Tag Archives: Koh Samui

The islands of Southern Thailand

When most people are trying to decide what to do in Thailand they have to choose between going to the west or east side of the peninsular. It’s an endless debate. I was lucky enough to be able to go to both, even though I was only on the west side for 4 nights.

THE EAST

Ang Thong Marine Park's praying monkey

Ang Thong Marine Park’s praying monkey

I spent the majority of my time in southern Thailand on the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. They are both tiny islands, easily navigable on scooters. Phangan is most famous for the full moon parties. And now half moon. And quarter moon. And new moon. If that is not your idea of a good holiday, never fear, there are plenty of places on the island where you can escape from the rowdy crowds. We stayed on Thong Nai Pan beach. It is a quiet bay sprinkled with smaller hotels, guesthouse, restaurants, stores and gift shops. And the tuk tuk ride to the main area of town is no more than 20 minutes. It is the perfect location.

The road to the village on Thong Nai Pan beach.

The road to the village on Thong Nai Pan beach.

Koh Samui is bigger than Koh Phangan, but it is still small. It is easily possible to rent a scooter and ride around the entire island in one day. Chaweng beach is the main, built up, tourist mecca of Samui. And, again, it is totally possible to avoid this and still have access to everything that you could need. All you need is a beach, some food and a couple of beers, right?

Sunset on Bang Por beach, Koh Samui

Sunset on Bang Por beach, Koh Samui

There are a lot of things to see and do on Koh Samui. You can take a day trip to the AnThong Marine Park, rent scooters and explore all the nooks and crannies, hike up waterfalls, visit mummified monks, ride elephants, swim in tropical waters, drink beer, eat.

And then there is also Koh Tao, the diving mecca of Thailand. A day trip there is possible from Koh Samui, but it is a long boat ride away.

Ko Nang Yuan island, Koh Tao's tiny neighbour.

Ko Nang Yuan island, Koh Tao’s tiny neighbour.

THE WEST

A few hours away by a combination of ferry and bus and colour coded stickers, and you’ll be on the west side of the Thai peninsular, and in a completely different world. Cliffs rise out of the ocean, waters are bluer and beaches are whiter.

I decided to base myself on Railay beach in Krabi province. It is not an island, but it is only accessible by boat because of the sheer cliffs that surround it. There are no roads, no form of transport other than your feet and the ocean. It is a rock climbing mecca and it is spectacular.

Early morning on Railay beach.

Early morning on Railay beach.

From Railay beach I did a day trip to Phi Phi and Maya Bay and stood with all the other tourists and marveled at The Beach. It definitely is something worth marveling at.

Maya Bay

Maya Bay

Wherever you choose to go, you will not be disappointed, I’m sure.

Arriving in Thailand: First Impressions.

Arriving in Thailand was an assault to the senses. Everything about it is the opposite to what I have left. It is sticky, hot, foreign; new. Full of backpacks, maps, sun hats and excitement. Mine was all still packed away. I felt outside of it all. I had a big, black suitcase, the remnants of Korea packed tightly around my shiny new olive-green and red backpack. I pushed forward. I had a plan for that first day, it went something like this: Arrive in Bangkok. Take a train to get another train. Wait in the train station with the big, black suitcase. Ride a train for 12 hours. Take a bus. Take a ferry. Meet my family. Be in paradise. Get rid of the big, black suitcase.

Everything went according to plan. I even ate padthai in the train station cafe that was absolutely delicious. It has set the standards very high. I have a feeling I will not be disappointed. The train was even on time, which surprised me. And it was bearable, I even managed to get a proper night’s sleep. If you are planning a trip to Thailand, and are trying to find a cheap way to get from Bangkok to either Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, take the train- second class sleeper. Refer to http://www.seat61.com/ for routes and prices.

I was surprised by the organisation that is Thai tourism. Seriously, they have absolutely everything figured out. They know what you want to do before you do. They mark you with stickers which indicate where you are going. Did I mention that the stickers are colour coded? It feels a bit like being herded. I was pleased to not have to think. It had been a long, emotional trip and, after all, I still had my big, black suitcase.

After a hug-filled reunion with my parents and aunt and uncle we jumped in a tuk tuk and wound our way along the one main road that connects all areas of the tiny, hilly island of Koh Phangan.

We had decided to stay away from the party beaches, so we chose Thong Nai Pan beach. It’s a quiet bay with a beautiful beach, a one street ‘town’ that has a 7eleven, a few restaurants and some curio shops. The perfect place to relax and acclimatize to life lived out of a backpack. And to get rid of that big, black suitcase.

Thong Nai Pan Beach

Thong Nai Pan Beach