DESPITE the captivating beauty of the jewel encrusted Andaman coast, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find an island that ticks all the boxes.
While neighboring islands parted with their virginity long ago, Koh Yao Yai remains unhurried in the rush to grow up.
Located just 30 minutes by speedboat from Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga and resting in one of Thailand's most developed bays, the island remains pristine.
Approaching the island, visitors first catch sight of the vast quilt of green which covers the hillside without interruption.
At the pier, a handful of thirty-something travelers eye up the verdant topography.
Tucked away on a secluded bay, down a lane meandering through rice paddies and lush forestland, Koh Yao Yai Village Resort is the ultimate island hideaway.
If Mother Nature created an island resort, this is how it would look. All elements of design pay utmost respect to the natural landscape. From the layout to the materials used, the resort blends seamlessly with the surrounding environment.
Hidden under the dappled shade of the evergreen canopy, the resort consists of 34 generously spaced bungalows.
Despite their spacious 73 square meter dimensions, the tropical modern bungalows make no attempt to dominate the landscape. It is almost as if they sprang up from the forest floor with the rest of the abounding flora.
A myriad of local influences have been woven into each bungalow's design, including splashes of rural-style sarong fabric in the soft furnishings.
The large terrace, with sunloungers and daybed, is the ideal place to spend balmy evenings listening to the soundtrack of the jungle.
Overlooking a 700 square meter infinity pool, the resort's thatched-roof restaurant enjoys a 180-degree panoramic vista of Phang Nga Bay.
Koh Yao Yai's coast is adorned with gleaming-white, sandy beaches. Within the National Park area, Klong Son is widely considered the island's most attractive beach. However, Haad Laem is the ultimate paradise. Jutting into the sea, this narrow stretch of coconut grove is fringed with two shores that meet and merge into a perfect arc of sand.
Unlike crowded beaches in Railay and Phuket, Koh Yao Yai's shores are deserted and footprint free. Visitors can have their own private beach for the day.
There are many tours on the island which are personalized and casual, so despite delving deep into island culture, there is no intrusion on local's daily lives.
One tour visits a rubber plantation, as well as one of the rickety off shore fish farms nearby. These holding bays for lobster, crabs, white snapper and shrimp, from the backbone of the island's economy.
Although fresh flavorsome lobster isn't a major part of the local diet, islanders enjoy the profit made from selling the crustacean to mainland markets.
Tours also stop at Fisherman's Village, where a fresh catch of iridescent anchovies glint in the scorching midday rays as they dry.
It's the simple encounters with nature, such as noticing a fruit-laden cashew nut tree or watching a hermit crab scampering across the shore under a beautiful shell, that enrich the experience of Koh Yao Yai.
Koh Yao Yai
is the epitome of 'sabai', in Thai, meaning relaxing, comfortable and carefree.
The island ticks all the boxes, and adds a few more that weren't previously on the list.
- Lesley Chittayanon