Tropical times in the south of Thailand
Our month spent in Thailand, yet not nearly long enough, was a totally different ball game for us! Instead of driving the van wherever we wanted, camping out every night and cooking our own meals, we were catching flights, buses, boats; sleeping in dorms, indulging in 5 star resorts & eating exotic food off the streets. The locations we visited included Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Aonang, Phi Phi, Koh Tao & Koh Chang. Here is a short recount of our adventures from where we stayed, what we ate, how we got around...
As you all know, Kyle and I have been traveling Europe for the past 18 months in a van, exploring some of Europes most exciting locations. During this time we visited most places we had on our list so we decided it was time for a change & to begin a new adventure somewhere else. So we sold the van & flew straight to Thailand for tropical island vibes and exotic street food.
Starting in Bangkok we spent 4 days finding our feet in the crazy hustle and bustle of this city, which you can read in my latest post City of Squalar - Bangkok! From Bangkok we flew straight to Phuket for two nights of absolute relaxation and luxury in the amazing Sri panwa resort (Two unforgettable nights at Sri panwa). Thinking about our stay here makes me miss it oh so much! Must check out my post & see how amazing it is for yourself :). After sadly waving goodbye to Sri panwa we were back to reality (poor peoples reality) and squished in a mini van for the next three hours en route to Krabi!
Aonang - Krabi
Arriving in Aonang we were instantly intrigued with the lush jungle surroundings & huge limestone cliffs that made up the entire region of Krabi. Aonang is a beach just north of Krabi that is a tourist hotspot, offering hundreds of long tail boats rides, iconic beaches, plenty of street food, restaurants, nightlife, & superb hiking locations.
Where to stay - Our first two nights in Aonang we were lucky enough to stay at Aonang Cliff Beach Resort, located in the heart of the town and looks over the whole of Aonang with draw dropping views of the surrounding cliffs and beaches. We were put up in the Panorama Suite which probably had the best views out of them all! My favourite part of the resort was the infinity pool. Must go for a swim at sunset and admire the surroundings as the sun slowly sets & turns everything into a soft pink and yellow. Amazing! During our stay we enjoyed a relaxing aromatic spa message treatment, a lovely evening meal at the buffet restaurant (sushi overload :P) & a beach side lunch at Andmana restaurant where we played with puppies all afternoon and relaxed in cosy tree hammocks.
Our second two nights we stayed at Alisea Pool Villas, located a little further away from town in a quieter and more relaxing spot in jungle surroundings. Here we had a 3 bedroom villa with our own private pool :). We loved our stay here as we found it more secluded, peaceful and private than staying in the heart of the town. It was easy for us to get to and from with daily bike rental. But if you are not looking to hire bikes and want to be more centrally located I suggest staying in the town. Alisea pool villas is perfect for any couple and family who are looking for an affordable and comfortable stay whilst visiting Aonang.
What to do - Spend a day visiting the famous Railay beach and other surrounding beaches :). You can get a long tail boat from Aonang beach for 200 Baht per person that will take you to Railay beach at any time of the day. I recommend catching the boat to Railay and hiring a canoe to explore the other beaches along the coast line including Nang Cave Beach. Canoeing through and around these enormous lime stone cliffs that make up the beautiful beaches was one of our favourite experiences in Thailand. I've never seen anything like it - it will honestly take your breath away!
Start one of your mornings with a hike upTab Kak Hang Nak Hill Nature Trail. Tongue twister that one haha! :P Favourite thing we did whilst in Aonang. Don't take this hike lightly though, it was pretty challenging (especially in the heat) & is definitely the kind where you should wear appropriate footwear. It will most likely take you around 1.5 hours to climb to the top. The trail itself is rocky, slippery and for a good portion of the way, steep. But don't let this lead you astray because the views from the top are INCREDIBLE! If you're brave enough you can get an awesome photo sitting on a small rock that juts out high above the jungle and ocean views. Be ready for a sweat fest!
Hire a bike and ride around the area checking out local markets and small villages. You never know what you'll find off the beaten track & away from all the crowds of tourists. You can hire a bike for 200-250 baht a day. Make sure whenever you hire a bike to take photos of the bike itself and any scratches that are there before you drive it away. That why you can get stung when you return your bike for a scratch you didn't even create.
Where & what to eat - Most nights we are off the street! As perusual :P. If you head a little south along the beach road from Aonang you will find a strand of street food stalls selling all kinds of delicious Thai food for an incredibly cheap price. Whenever we are at restaurants we usually spend triple the price of that on the street for food just as good! Most nights I would usually order a papaya salad or rice and stir fry vegetables and sometimes I would be naughty and get a Pad Thai. Tastes so dam goooood!
