KOH YAO ISLANDS
Both islands are spread with a patchwork of rubber plantations and rice paddies, crisscrossed by dirt tracks and a few paved roads. Rent a scooter and spend your days sipping Thai iced tea overlooking the mangroves – The Rest Calm in Yao Noi’s Pradu village is a lovely spot to dawdle – chancing upon deserted beaches where you’re more likely to bump into a water buffalo than another visitor, and feasting on freshly caught seafood in the ramshackle restaurants that line the main roads.
Koh Samui is the original Thai island. Where once it drew backpackers and ravers for its sensational beaches with cheap huts and full-moon parties; now it has grown up and smartened up, its not-so-rustic beach bungalows honed down to the very last detail – Koh Samui now has some of the best luxury beach resorts anywhere in the world, several excellent beach hotels, and some first-class spas.
The coast of Koh Tao, or ‘Turtle Island’, is lined with little sandy coves, pretty lantern-lit restaurants – and dive shops. Most travellers are here to dive. The island is one of the world’s top places to learn, and the competition among dive shops has also made it one of the cheapest.
Nangyuan Island Dive Resort is a collection of fairly simple wooden rooms with verandahs and mod cons, on the tiny, unspoilt islet of Koh Nang Yuan, just off Koh Tao, if you want to combine diving with a real escape from the world.