By: Benjamin Kerton-Johnson Instagram: behindthekerton
This post originally appeared on behindthekerton.wordpress.com
While exploring Thailand it is more than likely that you will come across the Islands dotted throughout. Not just are these popular routes for tourists and travellers, but they hold outstanding natural beauty that is far different from anywhere else in the world. On my travels so far I have explored some of the most popular in Southern Thailand and here are my experiences and some tips to help when you come across them.
Being the closest of the four (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui and Koh Phi-Phi) to Bangkok, it is likely that this will be one of the first that you will come across if you are heading down through Thailand. With an enjoyable night-life in the Haad Sairee area, that I didn’t experience myself due to knowing that the following weeks on Samui would be expensive, coupled with some of the best diving areas in Thailand, it is a very tempting place for tourists. Many of the beaches have very few people on as well and the water reminded me of the lagoon in Langebaan, South Africa. As well as this, unlike it’s neighbours Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, the majority of the roads found in Tao are dirt and are yet to be tarred so travelling on them gives you a thrill unlike any of the others. Despite it’s famous locations such as, Koh Nang Yuan and Shark Bay, the island itself is vey small and isn’t nearly as busy as the other two. This allows, especially if you are outside of the Pier-based towns, to have a more relaxed stay after the chaos of Bangkok, to unwind, hire a scooter and discover the best the island has to offer.
- Ao Leuk – A long dirt road, that isn’t very kind to bikes carrying two people, will take you to a small privately owned bay known as Ao Leuk. It wasn’t very busy when we arrived later in the day and I highly recommend the restaurant built into the cliff on the right hand side of the bay.
- Tanote Bay – Easily one, if not the best, snorkelling areas in Tao. With a lagoon type bay, with a large rock you are able to jump from 20 meters out, the snorkelling visibility can be excellent. Being on the East side of the Island, the bay isn’t protected from the wind so the water can get quite choppy; the best visibility will come when the sea is a bit calmer.
- Ko Nang Yuan – Although we didn’t make it to the separate Island, that is so incredibly famous, from friends who have been and taken pictures, the views from the top viewpoint are stunning and if you have time do take the opportunity. Note that you are charged to go onto the beach and do have to catch a boat there. If they say everything is included, ensure that this is the case as the Boatmen are known to lie.
- Abandoned Villa – This is situated just past the turning towards Mango View Point (as you come from Haad Sairee), up the first right. Following a steep dirt path to the top, you will come across an abandoned villa, rumoured as Royally Owned. Continuing up the path you will find multiple large boulders that you are able to scramble up for the best view of the whole island.
Shown on ‘The Beach’ as a disgusting place that tourists have ruined with Alcohol and Drugs, in my opinion, is an over-exaggerated opinion. Aside from the wild and world famous Full, and Half, Moon Parties that attract thousands of visitors each year, and the few waterfall ones that follow the days after, my experience of Koh Phangan showed little night life outside of those times of the month and the town of Haad Rin that holds these events was dead, with hardly any tourists in sight. While there we ventured into Thong Sala area on our bikes, for the cheap market and collection of shops as well as explored the beaches of the island and some of it’s view points. Witnessing the contrast in popularity that Phangan holds within just a week of staying, allowed us to experience the calmer side of the Island that many tourists don’t see as they leave straight after the party.
- Thong Sala – The main area of the Island that you will arrive at, has a nice market that runs through the day, but explodes with life at night. It has really cheap locally made food with seats to sit on around the outer edge. Ensure that you try the 30 Baht shakes that are dotted around and you won’t regret it.
- Khoa Ra – Convincing the girls to climb to the highest point wasn’t the easiest task but once you reach the ‘summit’ the views of the island are amazing on a clear day and well worth the climb.
- Ko Mah – A small island in the North-West, connected by a sand strip to the mainland holds an abandoned resort that is quite exciting to explore and climb. The resort has been there for a while so watch for the loose floor boards and washed up branches. As well as this, the beach surrounding it is supposed to be the best, of the few, snorkelling beaches on the island.
Being the larger of the 3 in this region of Thailand, with its greater population, it has become a popular holiday resort with its large malls and an even bigger night life. The most popular area appears to be Chaweng with long white sand beaches and plenty to surround yourself with. Over all it is probably the one that we found least accessible because of it’s size, however, as we were seeing a friend for her Birthday we spent the time relaxing and laying low before heading South.
After leaving the incredibly expensive Phuket, although still not a place to miss, we made our way to Koh Phi-Phi, a small island 2 hours off the coast. In my opinion Phi-Phi is a place that should be on the top of your list for Thailand. The tourist influence in Phi-Phi is large for such a small town and I wasn’t quite able to get my head around the beauty of the place and the house music that shakes the island until 2am. Despite this, there is so much on offer, even if you want to get away from the crowds. With daily boat tours, private longtail hire or Kayak renting, over the space of a week you will have something new to experience, eat or see everyday. Due to the small size of the Island we didn’t see any motorbike hire, but there really is no need because everything is so accessible. Because Phi-Phi is an island and the place is so popular prices are more expensive than some of the others mentioned, however it just depends how you live. You will easily be able to stick to your budget if you limit yourself to how many pizza slices you buy on the way home. It’s harder than you think.
- Monkey Bay – Definitely Kayak round to Monkey Bay (The Northern of the two) and watch the monkeys. You are able to feed them and they may climb on you as well. Be careful when you interact with them as they are known the steal bags in search for food and water. When Catlin was feeding one Pineapple, it attempted to bite her and scratched the side of her arm resulting in her having to get extra rabies jabs. So watch out.
- Mosquito and Bamboo Island – North of Phi-Phi Don, these Islands are part of the day tours around Phi-Phi and have the clearest water around. Although the snorkelling isn’t fantastic, due to the lack of Coral, it is well worth going.
- Boat Tour – The full-day longtail boat tours on offer take you to all the places above including the famous Maya Bay. These tours can range anywhere from 400 to 700 per person for the same itinery. The cheaper ones are likely to have more people on them whereas if you splash out you may practically have the boat to yourself. But…maybe not. Either way it’s a great way to see everything that the area has to offer, and well worth it.
So there it is. Thank you for reading my guide to the Islands and I hope that they helped. If you have any questions then feel free to ask me below.