Ko Phi Phi
From Aonang we were able to easily organise transport to the Phi Phi islands and at a super affordable price. You can arrange a ferry from a wide selection of travel shops lining the streets of Aonang. I think we paid 350 baht each for someone to pick us up from our hotel and take us to the ferry port on Krabi where we got a 2 hour speed boat.
Our expectations of the island weren't great after hearing how over crowded and party orientated it had become over the last decade. Knowing this we only booked 2 nights, just enough time to check out the town & surrounding beaches.
What to do - Rent a private long tail boat to Maya bay. We decided to do this early morning to try beat the crowds & enjoy the beauty that it is without the hassle of being in a tour group with a crowd of people. It cost us 1800 baht to take the private boat :). Unfortunately the morning we went it was rainy, windy and cloudy so we weren't able to achieve the shots we had in mind but the experience was still incredible and well worth it! Keep in mind you have to pay 400 baht per person to even step foot on the beach. Yikes!
One of the best things to do whilst on the island is to hike to the Phi Phi viewpoint for full panoramic vies of the whole island. It is a rather challenging walk with a few hundred vertical steps, but once you get to the top its completely worth it! I accidentally deleted my photos from the view point :( so I'm sorry for not showing you how truely beautiful it is!
Hire kayaks and explore the island on your own. We didn't get time to do this but we would have absolutely loved too! Any chance we get we will hire a kayak :) Kyle particularly loves it!
Check out the insane nightlife down on the beach side where you'll find pleeeenty bars and people to hang around and get drunk with. Phi Phi is renowned for the partying, so if you are a family do not stay on that side of the beach. You will not get sleep!
Where to stay - Phi Phi lacks any good accommodation for a budget price, so we ended up staying in a very basic hostel in the centre of town. I'm not even going to recommend it cause it was not worth what you end up paying haha, but you will find most places are overpriced. My advice is to try book accommodation in advance.
This is my favourite island and location that we visited in Thailand by far! For the next four days we explored some beautiful surrounding beaches & islands, overlooked some amazing viewpoints, ate delicious cheap food & swang on some of the quaintest beach swings. Koh Tao is one of those places I could definitely see myself living. It had everything we needed!
What to do - Take a water taxi across to Koh Nang Yuan for the day & bath in the beauty that it truely is. The national site doesn't open until 10am so try be there for then before the beach gets absolutely swarmed. You'll have to pay 200 baht entry fee but thats small price to pay for the experience of this island. Make sure to visit the viewpoint as soon as you get in at 10am so that you can at least get a few minutes there without a huge crowd. We were lucky enough to be the first ones there so we were able to capture some amazing shots without anyone in them. For the rest of the day just lay on the beach and swim in the turquoise water surrounding all sides. One thing that is a nuisance is you cant lay on your own towel on the beach, you'll have to rent a beach chair for a small fee for the day.
The island shines when it comes to beaches so rent yourself a scooter and go exploring for the day! The island is relatively small so it doesn't take long to access most of them. There are endless beaches to explore which is why we only got around to a few, but from the ones we explored we personally loved freedom beach - located on the south of the island & is easily accessible by scooter. When you enter most beaches (not all), you will be asked to pay an entry fee of around 100 baht or less, which I'm sure goes back into the maintenance and caretake of the beach :). Whilst at freedom beach make sure you peel yourself away from the glistening water for a small hike up to John Suwan Viewpoint. Here you will see amazing views of Koh Tao island & its surrounding beaches. Before you start the hike up you will be asked to pay an entry fee of 100 baht, which then you have to take a steep climb up for about 10 minutes, but its super easy!
Another way to explore beaches, especially ones that are super inaccessible, is to hire a private boat to take you to them. Keep in mind there are a fair few beaches that are privately owned & only allowed by the resort guests.
Go diving! Probably the most sought after activity on the island, and the reason most people come! If you don't have your diving license you can actually take a diving course to get your license at a really small price. Well compared to everywhere else in the world :) Although our initial thoughts were 'yes definitely doing it', our bank account said otherwise. If you aren't on a tight budget like us I highly recommend doing this cause apparently its one of the most incredible things to do in Thailand. You will probably pay around 9000 baht for a 3-4 day course :). Don't quote me on that though! haha :P
TIP: For those not confident on a scooter I wouldn't recommend hiring one as the roads are terrible & you could find yourself driving up some really steep dirt tracks that could potentially be really dangerous to drive up or down.
