The Yao Sisters

Yao Yai

You’ve all heard about Yao Noi, the island I currently call home. But until yesterday, it’s sister island Yao Yai has remained a shadowy enigma, a dark patch across the glimmering bay.

We woke up to a sky bright with sun, a shocking sight after weeks filled with typical downpours of a Southeast Asia rainy season. The weather is mercurial at best, so we waste no time, pack a picnic and set off on our Yao Yai adventure!

It’s fair to say that Yao Yai is the big sister, it’s forested hills stretching down to sugary beaches occupying 35 square miles with a population of 8,000, while little sister Yao Noi is only 20 square miles with 4,500 people. But it’s Yao Noi that has grown up more developed, as younger sisters are wont to do, leaving Yao Yai a peaceful, unhurried place with a very local aesthetic.

Our mission: to spend the day exploring and photographing Yao Yai, particularly one small spit of palm tree dotted sand that constantly bewitches us from across the water. This particular beach looks like the final word in paradise, and we are determined to find it. So determined in fact that we brave a muddy track through some scrubby brush on what looked like a disused road toward the ocean. Things are fine, until they aren’t. Our motorbike skids, and we are overturned in a marshy pool of mud.

The mud won

A few bruises, scratches and a broken rearview mirror later, we resume the journey.

Driving along the one lane roads of Yao Yai feels like a dreamy movie. Clouds evanesce across the pristine blue skies. Yellow, red and pink flowers cascade from roadside bushes. Small children run to the doors of wooden huts, waving and shouting a laughing hello. There are water buffalos as big as elephants and three foot long lizards warming themselves in the dappled sun of the dirt lanes. And everywhere you look, the sweet, sparkling promise of a turquoise sea.

A beach on the south of Yao Yai

There truly isn’t much to Yao Yai. Scattered villages offer some delectable yet sometimes unexplainable treats, like the purple lumps of gelatin or unidentified meat on a stick. Pass, thanks. But the markets do offer a palpable thrum of the day-to-day island life, and Steve and I feel the buzz as we wander the island drinking in the local flair.

We see the local bus:

Local bus

The local laundromat:

Local LaundromatThe local house of worship:

Thai spirit houseThe local industry:

Local industry

Rubber treeAnd some friendly locals:

Friendly localsWe never do find the beach we are looking for, but we find plenty of others–empty ones with powdery sand–that help us get over our disappointment.

Yao Yai may be the less developed sister, but after spending a day in her company we decide we like her just the way she is.

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