It’s now been nearly five months since we left the UK. After our time in Sri Lanka (click here for my travelguide) we headed back to Thailand to meet my sister Fiona. Here’s a brief summary (check out our couple of seconds a day video on youtube!) of the time we’ve had there and hopefully some hints and tips for those of you that fancy visiting in the future.
Where did we go and what were the highlights?
STOP 1 – Phuket
- Arrived to Phuket airport and walked (thanks Rob…) a sweaty couple of kilometres to Take a Break Hotel (£14 per person per night) on Naiyang beach in the North of the island to spend 3 nights before Fiona’s arrival. Naiyang was definitely the best beach we visited in Phuket. It was quiet, clean and not too touristy with plenty of trees for shade. Our first meal back in Thailand after a month in Sri Lanka was from a street food stall lining the beach… oh pad Thai how I’d missed you!!
- After a little emotional reunion with Fiona at the airport, the three of us headed to Phuket Old Town where we would spend the rest of our time on the island. Stayed 6 nights at Aekkeko Hostel (£7 per person per night). I was pleasantly surprised by Phuket Old Town. It has kind of a European/China town feel with lots of street art and quirky shops. Whilst we all really liked Phuket Old Town, it would of probably been wise to just spend a couple of days there. Getting to the beaches on the island was difficult. Buses took forever to travel a couple of kilometres and taxis are expensive. Once you get to the beaches they are a little bit disappointing too. Full of sunbeds and jelly fish in the water made it hard to fully enjoy.
- Nevertheless we made the most of our time there. Phuket’s Sunday walking street was probably one of the best we’ve been to. Some great music, food and souvenirs on offer. We also sampled Patong’s famous Bangla Road where we enjoyed some really good Mojito’s and observed invites to sex shows, leering men and unhappy looking pole dancers. Seeing the extent of sex tourism first hand was really disturbing and while it’s an uncomfortable position to be in, I’d definitely say it is a must to visit just to see what really happens first hand.
- Having a sisters day out, me and Fiona also paid Phuket Elephant Sanctuary a visit. Inspired by Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai (see post here), Mr. Montri Todtane, a previous elephant camp owner, decided to change his ways and open the sanctuary to rescue, retire and rehabilitate elephants that have suffered from working in the trekking and logging industries. The sanctuary is still in it’s early stages and only has 8 elephants, however Montri has lots of land and with the help of visitors’ entrance fees and charitable donations he has big plans to rescue many more. It was inspiring to see the work they were doing and to know our money was being well spent.
STOP 2 – Koh Yao Noi
- From Phuket we got a speed boat to Koh Yao Noi (200 baht, approx £4.80) and then a taxi (100 baht) to Koh Yao Seaview Bungalow (£18 per person per night) where we stayed 4 nights.
- Koh Yao Noi is a small island with very little traffic. To drive around the whole island takes about 1 hour. Me and Fiona took this opportunity to learn to drive a scooter which would come in handy for the rest of our trip. The quiet scenic roads were perfect to learn on, on our first day on the island we drove around stopping off at view points, a waterfall and beaches along the way.
- Despite the island being small, it has lots of good restaurants serving very fresh seafood and fun bars with live music.
- Whilst on Koh Yao Noi we booked onto a snorkelling island hopping boat trip (600 baht, approx £14.60). The trip took us through beautiful landscapes to four different islands; Koh Hong, Koh Pak Ka, Koh Lao Lading and Koh Pak Bia, stopping off for snorkelling, swimming or giving time to explore the island. As expected there wasn’t too much to see when snorkelling, there were plenty fish, sea urchins and jelly fish (ouch!). But the coral reef was very much dead. It was a really fun day, but it was sad to see the consequences of pollution and climate change first hand in the seas.
STOP 3 – Koh Lanta
- From Koh Yao Noi we took another speed boat to Koh Lanta (400 baht, approx £9.70) where we stayed 2 nights at Baan Long Beach (£19 per person per night) which was just a 5 minute walk to the beach.
- On our first night on the island we enjoyed cocktails on Long Beach watching the sunset and then headed to the Irish Embassy (our first Irish bar on our whole trip, quite an achievement) for a few Guiness’s.
- The beaches on Koh Lanta were lovely. Long Beach and Klong Dao were our favourites. They were clean and not too busy. It was still a shame that there were so many jellyfish making it impossible to swim without getting stung too much. Damn you jellyfish!!!
STOP 4 – Krabi
- From Koh Lanta we took a minibus to Krabi (400 baht) where we stayed at Family Tree Hotel (£19 per person per night) for 2 nights.
- After an amazing lunch at May & Mark’s House we hired scooters and headed to the Tiger Cave Temple where we took on 1237 steps, past a snake (to Fiona’s delight…NOT), up to a gold Buddha and some amazing views. That night we found our ‘local’, Buffalo Bar, for the next few days which was conveniently over the road from our hotel so we could roll home easily.
- On our second day in Krabi we took a very scenic drive to Khao Ngon Nak National Park to tackle the very steep 4km hike up to Dragon Crest Mountain. Again, we encountered another snake which is completely bizarre as since me and Rob have been away we’ve seen just one snake, but since Fiona joined us, who is petrified of snakes, we’ve seen two! Reaching the top was such an achievement, 4km may not seem like much, but when it’s constantly up hill and in 33°C it really takes it out of you. The descent was probably just as difficult as you had to really watch your step, and not just for snakes! The hike up to Dragon Crest was a great way to end our time with Fiona, probably one of the best things we did on the trip and an experience we will all remember for a long time.
- From Krabi we all flew to Bangkok where me and Rob carried on to Hanoi and Fiona stayed for a few days.
How to get around?
- The best way to get around the Thai Islands is definitely by scooter. It’s cheap (about 250 baht a day) and gives you the freedom to stop off wherever you want.
- Taxi’s are expensive and buses are infrequent and tend to stop at 5pm.
- When hiring a scooter you need to show your passport, always take photos of the vehicle and check the fuel.
Thai Islands are a little bit more expensive than the rest of Thailand, mainly because there isn’t as much street food and a lot of places have hiked prices due to tourists. But you can still find local gems which do great food for a fraction of the cost. Accommodation is a little bit more expensive, but again, look around and you can find good deals. We didn’t really focus on budget while we were with Fiona and so definitely splashed out a bit more than we usually would.
What will I remember the Thai Islands for most?
Usually this is where I write about the country leaving an impression on me, what I noticed (likes and dislikes) but I already covered that in my other Thailand travelguide here.
What I’ll remember most about my time on the Thai Islands is seeing my sister again. At times we struggled to see past the fact that we would have to say goodbye AGAIN at the end of the trip. Goodbyes are bloody horrible. Absolutely hate them.
But it was great to share our love of Thailand with Fiona and have her experience it with us, making memories together. Once we parted ways at the airport (totes emosh) Fiona stayed in Bangkok for a few days and it was lovely to see her enjoy the hints and tips we had given her. I did worry about her, especially as her map skills aren’t the best, but it’s what big sisters do I suppose!
We’re now in Vietnam and have just finished a tough 4 day trek in Sapa (post to come shortly). We head to Halong Bay tomorrow and then spend Tet (Vietnam’s New Year) in Hanoi.
If anyone has any tips on Vietnam I’d love to hear them.
Miss you Fi!