Where to stay - For budget travellers there are plenty of great hostels to stay at around the island. We stayed at a hostel near the ferry port called Koh Tao Loft Hostel. It was super cheap & has great chilled atmosphere. Fan beds are the way to go here in my opinion because the fan is all yours & whereas the air-conditioning is only adjusted by the staff, and you could end up freezing your ass off all night without the ability to turn it off!
Where to eat - You are really spoiled for choice for food in Koh Tao with a wide range of eats that cater for every person. If you want fancy fine dining you got it! If you want healthy organic you got it! If you are vegan or vegetarian they have it! If you want authentic Thai food you got it! If you want a big seafood or meat grill you got it! If you want pizzas and burgers you got it! The food culture here is a huge part of why I love it so much :).
Coconut Monkey is a cafe located near the pier that serves really fresh healthy foods for breakfast and lunch. We came here every morning for banana peanut butter, smoothies, great coffee, and breakfast wraps. Delish! And so so cheap!
Head to Vegetabowl for incredibly healthy and tasty salad bowls. We loved this place! The serving sizes are huge and the ingredients they use are to die for! A great option for vegan and vegetarian travellers.
I love salad is a great spot for either breakfast or lunch that serves vibrant healthy salads and snacks. You can create your own salad as you please here choosing from a wide list of ingredients.
La Carotte Qui Rit serves amazing vegan-vegetarian Thai food and most dishes around around 100 baht or less. Here you can get brown rice, fresh spring rolls, lush salads and tasty curries. Yuummmy!
When you think of jungle island with elephants and monkeys roaming the streets and beaches, you have Koh Chang. This island is special in its own way - having a totally different chilled out/hippie vibe than all the rest. We spent 5 relaxing nights here which was definitely enough time to enjoy yourself to the fullest.
Where to stay - For the first 3 nights we had the fabulous opportunity of staying at Sea View Resort & Spa, where we were warmly welcomed from the minute we arrived. Our stay here was a truely a magical one with candle lit dinners, nights under the stars watching cinema movies, witnessing some of the best sunsets of our lives, island hopping, romantic beach picnics & endless hours swinging on idyllic beach swings.
Not long after arrival, we were invited down for dinner at the beach front restaurant where we were surprised with a sunset candle lit dinner for two right on the beach. It was the most romantic setting if had ever seen! We had so many guests taking photos of us eating dinner haha! With friendly greetings from the staff and chef we were served an amazing 3 course meal of traditional Thai food and refreshing cocktails (get the passionfruit signature one! So so good!). Kyle still talks about the pork meatballs he had for entree, claiming they were the best meatballs he has ever had. Compliments to to Yan the chef for an amazing meal.
The next day we took a private boat around the small surrounding islands where we spent hours snorkelling, sun baking and taking lots of photos ;). For lunch the hotel had organised a romantic picnic lunch at one of the islands with a private chef and waitress who were both super friendly & all smiles. We were served large grilled prawns, chicken (for Kyle), and the best papaya salad I've ever had! And all cooked in front of us. We almost didn't feel worthy of such a wonderful experience.
Our third night at the resort was spent under the stars with wood fire pizzas and a movie projected on a big screen. Compliments to the chef again for the delicious Thai infused style pizzas that we had.
My favourite thing about this resort was the sunsets. Omg the sunsets here are INCREDIBLE! The beach, with its white sand soft sand, is privately owned by the hotel & is lined with palm trees and rope swings hanging off almost every tree. The sea is so calm, and when it is high tide it reflects the pink and orange colours the sunsets projects all the way to the shoreline. You can also walk waist deep for about 50m out to sea. I could not put my camera away, every photo I took just looked too damn amazing.
What to do - Well for most our stay we just hung around the resort and its privately owned beach, just relaxing and eating good food. It was bliss :) When we weren't at the resort we explored other beaches on the island including lonely beach & Kai Bae beach. We loved Kai Bae beach & went there every other day without feeling the need to drive any further to check any more out. In the afternoons at Kai Bae you can watch the locals bring the elephants down from the nearby camps to bath and walk along the beach. You can pay to ride them, but I'm against that if its not practiced sustainably. But I just loved watching them walk past us like 1o times :). Soooooo cute!
Where to eat - So happy I found Aire Beach Cafe, serving tropical fruit smoothie bowls with home made granola. So yummy! You can also do yoga here with the lovely lady who owns it.
Every other day we would eat at this little restaurant/cafe at lonely beach called Cafe Del Sunshine selling really cheap & fresh local Thai Food. Try the spring rolls for dinner and strawberry banana smoothie with coconut milk for breakfast.
After 1 whole month of exploring this incredible part of the world we set off one our new adventure to the Phillipines! Lots more blog posts to come with loads of cool content from our trip in South East Asia. So excited to share more with you all :)