Ko Yao, with Phuket to the west and Krabi to the east
Ko Yao (เกาะยาว), sometimes written Koyao, is a group of islands between Phuket and Krabi. There are two main islands, Ko Yao Noi ("Small Long Island") and Ko Yao Yai, with Noi being the more developed of the two.
Ko Yao Noi remains a beautiful island, where most people still believe that the island should be preserved from human degradation. It is often described as one of the last islands in the region to not be overly developed.
Ko Yao Yai is also a natural beauty, remaining the least developed of the two islands. Ko Yao Yai is significantly larger than Ko Yao Noi due to a lack of (basic) infrastructure in some areas of the island.
Sea Gypsies (Moken people) were inhabiting the Bay before anybody else, except maybe other nomadic people like forest hunters and collectors (Sakai, Negritos). The 3,500 or so inhabitants of Koh Yao Noi are thought to be recent migrants from the Malay Peninsula (Satun, Trang).
The Mon population, linguistically and culturally belonging to the Khmer ethnolinguistic group, did settled in peninsular Thailand since ever, ruling maritime states like the one of Ligor (Nakhon Si Thammarat). They melt continuously with Southern migrants from Malaysia and with Northern rulers (Thai), over centuries of commercial exchanges and political conflicts. Most probably the Mon stock remains prevalent for most of the people living nowadays in Southern Thailand, including people of Koh Yao.
Numerous cave paintings hidden in the many islands of the bay, extending from 2000 years ago to last century, attest the influence of distinct communities in the emergence of a mixed origin population, living now in the provinces of Phang Nga, Phuket, Krabi and Satun.
The most recent migrations (17th-18th century) from Satun and Trang to Ko Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi is attested by the fact that the particular dialect spoken on the island still bear obvious Malaysian lexical traces, particularly regarding toponyms and vernacular names of the flora species.
The main industries on the island are fishing and rubber planting. A little rice farming and some fruit, palm and coconut plantations are evident. Boat building and farming techniques here have been passed from father to son and, while some of the youngsters leave Ko Yao to seek the bright lights of Phuket, most return to their tight knit community.
Arrive at Phuket or Krabi either by:
- Bus from Surat Thani (the nearest train station)
- Long-distance bus from Bangkok or one of the larger cities North of Phuket
- Air-plane to Phuket International Airport. Air Asia , Silk Air  and Tiger Airways  have regular international flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Domestically, Bangkok Airways  and Thai AirAsia  fly from Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ko Samui for generally less than US$30 - US$50 one way.
Boats depart Phuket (Bang Rong Pier & Chianwanich Pier), Krabi and Phang Nga for Ko Yao Noi & Ko Yao Yai daily. There is only one ferry a day from Krabi town to Ko Yao islands. Regular transfers run from Krabi Thalen Pier which is about 27 km West of Krabi town. To get to Thalen Pier you can either take a bus from Krabi Talat Kao bus station or a songthaew (small open minibus) from Krabi town. Taxi from Krabi town to Thalen Pier will cost you around 500-800 bahts.
Boats leave at the following times (correct as of October 2012):
- from Phuket (Bang Rong Pier) to Ko Yao Yai(Klong Hia Pier) & Ko Yao Noi (Manoh Pier): 09:30; 11:00; 12:30; 14:30; 16:00 and 17:00
- from Phuket (Chianwanich Pier) to Ko Yao Yai (Loh Jark Pier): Saturdays to Thursdays: 8:30 (car ferry), 10:00, 14:00 (car ferry), 17:00 | Fridays: 08:30 (car ferry), 10:00, 17:00
- from Krabi (Chaofah Pier) to Ko Yao Yai & Ko Yao Noi: 11:00
- from Krabi (Thalen Pier) to Ko Yao Noi (Thakhao Pier): 09:00, 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00, 17:30
- from Krabi (Thalen Pier) to Ko Yai Noi (Manoh Pier) Ko Yao Yai (Klong Hia Pier): 13:00
- from Krabi, Ao Nang (Nopparatthara Pier) to Ko Yao Noi (Manoh Pier) & Ko Yao Yai (Klong Hia Pier): 11:00
- from Phang Nga (Tha Dan Pier) to Ko Yao Noi (Sukha Pier): 13:00 (every day except Sunday)
Boats depart Ko Yao Noi & Ko Yao Yai for Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga at the following times(correct as of October 2012):
