When I was 20 years old my best friend and I took our first big trip overseas without family for 7 weeks to explore Thailand, Cambodia and Bali. My love for Asia by the end of these 7 weeks was insane. I cannot wait to get back to Thailand and tick off some other Asian counties in the meantime.
WHERE TO GO:
Koh Phangan – This is where the full moon party is hosted so most people visit this island for that reason. They have other half moon parties and really just any excuse to party any night of the week. The parties are all held on Haad Rin beach so this is the best area to stay in if you want to be amongst the action. We stayed right on the beach here at Seaview Sunrise and this was a great place to stay. Good accommodation, like aged people and amazing food and hangout area right on the beach. If you want to see a nice beach and spend time in the ocean i would not recommend Haad Rin but there are lots of other nicer beaches on the other sides of the island. To get here the only way is by boat/ferry – you can either do this from the mainland or other islands like Koh Samui.
Koh Samui – I have done a post on Samui after a second visit. You can view it here. There is an airport on Koh Samui making it a popular destination not only with backpackers but also with higher end travellers so there is something here for everyone. We got a ferry here from Koh Phangan and it only takes about 30 minutes depending on which port/ferry you are on. I loved Koh Samui it is a great mix of beach and activities so you cannot really get bored here. We stayed in Ark Bar which is a party type upmarket version of a hostel right on the beach. It is massive with multiple pools and restaurants and I would stay here again. It is also on the main strip /beach called Chaweng where all the restaurants, bars, shops and clubs are so it is a good place to stay if you want to be central to everything. I have heard the smaller beaches on the other side of the island are more beautiful and luxurious if that is more your style. Do not miss The Green Mango Club if you are in Koh Samui.
Krabi – The Krabi area was my favourite part of Thailand, the beaches are in my opinion the nicest and the rock structures make it quite different from a New Zealand beach which is cool. We stayed in Ao Nang which is a beach town split in two a bit with one side being dedicated to the beach and the other more of the fishing/boating side. Ao Nang has a large choice of places to stay in from high end luxury resorts all the way down to hostels. It is a great base as there is a big choice of restaurants and places to drink as well and you can take boat trips to the islands. Railay is just over the hill and is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited. Take a long tail boat over there and spend the day on the beach. From here you can also get the ferry to Phi Phi Islands and other islands around the Andaman coast Thailand.
Phi Phi Islands – Phi Phi islands are not to be missed if you are visiting Thailand. Phi Phi itself is very small and is quite a backpack/party island. There are no cars on the island and the roads are narrow. Most of the food options are tourist traps from what we found and we did not really love the island itself. It is the tours that you do from Phi Phi that draw the people in. The beaches around Phi Phi are amazing. One you must visit is Bamboo island. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life. A couple of nights on Phi Phi is enough unless you are a huge party animal and want to fire dance the night away.
Phuket – We only visited Phuket for a couple of days, really just because it is a good spot to fly in and out of and we had not heard great things. It is big, quite dirty and has a big red light district scene. We like the odd party but rather an amazing beach town so checked everything out and made our way out of there. My family has travelled to a resort just out of Phuket which was amazing so I think if you want to visit Phuket it is better to do it the luxury way rather than the backpacker way but that is just my personal opinion.
Chiang Mai – We spent about a week here and got immersed in the culture of Thailand. Chiang Mai is a slow pace of life and quite different to the rest of Thailand. We loved it here but I am not sure if you would need to visit more than once. There are amazing markets here and it is here where we did a Thai cooking classes. We also visited the tigers here but in hindsight we were a bit young and naive to think that they were not being drugged so I would not recommend a visit here (if it is still open). You can also see elephants here in the jungle like parts and there are eco-friendly, cruelty free options so make sure you pick the correct ones.
Bangkok – One of my favourite places in the whole world. Check out my separate post on Bangkok here as I have visited a couple of times now.
WHAT TO EAT:
The Street food!! Everyone will tell you to be careful with what you eat to avoid getting sick but if you eat where the locals are or places that are busy you will be 100% ok to eat the street food.
There are women on main streets who are selling Pad Thai, crepes, skewers and other random things like cockroaches. With the Pad Thai you can select your meat usually chicken or Prawn and they will make this in front of you in a couple of minutes. You can then add you own chilli flakes, lime (endless lime) and peanuts.
I still dream about eating the Pad Thai on Khao San Road – to die for!
What we found travelling around is that in many of the tourist areas the food is very westernised. Pizza and Italian restaurants are dime a dozen and burgers and fries are easy to get your hands on.
Chang Beer – best beer in the world in my opinion and in Thailand the percentage changes depending on which batch you are drinking so you never really know how drunk you will get.
Really just eat everything because the food in Thailand is amazing and super cheap, just stay away from those dodgy food outlets that you stop at on long bus rides. Those places never look good and will not leave you feeling great either.
P.S. sorry in advance for the picture quality here, turns out cameras were not so great back then…