Jewel of the Andaman

Issue : Dec 2020 / Jan 2021 Lifestyle
 

Text and photos by Ezra Kyrill Erker

 

Among Thailand’s many island escapes, Ko Phayam with its unusual mix of atmosphere, culture and scenery stands alone

 

Jewel of the Andaman

The white sands of Ao Yai, or Long Beach, will singe your feet and blur your eyes, but there are few stretches on the Andaman quite as mesmerising.

 

Straddling the maritime border with Myanmar, photogenic Ko Phayam has shifted hands over the centuries and been home to many kinds of residents. Less developed than many of its counterparts further down the Andaman Sea or across the isthmus to the Gulf of Thailand, it is nevertheless well equipped and hospitable while not being overrun. Laid back, atmospheric, with a jungle interior and spectacular beaches, it has much to offer short- or long-term visitors, despite some off-season closures and intermitted power. It is home to a community of the seafaring nomadic Moken and an eclectic mix of artists and seasonal and permanent residents. The island has few high-end resorts, most guest house being mid-range and relatively inexpensive, and it is easy to find a quiet beach empty of crowds, far removed from the city stresses of work, lockdowns and political volatility. For the photographer, Ko Phayam is a rare gem.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

The pier at Wat Ko Phayam, with a temple built over the blue waters.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

Sunsets at Ao Khao Kwai.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Unfinished and abandoned bridge leading to the Moken (sea gypsy) community. The seafaring people live in raised houses and can spend months at a time on the water, attuned to sea, stars, winds and currents. They are adept fishers, sailors, swimmers and divers, and are known for spending several minutes at a time underwater and predicting tsunami. They often live among mangroves for protection against tide and storm.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Moken children already spend much time playing in and around the water.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Wat Ko Phayam is worthy of quiet exploration, with jungle and seaside statues, temples and monastic housing.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Another scenic bridge to nowhere, this one at Ao Khor Kyo.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

The rocky beach at Ao Khao Kwai opposite the driftwood ensemble of the Hippy Bar. The bar took over a decade to build, wound together from found logs. Its maze of levels, quiet alcoves, precarious towers, smoke and classic rock make it one of Asia’s most bizarre and intriguing places to have a beer and catch the sunset.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

The island’s fauna is also fascinating, from noisy hornbills – the largest bird of the tropical forest – to overfed monitor lizards and stray cats.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Leaving the island by ferry or speedboat; arriving from Ranong by fishing boat.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

Ranong is the jumping off point on the mainland. The town market and hot springs are fascinating places to unwind and catch glimpses of local life.

 

Jewel of the Andaman

 

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"Elite Plus Magazine" ( No. 40 - December 2020 / January 2021 Issue)

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