- to Phuket (Bang Rong Pier) from Ko Yao Noi (Manoh Pier) via Koh Yao Yai (Klong Hia Pier): 06:30, 07:15, 07:30, 09:00, 10:10, 11:30, 12:30 (every second Friday only), 13:30, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 16:40
- to Phuket (Chianwanich Pier) from Ko Yao Yai (Loh Jark Pier): Saturdays-Thursdays: 07:20, 13:30 (car ferry), 15:00 | Fridays: 07:20, 08:00 (car ferry - every second Friday only), 14:00 (car ferry)
- to Krabi (Thalen Pier) from Koh Yao Noi (Thakhao Pier): 07:00, 07:30, 08:30, 09:30, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 16:00
- to Krabi (Thalen Pier) from Koh Yao Yai (Klong Hia Pier): 07:20
- to Krabi (Thalen Pier) from Koh Yao Noi (Manoh Pier): 07:30
- to Krabi, Ao Nang (Nopparatthara Pier) from Koh Yao Yai (Klong Hia Pier): 15:25
- to Krabi, Ao Nang (Nopparatthara Pier) from Koh Yao Noi (Manoh Pier): 15:30
- to Phang Nga (Thadan Pier) from Ko Yao Noi (Sukha Pier): 07:30 (every day except Sunday)
Longtail boat from Krabi cost 120 baht and speedboat 150-200 baht (the more passengers are on the boat the less the sailor can afford to charge and vica versa). 120 baht to transport a motorcycle. All prices are one-way. Pay on the boat.
Regular long-tails ply between Chonglad Pier on Ko Yao Yai and Manok Pier on Ko Yao Noi during daylight hours at 20 baht per person, 30 baht extra to bring a motorcycle, takes 10 to 15 min.
- All boat transfers to/from Koh Yao Noi, updated regularly. 
Ko Yao Noi
Ko Yao Noi covers about 50 km². Upon arrival at Manok Pier there is no accommodation available within walking distance. There will generally be between ten and twenty ute-style tuk-tuk's waiting to take you to accommodation. The going rate on the island is 85 baht.
Ko Yao Noi has approximately 18 km of concrete and dirt road around it. Thee main road is a two-lane concrete road that performs a ring around the entire perimeter of the island (excluding the most Northern parts - there are only dirt roads in this area of the island). There are several interior roads that are a combination of either sand/dirt or concrete.
The most efficient way to get around the island is to hire a scooter. The island offer scooters for rent for 200/300 baht per day. No licence is generally required and helmets are provided. Just walk into the restaurant/reception. You will see the various scooters lined up out the front of the hotel.
Otherwise, tuk-tuk's are available to give you lifts across the island. Simply flag one of these vehicles down as they drive past. Failing that, if you simply wait most locals will be happy to give you a lift - however, it may mean squishing onto a scooter that already has three Thai adults and a baby on it!
Bicycles are also an excellent mode of transport and the main circle road around the island only has one large hill that must be navigated. The relevant flat terrain makes it perfect for leisurely rides. Bicycles can be hired from Sabai Corner Bungalows or any accommodation you may choose to stay at.
Please be aware that driving on the island might be dangerous : most people driving here have little or no clue about the rules, but at least most drive slow, except a few people driving crazy, on motorbike or pickups... as well, many tourist ride bikes with very little experience of it. So, watch out...
Ko Yao Yai
As with Ko Yao Noi the must efficient way to get from the Chonglad Pier to any accommodation is to make use of the ute tuk-tuk's that will be waiting your arrival. As Ko Yao Yai is larger than Ko Yao Noi there is no exact charge but anything over 150B is usually too much.
Once at your accommodation most larger resorts will have motorcycles or bicycles for rent. Due to the terrain on Ko Yao Yai it may be wise to hire a automatic scooter for travelling longer distances (meaning > 10km) and having bicycles for use when travelling in a close proximity.
You can also walk along the roads and either flag down a ute taxi or try to get a lift from the locals. Ko Yao Yai, like Ko Yao Noi is a very safe island and vehicles rarely travel above 15 km/h, so hitch-hiking is not exactly a dangerous pursuit here.
Paradise Beach on Ko Yao Noi
Ko Yao Noi is mountainous in the centre and has beaches to either side. The East side has beaches suitable for swimming and snorkeling and the West is a picturesque blend of rice flats and mangrove trees. The island is a sanctuary for at least 4 species of hornbills, very commonly seen around.
