Koh Yao Noi Village
My first thought when I stepped onto the ferry headed from Phuket out to the islands to begin my first kayaking experience went a little something like this: “What did I get myself into? I can’t kayak; I haven’t even been on a boat more than a handful of times in my entire life!”
Despite my hesitance, I got on the ferry anyway and rode out to the island that we would be starting from. I got off of the boat and looked at the kayak. I swear that the kayak looked back at me with staring eyes. I got in the kayak and started to paddle. After some instruction from my helpful and patient guide, Tom, I started paddling the correct way and was off into the sea before I knew it.
The view was absolutely breathtaking! As I continued to paddle, the scenery got increasingly more beautiful and before I knew it, it was almost time for lunch.
Right before we got to the spot where we were going to have lunch, we paddled into a lagoon and had a look around. It was so secluded and was almost as if we had left Thailand completely and were in a whole other world. As I paddled toward the middle of the lagoon, something caught my eye in the water.
Covering the bottom of the ocean floor, were starfish. The closest I had been to a starfish before was when someone had brought one to show and tell when I was in kindergarten. Seeing them in real life, just inches below me was phenomenal. I had it in my head that kayaking would be this grueling, painful experience that would leave me tired and never wanting to do it again. I was partially right: I was tired, but now I want to do it again and again and again.
Exhausted and salty from my fabulous day in the kayak, I stepped off the boat onto Koh Yao Noi Island where two Thai people were waiting for me. We smiled at each other and I hopped on the back of one of their motorbikes and rode with them to the home stay where I would be staying for the night.
My only previous experience with home stays was from students who study abroad and live with a home stay while they are abroad. Those students live with one family and they are the only person who stays with them. This home stay was much different in that many different people were also staying with the same family that I was. It reminded me kind of like a bed and breakfast in the United States, except that this family spoke little English.
While language was still somewhat of an issue, it was not nearly as big of a deal as it could have been because the family was so warm and welcoming. Prior to coming to Thailand, I read that a smile goes a long way when you don’t speak the language, which I found to be completely true. Situations that could have been awkward were easily solved by a smile and some laughter.
After a good night’s sleep in my mosquito net covered bed, I joined one of the people from the home stay and an English-speaking guide for a tour around the island. I hopped into the back of a truck and almost instantly, felt as if the truck was a time machine, and I had stepped back into a much earlier year. It’s hard to describe the feeling that I got as we drove around the island.
Everything I had heard about Thailand being unsafe to visit seemed to be nothing more than a lie made up by uneducated people who had clearly never visited Koh Yao Noi. As we made our way around the island, I saw many things that the average tourist would never have had the opportunity to see: latex being tapped from the rubber trees and made into rubber, fisherman bringing in crabs from their morning’s catch to sell to the local restaurants, local women making sweets to sell the next day, and so much more.
My advice to you is this: if you are looking for a five star stay in a hotel with a mini bar in your room and professional cooks to prepare your meals, stay away from Koh Yao Noi and find a high priced room somewhere else.
However, if you want a real, cultural experience staying with people who have hearts bigger than you ever thought possible, stay with the folks at the home stay on Koh Yao Noi.
It will be so much more than your average vacation and will be an experience you will never forget.
In a world that normally has a voracious appetite for material wealth and a world dominated by consuming fragile natural resources, Koh Yao Noi stands out in stark contrast.
Step into the past, step foot on Koh Yao Noi island.
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