Koh Yao Noi and Yai are two islands in the Andaman that have yet to be westernized by tourism. This will change soon, as developments are already planned, so if you want to reconnect with nature and escape from modern commercialism, comforts and conformity, visit Koh Yao now.
You'll see tangled jungle and rocky shoreline, gibbons, hornbills, sea eagles, fruit bats, and the telltale tracks of monitor lizards on this paradise like island off the coast of western Thailand, near Phuket. You'll forget that the modernized towns catering to tourists on the mainland and Phuket island are just an hour away.
Koh Yao Noi retains its fishing villages and mangrove forests. Eagles soar in the skies, and the seas yield enough fish to satisfy the population and more.
Some years ago, Koh Yao Noi's 4,500 mostly Muslim resident villagers sought the help of the Responsible Ecological Social Tours project (REST), a Bangkok-based group that works with locals to develop community-based tourism, promote conservation, and develop a sustainable economy.
Thanks to its empowered community, Koh Yao Noi is able to offer visitors an authentic Thai travel experience.
If you're in Phuket, you can take one of the daily boats to Koh Yao Noi from the Bang Rong Pier on Phuket's northeast coast.
Visit Koh Yao for its trackless forests and untamed wilderness, where dirt roads turn unexpectedly into cow paths before being engulfed in forests of wild coconut palms and mangroves, where tourism is still an after thought, and where the clamorous din of commerce is nowhere to be heard. Koh Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai (Little Long Island and Big Long Island) remain one of the last refuges for travellers who want to discover a lost Thailand.
The Yao islands are technically part of Phang Nga province and while accessible by boat from both Krabi and Phang Nga, the cheapest, easiest way to get there if from the eastern ports on Phuket.