Thailand, a beautiful multi faceted country that boasts both turquoise waters with thriving aquatic life and lush green mountains home to monkeys, temples and world heritage sites.
This summer I took a trip around modern day Siam and filled 16 days with as much of the country, culture and cuisine as I possibly could. I fell in love with this little nook in South East Asia and wanted to journal it for myself but also for you, dear reader, to possibly help inspire you to consider Thailand for your next adventure. Or if you’ve already been but are considering going specifically as a backpacker, perhaps this will give you the push you need!
Welcome to my Thailand Diaries!
If you’re young, wild, free and looking to party, Koh Phi Phi is where YOU need to be. Located to the west of the mainland, this loud and vibrant island is about a two and a half hour ferry trip from Phuket.
As you approach its shores and pull into Tonsai Bay, one can’t help but be awestruck at the stunning landscape and imposing features of the coastline of the island. The plunging cliffs, covered with lush, dark green vegetation, sprinkled white by the crashing waves and accompanied by the soundtrack of tropical birds feels like an unreal scene from Jurassic Park.
When you arrive on the island, the first thing that’s asked of you is a small fee that goes towards the environmental upkeep of the island. Because Koh Phi Phi is such a popular destination, with beach parties every night, it has the potential for a lot of litter, so the least we as visitors can do is contribute to the clean up at the cost of only 20baht.
For our first two nights, we stayed at a very basic guest house which was close enough to the main party beach that we could walk home safely but far enough that we weren’t in the middle of all the noise.
On our last night we stayed at the Blanco’s City Hostel, which although is so named, is literally a 2 minute walk from the beach. We were in a very small room with 6 beds but honestly we weren’t fussed at all because we were out most of the night anyway!
The hostels on Phi Phi are a bit of a hit and miss and are very basic but that’s all part of traveling on a budget. There are a few relatively cheap 3-4 star hotels around if you have a bit more money to spend.
Most of our time in Phi Phi was spent doing exactly what one expects to do when on a lush tropical island. We lounged on the beach all day lathered in sun cream, went swimming in the iridescent waters and drank coconut water and fruit shakes all day (Did you read about how we discovered fruit shakes in Phuket?).
I found a lot of the beaches and nature were similar to what we’re fortunate enough to have in the Seychelles, so I felt right at home.
Where to eat on Phi Phi
There are half a dozen bars and even more restaurants by the beach and along the inner streets selling both Thai and Western food. You can rest assured that we ate our fill of Pad Thai and Curries, not to mention the fresh coconut ice cream!
Some of our favorite places to eat were Cosmic, Unni’s, Grand PP Arcade and The Rock but these are just a few. After a meal you may also want to pop into one of the dozens of massage shops for a relaxing Thai massage (you can’t come to Thailand and not!)
Things to see on Phi Phi
The popular beach on Phi Phi is Loh Dalum Bay where we spent most of our time and where you can do cool activities like kayaking, snorkeling and paddle boarding. About a 20 minute walk from Loh Dalum is Long Beach which we made our way to on our first day.
The walk was lovely but we only went once because we had a little incident with spikey shells in the water that left Mel with a little injury for the rest of the trip. We’re not sure if this was just a freak incident but if we were ever to go again we’d probably get some reef shoes.
You’ll find that there is no shortage of beaches on Phi Phi. You can visit other more secluded areas like Bamboo Island, Monkey Island and Laem Tong beach, which can only be accessed by long boat. In recent years, the most popular area at Maya Bay (that you’ve probably seen in all the Instagram posts) has been closed off to allow the environment to recover from the high influx of tourists.
As you walk along the main boulevard, there’ll be local and foreign owned companies offering to take you out on the long boats to visit these popular areas. They can be quite persistent and usually have set prices but a good idea would simply be to approach a local guy hanging out on the beach with a long boat and tell him where you want to go. That way you can have the boat to yourself, take your time and barter for a good price.
One thing that I personally think is important to consider is that although we as visitors want the lowest prices if we’re on a tight budget (because Thailand is generally very cheap), these small businesses and boat trips are the livelihoods of the locals and this is how they put bread on the table. We shouldn’t try to ask for unreasonably low prices and should as much as possible support smaller companies and local businesses.
Oh! And definitely don’t forget to make your way to the Phi Phi Viewpoint for sunset!
Phi Phi Beach Parties
Come night fall, the bars start to pick up, the beer pong tables come out and the parties begin. Along the main walking street, bars like Stockholm Syndrome are a good place to start the night with a game of pool, beer pong and a bit of socializing. Or watch some live Muay Thai at the Reggae Bar, you can even join in a fight if you’re brave enough!
Along the beach, bars like Stones and Blancos have fire shows, glowing jump rope and limbo, glow in the dark body paint and literal buckets of cocktails. The dress code is swimsuits and an upbeat disposition. Free shots for jumping the rope, body paint for 100 baht and a banging DJ is guaranteed. Everyone parties until 1am when everything closes!
But don’t you worry the fun doesn’t end there! We had a little routine of heading right into the ocean for a swim until around 3am since the tide was always high around then. It’s very safe (don’t worry mum!) because the sea in front of the bars deepens very gradually and there’s plenty of light along the beach. There’s nothing like a swim in the warm refreshing ocean after an exhausting dance session. Then we’d head to bed and to do it all again the next day!
Where to next?
We did this for 3 days and were quite sure we got the partying out of our systems. But we were in no way tired of the beach life yet! Setting our compass to the mainland, we spent two nights in the very popular area of Railay Beach near Krabi, but the destination after that is the one I can’t wait to tell you about.
Koh Tao, to the east of mainland Thailand, would be the island that would steal a piece of my heart.
A few things to note about visiting Thailand:
- DO NOT flush toilet paper down the toilet, their pipes can’t handle it. If you do number 1, just place the tissue in the bins provided, if you do number 2, read up about the bum gun
- Don’t drink the tap water. In order for us to be sustainable, we had to fill in our water bottles every day at the hostel when we could (they usually have refill stations for 10 baht)
- Don’t worry too much about laundry. There are soooo many places that offer laundry services and prices depend on where in Thailand you are (40 baht/kg in Koh Tao and 100 baht/kg in Bangkok)
- Don’t be afraid to barter with the taxi drivers or vendors on prices
- Most places will ask you to take off your shoes before you enter
- It’s normal for hostels to ask to keep your passport while you’re staying with them
- Don’t expect everyone to speak English and don’t be that person that gets annoyed and complains when locals don’t speak your language, it’s their country so be kind and patient
Stay tuned for the next chapter of our Thailand adventures in Koh Tao! if you don’t want to miss out, be sure to sign up for email updates in the sidebar on the right (don’t forget to check your email where it might as you to confirm your subscription). Or follow me on Instagram if you’re not already!
Why not follow my bestie and travel buddy Mel while you’re at it too for extra snippets of our trip!
Sit back, grab some Oreos and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer us next