Island hopping in Thailand has always been a dream of mine. It wasn’t long after arriving in Bangkok, Thailand (see my other recent post on how to see Bangkok on a budget) that I booked my flights to Phuket and planned my week accordingly to hit them all: Phuket, Krabi, Ko Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. My trip took a turn for the worst when Bangla Road in Phuket, still the craziest nightlife I have come across even in comparison to Bangkok, swallowed my belongings whole and left me without money or a way to get home. That being said, I was ready to tackle round two of my island hopping venture during my break. Having planned this trip twice now, I am here to offer you some insight on some of the most popular beaches in Thailand.
Krabi was the least impressionable place I visited. I stayed in Ao Nong, where the majority of people were western couples sporting colorful elephant pants (a surefire way to standout as a tourist) exploring the ever so similar plethora of souvenir gift shops. While there is nothing wrong with buying a little something for someone back home, the onslaught of tourists were downright distracting to how beautiful Krabi could be.
That being said, if you can ignore the selfie stick experts snapping egotistical photos with everything and anything they can stand in front of, Krabi has a lot to offer. While you are in Krabi, I suggest visiting the four surrounding islands that have made Krabi a popular destination for those visiting Thailand. Just try to ignore the masses of tourists along the way so you can truly enjoy that which Krabi has to offer.
Monkeys and steep prices for coconut water will welcome you to Poda Island. While the island itself is beautiful, the tourists in thong bikinis and nothing but a speedo on somewhat preoccupied me from what I was there to really see: limestone cliffs and spectacular views. Regardless of the overexposed, leathery sunbathers, making the boat ride out to Poda Island is well worth the trip.
There is a shrine dedicated to fertility on Railey Beach, and while it may seem like a strange reason to visit, it is definitely worth the photo op. That is not all the beach has to offer, either. It’s rising, limestone cliffs are great for rock climbing if you can make it up the first couple of feet without having a panic attack. I thought it was the most beautiful beach as well, so do not miss out visiting its white sand and interesting spectacles before heading to Ko Phi Phi.
I stayed in Au Nong Beach when I visited Krabi. While the traveling cocktails were definitely a bonus, I found that the area itself was rather dead and only a handful of bars lined the water. For those looking for more than a cocktail on-the-go, I think staying in Krabi Town would be a better option. It is just a drive from the beach as opposed to right on it, but it is worth it to stay a short distance from the beach if nightlife is what you are looking for.
Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi has thus far received a bad reputation from many of its former visitors. Known for its party mentality, I was nervous to say the least to venture to the island alone, tackling its party scene with a lone bucket in my hand and no one to look after me. I was pleasantly surprised, however, at how little I could even engage with the drunken islanders because I was so enthralled with the island itself. Viewpoints so breathtaking I forgave myself for getting lost along the way and taking an extra 45 minute detour to get there, sand so soft I wanted to take a nap in it, forgetting about the sand flies that take refuge there: it’s these things that make me say, without hesitation, I will be going back to Ko Phi Phi as soon as I have the baht to do so.
Here are just a few highlights of the island that you definitely need to take advantage of before taking a ferry to our next island, Koh Lanta.
You won’t be hard pressed to find a fire show on Ko Phi Phi. Just meander down to a number of its different beaches and you will be greeted with flaming jump ropes and flying sticks on fire. It sounds dangerous, and, quite frankly, it probably is. If you do decide to take on the flaming jump rope, be warned that the performers at the bar Slinky will move the rope faster as soon as you display any sort of cockiness whatsoever. This left one especially confident drunken tourist with burnt leg hair.
If you can manage a short trek to any one of three viewpoints on Ko Phi Phi, you will soon forget how ungodly sweaty you are and be happy you did so. I was lucky to have one rather ambitious, friendly traveler invite me with her to see Ko Phi Phi differently than you do on the beaches or by boat and we hiked to all three viewpoints. Two of the three viewpoints do charge you a 30 baht entrance fee, so don’t forget your wallet.
I snorkeled in both Krabi and Phuket, and neither can compare with the snorkeling trip I went on in Ko Phi Phi. Krabi’s water had only a handful of the same fish and water so murky you couldn’t see your hand outstretched in front of your face. The waves in Phuket left me unable to float properly on top of the water as I tumbled in my lifejacket, awkwardly grasping my mask. This was not the case in Ko Phi Phi.
The snorkeling trip I went on in Ko Phi Phi visited Monkey Beach, Shark Point, Mosquito island, Maya bay and many other awe-inspiring surrounding islands and lagoons. We were constantly surrounded by hundreds of fish as our guide and captain threw fried rice into the water. I highly recommend taking an entire day to explore the surrounding islands and snorkel. Be careful of the monkeys, however. One unlucky tourist decided to fight with a baby monkey as it went to take his bag, and as they were playing tug-a-war, a larger monkey barreled through the crowd and bit him multiple times. Needless to say, he refused to go to the hospital. I waited anxiously for him to turn rabid and start foaming at the mouth, but luckily, that didn’t happen.
Curing my many of hangovers brought on by the overflowing buckets in Ko Phi Phi, I was happy to finally reach the island of Koh Lanta for the last stint of my trip to relax and explore the island. While there is a nightlife in Koh Lanta, I found the parties they advertised on almost every street post and 7/11 to be lackluster, at best. While I would avoid these parties to save money and bulk up on sleep for the long, sunny days, I don’t think this detracts from the island. There are plenty of local restaurants with friendly bartenders and cheaper drinks than you would find at the parties, anyway, right in town.
Take on the potholes
While renting a motorbike or scooter is always one of the highlights of most of the trips I take in Thailand, Koh Lanta’s streets were by far the most nerve-racking I’ve driven on. Forever winding and consistently covered in potholes, unsuspecting and new drivers should be cautious when taking to the streets. I even saw a guy topple over the side of the hill, limbs flailing like that of a rag dole as both he and his bike tumbled down the side. Spoiler alert: he was fine and laughing as his friends pulled him from the brush. That being said, renting a motorbike is a great way to see the island without spending a lot of money. The bikes were only 200 baht for the whole day, which is about $5.
Both Tripadvisor and travel blogs will talk about Walking Street. I warn you now that the street is more like a driveway, with very few options to choose from when it comes to food. The usual Thai pancake and noodle soup vendors line the stunted street. This food was some of the cheapest I came across on the entire island, however, and was a nice break on my wallet as food on all of these islands run high in comparison to elsewhere around Thailand.
You’ll be exhausted from Ko Phi Phi and Krabi’s nightlife, and especially Phuket’s dreaded Bangla Road if it’s apart of your itinerary. Koh Lanta has beautiful beaches perfect for parking it for the day, enjoying the surrounding islands sporadically around Koh Lanta and working on your tan. Don’t forget sunscreen, as you will leave with a sunburn unsuitable for carrying your luggage on your back: trust me, I know.