Hat Yao is a small town about 30km South West of Trang town in South West Thailand. It is near a very long strip of National Park beach and it is a jumping off point for local boats out to the islands Ko Libong and Ko Kradan, plus the long distance Tigerline ferry.
These are some notes I wrote for the venerable Tezza, giving updates to his earlier article about Hat Yao on his excellent blog Tezzas Beaches and Islands. You should probably read that one as well to get the full picture.
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Despite Tezza’s extensive coverage, before heading off to Chao Mai beach in Hat Yao, I was still a bit confused about exactly where Chao Mai beach actually is. Some maps (including the one outside Trang railway station) says that Chao Mai beach is the one South of the river mouth, rather that the one North of it (where Sinchai’s Resort is ). If those maps were right, it would mean that you couldn’t walk up to Hat Yao beach without swimming across the river, which was worrisome. Anyways, the minibus from Trang took me right down to Sinchai’s resort (and it’s beach, whatever you call it!), North of the river mouth, so all was fine. See the map of the Hat Yao peninsula which points out all the local sleeps, eats and places of interest. I have labelled Sinchai’s beach “Chao Mai Beach” as that’s what Tezza and most other maps call it.
I stayed at Sinchai’s Chao Mai resort, but I wouldn’t particularly recommend it. It seems like Sinchai has given up on the place, and you probably should too.
From the Hiroshima-memorial concrete frames of guesthouses started but never finished to the quarterised bridges of dead fishing boats and piles of wood lying around the place, the whole grounds has got a depressing trailer-park vibe about it.
(all images on this site are clickable for bigger versions)
The high-points are the food and the beach location of some of the huts . Even then, the huts are only OK (a little shabby and firmly fixed at 500B (Feb 2011), which sure ain’t good value for money – you can do better on the Islands.
In the kitchen, Mrs Sinchai makes a great job of the higher end (300B+) food. The lower-end dishes are fine, but are no better than any of the other 5 restaurants within a ten minute walk. There was no food served at lunchtimes when I was there.
I got locked-into staying 3 days on a discounted price-plan. This gave me a good vantage point for looking at the horrified looks on the faces of everyone else who came and (very quickly) left again. There are a couple of new-ish resorts in Hat Yao and it would be wise to shop-around a bit before making your selection.
Hat Yao No-Name Resort
My favourite is the no-name resort on the small road running down to Hat Yao beach itself, marked A and B on the map. The reception is at the last restaurant before the beach (marked 1 on the map). On the south side of the road (A) they have a couple of very squeezy bamboo huts with attached bathrooms (Thai-style) toilets for around the 300B mark.
There are also a couple of larger concrete cottages with Western toilets for around 500B.
The ladies in the restaurant/reception are very friendly and helpful and speak good English. The guests seem happy and well catered for. The grounds are open and airy. The only downside is that these aren’t on the beach and mostly don’t have a view of it (Hat Yao beach is about 60 metres away)
As part of the same resort, on the other side of the road (B on the map) are five or six swanky aircon ‘apartments’ with Western toilets for around 1000B.
The restaurant is good (actually all the restaurants in Hat Yao are good), the only downside with no-name is that they don’t sell beer (as they are Muslim). No problem, you can buy a supercheap beer (35B for a big Leo, anyone?) from the shop (2) and sit on the big log on the beach sipping it while looking out over a fiery sunset.
You might struggle to call this a resort – these seem to be small apartments in a house next to the road by the big ferry pier. There is a small bar attached. The main attraction is that there’s a big sign painted on the building saying that they are 250B a night. I can’t see this ever being full-up, so you need never fear getting stuck overnight in Hat Yao with nowhere cheap to stay!
Hat Yao Nature Resort
Already covered on Tezza’s main Hat Yao/Libong page and numerous travel books, IMO these rooms are overpriced. The place seems to be closed more often than it is open. The restaurant on stilts over the water is quite nice, but again, seems to be closed more often than not. The similar restaurant next door (about 200m closer to the main ferry pier) is a little better and has more reliable opening hours.