Professional Muay Thai with a world champion in boxing and Muay Thai, diving at Koh Yao International Diving School at Lam Sai Village Hotel in Ban Laem Sai at Koh Yao Noi
- DragonHeart, ☎ +66 876 265 366 ([email protected]), . Indonesian Pinisi sailing boat with day cruises to surrounding islands, includes a full Thai style buffet meal prepared on-board with fresh fish & Thai curries, music, lots of pillows, plenty of breeze and friendly crew.
- Koh Kayak Expeditions, . This small operation is fun and friendly and they help you design your own adventure away from the crowds.
- K.Y.N Muay Thai Gym, 34/8 Moo 5, Lam Sai, Koh Yao Noi, Phang Nga, 82160, ☎ +66 822 894 276, . Champion Trainers at professional Muay Thai Camp. Small classes and individual attention; training is held twice a day M-Sa.
- Koh Yao Diver, Koh Yao Noi, Phang-Nga, ☎ 076-597406, . Scubadiving services
- Elixir Divers, Koh Yao Yai, ☎ +66-(0)878 970 076, . Scubadiving services.
There are some restaurant and food stalls on Ko Yao Noi and some more opened just recently, including really good seafood restaurants near the beach.
- Cha's Noodle Shop, (Ban Prunai).
- Coconut Island, (located along the main road between the group of accommodation and the main part of town). Delicious seafood and suited for budget travellers.
- Good View Restaurant, . 10AM to 10PM daily. Really good seafood.
- Je t'aime restaurant, 21/1 Moo 1 (at the market just opposite the 7 eleven), ☎ +66 76 597495. from 21:00 (kitchen closes 22:00). French and Danish owned restaurant. At the centre of the island. Serves daily specialities, French and Thai dishes, fresh seafood, fresh made coffee (French press), beer, wine and cocktails. Free Wi-Fi is available for guests.
- La Luna (Pizzeria & Bar), Koh yao noi (Between Baan thakow and Pasai beach), ☎ 087461612. In a luna you will find real Italian pizza made from a wooden oven. Romano the owner is also serving other Italian plates, homemade bread, fine wines and sweet desserts! An open and friendly atmosphere, good music and a great place to hang out.
- La Sala Restaurant, (Restaurant of Koyao Bay Pavilions, located beside Lom Lae Resort), ☎ +66 (0)76 597 441 ([email protected]), . Lunch 11:30 - 2:30 & Dinner 6:00 - 10:00. Reservation required. Serving authentic Thai food and the freshest seafood caught by local fisherman only - nothing from sea farms. Cocktails, desserts, wine list. Attentive service in relaxed atmosphere.
- Pyramid Bar & Restaurant, (set along the road between Sabai Corner Bungalows and Tabaek Viewpoint Bungalows). thatched roof style bungalow open all year. Extensive menu serving everything from western breakfast, wraps, pasta, burgers and pizza. Everything is home made, good dessert menu, beer, cocktails and wine list. Live music on Fridays only.
- Rice Paddy (Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor), Pasai Beach (At the edge of the small rice field beginning of Pasai), ☎ 0840603080. New opened (2010) - a small, simple place but great atmosphere and background music. Quality of Ice cream and food (Western and Thai) is amazing, prices reasonable. Gourmet style meals with ingredients hard to find somewhere else on the island. All meals are available for vegetarian with meat imitation (except of the steaks obviously).
- Sabai Corner Bungalows. Owned by an Italian. One of the few restaurants that offers Western styled food - delicious Italian food. However, make sure that the Italian Nonna is residing over the resort kitchen when you eat here. If not, you will be served the Thai chef's interpretation of spaghetti - tomato sauce from a bottle and cold pasta!
- Tabaek Viewpoint Bungalow. Owned by Paramote, the local police officer on Koh Yao Noi. His Japanese wife Kazuyo is an excellent Japanese cook. Whilst sushi is not on offer, Kazuyo offers up authentic Japanese food for under 75B. The set of bungalows is located up a dirt road. The top bungalow is Paramote's and this is where the restaurant is located.
- Thai Hideaway Restaurant, ([email protected]). A private pool villa restaurant with amazing views. Fresh Seafood BBQs as well as authentic Thai food and sandwiches are available. Book in advance.
Many of the restaurants also have lively bars.
