevant. The Santhiya Resort alone would have been good enough. We decided to spend three nights at the Santhiya Resort & Spa in Koh Yao Yai. It turned out to be the best decision we could have made for our trip, albeit, a few more nights would have been ideal.

SanthiyaAfter spending three nights in the bustling and noisy strip of Patong beach in Phuket, I was so ready for something more tranquil and pure. We were transferred from Ao Po Grand Marina across the sea in Phuket by the resort’s private speed boat right to the resort’s private pier. The trip took about 25 minutes, and even though my husband is always weary of sea trip, I have to admit, I enjoyed the boat ride tremendously, especially anticipating for something really good yet to come. I think my two sons felt the same way. My heart beat a little faster when the sight of the resort came into view. Seeing it in person was so much better than the pictures on the website could have depicted.

Nestled in a tranquil cove of Koh Yao Yai’s west side along Loh Pared beach, the Santhiya Resort & Spa is a sight to behold. The resort is designed in a traditional style, with steep-roofed pavilions and alfresco ‘sala’ gazebos – all constructed from luxurious teak wood. The 39 pool villas and 60 deluxe rooms, including furnishings, furniture, and even the transportation ‘tuk-tuk’ are also crafted from the same elegant hardwood. After walking the long private pier where we got dropped off, and onto the reception area, and while waiting to get check-in, we were offered refreshing tea with lemon grass stems used as straws, and to our surprise – a complimentary neck and shoulder massage. I don’t remember ever to having this luxury offer, and we have traveled quite a bit. The host also informed us, while we waited, of complimentary Muay Thai lessons offered by the resort, twice a day, one and a half hour each. For my 14 year old son who has a keen interest in martial arts, nothing could top this offer.

KeenanMuithaiFor the 3 days that we were there, he made full use of it, and ended up, for the most part, having 2 private instructors for himself. For the rest of our stay, we couldn’t stop being amazed, one thing after another, about the resort – from the pool villa with Jacuzzi on the private terrace, to the spectacular water fall pool withKohYaoVilla resting teak boats as lounge chairs, to the impeccable service of every staff, to having a sense of treasuring a very unique and special experience. Life is good! What we found out about the islands – both Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi, in the three days that we were there were so much more than I could have ever dreamed of.

After check-in to our rooms, we took a stroll along the beach, and onto the street. To our surprise, there’s a little more civilization then we expected. There are some local restaurants serving Thai and seafood, and some even offer hamburgers and fries. Fancy that! We also found that there’s an ATM near the resort. Everything I read online suggested that we had to bring cash onto the island as there are no ATM. It’s another pleasant surprise for us, though weTypical Rice Field, Koh Yao Yai ended up not needing to use it. Turns out, there are a few ATM machines on the Koh Yao Yai island. There are small vendors offering fresh fruits and drinks and there are also shops offering motorbike rentals. Nothing could have made us happier than to be able to explore the islands on motorbikes. Six years ago we rented motorbikes and rode around Krabi. My younger son was only three then but he still has fond memories of it. He was over the moon now knowing he could experience it again. There’s practically no cars on the island which makes it safe and ideal for riding bikes with young children. We decided to rent 3 motorbikes for the 4 of us, with my young son, who is now nine, riding with my husband.

Keenanonbike

The next three days were pure exhilaration.   For me, it held a deeper appreciation. I grew up in Vietnam, first in the central part of the country where there were rubber and coffee plantations, and house made on stilts, and after, in the countryside with lazy grazing water buffalos and sights of rice terraces with women and men, in their peasant clothes working the fields. There on the Koh Yao islands, I experienced again fond memories of a very distant past. It was surreal, yet so familiar – an indescribable feeling – kind of like being hypnotized to relive your past lives. It all came back, my childhood, there on the two islands – a place to which I’ve never been, but just happened to stumble upon, almost an accident – if it weren’t for the finding of the Santhiya resort.

MonkeyKittenWith the wind whistling and the sun beaming on us, we covered every corner of the islands we could get ourselves to with motorbikes. We spent hours on abandoned beaches bathing in crystal water atop white sand dunes. We had fresh young coconuts from the locals, mostly Thai Muslims, for 15 baht each, which equates to about 40 cents. We had Thai and fresh seafood meals and chatted with the locals, some of them hardly speak any English, though we found ourselves understanding each other perfectly. We bargained to get ourselves and our bikes over to Koh Yao Noi island by long tailed boats and explored some more and found there’s a 7-Eleven on the island – and were disappointed that it’s a sign of the beginning of the end. We rode on dirt roads and found a fishing villageRockin where monkeys are pets and one of them was babysitting a kitten. We let them climb and sit on our heads and played with our bike helmets as we took pictures. We ‘adopted’ a tour guide whose name is Rockin and who proudly introduced us to his fishing village (Ban Lam Lan) which houses his whole family for generations.

For the KeenanandMemost part, we just rode, covering every corner we could find, soaking it all in – the air, the breeze, the scent, the scenery, the people, the food – filling in, layer by layer, careful not to waste any empty space in our bodies and souls, collecting memories, for me, also reliving past ones. And when the sun threatens to set on the horizon, when there’s a glazed film in the air, made of sun rays, dust and humidity, time stands still, as it has, for hundreds of years.  In the distance, women and men are still working the rice fields, buffalos still bathing in mud puddles, children, some riding on motorbikes in threes or fours, some helping out babysitting their younger siblings along roadsides. Under stilt houses, elders are resting in hammocks. Inside the houses, moms are making dinners in makeshift kitchens, dads putting the day’s work away. In those hours when time stands still, we rode our motorbikes, stealing a glimpse of life on the Koh Yao islands, making it part of ours; but not long enough to miss the last hour of pool time back at the Santhiya Resort – the culprit that started it all – the trip to the Koh Yao islands, where in the not so distant future, life will no longer be what it is today.

Editor’s note: Koh Yao Yai & The Santhiya are featured on Explorient’s Thailand Romance package. For other Luxury Thailand Honeymoon packages or action-packed Family Adventures, be sure to check out our Thailand Vacations for ideas and suggestions. 

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