Sinchais Chao Mai Resort
I think that the grounds and general vibe of Sinchai’s are pretty dire. Tezza has described the 500B beach huts on his main page, which are OK but were surrounded by bags of trashwhen I was there (pics above) and are overpriced, IMO.
I stayed in one of Sinchai’s “apartment” rooms, set back from the beach. It was a good-sized room and bed with mozzie net, a freestanding fan, a small dresser and attached bathroom. But it was pretty filthy (it sure wouldn’t pass Tezza’s ‘cigarette butts and ring pulls’ test). There was sand and old toothbrush and soap-bar wrappers all over the floor and three or four old beer bottles out on the veranda. Window coverings are solid-wooden shutters, so you’ve got the choice of darkness or zero-privacy/security. The head was snapped off the shower attachment and it dripped constantly. The only way to stop it drip-drip-dripping down the drains all night was to leave it dunked in the scuzzy toilet bowl. Nice. There’s a huge plastic tank outside which the family kids use for bathing, so will wake you up at first light as they have a splosh around with it.
Sinchai wanted 300B for this but accepted 200B with a 3 day lock-in (pay in advance for all three days). I’m usually happy in a cheapskate place, but the level of scuzz here still made this feel like a bad-deal.
There are three more ‘apartment’ rooms around to the side. These are basically the same but with aircon and an old sofa parked at the side of the room.
I had read about three old bamboo huts at the back of the grounds and had been hopeful about them providing a good cheap alternative to the main rooms. But they are totally derelict and not-in-use.
Sinchai’s also has a couple of more up-market huts set back at the southern end of the beach. These have TV and aircon and (if I recall) he was asking 1200B in mid Feb.
Sinchai’s bikes still don’t work. There are three now. One has two flat tyres, one has no chain and the other has got something up with the gears so the pedals just spin round. The motorbike is 300B, which, afaik, is the only one in town.
If you’re looking for the place, the turnings down to Sinchai’s are marked 3 and 4 on the map.
Point 3 is an aged yellow sign for Sinchai’s . Point 4 is the entrance road to the resort painted on a tractor tyre, take the right hand fork.
Chaomai beach itself is small but quite pleasant with white/slightly yellow sand. Unfortunately, it had a major sandfly-problem when I was there. You lose the sun behind the big karst rock at about 4pm at which point the sandflies will totally 0wn anyone still on the beach.
It’s a nice wade to the small beach in the middle of the karst rock and there’s even a little batcave in there. The snorkelling off the beach and little outlying island is no good.
Hat Yao beach itself (just to the North) is long and empty and naturalistic, running alongside the National Park (which looked more like the plains of Africa than Thailand for some reason). After walking North about 3km, you get to another karst headland (near the entrance of the National Park). There are a few local eats places there. Nobody seems to expect you to pay to go into the National Park if you have approached by walking up the beach and you can easily skirt through the car-park and away from the entrance area if you are worried about it. To continue northwards up the beach, follow the road around to the left (past the big karst rock (wave to the monkeys on the way)) and come to the next section of beach which goes on for another couple of km. After that you are cut off by the mouth of a wide river. North of that river are the several other beaches on the way up towards Pak Meng (described by mysticpaki on Tezza’s Hat Yao/Libong page).
Internet watch: There is no public internet in the Hat Yao area. Sinchai resort’s yellow sign says he has internet but he doesn’t. There is no wifi in the area. If you have a mobile aircard/dongle/tethered phone, you can get DTAC mobile data, but because of the karst headlands around the area, the signal is very weak and the data really slow.
Overall, the Hat Yau beach area is OK for a day’s stop over on the way to the islands or if you arrive late and want to pick up tomorrow’s ferry. But if you are looking to stay a while, there are better options on Libong for the same kind of budget or on Kradan for a few dollars more.