- Activities Resort, 106/8 Moo 3 Prunai, Koh Yao Phang Nga (Near Loh Jak Pire), ☎ +66 818 938901, . Many activities available. 1,000 THB.
- Esmeralda view resort, ☎ +66 872 748832. 900-2500 baht.
- Hill House, 6/4 Moo 4, Baan Tha Khao, Koh Yao Noi (Close by the pier to Ao Thalene, Krabi), ☎ +66 89 5939523 ([email protected]), . New bungalows with dubble fan, fridge, privat hammock on a big balcony and a family atmosphere. Set on a tropical hill with stunnig view over the limestones. (8.133732,98.625036)
- Ko Yao Island Resort, 24/2 Moo 5, ☎ +66 76 597-474, . Bungalows designed in traditional Thai architectural style. Each villa faces the beach, has its own private garden. Rim Thalay Restaurant on premises is open from 07:30-22:00 and offers authentic Koh Yao dishes; excellent BBQs in the evenings.
- Koyao Bay Pavilions, 46/7 moo 5, ☎ +66 76 597-441, . Three beach-front pavilions surrounding a swimming pool in a lush tropical garden. Surrounded by a white-sand beach and rice paddies with an excellent restaurant.
- Lam Sai Village Hotel, 34/8 Moo 5, Koh Yao Noi, 82160 Phang Nga, ☎ +66 822 894 276, . Small, friendly hotel on the sunset beach of Koh Yao Noi, with large swimming pool, air-conditioned sea view rooms, Wi-Fi & English and European language TV.
- Six Senses Yao Noi Beyond Phuket, 56 Moo 5, Tambol Koh Yao Noi, Amphur Koh Yao, Phang Nga 82160, Thailand, ☎ +66 76 418-500, . 5 star spa resort. 20,000 THB and up.. (8° 07' 16.62,98° 37' 32.95)
- The Paradise Koh Yao, 24 Moo 4, Koh Yao Noi 82160, Thailand, ☎ +66 76 584-450, . The Paradise Koh Yao is a blend of boutique beach resort and health spa; a tasteful and simple symbiosis of nature, comfort and style, amongst protected national parkland. Private villas and studios nestle adjacent to 400 m of private untouched beach providing year-round natural luxury.
- Tha Khao Bay View, Hat Tha Kao beach (4/8 Moo 4, Tumbon Ko Yao Noi, Amphoe Ko Yao, Changwat Phangnga 82190) (From Tha Kao pier, turn right along the road and walk for about 10 minutes. From Manok Pier, take a song thaew), ☎ +66 76 597-559, mobile +66 869 420812. Above Hat Tha Khao beach on the east coast, the ultra friendly & attentive Mr Ling and his lovely family run the Bay View. The huts are en-suite, clean and are on the side of the hill about 20 m above the beach, and so have wonderful views across the bay. Mr Ling's brother also runs a highly recommended, very chilled out bar made out of a boat on the beach below. Food in their restaurant is consistently good and has equally good views. 500-700 Baht; peak season.
- Thiwsonbeach, 58/4 M.4 T.KohYaoYai (Phuket Town & Bang Rong Pier), ☎ +66 819 567582, . checkout: 12:00. 12 Private Beach Front Bungalows. Views of Pang Nga Bay. Stunning sunrise. 800-3000 Baht.
- Villaguna Residence, 29/6 Moo 5 Pasai, Koh Yao Noi Phang Nga, ☎ +66 76 454-221, . 11 luxury villas overlooking the sea and Phang Nga bay. Located just 1 hour from Phuket
- Coconut Corner Bungalow Koh Yao Noi, 30 Moo 5, Koh Yao Noi Road, Koh Yao Noi (located on the corner between Pasai Beach and Sabai Beach on Koh Yao Noi), ☎ +66 86-269-7920, . checkin: all day; checkout: all day. Coconut Corner Bungalow Koh Yao Noi offers six budget bungalow options conveniently located on the corner of Pasai Beach. Room Rates vary from 350 to 600 Baht depending on the size of the bungalow and the season. Coconut Corner is the perfect spot for backpackers who are looking for fun on Koh Yao Noi. In our restaurant we serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. We also organize BBQ nights.
Being one of the biggest islands in the Phang Nga Bay archipelago, Ko Yao Noi is home to a hospital, several schools and a post office. 24 hour electricity supply, Internet access, mobile telephone connection and Automatic Teller Machine are available.