Southern Thailand is a paradise in itself. It’s surprising how different it is to the North and Central parts, each offering something completely unique.
The leafy forested North and metropolitan center of Thailand are worlds away from each other and even more so than the beachy idillic South.
The islands we loved the most were Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi.
After spending nearly 2 weeks (more time than we’ve spent in one place so far!) on Koh Tao, we felt almost at home on this tiny island in the South China Sea and filled our days with hiking, snorkelling, diving and day drinking on the beach and rooftop bars…
Hikes and view points are dotted around the whole island but I’d recommend either getting a boat taxi to some like Mango Bay and Tanote Bay (as the hike is so long and quite dangerous especially in midday heat!) or rent a motorbike which is a relatively cheap way to get around. For an island of only just over 7km in length we thought it would be easy to get around on foot, but we were SO WRONG – never ever hike on a hangover at midday in 30+ degree heat (!!!!!) but get up early and take a walk or bike to the John-Suwan Viewpoint and then spend the afternoon sleeping in a hammock on freedom beach (just a suggestion, but a v good one).
- John-Suwan Viewpoint & Freedom Beach
South of the island looking North
- Ko Nang Yuan Island
We grabbed a taxi boat to this island but it’s best to go early morning or late afternoon to try to avoid the hundreds of tourists (inevitable). The Viewpoint wasn’t as nice to climb to as John-Suwan and you couldn’t chill at the top due to overcrowding but the view is stunning and if you find a nice secluded spot to sit you can easily spend a few hours sleeping in the sun here.
- Evenings on Koh Tao
Lit up by jellyfish-like lanterns hanging from the trees, the paths across the beach front from Mae Head to Sairee Beach are lovely to walk around whilst searching for somewhere to eat in the evenings. Even whilst having a lively nightlife with a Koh Tao bar crawl taking place even on Sunday evenings, the island itself is so clean and well-kept. After dark there is something here for everyone:
Cheap Thai food from local restaurants, veggie cuisine from Vegetabowl or finer beach dining at places like Blue Water (we loveeeed both these places!)
Beach bars like Maya, Koh Tao pub crawl and clubs like fishbowl are open until 2am – plus plenty of fire shows on the beach, just don’t be an idiot and skip over a fire rope and practise fire limbo when you can’t even see straight…(I survived so it’s all good)
Maya Beach Club is a lively bar on the beach which is lovely to listen to some chilled DJ sets and get drunk on Passionfruit Sangria watching the sun set…or pass out on a table on the beach like Claudia 🙂
After staying on Sairee Beach for the first half of our time on Koh Tao, we spent the remainder in Mae Head (only a short walk away).
Here we stumbled upon a gem called The Green Shelter, a vegan restaurant and hostel only opened last month! We did some yoga in the morning and had banana pancakes with homemade peanut butter and REAL TEA! I almost cried with happiness (how sad and British am I?!)
- Diving on Koh Tao
One of (if not, the) cheapest place in the world to dive and take a diving course. We dived with Crystal Dive Koh Tao, very professional, affordable and they run Eco Koh Tao a project that helps to conserve the reefs and bays surrounding Koh Tao Island.
Whilst Claudia completed her Open Water Diving Qualification (!) I took part in a number of Eco Dives and a beach clean collecting waste from dive sites. On one particular afternoon at one dive site we collected over 300 plastic bottles and 400 individual pieces of plastic.
How devastating to see the impact of humans and the way we are directly harming this beautiful, once pristine, environment. It felt amazing to be able to put my diving to good use and give something back whilst I stayed on this island.
KOH PHI PHI
Koh Phi Phi was obviously a must whilst we were in Southern Thailand, drawing most tourists due to the fact that The Beach was filmed here back in 2000 and everyone wants to have a dip in the same place as Leo did all those years ago…
There is one island out of the Phi Phi’s that tourists are able to stay and then boat trips and tours run to the surrounding islands.
Maya Bay is where the film was shot and by getting a very early boat we managed to avoid the massive crowds of tourists who flock here every day.
Watching sunrise on this beach was lovely and we escaped it just as hundreds of people stopped here on their day trips.
Our boat took us around a few other islands where we snorkelled and had some lunch before heading back to the mainland for the afternoon.
Don’t get me wrong, Maya Bay is stunning, but it is very much an attraction thanks to the Hollywood movie and I have definitely seen prettier beaches around the Phi Phi islands that are much less touristy.
The nightlife on Koh Phi Phi was lots of fun and there was always so much going on!
Our favourite place to eat was Grand PP Arcade, the best Red Thai curry I’ve ever tasted, and the perfect hangover cure (if you haven’t already tried spicy food on a hangover you are missing out).
The islands in Thailand are generally slightly more expensive than the mainland but they’re still super cheap by UK standards.
On one of our last evenings we went to a live music bar called KongSiam, the musicians were so talented and it was so much fun sitting drinking Leo’s (a rather aptly named local beer) and singing along!
By day the streets are pretty to explore and we had fun renting a kayak and kayaking around the headland to Monkey Bay. So many tourists feed and disrespect the monkeys. Never leave belongings unattended whilst they’re around or don’t be annoyed when they try to steal your things! They are monkeys. Instinct tells them to go after food etc, have the common decency to respect them, especially in their home.
Our boat from Koh Phi Phi returned to Krabi early morning and we had one night there before catching our flight out of Thailand.
We managed to explore a food market and head down to the river for a wander.
Most people stay on in Krabi and I’ve heard there are some beautiful parts to visit, but unfortunately our time in Thailand was up.
I have loved my time here and would recommend anyone to visit at least once – the people, the food, the landscapes and the weather have just left me wanting moreeeee!
Hopefully I’ll be back to visit Thailand again in the future, and potentially complete my dive master on Koh Tao…it’s definitely sparked some ideas in my mind – and that’s part of what travelling is all about right?!
Any other recommendations of places we’ve missed are more than welcome! What are your thoughts on Thailand?
We’re off to catch another flight to somewhere completely different…