Bangkok >> Krabi >> Ko Phi-Phi Don >> Khanom >> Ko Tao >> Ko Phangan
Brits get a 30-day visa exemption for Thailand which makes it a popular destination for holiday makers, gap-year students and travellers. Not to mention the cost of living is low, the weather is great almost all year round and Thailand hosts some of the best beaches in the world. So it’s no surprise that it can feel like half of Blighty are there with you. Safe to say we were a little apprehensive about visiting Thailand.
However, contrary to our initial apprehension we were left wanting more! As a self-confessed beach bum, the majority of our time was spent island-hopping in South Thailand. And boy, is there a lot of islands – some completely deserted. Even the secret paradise beach that Leonardo Dicaprio found in the film ‘The Beach’ can be located in South Thailand – though that beach admittedly is quite touristy now.
Here is a taster of what Thailand has to offer and that’s before even mentioning the food…
A) Bangkok – 6 nights (over two trips)
B) Krabi – 4 nights in Ao Nang and 1 night in Krabi Town
C) Phi-Phi island – 2 nights
D) Khanom – 5 nights
E) Ko Tao – 9 nights
F) Ko Phangan – 5 nights
Plus 1 night on the overnight train to get to the Thai/Malaysian border.
The Thai food had to be one of the cuisines we were looking forward to the most and on the whole it didn’t disappoint but watch the chili- it blew India out the water.
We actually went to Bangkok twice; the first time after India and the second time after Vietnam. On our first trip to Bangkok we visited the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
We stayed close to the notorious Khao San Road, a road famous (or infamous) for its bars and restaurants serving alcohol by the bucket. It was really fun, except for the fact I was still recovering from food poisoning in India so we didn’t hit the parties full force.
The second trip to Bangkok made up for that though with a lot of socialising and catching up with old friends.
We checked out some of the humongous shopping centres complete with car showrooms and full gymnasiums. We also shamelessly went to Tesco Lotus just because it was like home. Terminal 21 was particularly cool with each level represented by a different country, at the top was San Francisco with delicious food court.
We’d heard only good things about Krabi from other travellers so we decided to make this our next stop. Flights were really cheap too costing about £20 each. The main attraction of staying in Krabi is for island-hopping, aside from the bar crawls. It’s quite a big place and there are numerous places to stay- we chose Ao Nang which sounded like it would be lively and have lot of options for island-hopping.
June maybe wasn’t the best time of year for a visit because it was monsoon season. During our time in Krabi, I’d say 70 percent of the time it was overcast and 50 percent it just rained. A Thai massage became a great rainy day activity!
Luckily, we did manage to get some breaks from the monsoon and enjoyed island hopping to Chicken Island (named after it’s shape) and Tup Island which connect by a sand bar at low tide.
We also went to Railay beach which you can only reach by boat. It had a beautiful cove (and monkeys!) and was popular with rock climbers. There were also nearby caves, one weird cave with penises in and one fairly normal cave (called Diamond Cave).
Ko Phi-Phi Don
Ko Phi-Phi Don or Phi-Phi island was our next destination. Interesting fact, ‘Ko’ means ‘island’ in Thai.
We stayed for just two nights on the party island but managed to squeeze in a lot. The first afternoon, we got our bearings, stroked one hundred cats and lazed away on the beach with Chang beer and Jonny playing Ukelele.
The island-hopping boat trip from Phi-Phi was a full day stopping at the stunning Bamboo island, monkey beach, a gorgeous turquoise pool of water surrounded by rocks and Maya bay – famous because it was where the ‘The Beach’ was filmed. Getting to Maya bay was pretty funny as the water was too shallow for the boat to anchor so instead we had to rock climb and use a net to clamber up to gain access. We could then do the classic run through the palm trees, like Leonardo, to reveal the bay. Though it had got a little cloudy so it wasn’t quite the same beach.
Phi-Phi island although beautiful, did have a dark side: alcohol buckets at silly prices (£3.50 for a bucket of G&T), UV paint, beach and pool parties and even a bar with a boxing ring in the middle. As you can see in the photos below, we naturally stayed away from all this nonsense. This was also the night I lost my Thailand 7/11 toastie virginity – a staple most gap year students will mention.
This place was our retreat. A non-touristy town compared to the rest of the places we visited, with a beautiful stretch of white sandy beach.
It is also home to pink albino dolphins and we were lucky enough to see two on a trip organised by our host.
We stayed at a really homely Homestay called Happy Resort and had a small bungalow all to ourselves with a kitchen so we could even make our own food- it was so nice to have cereal in the morning!
Other highlights of our stay in Khanom were Hin Lat and Samet Chun waterfalls, the night market and Khanom Seafood restaurant which had an endless list of fresh seafood cooked in your preferred style. Scooters and motorbikes we £3 to rent all day so we took one each to get around.
We made Ko Tao mainly a diving trip, planning to do our Advanced Open Water PADI certification. The diving (and snorkelling) was incredible seeing so much underwater life including turtles, rays, barracudas, groupers, parrot and bat fish and more. Sadly, we didn’t get to spot a Whale Shark which frequent the water around this area.
We also went to Yuan Island which was gorgeous. The beaches and snorkelling around Ko Tao were great as well including Tanote Bay, Shark Bay, Freedom Beach and Mango Bay stopping at another view point.
The home of the Full Moon Party! There wasn’t actually a full moon when we went but a half moon so instead we got tickets to the Half Moon party in the middle of the jungle! Josh, our third wheel, who had nothing better to do joyfully came out to meet us in Thailand. We had a lot of fun catching up and nursing his hangover the next day.
Besides partying, we enjoyed some of the beaches and waterfalls on the island.
Then it was onwards and upwards to Malaysia! The journey involved a boat, a long drive, one overnight train journey and a second train once we crossed the Malaysian border. It was long but actually didn’t feel too bad, the sleeper train had beds with curtains and all the transport ran very smoothly.