Koh Yao Yai | Laziness At Its Finest

While Railay set the bar extremely high for beach time, there were a few creature comforts that we’d been missing. A/C, mosquito-free rooms, and hotel breakfast. Thankfully Koh Yao Yai fit the bill well and was just a 1-hour speedboat away through incredibly scenic offshore island spires. Our hotel for the week (Royal Yao Yai on Lo Pared Beach) swooped us from Chong Lard pier in a modified pickup truck with covered bench seats in the back for a gorgeous 30 minute ride through the countryside.

Rainy season rates on the island were about 75% less than peak time, allowing us to splurge on a penthouse room overlooking the gigantic water-slide pool, beach, and distant karst islands. On top of that, there were days where we were literally the only guests at this massive complex. The first time this happened, we were given a-la-carte breakfast menus with check-boxes and pencils instead of the usual buffet, and obviously screwed up when ordering. The whole kitchen staff quickly got to work and brought back more food than could fit on two full tables! We’re still not sure what we’re more embarrassed about- the absurd amount of food that we ordered (feeding into the fat American stereotype) or the fact that we ate over half of it! Occasionally, a Chinese tour group would check in and fill up some of the rooms for a couple of days. But for the most part, Koh Yao Yai was deserted- leaving us ample opportunity to create ridiculous pictures at the many made-for-instagram structures all along the beach.

The majority of our days on Koh Yao Yai were warm and sunny for at least part of the day, perfect for long strolls down the empty beach. Andy was able to find a new favorite stick and/or digging spot in the sand about every 20 minutes or so, significantly slowing our pace. But as there was nowhere to rush to on this leg of the journey, we just let him do his thing. Some days we just posted up at the beachfront beanbag loungers listening to the waves while Andy drifted off to sleep on my chest, reminiscent of the nostalgic newborn days when that was a daily occurrence.

At the far northern end of Lo Pared Beach, just before reaching the ultra-posh Santhiya resort, the sandy beach gave way to volcanic-looking black rocks. The low tides here created tons of fun tidepools to explore, with no shortage of hermit crabs running around.  Monitor lizards of nearly 2 meters in length were also rather abundant, sometimes stopping by to play with Andy’s beach toys when he wasn’t looking!

The best memories we took away from Yao Yai, however, came from our time at the Sea Gypsy – a simple thatch-roof beach bar located at the far southern end of Lo Pared Beach. It’s owner, Nat, was impossibly friendly and welcoming to his lone guests – even letting us use his phone to pick music synced to the bar’s speakers. The real fun started when the horizon began to darken. As we watched the storm roll in across the Andaman Sea, Nat’s efforts to block the impending rain with giant parasols quickly became futile. Tropical storm strength winds and sideways rain forced us all to hunker down behind the bar, and Nat put Andy in the tiny beer storage closet for extra protection. We’re not likely to ever forget the image of our 4-year-old son sitting on a crate of Beer Chang watching Paw Patrol on a Kindle, wearing headphones and blissfully unaware that the fiercest storm of his life raged just outside.

Rainy season gave us a reminder here that it was indeed that time of year for Southern Thailand!

But just as quickly as the storms would come, so they too disappeared – often yielding some impressive sunsets from the pier near Santhiya Resort. The simplicity of laying on the dock and watching the stars come up was such a treat!

While there was little to write home about here with regards to amazing dining experiences, the little mom and pop restaurants such as nearby Muslimah were cheap, friendly, and actually had stuff that Andy would eat! The allure of another beach roti gave us plenty of leverage to get Andy to put up with endless waterfront strolls, a pastime we are surely to miss wherever we wind up next.


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