I had some open time after Koh Tao to work my way back up the Thai Gulf coast before catching a flight in Bangkok on February 20. One thought that has been prevalent in the recesses of my mind during my travels through Thailand is this: what was it like here in the coastal areas before all the tourists came? Last year when I visited Phuket, Koh Lanta, Railey, Koh Lipe and Koh Muk in the Andaman Sea on the west coast of Thailand, I just always felt as if things were over-developed everywhere. And I was there before high season even started! And Koh Tao evokes the same sensation, even though it is somewhat more manageable due to the fact that the tourist areas are concentrated onto a small portion of the island.
So I studied my guidebooks and asked travelers questions about undiscovered gems. A little place called Bang Saphan Yai surfaced as a result. Since I had the time, I decided to check it out. Long story short, it is everything that I was hoping to find. Which is not much in the way of foreigners or real estate machinations. Which means a beautiful beach and bay with virtually nobody on it. The majority of the travelers that I encountered here were French and their influence appears in some of the little beach cookeries. Bangsaphan is about a two hour drive north of Chumporn, the ferry jumping off spot for Koh Tao. It is far enough away from Bangkok that it is not convenient as a weekend getaway. It was really pretty perfect and I whiled away a week there in a bamboo fan bungalow for 450 baht a night and fresh inexpensive seafood daily. A little slice of heaven!