I’ve mentioned before my desire to find some different things to do in Phuket this time around. With my last tour mostly made up of Pad Thai, tourist attractions, and lounging about on the beach (and one unforgettable day spent using Thailand as my toilet) – I wanted to get off the beaten track this time around.
When I found Amazing Bike Tours, I knew I’d found what I was looking for. None of the normal tourist attractions and, most importantly, no poor elephants being abused.
While the company offers a variety of tours that cover Phuket itself, the owner encouraged me to instead get off the main island and head to idyllic Koh Yao Noi.
So far largely untainted by the flood of Australians, Russians, and Chinese who have turned Phuket into sin city – this small, rural island still generates much of its income through rice paddies, rubber plantations, and fishing.
A visit sounded like just what I needed after a few days feeling dirty in Patong.
Departing from Phuket’s beaches early in the morning, it was a bumpy 30-45 minute ride across to the island’s east coast.
From there we boarded a longtail boat that acts as a ferry between Phuket, Koh Yao Yai, and Koh Yao Noi. On a normal day, the chance to drift through the stunning karst formations of Phang Nga Bay might have grabbed my attention, but a day after spending the entire day out among the islands annulled me to it somewhat.
Upon arrival on the island, we’re given a quick briefing of the day ahead. Where we’ll be riding, how to use the bikes, and what we can expect ahead of us.
Our ride would take us to a rubber tree plantation, through a rice paddy, to a fishing village, up two steep hills, and, eventually, to a delicious Thai lunch.
It all sounded good, but those two hills were already at the back of my mind. I’d heard the ride described as ‘challenging’, and it had been a while since my experience biking the Everglades way back in 2012.
Biking Koh Yah Noi
It all starts off innocently enough. Our motley crew comprises an older Aussie couple, a pair of Belgian lads on a post break-up tour, and a pair of experienced cyclists from Poland.
Somewhere in the middle of the pack, a long way from the days when he ran a cheeky 10k 2-3 times a week, is little old me.
It’s a 32C day and sunny as hell, so it isn’t too long before I’m drenched in sweat.
We wind our way through quiet streets without the massage parlours and Australian bars that now riddle Phuket, and then it’s a sharp left into a rubber tree plantation.
From there it’s all a bit of a sweaty blur. The pace is never uncomfortably fast, but the competitor in my can’t stand to have the four other lads on the tour ahead of me for long.
We whiz through quiet fishing villages, down shady lanes, and through the steamy heat of a rice paddy before our next stop.
It’s shortly after the rice paddy – air rich with the scent of Asia’s staple – that we stop off for our next break.
The local lady gifts us with a toothy grin as she uses a machete to split our coconuts with casual ease. After a dozen or so kilometres in blistering heat, each of us has already drained 2-3 bottles of water, and the coconut water is a welcome change.
We also got to sample a local snack, canom ja – a sweet and chewy treat made with coconut mik, flour, and brown sugar. Not half bad!
From here it was on to tackle the first of two ‘challenging’ hills. They weren’t particularly steep or anything, although one of them was frustratingly long and reminded me of Heartbreak Hill in the City 2 Surf.
I gave both of them the old college try, but found my fitness sadly lacking.
Pride was put aside as first three of us (myself and my fellow Aussies) and then six of us got off our bikes and instead trudged up the hills in the scorching mid-afternoon heat.
Our reward at the top of the second hill?
A delicious Thai feast served on the shores of the serene bay, and an hour of ‘free time’ to spend dozing in hammocks or dangling our feet in the blessedly cool water.
I won’t make you guess which one this unfit lad opted for…
After lunch and a much needed rest, we returned to the dock for our afternoon ferry back to the main island.
Legs afire, skin radiating heat despite being lathered in sunscreen, and ass feeling sore and sorry – we took our last photos, said our goodbyes, and returned to the hustle and bustle.
A Fantastic Day
Gripe though I might about how tough those hills were, they weren’t anything you wouldn’t expect to find on any cycling trip. Anybody with moderate to good fitness isn’t going to have a trouble, and we certainly weren’t made to feel bad because we got off to walk.
The Thai feed was delicious, the two guides were warm and accommodating, and it was a really enjoyable day away from the crowds on Phuket.
I’d like to thank James and the Amazing Bike Tours team for inviting me along and giving me the opportunity to see Koh Yao Noi.
They also provided any of the photos here that include me that aren’t obviously selfies. All part of the tour package!
I think I found the island I’ll be escaping to next time I’m in Thailand. It was absolutely lovely!
Do you like to get out and explore new areas on a bike or scooter when traveling?