Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai, the Ultimate Twin Islands Experience in Thailand

There are moments in life when you know there’s nothing better than living in that particular moment. And there are two islands in South Thailand that can make you want to remain stuck in the moment forever.

Koh Yao Noi, a peaceful island in crowded South Thailand, can be one of the ultimate places where you can still enjoy a mix of silence, awesome Pad Thai, practicing yoga, scuba diving and rock climbing, just like Koh Yao Yai is the last place in Thailand to find tourists. Luckily they’re hanging around the Phuket and Krabi areas.
My first experience with traveling in Thailand coincided with rediscovering the beauty of exploring. In the touristic areas of South Thailand, Koh Yao Noi is like a metaphorical island, besides being a proper island. But it’s not unique, yet very different from her bigger sister, Koh Ya Yai, which is just “around the corner” sort to say.

Koh Yao Noi, Thailand, Tambon Ko Yao Noi
Marc Mintel Koh Yao Noi, Thailand, Tambon Ko Yao Noi

What I used to do when going round and round on a rainy day in Koh Yao Noi was to “hitch-hike” for a tail boat and take a bicycle tour on Koh Yao Yai. It’s like taking a walk in another neighborhood. Still, there are some differences between the two. While Koh Yao Noi can get animated by groups of seasonal climbers and yoga practitioners, Koh Ya Yai remains silent, with only two or three resorts that host pro-silence tourists. Apart from that, KKY remains a hilly island, with Muslim locals that earn their living from fishing and who barely speak any English. I loved that, I must admit. It felt like at the other side of the Planet from the rest of the sweaty and touristy South Thailand islands. The only words I knew were: Sabhadi Khaaa and Pad Thai. Enough to eat with the locals and enjoy the authentic society of that small but beautiful community of fishermen and their full of color families. And after a day of biking, it’s time to go back to Koh Ya Noi and climb. Climbers wake up early and have a plan of routes or areas they want to explore.

You would still need a scooter to share with your climbing partner which you can find if you’re a bit lucky at the Gipsy Restaurant which is very close to the port. There I used to spend some rainy afternoons, learning to master the technique of batik which means painting on textile, with a very special technique that the Thai women in that are so familiar with. Useless to say that these women can do miracles with those pieces of textiles. But it’s important to try and enjoy your time spent in the heart of that warm community. Talking about warmth, a strong coffee with condensed milk in the morning, at one of the open air cafés can make your day. Not to mention the mango sticky rice small pockets for which I wished to have a bigger stomach so that I could indulge in that sweetness.

And after such a caloric breakfast, you feel your energy pumping so that climbing comes as a must. The only problem with climbing in Koh Ya Noi is that you need guidance in order to find those good, barely touched routes. Still, the view and the structure of the routes pay the effort. It’s like climbing in three dimensional structures above the mighty ocean. Slightly surreal, I would say.

Another cool thing about these islands is that you’ll find extremely laid back people. What I particularly liked living for a week in Koh Yao Noi was the sense of belonging to a community. The only thing I had to do was being as natural as possible: rented a scooter, joined the yoga classes, the batik classes, ate with the locals, found a cheap lodge at Danny’s – the best budget bungalow manager in KYN. That is also the place to find other climbers or yogis. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be full time busy on a chilled out island. You can also “just be” and “do nothing” while watching the sun coming up, watching the sun going down. But while in KYN don’t expect much of a party zone as this is a quiet place which should be respected for this. There are loads of other party islands in Thailand so if you’ll feel bored, do not hesitate to change landscapes.

About food in KYN and KYY, because it is mainly cooked by locals, it is super good and cheap. There are some foreigner owned restaurants that you can still check and which offer a wide range of international dishes, but I would strongly recommend for you to try first the local Thai food which is awesome!

Well, travel mates, if you’re looking for some quiet quality time spent with yourself, close friends or strangers that become great friends, KYN and KYY are the twin islands you’re looking for. But keep in mind to respect the culture of the place and the locals which I know we all budget travellers do!